Is eBay worth it?

Or, put a less succinct way, is it possible for a normal person to get a good deal on eBay? Let's define some terms:

Normal Person: Someone whose entire eBay experience is to log in, look for items, and use only features on the vanilla website. This is also someone who logs in for maybe 20 minutes a few times a week poking around for deals.

A Good Deal: 75% or less or an item's usual market value if one were to buy outright from a merchant.

Last night, I saw a Playstation 1 on sale with a couple games (including Grandia!) with zero bids and 26 minutes left to go. The starting price was ten dollars. I put in a bid for ten dollars, seeing that zero other people were showing interest in this, and was outbid at the last minute by 50 cents by an account that I suspect may have been the seller's alt. This prompted me to think back to all my times on eBay, and it occurred to me that in all the years I've poked at it I don't think I've ever won a bid on an item that saved me any money at all compared to just buying it.

Have you ever actually gotten a good deal on an eBay auction? What did you have to do to accomplish this? Are the days of finding cool old game things for cheap truly behind us?

I would say that back in 2006 or 7 I was able to get some pretty great deals on eBay. I got a Dreamcast and 4 controllers, 2 VMUs, for something like $75 at the time, which was incredible to think of now, and I wish I never sold it again (for a PS3, no less…) Dealing with eBay both as a seller and a buyer nowadays seems like more stress than it’s worth. I tried to sell one of my old cameras last summer and got a bunch of bids taking it to almost 10x it’s value, and then had the highest bidder string me along about shipping to some bizarre proxy location at the airport by my house, sending me fake paypal emails, etc.

BUT! I did get my Super Analog NT from eBay at MSRP, somehow, by bidding on one when I was desperate and didn’t want to wait for a drop last year. But I think this was an extreme outlier situation.

I think the era of "guy who doesn't know or care what they have and starting bid is at .99 and doesn't get much exposure" seems like it's over. It also makes buying stuff irl a bit difficult when I go to a flea market or thrift store and they've searched for that item on eBay and try to charge you $399.98 for something that is, in essence, garbage.

And to your point about the Playstation 1 (sorry, that really sucks,) if it's not the seller's account, it's "bot accounts" I assume that take the thrill of bidding out of it when they can bid at the last nanosecond.

@“TheFragranceOfDarkCoffee”#p73967 I‘ve gotten some good deals on eBay, but almost never on video games. My tecnhique to getting cheap stuff mostly involves finding auctions with little interest that end in the middle of the night and putting an alarm and waking up to snipe them. I only place bids on the last 5 seconds. I used to do that more when I was even younger and my money was much more limited but I’ve found that it still works sometimes if you are patient and you don‘t need whatever you’re buying right away. I got a lot of cheap music gear that way.

Another thing I've heard people do is looking especifically for misspelling listings.

I do whoever feel kind of weird whenever I get an insane deal. Because of the money thr seller is losing when taking into account shipping and fees.

But maybe all of this is a little hardcore compared to what you are looking for and the time you are willing to invest.

@“Syzygy”#p73976 I admit that this has been sort of bubbling for me for a long time and the most recent experience is just what pushed me over the edge. I was curious to see if this kind of long term disappointment was just a me thing after losing a lot of bids I didn‘t expect to. It’s good to know that it's not as bad as my limited perspective/data suggests.

As someone who neither collects nor replays games, it’s been my way of getting stuff for about 40% of the price (and keeping the shelves clean)

Here are some thoughts after a while buying games/consoles on eBay and in local retro stores. Some of this isn‘t really answering your question but I hope you’ll allow me a tiny soapbox lol.

In my experience consoles are always gonna be a bit cheaper in person and are generally in better condition too. Games are generally almost the same because a lot of shop owners base value on ebay anyway(at least in part, combined with their own sales history as well I'd assume in some cases) because it's still one of the bigger ways to track pricing.

Two examples. Recently I bought a PSP on eBay for about $120. I got it and it's in good condition but the analog stick came busted. I returned it and went back to my search. Went to a local retro store and found the same exact model and color for $80 in comparable condition with a working stick. This has generally been true of a lot of consoles I've compared between the two as well.

Games are harder but also I do feel like after comparing them between retro stores and eBay you're not really going to find too much variance outside of extreme circumstances. I recently was on the lookout for a PSP copy of Outrun 2006 and went to a different store to see if they had one. They did, and it was a sealed one, and when I asked how much it was the guy literally typed ebay dot com into his computer and checked what the sold prices were. He told me $200! I knew from checking prices before that a CIB copy would be ~$50 on eBay so no go there haha.

To answer your question directly though: yes I have gotten deals in auctions but you have to be patient and also be prepared for the possibility that you won't win. Also like @Syzygy was saying the retro market has kinda changed forever at this point. You're super unlikely to find Insane Deals nowadays in places like eBay or even physical retro stores. You'd probably have to really diligently hunt garage sales and stuff like that to find some totally unaware person selling a PS1 and Xenogears for $10 or whatever. Also really depends on your region/which region the game or consoles you're looking for is in. For the most part you're gonna be paying whatever is considered "fair" nowadays no matter what avenue you choose. Even Buy It Now and auction prices can be very similar depending on the item. I will just use BIN sometimes if the [Pricecharting](https://www.pricecharting.com/) history looks similar and it's a nice condition item or whatever.

I am not a super collector (lol) but I know quite a few and we do talk about this stuff. Here's the current state of ebay as I understand it.

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    you will not win bidding auctions unless you are using a proxy, because everyone else is using a proxy. If you do win one of these, THAT is the super deal and lucky situation. In the last 5 years I‘ve won two auctions by bidding and that’s because nobody else was looking at them. That‘s the only way that happens, because it’s all robots outbidding each other with 1 microsecond to go. Note: when I tried using proxy bidders I still lost so I truly do not understand how to win.

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    you can still find buy it now deals that are significantly lower than the rest because someone isn't watching or they just want to move it now. I do buy things this way. I often "make offers" on buy it now auctions.

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    your best option with a bidding item with no "make offer" button is to send them a message and see if they'll add a buy it now for you, and then you can just go get it. That's how chris kohler, who is a super collector, gets stuff.

  • That's truly how you purchase things on ebay these days. I have gotten some deals I'd say, but we're either talking very minor deals or very ??? "deals."

    An example of the former: I usually don't buy vhs tapes online but I wanted the movie replikator because of the neat way it uses an unused sid mead blade runner concept art as its central concept, and it was straight to video and I knew I wasn't gonna just see it around. My options were $5 for the tape (or more), or $5 for the tape and 3 others that I could trade in to the local shop for 50 cents each. So I got a little bit of a tiny deal there.

    A couple examples of the latter. First, I recently got 13 sealed Japanese common saturn games, plus 9 copies of that ayrton senna photo disc (also with the saturn logo on the front), for $65 shipped. Is this a good deal? Literally who knows. I wanted the oversize cases for replacing some cracked ones I've got, and that's harder and harder to do, so it was a good deal for me. Plus the photo disc thing is funny. But on top of that, with them all sealed, I can probably sell them to another local shop for about what I paid for the whole thing, and then I wind up having paid a lot less for what I actually wanted.

    On another vector, I recently bought Whale's Voyage for CD32. This is a CD32-exclusive RPG from an austrian dev, and winds up being one of the very few exclusives for the platform. It's probably really rare? But there's no sales history for it. Nobody was looking for it, so it only had two bidders and one of them was me. I got it for $66. Is that a good deal? I'll probably never know. But it's certainly an unusual artifact and I wanted it, it's very unlikely to turn up again any time soon given there's zero sales history for it, and now I have it, so in that sense it's a deal?

    Like others have said, the days of searching "seag satrun" and getting a hot deal are over (thanks algorithms) but you can still get lucky. It really is getting lucky though. Stuff in person is usually at parity with ebay I find, often on the higher end, but you can actually see it, and I like supporting local shops, so I'll often buy there instead. I think with older games the deals are just extremely few and far between now. getting a deal requires a person to not know about games at all, and just flop the thing out there. When ever CRTs on craigslist are $100 with "amazing gaming tv" next to some random thing from wal-mart, it's just not the climate anymore.

    I am a very small-time physical collector, I just buy inexpensive games that I like or inexpensive interesting games that I find on the hunt (which is part of the fun). I have never participated in eBay auctions because that just seems like too much stress and time commitment, even before there were all these ways to game the system

    But using only the 'buy it now' option (i.e. a set price), I would say that you can still find plenty of more common/less sought after games and consoles for what seems to be a regular price. It's also good for accessibility, because nowadays, not every town has a physical location where you can consistently go and buy games that are much older than a few generations past, let alone import games

    (and to save a few bucks, it seems like the majority of the time that you put something on your watch list, the seller will offer some kind of discount)

    @“tokucowboy”#p73999 yeah, I forgot to mention that last point - with games that don't have the “make offer” button I wishlist and hope for a discount offer.

    The seller offer feature is super clutch, I ended up getting that PSP Outrun for only $40 because of it. Sometimes the offers are pretty funny because it ends up only being like a $2 discount on something.

    eBay is arguably the place that I get the majority of my retro / pre-PSWii60 era stuff from and I‘ve found that there are absolutely still bargains available if you’re diligent.

    What constitutes a bargain depends on what you're looking for, of course. I've picked up cart-only copies of Super Famicom Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and other RPGs for less than $3 - 5 a pop but I've also picked up a very good condition, complete copy of Burning Rangers for £60 - ostensibly not a bargain in itself but when the going rate seemed to be between £90-100 for copies in poorer condition at the time of purchase it does seem like a good deal.

    I almost always get buy it now products unless there's a real cheap auction that isn't being watched. I also don't often go out of my way to get something that is popular or expensive, and typically do the equivalent of window shopping to see what's available. I'll often search for something like "ntsc-j Dreamcast games", see what comes up and if there's something that I'm interested in I'll run a second search for that specific product. Often you'll get better prices from your second search.

    There aren't many retro stores near me - just one in my town if you don't count CeX but their retro selection is extremely limited, often in terrible condition and often laughably overpriced. Outside of my town there are a handful within an hour's drive but many seldom sell imports so I have to rely on eBay or a small selection of trusted online retailers. Given those circumstances eBay is often worth it even if I have to work a bit for a good deal.

    Yeah, I‘ll add it’s pretty decent for buy-it-now Japanese games – I‘ve gotten a good deal of PC Engine HuCards & commonly see decently priced Famicom lots. If you don’t have a shop nearby, the next best alternative are those proxy services, & man, all those hidden fees just add up to a comical level that (in my experience) usually makes eBay cheaper (& also makes eBay more “at least I know the price” compared to “let me try to anticipate how you are going to nickel & dime me 26 tiny times over the course of three days & then convert that total from yen to dollars”)

    I’ve gotten some decent deals by searching “video games” and sorting by ending soonest. You can catch odd stuff that is ending in a couple minutes that no one has even looked at.