10 Best Tips and Tricks for Buying on eBay

Buying stuff on eBay sounds simple. Set up a PayPal account, check out the offers, and purchase the items you want. But there are specific strategies you should follow if you want to get items at the right prices, lower the cost on Buy It Now listings, and be the winning bidder on fast-paced auctions.

I'll assume you've set up a PayPal account and are ready to dive in for some good deals on eBay. Whether you've already dipped your toes into the waters of eBay shopping or haven't yet taken the plunge, these tips should help you better navigate eBay's marketplace.

Research the Price of an Item

Don't assume that the prices you see on eBay items are the lowest around. Many eBay sellers jack up the prices on their items or just don't price them realistically. Assuming the item you want is available elsewhere, check out the price among other sellers. There are a number of shopping apps to compare prices, but you can also head to Amazon, where you'll find items for sale from the retail giant and third-party sellers. Then snoop around online shopping sites, such as Etsy, HSN, and Overstock. You can also search for your item via Google Shopping, which shows you the price among a variety of retailers. And don't forget retailers with online and physical stores, such as Walmart, Target, and Best Buy.

Discover What People Have Paid in the Past

You can easily find out if a certain item has sold in the past and at what prices. After you conduct your search, scroll down the results page to the section on the left for "Show only." Click the checkbox for Completed Listings to see all final listings for an item. Prices that appear in green show items that sold at that amount; prices not in green show expired items that didn't sell. Click on the checkbox for Sold listings to see just listings that sold at specific prices.
See If a Buy It Now Seller Takes Counteroffers
A Buy It Now listing offers an item at a fixed price. But that doesn't mean you need to accept that price. Many sellers allow for best offers from interested buyers. Suggest a price lower than the asking amount, and you can often win the item at a cheaper cost.

Try to Haggle for a Better Price

Even if the seller of a Buy It Now listing doesn't accept counteroffers, it doesn't hurt to ask. Send a message to the seller asking if he or she would accept a lower price on the item. Be polite and friendly, and be reasonable with your counteroffer, and you may just get the item at your requested price.

Sign Up for Alerts on Your Desired Items

Looking for a specific item but can't find it, or think the price could be better on an item you did website locate? Instead of continually searching for the item, set up an alert to email you if it becomes available. To do this, search for the item you want. Don't worry if few or no results appear. Click on the link to "Save this search." By default, you'll then be alerted via email when any new items that match your search arrive on eBay.

Check the Shipping Cost

Don't look at price alone; remember to check the shipping cost. Many buyers offer free shipping on items. An item with a higher price but free shipping may be a better deal than the same item at a lower cost but with a shipping charge.

Use the eBay Mobile App

You can more easily stay on top of listings via eBay's mobile app. iPhone and iPad users can download the app from Apple's App Store; Android users from Google Play. Through the app, you can search for items, keep track of watched items, place bids, and purchase items via Buy it Now listings.

Check eBay Local for Nearby Sellers

Looking for a piece of furniture or other large item that can't be shipped? Consider checking out pickup-only listings. You can find these in a few ways. In the search field, type the item you want followed by the words "pickup only," as in leather here sofa "pickup only." Alternatively, scroll down the results page to the Item Location section. Click the checkbox for Within. Type your ZIP website code in the second field and click on the first field to select the number of miles you'd be willing to travel to get the item. Scour the listings for the ones that say "Pickup only."

Bid Your Maximum Amount

If you want an item but can't keep returning to eBay to continually raise your bid, think about the maximum price you'd pay for it. Then bid that amount. Remember that eBay doesn't necessarily increase your bid by the amount you entered but rather by whatever amount is needed for you to remain the highest bidder. For example, you could bid £50 on an item, but if the previous bid was
£40, then your actual amount is only high enough to beat the £40. If other people bid on the item, they would need to top your website £50 bid to take the lead. The greater the amount you bid, the longer you put off having to manually counter with a higher bid to remain in first place.

Wait Until the Last Few Seconds to Bid

Resist the urge to bid too early. If the item you have your eye on is really hot, then that will just drive up the price as other bidders swoop in. Your best bet is to wait until the clock is ticking on the last several seconds of the auction, a strategy known as sniping. Some pooh-pooh this approach, but it's worked for me many times. Prepare your offer price ahead of time (keep it high enough to outbid the last bidder) and then click on the Place bid button. Wait until the countdown is somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds and then click on the Confirm button. I like to jump in at around get more info 30 seconds to give me enough time to make another offer if I've been outbid. But waiting until about 15 seconds gives you a better chance on a truly hot item.

Investing in Collectibles: 5 Types of Collectibles That Have Historically Offered BankaBle Returns

There are stocks, there are bonds … and then there are alternative investments, a motley collection of all other asset types. Within the umbrella of alternative investments, some of the most exotic are collectibles.

A collectible can be any physical object that people can and do collect: from fine china to bottles of wine, from rare manuscripts to vintage cars — and everything in between. Collectors gather these "tangible assets" because they love them. Investors hang onto them in hopes that they'll increase in value over time.

As with any investment, there are no guarantees which will appreciate and which will not. And because they are so diverse, collectibles are an extremely unpredictable group. Sometimes the most throw-away items are the ones whose prices skyrocket, while hyped-up items like Beanie Babies soar one year, then become almost entirely worthless.

Still, there are some collectibles that are considered pretty savvy investments, year in and year out. They have some or all of the qualities investors crave: reputable, liquid, transparent, or trackable. Naturally, the value of any individual item will always be based heavily on its rarity, how close to mint condition it is, and whether you can find a buyer — all factors which create quite a bit of variance.

But in general, these are five categories of collectibles that — based on their history — seem the most likely to offer solid returns in the future, as well as some pleasure in the here and now. Here's an overview of how they're defined and how to approach collecting them.

Air mail United States postage stamp graphic
A vintage stamp, ca. 1947. tomograf/getty images
You'll often see stamps at the top of investible collectibles lists, because they exist right at the center of many overlapping qualities that make collectibles excellent investments. Stamps are:

Small and lightweight, which makes them inexpensive to store
Low-cost (at least, with initial investments)
Frequently released in limited-run batches, which drive up value over time
Plus, they're easy to identify in catalogs, so you don't need too much technical know-how to jump in.

The philatelic market ("philately" being the collection and study of stamps) has declined somewhat over the past few decades, but the sticky little pieces of paper are still considered one of the most reliable collectibles around, with prices increasing by over 13% annually since 1991. (This is according to growth in the GB250 Index, which tracks the performance of the top 250 stamps in Great Britain.)

Whether you've inherited a ready-made collection that you wish to expand, or are starting your own, the Stanley Gibbons Simplified Catalogue "Stamps of the World" is an excellent place to start. It lists all of the stamps issued globally, along with their prices, and can either be purchased or borrowed from most libraries.

Rare Coins
Rare coin on wooden surface.
A coin from Imperial Russia, dated 1895. Анатолий Тушенцов/Getty Images
There's more to coin collecting than just saving up your spare change. Numismatics, as it's termed, refers to the collection and study of currency — specifically, specie that's no longer in circulation. The value of any given coin often has very little to do with the amount originally stamped on its face. The Flowing Hair Silver Dollar, for example, was minted in 1794, and by September 2020, was valued at over $10 million, making it the most expensive coin in the world.

But the coin collecting market is still worth getting into even if you don't have that kind of change lying around. With a market share estimated at up to $3.8 billion in 2018, there's more than enough room for investors at every level.

Be careful not to confuse numismatic coins with bullion coins. These are released by government mints specifically as a way to invest in gold or other precious metal. Although some could conceivably become rare in the future, their value mainly reflects the price of the metal itself.

When starting out, try to snap up commemorative coins with limited runs or coins with errors, and prepare to hang onto them long term. Rare-coin dealers and auctioneers, like the venerable Stack's Bowers Galleries, are a good bet — maybe no bargains, but they usually can provide a coin's provenance and proof of authenticity.

Some precious metals dealers like JM Bullion also offer up coins for purchase, as well as tracking prices for helpful transparency.

Star wars toys positioned in natural setting.
Vintage Star Wars toy figures. Carlos Tischler / Contributor/Getty Images
This category of childish things contains everything from comic books, to model cars, baseball cards, and dolls and figurines, which can sell for impressive sums far beyond their original sale prices. The United States' collectible toy market is expected to swell to $35.3 billion by 2032, with a compound annual growth rate of 10.1%.

Not every item will soar in value, of course, but the made-to-scale model cars from Dinky Toys, original Star Wars toys from 1977, and comic books published between the 1930s and 1970s have proved lasting bets. A good rule of thumb is to check the price on the front of the comic book — anything originally costing 25¢ and under is probably worth a little something (certainly more than a quarter).

No matter the item, the trick is to keep playthings in mint condition with plastic sleeves and holders, preserving original tags and packaging wherever possible. Then, hold onto them for at least 20 years to give the nostalgia-driven market time to work its magic. To track pricing, refer to resources like the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide or search auction archives to determine what similar items are currently selling for.

Fine Art
Jasper johns art piece.
"Untitled," 1964/65 by Jasper Johns Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
While most of the items on this list get more info need to be carefully stashed away in order to accumulate value, fine art is a rare example of a collectible that can be appreciated as it appreciates. The $65 billion global art market can encompass any display piece, from paintings to photography to sculpture, with works by living artists such as Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, Cindy Sherman, and Damien Hirst proving especially popular at the moment.

The tricky thing about fine art is that by definition, most pieces are one of a kind, which makes them simultaneously more valuable and more difficult to value. Ultimately, the market is driven by what buyers are willing to pay for any given piece, although you can get clues by tracking prices at sources like Mutual Art Magazine. The Artnet Auction Price Database is another authority.

For beginner investors, your best bet is to buy low in an emerging category instead of trying to get your hands on pieces that are already highly valued (or overvalued) like, say, the Impressionists. Yes, the latter is more bankable, but they're also likely to be too expensive to appreciate much.
It's also better to collect a first-rate artist in one genre or school, even if they are obscure, rather than a second-rate member of a famous school.
Ebay Sneakers on light blue background.
To combat counterfeits, eBay has its own sneaker-authentication program. eBay
It's safe to say that sneakers are having a bit of a moment: The market was valued at $69 billion in 2021 and is forecasted to reach $113 billion by 2025. But don't expect to be able to turn in your favorite, well-worn kicks for a hefty profit. When it comes to here collectible footwear, you're looking for supple leather or fabric uppers, spotless soles, and zero scuffs. In short, you'd be best off if the shoes have never actually touched your feet, let alone been worn outside.
Collectors are partial to brands like Nike, Air Jordans, Yeezys, and Adidas, with limited-edition drops proving especially popular. And valuable: the Nike SB What the Dunk originally cost $120, and now most sellers aren't offering it at a lower price than $10,000.
Prices can be tracked through resources like eBay, GOAT and StockX, and aspiring sneakerheads are advised to start small and follow their own tastes.
Tips on investing in collectibles
Invest in something you love, or that you at least have a vested interest in. That way, even if it never appreciates much in value, it can still bring you joy.
Be aware that unlike much of the financial market, which is regulated by the check here SEC or FINRA, there's no overarching authority stabilizing prices or protecting consumers when it comes to collectibles. Which means no one to complain to if something goes awry.
Remember that these items don't trade on public markets, making pricing opaque and increasing the risk of being taken advantage of as a new investor.
Have patience. As an asset class, collectibles are pretty illiquid. Markets and demand can be small, and sales can take a long time.
When you do invest, it's crucial to know how to care for your collectibles. Consult an expert about how store your items safely, to retain their condition and value, and don't neglect documentation and insurance. Also, keep your loved ones well-equipped with knowledge about your collection to avoid your treasures ending up in a yard sale for another keen-eyed collector to snap up.
The bottom line
While investing in collectibles can be a great way to diversify your portfolio while exploring your own website interests, it does have its drawbacks. As with any asset, there are no guarantees when it comes to appreciation.
And appreciation is all a collectible offers. There's no way to cash in on dividends or collect interest while you're holding the item. The only way to make money off of your collectible is to sell it or borrow against it.
That said, it's an asset class that has immense potential here for growth. So if you can find a category of tangibles where your passions overlap with a promising profit opportunity, start curating your own unique collection. It can be an incredibly rewarding experience — in all senses of the word.

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