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How to Win at eBay
© KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

eBay article illustration

Please help KenRockwell..com

I've invested a year researching, interviewing, gathering data and then writing this book. Instead of charging you for it, I thought it would be much more generous to put it on my website below where everyone can read it for free, first. If you appreciate my efforts and find this as helpful as another book or seminar, your generosity will help me to keep adding more books like this to my website for all to read. Consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.This website is how I support my family. If you buy over eBay, a free way to help is to use this link to get to eBay. Thank you! Ken.


Index of detail pages



Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

I buy only from these approved sources. I can't vouch for ads below.

I've bought hundreds of things over eBay so I can review them for you. I've gotten everything from photo gear itself to old literature and catalogs to get the definitive facts on older gear. I dispose of most of it locally after it's been documented.

I've won over 97% of the items on which I've bid, and I've never paid more than I intended.

Here's how I do it. I'll also cover selling over eBay.

eBay is always a gamble, which is why it's so addictive. If you can't afford to take chances, don't use eBay.

Before you get too excited, know that eBay is a great place to find weird, old, rare and collectible items. It's a horrible place to buy major new items, which can be bought for the same price from real stores without the gambling.

Out of hundreds of items, I've only gotten what I consider to be a deal a couple of times. I've gotten junk about 10% of the time, usually from low-feedback (99.6% and below) sellers. Remember; I'm buying used cameras from strangers.

There are almost no deals on eBay. This is because eBay has so many people looking that eBay will always fetch the highest price. Everything on eBay sells for about what it's worth; you can't find steals like you can at garage sales. Imagine a garage sale with a hundred other people just like you looking at the same item sitting on the lawn. You're not getting that Leica for $25, sorry.

eBay is a great place to sell, but not a place to find bargains on common items. The only way to make money on eBay is to buy elsewhere and then sell on eBay. Save eBay for buying oddball items you can't find anyplace else.

eBay is a huge corporation that makes money as a percentage of the selling price of items, paid by the sellers, called "sellers fees." eBay collects over 23 million dollars of these percentages every day, even though eBay sells nothing itself. With 15,000 direct employees at eBay, you had better believe that eBay does everything it can to ensure people pay as much as possible, as often as possible, for things sold on eBay.

Using eBay is like a religion, so if you're set in your ways, I can't help you. However, if you'd like to know what works for me, and the professional eBay sellers (and experienced buyers) I've interviewed to write this article, here goes.


Fast Summary

All the parts of this series of articles are related, so read all the pages when you can.

If you just found something that closes in two minutes, or is Buy It Now, and you have to make a snap decision, know these critical facts:

1.) The seller's feedback rating is a better predictor of the quality of an item than his description of it. Read the negative comments very carefully (click "detailed feedback").

Photos and written descriptions have little to do with the condition of what you'll get. I've bought items in fantastic condition from 100% rated sellers whose photos of the camera items were fuzzy and illegible, and I've gotten junk described as MINT!!! LIKE NEW!!! from sellers with 99.4% (poor) feedback ratings and great pictures.

Good feedback ratings are 99.8% and above.

Bad feedback ratings are 99.6% and below.

Don't even consider buying from anyone with much less of a feedback rating than 99.5%. When I have, I've often gotten junk.

2.) Only bid if the seller accepts PayPal. If he doesn't, something is usually fishy, or the seller is a weirdo. People haven't expected personal checks over eBay since the 1990s.

3.) Buy-It-Now prices are usually just pipe dreams by the seller, but if you see what you want at the right price, buy it now because it can go away even as you're clicking on it.

If a Buy-It-Now listing is more than a day old, it's priced too high.

Whenever bargains appear as Buy-It-Now, pro buyers snap them up within seconds of their being listed. A real bargain won't last more than an hour as a Buy It Now.

4.) Bid only at the last second, and bid the absolute maximum you would ever want to pay. You'll win, and only pay a couple of dollars above the second highest bidder's bid, regardless of your bid amount.

If you early-bid (any time before the very last few seconds), you let everyone else who bid early know that they just got out-bid, and you'll now have 12 inexperienced bidders acting on emotion, not logic, trying to outbid you just for the sake of it. That's called "auction fever."

Bidding only at the last second is the best way to spare people from paying too much. Never bid earlier than the last few seconds. If you do, all the other bidders will get emails and instant messages and pages letting them know they just got outbid with enough time to act on it.

Early bidding, the worst sin on eBay, jacks up prices for everyone. Sellers and eBay love it, but if you want to pay the best prices and win, never bid before the last moment.


How to Buy over eBay

At your leisure, find what you want, research the seller and the item, and add it to your watch list if you want it.

Relax until the moment the auction ends, and then bid, win and pay for it at the same time.

These articles are in order. Try to read them all before you do anything, but if you can't, I've already covered 90% of what you need to know above.


top of page

How to Find (Search for) Your Item

How to Find Anything

Research the Seller

How to Read a Listing

Using Your Watch List

The Progress of a Typical Online Auction

What's It Worth?

Auction Fever

How to Pay Less Than You Bid

What's It Worth — to You?

Why Never to Early-Bid

How to Bid

How to Pay

Delivery Times


Legal Obligations

Returning Junk

Tracking and Record-Keeping


Frauds, Fakes and Stolen Items


How to Find Deals on eBay




How to Sell over eBay

How to Sell over eBay


How to Make Millions on eBay

How to Make Millions on eBay


Help me help you         top

I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.

The biggest help is when you use any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

If you find this page as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

If you haven't helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use, you are granted one-time permission only if you PayPal me $5.00 per printout or part thereof. Thank you!


Thanks for reading!



Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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July 2011