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How to Win at eBay:
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Use this link to get to eBay whenever you buy and it helps me write more like this, thanks! Ken.


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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.

It's Gambling

eBay is gambling. You never know what you'll get or how much you'll pay. Like any other kind of gambling, it's fun for its own sake, and can be catastrophically addictive.

Just like Las Vegas gambling, everyone brags about what they won or the deals they found, but by human nature, we never talk about what we lost, when we got ripped off or paid too much.

Don't expect to find deals on eBay. Expect to pay the highest reasonable price for used gear. If you want bargains, go where the pro sellers find them.


Smoke Damage

Smoking, even outdoors, has been illegal in much of California for many years. The only smoking that's legal today in California is medical marijuana, but since there's a federal law against that, that's not legal either.

Human nature is to assume a stranger is just like you unless there's reason to presume otherwise. That's the magic of the Internet: people who would run the other way from each other in person can converse about common interests, like photography, without the distraction of the many other dimensions of their lives, like their weird political views.

It's not common, but sometimes I've gotten items from other part of the country that reek of smoke, or mothballs, sewage, or whatever.

The good news is that these smells eventually go away, but I have to leave the items out where they can breathe.

The only way to find out about them before you buy is to look at the seller's feedback. The internet isn't like Smell-O-Vision. If you ask someone if there's anything wrong, nicotine addicts won't notice any odor. That's why feedback, not the seller's own opinion, should always be your guide to gauging the condition of an item for sale.


Last-Minute Updates

Watch for eBay listings that were updated with new problems since you last looked.

I can't tell if I've seen this, but I do try to re-read listings a few minutes before the close to make sure something like "I just checked, and the item is broken" hasn't been added.


Poor Packers

Pros on eBay aren't pros. We all remember some weird shopkeeper from our childhoods who ran his store in a weird, annoying way.

Thankfully chains have put these quirky retail stores out of business. Sadly for we buyers, these people have popped back up selling on eBay.

This is unusual, but I've had people send me some very rare, exotic and expensive items packed like this:

80-200 box

This is how a lens arrived for which someone paid over $1,000.

The funny thing about this shipment was that this used box, which originally carried doctor's office exam table paper and had enough stickers to seem like it had been shipped around the world a few times, was sent heavily insured UPS.

My UPS driver and I had a good laugh, because it was so valuable that UPS had to keep it under lock and key the whole time.

We both asked ourselves: if the seller thought it valuable enough to send under double-secret security, then why didn't he pack it properly?

The lens thankfully arrived in perfect shape. If it hadn't, it was irreplaceable.




Another very rare collectors' item arrived in this poster tube.

First-world people are funny: we're so superstitious that we think that "FRAGILE!" stickers will protect items against bad juju (and bad packing).

Since this lens had no packing, its zoom and focus cams arrived sort of screwed up. Too bad, since it is the oldest known surviving sample of the world's first 50-300mm f/4.5 zoom lens, which in September 1968, was the world's widest-ratio zoom ever for 35mm cameras.

I'll probably give it away to a collector pal, since it's very valuable as the first known sample of this lens in existence, but it's not in the right shape for me to test meaningfully.



People who aren't professional shippers sometimes care too much and go off the deep end. Most people's moms are like this.

They'll send you something wrapped in so much tape and God knows what that you have to work very hard not to damage your item unpacking it.

Some photo and art contests even have stipulations that if you send them something that can't be unwrapped safely, that they're sending it back.


Next: How to Find Deals on eBay

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Thanks for reading!



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


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