While everyone else is selling, you should be buying
Next-generation console launches don't come along very often. But when they do, there's a sudden sinking realisation that these shiny new wonder-machines cost a lot of money. And in that desperation, particularly in our recession-rocked world, many perfectly good things are being sold to pay for them. Great things, even. So whether you're investing in collectibles or just picking the bones of the current-gen carcass, there's a killing to be made right now. On eBay.
So this is your guide to buying on eBay right now. I've chosen that site specifically simply because I've been using it recently, but the basic pointers should apply to other auction/classifieds sites too. So enough talking. Let's find some bargains!
Look for factory-sealed games
If youre after an investment, then theres only one way to go: Factory-sealed. Of course, that means you cant actually play the game when it arrives, unless you want to see potentially hundreds of big ones disappear into the waste basket.
Were not even talking about ultra-rare games. Look at the Super Mario World GBA port up there. An ultra-popular game that sells millions will actually be just as valuable in the future if its never been opened. Weve seen copies of Super Mario 64 go for 600, simply because its mint, in its box, unopened. Collectors are crazy, crazy people. So buy cheap new games now (check to make sure its listed as factory-sealed) that you suspect will be looked back on fondly in a few years and make an absolute killing further down the line. Be careful though, buying solely to make a profit classes as a business, so make sure you play by the rules.
Buy offline RPGs
This is a simplification, certainly, but theres no denying RPGs are the games that are worth most to collectors a few years later. Maybe its because their stories dont lose their impact like a generations graphics will. Each one is like a book, so who cares if the pages go a bit yellow. Right?
For the non-collector, if youre looking to stockpile cheap games thatll keep you going for a while (and you don't dislike the genre), RPGs are a safe bet. The experience isnt going to lose its impact while everyone else is enjoying next-gen gaming. And if you do come to sell in the future, they'll hold their value very well.
Try some entry bids and see what sticks
The best thing about eBay's bidding system is that you can set yourself a limit. So keep it small. Just fish for some low-price wins. Sure, I've been bidding on retro games recently, which are very niche, but I've been the sole bidder on them all. Chuck out a 99p/99c offer and stick to it. If you win, fantastic. If you don't, it really doesn't matter.
However, do not forget that you are entering into a legally binding contract when you bid on an item, so make sure you don't bid on a few hundred small items, win them all, and realise you're now flat broke. Do also keep in mind that winning many small items and paying promptly will quickly gain you a decent feedback rating, which is useful for buying bigger items (some sellers won't sell to anyone with feedback less than 10) or for selling in the future. Which brings us neatly onto...
Examine seller feedback carefully
You can tell a lot about a seller from their feedback, but don't take the Positive/Neutral/Negative numbers at face value. Obviously steer clear of a high negative feedback ratio, but remember that buyers often feel they have to give a positive rating to preserve their own feedback score.
So read the 'positive' comments and check for negative remarks to see if there's a recurring theme of items not as described, or poor communication. Also check out the anonymous star ratings on the right. If any area is under 4 stars, there's likely a problem. Finally, check how long the seller has been signed up. If you're looking at an old account with many transactions, it's probably someone's sole personal account--and they'll value their reputation.
Search for misspelled items
Ever played the Xbox 260 version of Lost Odyssey? Us neither. That's because a simple typo has decimated the search traffic for this listing. It doesn't have any bids. It comes with the strategy guide. It's an RPG. This ticks so many of the 'bargain' boxes *and* is unlikely to have many bids because there's a typo in the header.
There are stories of people who actually make a living off wrongly-listed or misspelled items on eBay. Buy them cheap, sell them properly... this is a goldmine very few people know about. Sp grb somw brgains!
Use your own knowledge to win
Read the description carefully. Does the seller actually know what they're talking about? I personally picked up a fantastic item recently (ZX Spectrum, baby!) which was listed as 'for parts or not working' simply because it came with an old lightgun that the seller had tested with an HDTV.
Not only did the gun not work, but they also said 'there's no light coming out of the gun'. We all know light guns don't actually 'fire' light. They just sense the light from the TV and work out the position of the shot from that. The result? One bid, one win. And all of it works beautifully. You can do that with modern games too--it doesn't only apply to retro gems.
Make use of the 'sold' filter
Not sure if you're getting a bargain or not? If you know what you're looking for (presumably a factory-sealed RPG with a misspelled listing from someone who doesn't understand what they've got but has a really strong feedback history all the same... right?), then run a search for it. Ignore the initial results.
Instead, scroll down the left-hand side and check the box that says 'sold listings'. This will filter your search to show only items that have actually been sold. Look at the prices here against items that look like the thing you're after. Are they very high? Lower than you'd expect? Then use that knowledge to make sure you aren't over-paying. If the item you want isn't available at the right price today, it probably will be tomorrow. And so begins your eBay addiction. Sorry about that.
What are you going to find?
We should probably point out that we don't have any affiliation with eBay and that other auction sites are available. Fact is, eBay has brought us some great things recently, so we thought we'd share our knowledge and tips with you. No need to thank us. Oh, but if you *do* want to thank us, you can do so in the comments below.