It’s a tough gig, the vinyl game. Whether you’re an avid collector of seventies prog’, or a connoisseur of Norwegian black metal, there will always be competition for the records you desire. As collections and collectors alike begin to grow, this rivalry with a faceless enemy will only grow fiercer and more relentless.
Like all record junkies, I ponder the question: Do I share my secrets? Everyone has a favorite spot, their own digging haven. Some have a thrift store that hasn’t cottoned on to the vinyl revolution, some have a store where the owner still prices his records like it’s 1976. However, in this instance, I’m happy to share. My spot is no secret. My spot is eBay.
I know, right? We all use eBay. It can be an insufferable place to buy records, there’s no doubt. Being outbid in the last ten seconds is a frustration only equalled by the assembling of flat pack furniture, or an argument about putting the toilet seat down. To beat this frustration I had to learn how to get ahead. I sat down with a steaming hot cup of coffee, a note pad and a fire in my belly. I will be better at eBay.
The list below is what I came up with. I’m happy to report that I’ve been winning at eBay ever since. Some of it is smart, some of it is plain obvious when you think about it, but it is a list that will reshape the way you search, hunt and win on eBay.
If the record you’re after is listed at a bargain price, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone will snap it up in no time. If you want to be that person, you need to be first to the punch, you need to know your tools. Knowing your tools on eBay will put you head and shoulders above the rest of the nation, hell, even the rest of the world. The first thing I can recommend is activating the ‘Newly Listed’ feature when you search. Once you have searched for a title, head to ‘Filter’ (found to the right, under the search box), then to ‘Sort’ and then select ‘Newly Listed’. Bam, just like that, you’re looking at the newest records on eBay. If you switch the search to ‘Newly Listed’, you’ll be scooping up bargains before anyone else. If you really want to be effective with this technique, limit your searches to just ‘Buy it Now’, and then switch your search to ‘Newly Listed’. This puts you first in line to buy records listed at knockout prices before anyone notices they’ve gone up.
The glorious thing about buying records on eBay is its sheer unpredictability. There are sellers that know their stuff, no doubt. These aren’t the sellers we care for. Sellers who want a quick sale are less likely to do the research and put up a record for a fraction of what it’s worth. The ‘Newly Listed’ tool enables you to snag up the records that have been stuck on without a second thought. Many sellers decide to sell without any real research, and you need to be there to pounce when they do. This very technique earned me a copy of Ben Kwellers Sha Sha for $30. The last copy to sell on Discogs sold for nearly $240. Need I say more?
When we’re searching for a record, were often after a certain one. Whether that be a UK pressing, a US pressing, a certain label variant, we will not compromise on what we want. So, when we search, we’re specific, right? Scrap that technique. Once again, to get ahead, we must rely on the ignorance of the seller. If someone has gone through the trouble of listing the exact record, the exact date or pressing, the label variant or the country of pressing, then you can bet your guarantee they know the true value of the record. If that’s the case, we’re not interested. Search in big, broad terms. As well as this, hone in on ‘Newly Listed’ items. For example, you could search for “Nirvana records” and activate the ‘Newly Listed’ feature. You wouldn’t think it, but you will be shocked by just how many records have been listed without any due care or attention. If you have even more time, just search ‘Records’ and an ocean of badly listed records will appear. Sure, there will be some rubbish, but you can’t beat the feeling of finding the perfect record at a superb price. Most sellers are people trying to make a quick buck with what’s lying about, so they are often careless. Consequently, listings will frequently contain label errors, first pressings and rare variants without it being mentioned. Sure, you have to look and it can take a little time but isn’t that part of the fun? At least you’re comfy and at home!
If you do find a seller who’s being careless, click on ‘Sellers other items’. This can be located under the seller’s name, to the right of the screen, or under the listing details on your mobile. Once you have done this, you’ll find that if there’s one listing that’s sloppy, the seller will have more. You’ll also save on postage with multi buys.
Listing on eBay is a laborious process, one that many of us would rather not go through. As a buyer, you need to hone in on this emotion and exploit it, if you will. As a buyer that collects (and sells to fund my habit) I have done this many times. I can’t express how important it is to read through the listing details properly. The phrase or expression you are looking for is something within the remit of ‘I’m listing a record collection, so keep an eye out for more’ or ‘There will be loads more records, I’ve just got to list them’. Those phrases tell you a lot. They are a beautiful cocktail of the seller wanting cash, but feeling inconvenienced by the listing process. When I see this, I immediately privately message the seller. My messages state that I’m willing to buy privately and enquire what he/she has that’s not gone up yet. In this situation, the seller nearly always responds. They will see an opportunity to make some quick cash without the pain of listing. As the buyer, you’ll get first dibs on some unlisted vinyl, and could even make some money on the bits that aren’t your bag.
It’s important to list the benefits of selling privately in your opening email. You need to engage the seller from the get go. Inform them it will save them time, money (no one likes eBay fees) and save them from posting a bunch of records to different places when they could do it all at once.
This tip may seem obvious, but timing helps. We are creatures of habit, us buyers. According to eBay, the most popular times for the site are evenings and weekends. If you’re going to engage in a bidding war, do it at a time when there is a decreased chance of competition. If I’m bidding on a record, I will only bid if I know that the record is ending at an obscure time. Any time between 7am to 11am and 1pm to 5pm Monday to Friday, is good with me. Break the habit and bid when others are too busy to think about eBay. This technique will guarantee to knock down the price. The one problem that could be experienced is remembering when to bid. If you’re forgetful like me, set an alarm on your phone for a few minutes before the auction ends. Sometimes thinking outside the box is all it takes.
Bulk buying on eBay isn’t worth it. People list collections and wholesale lots frequently, and they go for way more than they are actually worth. It could well be linked to the volume of interest they attract.
We all have the dream to set up record stores, whether it be online or in a local shop. This is a dangerous combination that’s ruining the fun for everyone. I have sold records for years now, and I have found that it is not the selling of vinyl that is the issue, but it is the competition for stock. These bulk lots often attract thirty or forty serious bidders, all hoping to make money on the resale of these records. Often it is inexperienced new buyers bidding on job lots, and the price goes far past it’s worth. So, you’d actually end up paying more for these records than if you purchased them individually.
What’s more, bulk buying eliminates the chance of getting records in good condition. Listings are nearly always vague, and you’ll often end up with a giant collection of rubbish. Even if the records are collectable, they won’t be in the condition you want. Your best bet is to buy individually, so you know exactly what you’re buying. Trust me, it won’t cost any more. If anything, you’ll save money.
So there we are. Those are my secrets. Tell your IKEA shelves to brace themselves and may your turntable cry the sweet sound of bargain vinyl.
Luke Pybus is a freelance writer and vinyl obsessive from Cardiff, Wales. Usually found shoulder deep in a box of records, or with a hot coffee writing about them.