RISC World

How to get the best deals on eBay


Do you ever get frustrated when you don't win items in an eBay auction, or perhaps find that items sell for less than you wanted? David Bradforth offers some practical advice on getting more from eBay; in the way you want.

The key thing to remember with eBay is that it's an Internet Auction site and, as in a live auction, you have buyers looking for the best deals and sellers hoping for a bidding war to begin and hence the price of items to be driven up. There are ways for both sellers and buyers to get exactly what they want from eBay and, this month in RISCWorld, we'll aim to take a look at a few of them.

There's nothing fancy here at all - everything we've suggested needs no special software beyond your web browser and a little time to experiment.


As an eBay seller, you are putting an advertisement out in the world. Just as it would in a newspaper, this advertisement needs to give a reasonably detailed account of what the product is you're selling, what you'll need to make use of it, any comments about the state of it and the price you're looking for.

Should it be an auction, or fixed price? You decide

If you're selling RISC OS related items, you're generally selling to people who know what they're talking about and are simply looking for a bargain.

Hence a listing that includes INTEL, SUPER CHEAP or BARGAIN in the title is likely to get less interest than one that simply explains the nature of the product you're trying to sell. For hardware, you should state the machine model (e.g. Acorn Risc PC 700), memory (32Mb + 2Mb VRAM) and hard disc space; then add '+ Extras' to add interest for the prospective purchase and make them read more of the listing.

Photographs will always help your items to sell - particularly hardware. It gives purchasers a chance to see the quality of the item before they actually place a bid on it; which will help increase the amount people are prepared to bid on high-value items. People need a chance to have some reassurance that they're not going to end up with something that should have been junked years earlier.

eBay does state during its registration process 'Caveat Emptor' - let the buyer beware. Which basically means that buyers need to make sure they're actually getting worthwhile product through eBay in general and they need to keep an eye out for worthwhile dealers who treat their customers correctly and offer responsible terms.


For Buyers, eBay really is their market. As a buyer, when bidding on an item you should enter the maximum amount you're prepared to bid and go no higher.

Check the specifications of any item before you buy it. If you need any clarification about an item, email the seller before buying.

If you do come across an item that reminds you perhaps of something in your childhood, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to just buy it for the sake of childhood memories and nostalgia will often make us spend more than we should on items that perhaps do not warrant it.

Be strong; keep to your initial assessment of what it's worth and if you lose the bid don't worry - sooner or later the same item or similar will be back on eBay, and you may end up paying less than you would have done otherwise.

One thing you do not to be careful of on eBay is the authenticity of items; particularly with major film releases such as Star Wars III just around the corner. Interest is peaking again in Star Wars-related merchandise, to such an extent that replica light sabres from the first two films are fetching close to £1,000 on auction and have truly ridiculous buy-it-now prices.

They key term in that was replica - these are items that any fan can buy from a model shop for £50 or so at any time, and just because they were authorised by Lucasfilm it doesn't justify the phenomenal prices being asked.

It is very much a buyers market on eBay - sellers will only sell their products for the amounts that buyers are prepared to pay; and the key to success here is to be realistic about an items value. If you'd not have paid a certain amount for the item when it was new, why pay the same for it now?

Hopes for the future

There are a number of very useful utilities to make listing items on eBay easier; but none are available for RISC OS users and the web browser support could do with being stronger. We'd like to see RISC OS equivalents of the turbo listing tools; something that can make those of us using RISC OS have the same ease as our PC-owning friends.

We can but hope...

In the meantime here are my top tips for getting the best price if you are selling on eBay:

  • Set your auction to end in the evening, not in the day, often 11:45 at night works well.
  • Think about your description, if you sell a RiscPC make sure the advert says Acorn RiscPC, it will be easier for people to find.
  • Include a photograph.
  • Answer any questions promptly and politely.
  • Finally when you send the item to the winner bidder package it properly.

..and for buyers:

  • Find auctions that finish when people are at work.
  • Increase your bids by small amounts - you might only be £1 off being the winner.
  • Don't bother with the buy now button unless you know it's a bargain.
  • Don't just hunt in the correct groups, do a search from the main page. e.g. for Acorn.
  • Keep looking, just like buses another similar item will be along in a minute.

Dave Bradforth