September 2004: Dumb eBay Tricks for Smart Bidders

Extra Fine Points Index  ]


BY DON FLUCKINGER • I give a shout out to Mike O’Bryan (a.k.a. Mike O on Pentrace), who’s kicking around in Troy, Michigan, sort of near my old stomping grounds of northwestern Ohio. Hope the walleye season was good to you this year, brother.

Anyway, Mike emailed me an interesting fish story about landing a great “junk” pen — I put that in quotes because he, like me, can enjoy a well-made pen of what collectors perceive as a lesser-quality brand — on eBay, a new-old-stock Venus President with a 14K nib. As I would have, he ripped off the sticker and put that baby to good use.

Another emailer, John Sanabria, suggested that I write another piece about eBay.

For many years, I resisted sniping software on Golden Rule grounds. But heck, now that I’ve found Auctionstealer.com, I say let’s all do this unto others, because they are perfectly capable of doing it unto us, too — and they will. Extra Fine Points

To the both of you I dedicate this month’s Extra Fine, which will concentrate on ways to find the bargains — and with any luck, give you a chance to be the “some guy” who crows about nailing bargains on the world’s biggest online junk shop.

If you talk to the people who run eBay, they’ll concede that bidders most frequently use the site’s search function to find auction lots — instead of browsing. With that in mind, the bulk of this column will be dedicated to finding the nooks and crannies a lot of bidders miss because of it — but first a word on sniping, or bidding at the last possible second as the auction timer counts down (usually with the aid of software):

For years, snipers have ticked me off. I refused to do it myself, invoking the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”). But after realizing that sniping is the modus operandi for almost every auction lot I care about, I gave in and tried an excellent online tool, auctionstealer.com. And yeah, I can rationalize it with the Good Book — I invite all bidders to do unto me by bidding the Auctionstealer.com way.

Basically, the site offers visitors three free snipes a week. I won’t get into the ethics of setting up multiple registrations with different email addresses in order to get more than three freebies — but let’s just say that if you’re using the service that frequently, you probably should fork over a few bucks because you need finer control over your bidding habits … — which the paid registration affords.

Also, please note, if you’re out for blood when bidding, people who kick Auctionstealer a few bucks get to snipe a few seconds later in the auction, which is enough to beat us free users. I don’t need that extra edge — yet — because I really just use the sniping tool as time-saving financial therapy — i.e., if I don’t waste hours watching the auction timer count down, I am not tempted to up my bid.

(All you people ready to hurl insults from the peanut gallery about me being a compulsive freak: Put a lid on it, I’ve heard them all before.)

Moving along, let’s take advantage of sellers’ bad typing habits and complete ignorance of the fountain pen world. I’m going to list some common misspellings that force an auction to fall under the radar of people who search eBay for their favorites:

Fountain pen
Schaeffer Snorkle Admiral Fountian Pen
Fountain pen
Water Man Black Plastic Fountian Pen
Fountain pen
Parcker Vacuumatic Ink Pen

A couple other miscellaneous caveats: First, don’t forget that if someone is dumb enough to misspell a search term, they’re probably dumb enough to sell a junk/parts pen without knowing it, so you get what you pay for. Ask questions up front if you get a whiff of problems.

Moreover, the smartest readers will save all the above misspellings, do one big search, and either put them in an eBay Saved Search or bookmark the results page. Check that baby every few days. It’s not like you’ll bid on everything you see, but man, if you get five or six pens a year off this technique, you’ll have enough “sumgai” stories to get all of Pentrace seething with envy and flaming you on the message board.


cover Further Reading: eBay the Smart Way, by Joseph T. Sinclair

Practice safe eBaying habits, or the next “catch” from the bay might be worse than a pig in a poke. To that end, it might be wise to check out a copy of this tome.

Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the Biddersedge.com collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
© 2004 Don Fluckinger Contact Us | About Us | Privacy Policy