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Why the bleep is eBay so expensive??

Bill-kun

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I decided this is better to be in the hardware forum than the auction forum. I don’t think I’m succeeding at not wanting to rant.

I appreciate people who prevent vintage-out-of-production hardware from being destroyed, but I don’t see the asking prices on eBay being justified.

The secondary fan group that Computer Reset set up on Facebook (Computer Reset Buy and Sell) even explicitly states that the prices people ask for in that group be “well below eBay.” That’s a direct quote!

Some examples:

IBM 5170 AT 286 PC Computer + EGA monitor AdLib XTIDE mechanical clicky keyboard
$1500 OBO
https://www.ebay.com/itm/IBM-5170-A...TIDE-mechanical-clicky-keyboard-/264965846102

AST 286 desktop computer with hard drive - RARE - Vintage Hardware - AS IS
$585+$85 shipping
https://www.ebay.com/itm/AST-286-de...ive-RARE-Vintage-Hardware-AS-IS-/183830577135

VINTAGE DATA BANK COMPUTER AMD AM286-12 DESKTOP COMPUTER -RARE
$300+$101 shipping
https://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-DATA-BANK-COMPUTER-AMD-AM286-12-DESKTOP-COMPUTER-RARE-/254599082200

BIOSTAR MB-1212V VLSI AT MOTHERBOARD W/ 286-12MHZ CPU + 1MB RAM
$400+$24 shipping
https://www.ebay.com/itm/BIOSTAR-MB-1212V-VLSI-AT-MOTHERBOARD-W-286-12MHZ-CPU-1MB-RAM-/123543534170
 

Timo W.

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Germany
Buy-it-now prices have no meaning. Filter for sold items instead. Also tell that anyone who refers to ebay prices. Just *listing* e.g. a C64 for $2000 doesn't make it worth that much.
 

SomeGuy

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Marietta, GA
I'd love to hear an actual seller's take on it, but I doubt they want to give away their secrets.

My observation is that eBay is intentionally designed to encourage price inflation.

I suspect items like the ones above are intentionally given absurd prices so when the same seller posts a similar item for 1/4 of the price (which is still 4 times what it should be worth) people won't feel as bad about buying it, increasing the probability of sale.

But then you ocasionally actually get a few people with more money than brains that actually buy stuff at absurd prices. For example, this recent auction for a beat up Laser 128ex plus a compact XT that sold for 645.55 plus shipping: https://www.ebay.com/itm/324492340173?nordt=true

That is at least 2 or 3 times the maximum real value.

You may have also noticed that many buy-it-now items have BS "sale" prices. Perhaps a 40 dollar item is listed at $100 but for the next 7 days it is on "sale" for the low, low price of only $59.99.

The latest fad seems to be "seller offers". You browse a 40 dollar item listed at $100 and a few hours later your get an eBay message saying the seller is personally offering to sell it to you for the bargain-basement price of $80.

Then there is the entire eBay monoculture. Face it, most people would rather spend a few more bucks buying through a popular site they know rather than searching for the seller's obscure little web store with a weird name like aliforigblargcee.cerm, navigating yet another poorly randomly designed site, and risking stolen credit card information. (And people like me won't touch Facefook with a 1000 foot pole)

On top of all that, sometimes sellers probably have to ask absurd amounts just to make a single buck. Lately I've seen plenty ~$10 items listed for ~$10 with $50 shipping because apparently that is how much it actually costs to ship from wherever they are. Then there is tax and eBay fees.

I don't even want to think about general inflation. Prices were already out of the solar system on some things, and that was before covid hit.

Personally, I filter my search results so I don't even see items that are priced more than $500.
 

VileR

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Israel
Buy-it-now prices have no meaning. Filter for sold items instead. Also tell that anyone who refers to ebay prices. Just *listing* e.g. a C64 for $2000 doesn't make it worth that much.

Exactly -- and even then, keep in mind that what you see may be more than the amount actually paid.
Example: a seller listed an item for $250, but included the option to "make an offer". I offered $150, the seller accepted, and that's what I paid. But when filtering for sold/completed items, eBay showed that listing as if it sold for $250.

I can only agree with SomeGuy's observation that eBay is intentionally designed to encourage price inflation.
 

chris_nh

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Jan 28, 2019
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New Hampshire
Interesting topic and some good observations expressed here!

I buy on ebay quite a bit as well, so here's my 2 cents on it... Most of the overpriced listings don't sell, obviously. Many of those overpriced computers sit there for months or years, but there are other purposes for that. (ie: a collector might hold a listing high just to help maintain value perceptions of a particular item, etc) Many items come through at really good deals and those do get bought up quick... sometimes so quick they are only on ebay for an hour, and so you'll miss it if you weren't there that hour.

I'll share some strategy with you ... the key to finding good deals on ebay is to search and watch all the time. You have to watch for your items, and be ready to buy when/if they show up. I recently bought an XT clone computer I had been looking for, and it finally showed up on ebay after 2 years of looking! Another strategy to find stuff is to look for your parts inside of other things, for example buying a whole cheap computer just for the rare hard drive inside, or buying scrap circuit boards to harvest the 4164 ram chips. Also lots can be a good value, if for example you were to buy a big pile of IBM stuff for a few hundred bucks.

Sometimes too, I think sellers will try to list items with higher prices because they simply don't understand the value of the items they sell. It *might* be worth a higher price if someone *might* be willing to pay that price, but a small difference in understanding/identifying the item might leave the seller vastly over-estimating the worth of the item. This happens a lot in collectables markets.

The best items, I think, are the auction items with low starting prices. There has been a seller in New York over the past year that has been very consistent with vintage computer parts and almost always starts with $5.00 auctions. Ultimately, the selling prices of the auction listings are more accurate reflections of the market for this stuff. Sometimes, rare parts can go for surprising prices, not because of the seller, but because the buyers want the item and vote on the price with dollars ;)
 

AndyO

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U.S. East Coast
All my old computers have come from eBay, and it isn't hard to notice that prices are rather silly, but that's only sustainable if people are prepared to pay them. If items remain unsold, either the seller doesn't care, or he/she will eventually offer at a lower price. It is entirely down to buyers to decide what something is worth to them individually - and there are some with more money than sense, or for whom an item is desirable enough that they'll pay above what we may think a sensible price, but they likely don't.

I also think eBay themselves are capitalising on their status as the market lead in auction sites, trying to maximise their own profits and margins at the expense of both buyers and sellers, driving prices up in the process.

But that said, there are sometimes bargains to be had, though 'bargain' is almost entirely in the eye of the beholder. For example, last year I picked up an NEC 286 portable in fully working condition for $110, which seemed well worth it because it was precisely the kind of system I wanted. I would have gone higher, but the seller seemed only to want to get rid of it. To other people, $110 might have seemed a stupid price to pay because perhaps it wasn't at all what they themselves were looking for. I also got a Tandy 102 and a Mac Classic for $75 each, and a Compaq Portable III for $70. All work, though the Compaq was sold as 'parts or repair' because it has a couple lines on the screen. I also picked up a Toshiba T3100e/40 for $185, which I suspect many would think a silly price to be prepared to pay, but it was the perfect machine for a specific need - and is excellent.

There are sellers who deliberately, or otherwise, seek to mislead with their pricing and shipping costs, but that is still down to buyers to note and decide if they want to do business with that seller at that price and on those terms. EBay is like any other marketplace - ultimately things will sell for the price that buyers are prepared to pay. Obviously, 'we' seem prepared to pay a lot more for vintage computers than might have been the case a few years ago. It is, after all, our enthusiasm for these systems that has been driving prices up.
 

406refining

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Nov 10, 2019
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Location
Montana, USA
Here's a seller's take on the whole ebay situation.

The main place where vintage PC's are found on a regular basis is in electronics recycling industry (also where almost everything vintage for me comes from). What I'm finding is that other recyclers don't have anyone in-house that knows how to refurbish vintage PC's. Some places sell them whole on ebay, but most just take them apart or throw them in a shredder. Sometimes there is an employee that knows a rare item when they see one, but that's not always the case. It makes sense that this happens as some recyclers are getting millions of pounds of electronics each year, but it is such a shame.

The other bummer is that many of the 286/386/486 computers in general are getting harder to find these days, partially because idiot scrappers (and I do mean idiot scrappers) keep scrapping them for the gold value when the resale value is 10-20x that payout. Don't go to the gold refining pages on facebook. It will cause that sick feeling in your stomach seeing what some people are scrapping instead of refurbishing.

The big reason the prices are so high is that some people are willing to pay those crazy amounts. If a buyer is willing to pay $1,500 for a PC it would be a loss of money to list it cheaper. The other big thing that's driving these high costs is ebay and shipping fees. When you figure that you're losing around 12% in just selling fees (might be higher now since the last time I sold on ebay was a few years ago) and shipping fees start to add up. If the sellers were selling on a platform where there are no selling fees and no chance of having to pay return shipping for a box of rocks and give a full refund because the buyer scammed you the prices would likely be a lot less.

When the gold prices crash I could see things slowing down a little bit on everyone scrapping the units out, but there's less of the vintage PC's around every year so prices will likely keep going up every year.
 

Timo W.

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Example: a seller listed an item for $250, but included the option to "make an offer". I offered $150, the seller accepted, and that's what I paid. But when filtering for sold/completed items, eBay showed that listing as if it sold for $250.
That's odd. At least eBay Germany does that differently. In such cases, the asking price is crossed out and it says "offer accepted" next to it. It does not show the actual offer, however.
 

DDS

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A real estate agent recently told me "Your house is worth what a buyer is willing to pay you for it." That kind of boils any market down to the nitty gritty really quickly. For those of you who took economics, we're dealing "inelastic supply" (IBM ain't making any more 5150s). and "elastic demand". Within that market are sub markets. A "powers up but otherwise untested" run of the mill 5150 is going to attract a different buying segment than a pristine, black power supply, 3 screw, "A model" that the seller guarantees is in working condition.

Then there are the "ebay feeding frenzies." I once saw an open box no warranty Klipsch home theater speaker set go for more than the same set in the box with warranty from Best Buy because one or more bidders couldn't stand to lose an auction. Don't be that guy.

But it really all boils down to:

1. Know your market.
2. If you don't like the price, walk away from it.
 

Al Kossow

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A couple of observations

eBay saved searches for me are generally useless since they only go out once a day posted in the
middle of the night AFAIK and items I'm interested in are long gone by then

As a seller, very few people post offers and they are almost all lowballs, so listing high is a complete
waste of time. I know the going prices for what I'm selling, so what works best is list a little high
with a make offer, see how many people are watching it, and slowly lower the price.
Very, very few sellers do that and I wish they did so real selling prices were easier to find.

It is also extremely annoying to watch people fish around with offers, then pull them with
a 'mistyped the amount' excuse.
 

VERAULT

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I tell people this all the time although they dont seem to believe me or give it a try; I make offers to the sellers of items that DO NOT have a best offer option. And I have make a few deals that way. I look at eBay as a Community, its not a store! You are buying from average people most of the time. And as a seller on eBay in the past 5 years it seems people want to avoid communications altogether "Don't talk to me, just send me my product" Anyway, there clearly are still some like minded folks on there who will read and answer you messages. I even corrected a few people with really high prices and got them to sell at something reasonable. Never hurts to try.

It is also extremely annoying to watch people fish around with offers, then pull them with
a 'mistyped the amount' excuse.

Al I will be honest that is why I don't do Auctions anymore and only sell buy it now. I was selling a high ticket item a year or two back. IT was getting up to the sale price I wanted (what the last item I was selling sold for on eBay) and a few hours before the auction was to end. The high bidder pulled his bid. Then the second high bidder pulled his bid.. Bringing it down to almost nothing. I had the feeling they were acting in kahoots.. Yeah I know call me paranoid. Anyway I got tired of that so I don't put myself through the stress anymore.
 

Timo W.

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[...] and a few hours before the auction was to end. The high bidder pulled his bid. Then the second high bidder pulled his bid.. Bringing it down to almost nothing.
You can not pull a bid back if an auction ends in 12 hours or less. So while your story might be true, "a few hours before the auction was to end" is clearly exaggerated. But yeah, that sucks if you are the seller. I do sell most stuff as buy-it-now with the option to make offers as well, but mainly for convenience. Never had issues so far with people pulling back their bids.
 

Al Kossow

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Never had issues so far with people pulling back their bids.

I have had it happen as a buyer, other guy runs up bids, finds my max, backs them all out.
That used to be watched by eBay in the past, but they don't bother any more.

The most insane prices are components; high prices with make offer. I offer a reasonable price below new Mouser/Digikey price and
the seller counter-offers with slightly less than his original, which I refuse and tell him to look it up on line.
 

dhau

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Toronto, ON, Canada
I guess when seller can confirm the item is working and provide photos to prove it, it commands a premium, as you derisk your purchase.

I recently bought an IBM PC XT 5160 for 120$, mostly because it had many scuffs on the cover and it wasn't turning on.

PC Speaker assembly broke off and knocked off a memory chip. Once I reattached PC Speaker assembly, straightened pins on knocked memory chip and reinserted it, it still didn't work.

It turned out that it's the good old C56 short. Once I removed it, everything started to work! But it could've been a total lemon, so risk was high.
 

cwathen

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Feb 1, 2018
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Bristol, UK
eBay does provide a certain level of protection against a seller peddling faulty crap not listed as such. Too many sellers think they can just put 'untested' on a listing and use it as a get out of jail free card to avoid a return when selling faulty crap. More often than not though they've listed the item under 'used' which must then work and so the buyer is still entitled to a refund. When taking a punt on this stuff I don't mind paying a little bit more to buy from eBay vs FB Marketplace or similar to know that I have a bit of protection.

Best way to get a deal is to look at collection only offers. It does astound me how much within the UK (where you can credibly travel halfway across the country and back again in the same day, and pretty much anywhere at all and back given two days) the primary concern of many buyers is that the seller will ship the item and this in itself will heavily inflate the price as a shipped computer is always more popular and attracts more bids than a collected one. Surely there can't be that many people involved in this hobby that can't drive and don't have a car? In which case just be willing to use your days off to go and collect things, the cost of your fuel is almost always much less than waiting for an example with shipping to come along (if it ever does). I've lost count of how many items I've got for a steal for no other reason than I was willing to collect them (often taking a couple of days and booked a cheap hotel to have a wander around the area. I've been to parts of the country that it would never have entered my head to travel to and had a great time on these little trips).

Putting aside that something is only worth what someone else is prepared to pay for it, and buyers & sellers have every right to trade at whatever prices they want, I do find the pricing strategies of some ebayers frustrating to the point of believing that something somehow should be done about them however. Been watching a Nimbus 286 for months (already have one but it's not very well). Originally listed for one price which was unlikely to be achieved anyway (and of course 'untested'), then a picture was added showing it powered up (but not actually in a bootable state - probably just dead CMOS battery but could also be dead hard drive or dead disk controller - neither of which are getting replaced these days and would make the system a paperweight unless you have the bits) and then suddenly the price was increased by £100...umm why exactly? Like what I am now being charged for the test? It's not like the extra picture even showed it working properly. Ever since the price fluctuates by +/- £15 but is still too overpriced to sell being that it is almost double what might be considered a current market price for a known working example. It may well be that the seller doesn't particularly wish to sell the item but would let it go for the highly inflated price as he'd be silly not to, but then teasing people with rare items which they don't appear motivated to actually get sold is extremely frustrating.

That and people splitting things up that were supplied together and need to go together to function really irks me...seen plenty of Amstrad PCs (where the base unit is useless without the matching monitor because the monitor contains the PSU for the computer and in turn the monitor is not really usable - not without work anyway - on any other machine) being split up and sold as two listings to try and eak out an extra buck (often failing in the process too).

All of that said, appreciation is natural as vintage hardware gets rarer and rarer. Although I buy this stuff because it is my hobby and I have no current plans or wish to sell any of it, it is equally true that I couldn't have justified the money I have spent (particularly in the last 5 years) if it were not for the thought of the collection also being an investment appreciating in value. Which by extension means the possibility of one day hoping to sell it for a higher price than I paid for it.

UK supply of retro hardware in particular is being hampered by two main issues; firstly the WEEE regulations have since about 2007 made it illegal to dump old computers in normal rubbish with them now classed as a specific type of waste which needs separate disposal. Then a few years ago the GDPR regulations which tightened up data protection laws have made businesses paranoid about the potential for any data breach from old computers. Thus to avoid any potential comeback virtually no business will dispose of a computer any other way than through a licenced recycler so they have documentation as to where it has gone. Thus a forgotten storeroom full of IBM 5150s with no hard drives fitted anyway which might have made it out into the community (and make a happy back for the seller) will instead end up as scrap. So all we're left with are attic finds and existing collectors looking to capitalise on their previous investments.

Personally I've never stopped kicking myself over all the things I got for free/virtually free in the late 90's/early 00's and then chucked which today are uber-rare and uber-expensive.
 
Last edited:

g4ugm

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I decided this is better to be in the hardware forum than the auction forum. I don’t think I’m succeeding at not wanting to rant.

I appreciate people who prevent vintage-out-of-production hardware from being destroyed, but I don’t see the asking prices on eBay being justified.

The secondary fan group that Computer Reset set up on Facebook (Computer Reset Buy and Sell) even explicitly states that the prices people ask for in that group be “well below eBay.” That’s a direct quote!

Starting prices on E-bay are expensive for a number of reasons that combine to create a perfect storm...

1. you have items that are in limited supply, we know that no more genuine PC/XTs will be made, so the Chinese can't top up the Market.
2. You have a huge audience of buyers. I am in the UK and I have bought from USA, Europe, Israel, Poland, India, China and Hong Kong. The global shipping program ensures it can be shipped any where. The more people fight over something the more the price rises.
3. For "buy it now" you can never go up. You can only be talked down. Start stupid and see what happens.
4. For Auctions, folks look at the last one and add 10% because theirs is worth more and they want to "realize its real value"...
5. The starting/ buy it now prices on E-Bay can be used to inflate prices else where. List something for $1000 on E-Bay and then list on "Computer Reset" for $500 so its "well below e-bay".
6. There are enough idiots out there that think they can con us into believing "anything old is valuable"....
7. There are one or two things that whilst "vintage" may be needed by industry. Old DEC VAX fall into this category. Wait long enough and some one will buy it...

.. so whilst you may think the asking prices are "excessive" remember the old addage:-

Q. How much is an XYZ in perfect condition worth?
A. Are you buying or selling.......

or as my dad used to say, if you have to ask the price you can't afford it......
 

VERAULT

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Personally I've never stopped kicking myself over all the things I got for free/virtually free in the late 90's/early 00's and then chucked which today are uber-rare and uber-expensive.

I think most of us here are guilty of that.. We just didnt know in the 90's.
 

charnitz

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Nov 17, 2020
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North America
Face it, most people would rather spend a few more bucks buying through a popular site they know rather than searching for the seller's obscure little web store with a weird name like aliforigblargcee.cerm,

Are there any people that actually sell vintage computers independently, from their own little web shops? I've looked for them, but I've never seen one.
 
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