Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thoughts: eBay Strategy

I'm sure most of us use eBay on a regular basis to help knock things off of our want lists. I know I use it all the time and it's where most of my main PC project cards come from. That said, I've got my own "strategy" if you will, and since I don't have anything else to write about, I'll talk about that today.

If you read this blog regularly, you know I've got three main PC projects: Jimmy Howard, MVP Stanley Cup Edition, and Metal Universe. So, these are usually the only things I'm searching for on the bay. In general, I usually search for a given project by first seeing what's ending soonest, followed by stuff that's newly listed. This covers both ends of the spectrum, and usually ensures I don't miss anything.

If I come across something newly listed, say for something like $0.99, I'll throw up a "placeholder" bid of $0.99 just so I can more easily keep track of the stuff I really want. Sometimes if I just watch something, I'll miss the ending soon reminder and completely miss out. So there's really no risk in doing this, as I'll either get the card for a nice $0.99 or I'll be quickly reminded the second someone outbids me. It's a win-win situation, unless of course I end up losing the auction because of a snipe bid at the end or something like that. I'll save my thoughts on that for another time ;)

Now, when I find something I like that's ending pretty quickly, I'll look at where the price is and determine whether or not that card is worth that amount of money to me. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. If I want it, I'll bid until I can no longer justify it, which usually lands me I'd say less than 50% of the stuff I bid on. That doesn't mean I'm cheap, it just means I'm trying to work within a budget, as I've got more important stuff to worry about like a new car payment and student loans at this point.

That's the easy part of searching. The hard part is knowing what search terms to use and finding stuff that is either poorly labeled or just completely mislabeled. I don't even want to think about how many listings I've seen for things like a "2009-10 Jimmy Howard RC" or "2000-01 MVP SC Edition." I know it's not a huge deal, but it's annoying when you do a search by year and end up missing a bunch of stuff because the seller doesn't know what they're typing in their description.

To make things easiest on myself, I will do two separate searches for Howard stuff. I will usually first search for "Jimmy Howard" and then search for "Jim Howard." I've talked about this before here, and doing both ensures I don't miss anything. Heck, sometimes I even just search for "Howard" in the hockey card category, which is normally ok, but does bring up some unwanted stuff.

When it comes to MVP stuff, I usually just search for "MVP" in hockey cards, but that becomes a problem when there is the regular "MVP" set from the same year, which basically doubles the number of results I have to sort through. To get around this, and knowing I don't need any base cards, I will search for things like "Super Script" or "Golden Memories" in hopes that the listings are accurate.

The Metal Universe stuff is easy because there's not much of it even on the bay, and it's a plus that there was only two years of it in hockey. In this case I just type in "Metal Universe" in the hockey cards and pretty much see everything of interest in the first page of results.

That's pretty much my eBay "strategy" in a nutshell. I'm curious, what is your general strategy or thought process when it comes to the bay?

Another thing I've discovered that I really like lately is the mobile eBay app for my phone. Just the other day I was sitting on the couch watching a movie and managed to find, bid on, and win a nice piece for one of my PC projects, all without even getting up.

For me this could almost be a negative, in terms of over spending, because now I have the entire bay at my fingertips whenever I want. It definitely requires a little more self control on my part, but at the same time it's brought me some nice stuff for the PC.

Have you made use of the mobile eBay app yet? Do you like it? And do you think it's a good thing or a bad thing being able to buy cards wherever and whenever you have a good signal?


  1. Instead of searching for Jimmy Howard and Jim Howard, just type in Jim* Howard which will cover both.

    Just a friendly tip from a hockey card blogging librarian

  2. I'll have to start doing that, thanks for the tip!

  3. I have the eBay mobile app on my phone as well, and it's so convenient. I get notified if an item I'm watching is about to end, which is a big help. Temptation is always there but I set a strict per-paycheck budget for cards and stick to it, which definitely keeps things in check.