Sunday, December 1, 2013

Getting the most out of eBay

One of the hardest parts of historical wargaming, is that so many good games are out of print.  Sometimes as soon as you hear that a game is truly worth owning, or is a breakout hit, it's already sold out.  Many times it can be years and years between printings.  Paths of Glory went from 2004 to 2010 before being printed again, and the 2010 printing sold out in around 2 years.  This is a game considered one of the greatest wargames of all time.  The number 2 ranked wargame on BoardGameGeek, behind only Twilight Struggle!

All this necessitates a strong secondary market for wargames.  BGG's trades and sales areas are ok.  But eBay is where I find most of my games.  Over the years, I've learned a few good tricks to avoid overpaying.  So here they are.

The most powerful tool eBay gives you are saved searches.  Say for example you want to find a good deal on Flying Colors, a game that takes place during the Napoleonic age of sail.  Well, starting off just searching for it is a good start.  Constraining the search to Toys & Hobbies helps too.

You have to start somewhere

But if you actually try it, you can see it pulls up loads of nonsense too.  So we'll need to further constrain the search to Games and even Board & Traditional Games in specific.

Ugh, that's no good.Now we're getting places!

Now we are really starting to get somewhere.  There are plenty of games that we'd probably consider a steal at this price.  But just in case it wasn't that easy, it's at this point I usually add a maximum price, and might even make sure to check off the Used flag to really filter things out.  This is especially the case with out of print games, since the new in shrink copies command a steep premium that personally I'm not willing to pay.  So just for kicks, I constrained my maximum price for Flying Colors to $20 and said I wanted only used copies.  I actually still have a hit, but pretend I don't, because what comes next is the most important feature eBay has to offer.  I'm going to follow the search.

Following a search isn't so hard.  Making sure it's worth following can be.

Clicking on the Follow this search link will add results from this search to your eBay home page.  You can also elect to have new hits from this search emailed to you daily.  Which is all the more reason to make the search as specific as you can possibly make it.

Click on the number to see
 all your followed searches.

But maybe you made your original search too vague, and your email account is getting hammered with loads of results you didn't want.  To get back to your followed search page, start from your home page and click on the number beside the "Interests you follow" section on the left.  Obnoxiously, this only shows the first 4 searches you are following, so you'll need to click on "Show all".

Click on the gear to
see the search settings

Now you can change the notification preferences of the followed search, as well as the actual details of it.  To get to the details screen, first hover your mouse over the followed search until the gear icon appears in the upper right corner, and then click on it.  This will take you to a page where you can edit the categories you are looking in, as well as your price range, used/new options, or if it's an auction or a buy it now listing.  Clicking "Save" will close out the screen and save your changes.

The settings screen on a followed search

Using this system, I've been able to find a lot of out of print wargames for at or below retail price.  Sometimes you lose the auction.  Other times you get incredibly lucky, and for whatever reason the item you are bidding on flies below other people's radar.  Two months ago I saw a copy of No Retreat: The Russian Front from GMT on eBay for $39.99.  I bid exactly that, and 5 days later I won the auction, with no other bids placed!  Not only was that below almost every other auction I've seen for No Retreat, but even  below GMT's P500 price for the reprint that might not come for many more years.

This system takes patience, and a willingness to let yourself be outbid when the competition goes out of your price range.  It might not work with every game you have on your list.  But with persistence, you'll find many of the games you are looking for at reasonable prices.

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