Make Your Bid

Guide to Life: Find Treasure on eBay


eBay is the internet in microcosm. The world-renowned auction site boasts over half a billion users, and total exchanges of goods this year will be well north of $60 billion — $35 of which came in the form of two conjoined Animal Crackers that depict “Mouth To Rear Bizarre Cookie Sex”. To say you can find anything is an understatement.

Should coital cookies not quite sate your hunger for deals, there are millions more things that might be up one’s alley. That confronts users with two big questions: (1) can I find the esoteric shit I want and get it at a fair price? and (2) can I score a deal on shit that’s not so esoteric? The answer to both — as you might have guessed by the title of this article — is duh. Of course, there are several ways to leverage your ability to buy cool stuff for less money. Here are our tips for getting the most out of your eBay experience.


Study up. Before you even consider searching for and bidding on an item, learn what to look for. Determining what an item is and what kind of condition it’s in are key; a telltale button or easily-missed feature can mean the difference scoring a deal or overpaying for a piece of junk.

Customize your hunt. On a site as big as eBay, finding the items you want without wasting your entire day can be a major issue. One solution is a custom search. Say you’re looking for a pair of bench-made shoes from a handful of respectable brands in a US size 9.5 or 10. You could spend 20 minutes of your day narrowing down your search, or you can save a search by either pasting the URL in a notepad doc (we did it with all of our vintage camera picks) or hitting that big, green “follow this search” button, which will move any present or future results of that search to your eBay homepage. With that same button you can…

Get alerted. After you’ve saved your search, set up email alerts for the stuff you really care about or the things that aren’t likely to pop up often so you’ll be able to act swiftly when that Honus Wagner card shows up. A word to the wise, though: don’t set up email alerts for an item that is listed often. You’ll throw your computer out a window after two hours of Seiko emails.

Don’t be afraid to watch. One way to ensure items you want don’t slip through your fingers is to “Watch” them, which places them into a big list for easy viewing. It also cues eBay to alert you whenever something you watch is about to end (typically you get notifications 15 hours and 15 minutes before the auction ends). By watching, you can keep track not just of items you are actually planning on buying, but also more lust-worthy purchases as they go up for auction (you know, just in case). There’s no harm in watching anything that strikes your fancy — especially if it’s an auction format. That missile base might go for less than you expected.

Sort it out. A quick and dirty tip for those who know what they’re looking for and are trying to score a deal is to change the order of the search results based on the type of listing. The obvious move is to sort by “Ending Soonest” with an auction to try and nab a last-second bargain, but just as crucial is checking “Newly Listed” with “Buy It Now” listings, which might just land you an underpriced gem that others haven’t seen yet.

Bid late, bid often. If you’re going for an auction item — especially one being coveted by a lot of people — don’t waste your time with bids until the auction’s final minutes — it’ll only drive the price up. Once the one or two minute-to-go mark rolls around, put in the maximum price you’re willing to pay and cross your fingers

Go forth and win. Glory in your excellent taste and bidding abilities.