How to buy and sell games on Ebay
Nate Sandall
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Portland
Oregon
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Ebay is one of the most successful internet companies for one simple reason - you can buy and sell just about anything there! It is one true success story of the internet age, and one of the best places to purchase rare and out of print games. Getting started on ebay can be a daunting proposition. I've decided that I spend way too much money on games on ebay (and not sold enough!) and have decided to share some of the things I learned.

Feel free to add to this list your success stories. I'm putting this list together to help fellow geeks (as y'all are my favorite people on the whole internet!) and want this to be one more resource for those of you out there who may be starting out building your game collections.

For in-print games, I recommend visiting the following:
www.funagain.com*
www.fairplaygames.com*
www.gamessurplus.com
www.bouldergames.com*
www.timewellspent.org*
www.boardsandbits.com*
www.bgamers.com*

Also worth checking out:
www.finegames.com (I just discovered they were about 2 miles away from me and just moved! D'oh!)
www.nobleknightgames.com*

*=companies I have bought from.

You can still get new and in print games on ebay, but just be sure to shop around.

Oh, and in case you're wondering - my ebay id is Cavedog_pdx. Okay on to the list.......
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1. Board Game: Ikusa [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:689]
Nate Sandall
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Lesson #1 for buyers: How to search for games.
On ebay's main menu, hit BROWSE, then scroll down the categories to the Toys&Hobbies section and select Games. This may seem like a no-brainer for many of you already, but will make searching for games so much easier than just entering the name of a game. Case in point - do a search for either Shogun or Samurai Swords and you will get hundreds of entries.

After you're in the Games category, search for what you're looking for by typing either the game's name you want or other search criteria. The trick here is that if you can find a misspelled or mislabeled game, chances are you will have fewer people (if any) bidding on it. I learned this from a friend of mine who hunts ebay with misspellings of the word antique. Some words I use to search are bookcase, german, knizia, AH or Avalon (for Avalon Hill), lot, strategy, train, railroad, unpunched, Mayfair, Ravensberger, victory, and shrink.

This leads to Lesson #1 for Sellers: Make your auctions easy to find. If you just put the title of the game "Pacific War" as your item description, you won't get nearly the number of views as "AH Avalon Hill Victory Games Pacific War". More views = more interest = more bids. Fit as much as you can in the description while still being clear. For Shogun, list Samurai Swords (the reprint version) and you will get views from people looking for both (and it's the same game!). Be sure to proofread your auctions and make sure there are no spelling errors.

 
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2. Board Game: The Republic of Rome [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:338]
Nate Sandall
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Portland
Oregon
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Lesson #2 for buyers and sellers: Take advantage of changes in supply and demand.
I managed to purchase a nice copy of Republic of Rome for $26.25 plus shipping on ebay in December of 2002. How did I manage that? The auction ended on Christmas day! There isn't as many shoppers on Christmas day so I didn't have to compete as much (low demand). You can do the same thing with auctions ending on weekdays or the middle of the night or other holidays. Also, generally the months of August and September tend to see less buyers.

So for sellers, lesson #2 is you want to try to make sure that your auction will coincide with higher demand - or at least lower supply. If you have the only copy of Republic of Rome on ebay at one time, you will probably get more money for it than if you put it on at the same time as six other people. Ten day auctions starting on a Thursday and ending on a Sunday are often worth doing just for the fact that more people will see your item and bid on it.
 
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3. Board Game: Fortress America [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:1330]
Nate Sandall
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Portland
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Lesson #3 for buyers: If a listing doesn't answer all your questions, ask! Ebay has a built in email message system that will send your question to the seller. Getting the information you want will help you avoid buyers' remorse!

Lesson #3 for sellers is be thorough and detailed in your listings. This means provide a picture of your item, describe the contents and count the pieces if possible, list any other important information (e.g. second edition rules, missing components, marks rips tears or stains, etc). The more complete your description, the fewer questions you will have to respond to.

In early December 2002 I listed a copy of Fortress America for sale and got a winning bid of $147. The reason was that of four copies on there at around the same time, mine was the only one that had all pieces counted and listed (the other three went for around $60 each).
 
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4. Board Game: Amoeba Wars [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:5408]
Nate Sandall
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Lesson #4 Buy local! You can save a lot of money on shipping this way. Be sure to contact your seller beforehand to see if this is okay. I got Amoeba Wars for $4 this way.

Lesson #4 for sellers - sell local! My best customer is local and has bought literally a third of everything I've sold on ebay!
 
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5. Board Game: Civilization [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:225] [Average Rating:7.52 Unranked]
Nate Sandall
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Lesson #5 for buyers repeat business is good if you're taken care of. Keep track of who sold what to you and periodically check out what they are listing. I have a favorite seller who frequently emails me when he lists new items that I might be interested in (and he's usually right!)

Lesson #5 for sellers: Take care of your customers. I got three copies of the Alea #21 magazine with the Civilization expansion last October (one for me, two to sell). I put one on ebay, and my local customer that I described in lesson #4 bid on it but lost! After that auction ended I contacted my customer and offered him the third one I had for slightly less than his maximum bid, which he happily accepted. Everybody walked away happy.
 
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6. Board Game: UFO: Game of Close Encounters [Average Rating:4.81 Overall Rank:14882]
Nate Sandall
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Lesson #6 for buyers and sellers: always be professional. For buyers this means courteous emails and prompt payment. For sellers this means always answering emails about your auctions in a timely manner, packaging items well, admitting mistakes if necessary, and offering combined shipping to someone who wins multiple items.

Feedback is a very important part of ebay. It tells you who is a good risk to do business with and who is a bad risk. 99.5% of all people out there are honest and good to do business with, and I make it a point to always leave feedback on a transaction unless I can't say anything nice but don't feel like leaving a neutral or negative.

I found this UFO game for $2 plus $4 shipping a couple months ago. (I thought it was an Alan Moon design - silly me!) I saw and heard nothing from the seller for over a month in spite of my emails, and when the game finally arrived it was just wrapped in shipping paper and had suffered damage. I was mad and decided to give my first negative feedback ever for her not answering my emails, for shipping over a month after auction end, and for the bad packaging. I felt bad for doing so as she had over 250 positives and this was her first negative, but then she got 4 more right afterwords.

On the other hand, when I purchased a Conquest of the Empire game, the seller did a lousy job packaging it. When you package a game, be sure that components will not move around in shipping, put packaging material inside the game box to keep it from getting crushed, and put inside a larger box with plenty of packaging material to keep it from moving around. Anyhow, the seller of the Conquest of the Empire game was professional enough to give me a partial refund of my money.
 
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7. Board Game: Trade Winds [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Nate Sandall
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Lesson #7 for buyers: Make it easy to sell to you. A paypal account is almost a must if you expect to purchase items regularly at auction. Pay in a timely manner.

For sellers: Lesson #7 is make it easy for people to buy from you. Over 90% of all the people on ebay use paypal so getting a paypal account will make people more willing to do business with you. I also like to list shipping costs (guesstimated fixed cost) in my auctions, so often I get paid via paypal within minutes of an auction end! Accepting cashiers checks and money orders is pretty safe, but most people will have to pay a fee to get one (and a stamp). I personally don't like taking personal checks because of the risks involved. However, if the buyer has an account at a large regional bank that has a branch in my area then I will accept one because I can go to that bank and cash the check outright. Other sellers just wait a week for the checks to clear.

I found an old incomplete copy of Trade Winds at an estate sale that I sold on ebay (it's quite a collectable). I didn't get a lot for it, and the buyer very politely asked if he could pay by check from a bank on the East coast. Since he had a flawless record, was very professional, and it wasn't a huge amount of money, I agreed. Another happy customer!
 
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8. Board Game: Kremlin: Revolution [Average Rating:6.84 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.84 Unranked]
Nate Sandall
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Portland
Oregon
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Lesson #8 for buyers: Don't be afraid to do international transactions. Just be sure to contact the seller ahead of time to make sure all your questions are answered: shipping costs, payment methods accepted, and any other information that you might need.

Lesson #8 for sellers: Do international transactions! The boardgame hobby is fairly small compared to most, and if you open up your auctions to international bidders instead of just the US and Canada, you will double your market! I sold my Kremlin Revolution for about twice what they normally go for ($36.51) to a gentleman in Germany.

Again, paypal is almost a must!
 
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9. Board Game: Stellar Conquest [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:3382]
Nate Sandall
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Portland
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Lesson #9 for buyers: win some, lose some. Don't spend more than you're willing to on a game in a competition. Set a limit for yourself. There's always going to be one that got away....

Lesson #9 for sellers win some lose some (aka easy come easy go): sometimes your auction doesn't get any bids or only one bid. Treat all your customers as if they're your best. I sold a Stellar Conquest game and got only $8.50 for it. In retrospect, I should have put a higher starting bid price. Live and learn I guess.
 
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10. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:135]
Nate Sandall
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Portland
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Lesson #10 for buyers: buying in lots can be a good manuever as generally individual items sell for more than they would as a group. I saw a lot of games back in February from a local seller including a Hannibal: Rome vrs Carthage game that I really wanted. I figured I could sell the ones I didn't want and save on shipping and essentially net Hannibal for about $40. I was beaten out by a last minute sniper bid. (see lesson 11)

Lesson #10 for sellers: Don't sell in lots unless you're getting rid of a bunch of items not worth selling individually (e.g. a bunch of kids games).
 
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11. Board Game: 1829 Northern Board [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:6065]
Nate Sandall
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Lesson #11 for buyers: Last minute bidding can often be a winner. I located a badly worded auction for "Rare Hartland Northern Railroad Game" which was 1829 North. I put in a maximum bid four minutes before the auction ended of what I felt the game was worth (I bid 60.06 GBP or about $90.00 US) and barely beat out a fella in Germany that bid three times in the last two minutes!

Lesson 11 for sellers: Don't sweat if you don't get a lot of bids in the first few days of an auction. Most bids are on the final day of an auction. Many people use the item watch feature on Ebay and I recommend you do too! If an item you're selling ends up in a last minute bidding war between two or more buyers it can be a real wet dream!
 
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12. Board Game: Dark Emperor [Average Rating:5.62 Overall Rank:11956]
Nate Sandall
United States
Portland
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Lesson #12 for buyers: Buy incompletes. I bought a Dark Emperor game last September for $5.00 + shipping because it was missing the rulebook! I got a copy of the rulebook so I easily saved myself $20!

Lesson #12 for sellers: Buy incomplete copies of games and sell complete copies! I've done this with Fortress America and Samurai Swords(Shogun).
 
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13. Board Game: New England [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:1697]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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For sellers: do some price research before listing a game. Check out FunAgain, FineGames, Boulder, and see what a new item is listing for. Search closed autions. Often, with newer, in-print games such as New England which are in very good/like new condition, you can put a fairly concrete number on what you're going to get for them - in which case you may be better off listing them here or using a fixed price listing so as to avoid the variance inherent in an auction. New England will be one I'm selling at a local con rather than bother with the hassle of eBay.
 
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14. Board Game: Family Business [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:2404]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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For Sellers: sometimes it isn't worth it. If I'm not fairly convinced a game is going to sell for at least $20, before considering postage & packing, I generally don't bother - packaging, verifying payment, going to the post office, acquiring packing materials - it's all a pain. There are other outlets for the "little" stuff, like local game stores or cons. I save up a big box of rejects every year for the flea market at a local con, price stuff to move, and I usually get cleaned out, with prices only slightly less than what I might get on eBay. Game stores are likely to give you much less, but it can be worth it to offload games you'll never play and are taking up space. All of it for a lot less hassle, and considering that eBay and PayPal fees can be non-trivial, somthing to consider.
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15. Board Game: Wallenstein (first edition) [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:342]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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For Sellers: Don't underestimate the costs of postage & packing. Acquiring boxes, especially for oddly sized games (like Wallenstein) can be non-trivial and can incidentally increase the cost to ship. Weigh your stuff before shipping to get an accurate quote (use the online rate charts); and make a quote up front in the listing that factors in these incidental costs and stick to it. Err on the high side, since it seems like nobody factors shipping costs into their bidding behaviour, but be as accurate as possible.

I've gotten burned a couple times when I made assumptions about how much it will cost to ship somthing, only to find out that the real cost was significantly higher (AH sized games are a culprit here, I usually default to about $6.50 to ship a standard bookcase game, but every so often you run into one - like Firepower with it's 4 mounted boards and loads of rules and charts - that costs a lot more).

Use US Mail for most things, since it's so easy and you can get free priority mail boxes, but if you have anything with weight, try to use FedEx Ground, which last I checked was significantly cheaper than UPS or US Mail. Whatever, make sure to be clear on shipping method & cost up front.
 
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16. Board Game: Talisman Expansion Set [Average Rating:6.94 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.94 Unranked]
 
Robert Wesley
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Aberdeen
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I had picked up a couple of these 'add-ons' for the 'Talisman' game(one was even unplayed) for $5 each with an incomplete 'Dungeon' thrown in as well. I listed them on eBay with very good descriptions, including the 'Dungeon' as a BONUS since it WAS incomplete, and noted that as well. I had planned on giving them to a friend of mine as a 'present', but he already HAD them. So I ended up getting $162.50 off of eBay for those as a result. Man, I wished I'd have put them up for the 10-day auction instead of the 5-days I did. Not so BAD, for GOOD intentions, hmmmm?
 
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17. Board Game: Holiday [Average Rating:6.18 Unranked]
Ben Vögel
United States
Golden Valley
Minnesota
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I've been on this site for 15 years now, and I'm far from sick of games, but I think I prefer a better balance of favorites to new games. I'm also tired of playing 4+ hr multiplayer games, but I'll still happily play really long games 2 player.
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In addition to the games that I collect, play, and sometimes re-sell, I also cruise garage sales and antique stores for games. I've found many great bargains that are complete and in very nice condition. I have sold (and bought) hundreds of games on eBay.

The timing of an auction is critical to selling it for the highest price. Not only time of day, but day of week, and time of year.

1) Items seem to sell for the best price on weekday evenings. Maybe that's because a larger number of people are at home with access to their computer. Friday nights and weekends will more likely find people out and about or traveling and vacationing.

2) Items seem to sell for the best price later in the evening. I live in the Central time zone, so if my auctions are ending at about Midnight or 1am, that's fairly late on the West Coast and very late on the East Coast (and really late in Europe). My items that have sold for ridiculously high prices go at that time in a bidding war between tired people who have stayed up late to get in a last minute bid, and having stayed up that late are not willing to give up. (Yes, you could say that I am taking advantage of a sleepy shopper, but hey, caveat bedtime emptor.)

3) Finally, assuming you have the patience and the storage, games and toys will sell for better prices if you list them in the month on either side of the traditional late November and December HOLIDAYS. I think people at that time are looking for gifts not only for others, but also for themselves (especially after Christmas if they didn't get something they wanted). Nostalgia can be a favorable factor with older games. Perhaps another factor is that the time of year also makes for weather more favorable to behaviors of more regular internet surfing and shopping.
 
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18. Board Game: Market Madness [Average Rating:5.92 Unranked]
Tim K.
United States
Seattle
Washington
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Sellers:
If the game you are selling is relatively rare, wait until there are no (or very few) others listed to put yours up. Bidding tends to get fierce when there is only one or two available.

Buyers:
Don't bust a nut (and your wallet) if you only see one item listed and have to have it. It's ebay, it'll come around again.
 
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