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Thread: Why the bleep is eBay so expensive??

  1. #1

    Angry Why the bleep is eBay so expensive??

    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

    AST 286 desktop computer with hard drive - RARE - Vintage Hardware - AS IS
    $585+$85 shipping

    $300+$101 shipping

    $400+$24 shipping
    Sattinger’s Law: “It works better if you plug it in.” 🤯 Corollary: “It works even better if you plug it in correctly.” 🤯🤯
    "The simplest solution is the most likely solution." --My paraphrase of Occam's Razor
    "You can get [a computer] like yours at a garage sale for, like, fifteen dollars," --Strong Sad, sbemail #33

  2. #2


    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.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    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:

    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.

  4. #4


    Quote Originally Posted by Timo W. View Post
    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. :: :: :: blog

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    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

  6. #6


    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.

  7. #7


    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.

  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by VileR View Post
    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.

  9. #9


    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.
    "It's all bits on the bus, Cowboy! It's all bits on the bus!" -- Tom Beck, #1ESS Instructor, Southern Bell Opa Locka Training Center

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Silicon Valley


    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.


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