Tips for buying retro games on eBay!

Looking at prices for retro games on eBay right now, I know I’m not the only one trying to buy some comfort in video game form! Though eBay isn’t usually the cheapest option, it’s very convenient, especially when you’re stuck at home. I’ve managed to find quite a few great deals shopping on the site recently. It just requires a bit of patience and strategy!  Here are some tips for buying retro games on eBay that I’ve found helpful:

Try a variety of search terms

Not everyone selling older games knows what “CIB” or “complete” means! Some sellers may just use the name of the game alone, or add words like “box” or “case”. “Instructions”, “manual” and “booklet” are often used interchangeably too. Use synonyms! And be sure to try both very general and very specific criteria-a lot of sellers don’t list the full subtitles for games (like “A Link to the Past”) or gaming items!

If you’re serious about getting a good deal, auctions are almost always the way to go

It’ll require more time and patience, but you can nearly always snag a better deal if you’re bidding rather than buying it now. Set an alarm for yourself if you need help remembering when the auction ends!

Nintendo Power Link to the Past and Link's Awakening Covers
My Nintendo Power subscription was primarily through the N64 era, but I wanted the cover issues of earlier Zelda game releases! I got both of these in a single auction at a great price-much lower than going prices for Buy It Now.

Look for auctions that end during “business hours” on weekdays-especially in the morning!

A lot of folks collecting retro games love surfing the internet towards the end of the work day, in the evenings, and on weekends.  But weekday mornings (roughly 8am-11am) are very low traffic in my experience-I’ve gotten some absolute steals!  Again, set an alarm-you’re more than likely busy during this time too!

Nintendo Power Guide for Metroid Fusion and Metroid Zero Mission
No one else even bid on this awesome set of Nintendo Power guides for the Metroid GBA games-the auction ended just before 10am!

Know what you’re willing to spend in an auction, and put your “final bid” in with 3 seconds to go

It is crucially important that you know the limit of what you’re willing to spend on an auction.  Do some research ahead of time to see what rough going prices are (I use PriceCharting). Carefully inspect the condition of the item on a big screen and ask follow up questions of the seller as needed.  And check what other sellers are listing as a “Buy it Now” price!  I’ve occasionally seen an auction skyrocket past the Buy it Now prices for the same item of equivalent, if not better, condition. 

Gauntlet Legends N64 Box, Manual, and Cartridge
I managed to get in a winning bid at the last second to win this excellent condition, complete copy of the underrated Gauntlet Legends. And for quite a bit less than the PriceCharting value!

Always bid a little above an even dollar amount

For example, instead of bidding $30 even, I’ll bid $30.79. Or better yet, something like $31.29. This sounds unnecessary, but it may give you that ever-so-slight edge you need to outbid someone at the last second.

Give new sellers a chance!

It’s tempting to go with a “tried and true” seller to ensure you’re getting a fair and authentic deal. Yet I’ve found huge success with sellers new to the game.  They generally list games at a lower price in order to help bolster their own feedback, and you can capitalize on that!  Of course, do your homework to ensure they’re accurately describing the item and that it’s authentic. There are several references online to help with this!

Hylian Shield 2DS XL
The Hylian Shield 2DS XL is one of my favorite items in my collection. It took a lot of patience, but I eventually got it from a new seller who had incredibly reasonable starting bids for a lot of high quality items!

And do be sure to leave a positive review afterwards (as long as the seller earned it) to help get their storefront going!

Keep items that have an “or best offer” option in your watchlist

If an item simply isn’t selling, there’s a good chance you can get it for less than asking price!  Don’t get greedy/crazy with what you offer-I’d generally suggest no more than 20% below the asked price, unless it’s completely absurd.  Sellers will also sometimes take the initiative to send fairly generous offers for discounts that are valid for 48 hours.

Jungle Green N64 Funtastic Controller
A seller offered me this awesome Jungle Green controller with an OEM controller pak for more than 20% off! What a deal!

Reach out to sellers, kindly

Have a detailed question about an item? Want to see if they’ll combine shipping? Or maybe you make an offer even though there’s no option for “best offer”? Send a nicely worded message to the seller! I always try to be as enthusiastic and kind as I can (that’s my personality anyway-you can see how many exclamation points are in my posts!). Sometimes sellers won’t message back or aren’t interested in any sort of deal, but I’ve found the vast majority of them are willing to help you out in at least some capacity. I recently was able to get this amazingly high quality guide for Ocarina of Time from a local seller who helped me out with shipping:

Ocarina of Time Nintendo Power Player's Guide
I never owned this when the game out. It’s now a very special part of my collection.

Have you had success with any of these suggestions? Do you have additional tips for buying retro games on eBay? Or some awesome success stories? Please share in the comments below!

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