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Shopping on eBay: A Primer for Newbie Ship Modelers (Parts 1 and 2)

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PART 1: How to Spot a Bad Deal

 

Hey, there! It's Christmas time, and I am off work for two weeks. Hooray! I'm also out of town, so I don't have lots of time for modeling. What I do have time for is knocking around on the Internet, including doing some window shopping at eBay.

 

Ah, eBay ... once upon a time, not so very long ago, eBay (the Internet auction site) used to actually be a place where people disposed of unwanted stuff. It was like a gigantic yard sale. Back then, a person could find some real deals. But then someone discovered that they could make a lucrative career out of selling stuff on eBay, and now most sellers are either bona fide retailers or folks seemingly hell-bent on extracting retail prices (or higher) on yard sale merchandise. To borrow a line from Obi-Wan Kenobi, eBay has become a "wretched hive of scum and villainy."

 

Which brings me to the topic of this post. There are still a few good deals to be had on eBay, but you have to wade through a bunch of garbage to find them. Sadly, if you're new to this hobby, you may not know how to separate the true deals from the crazy efforts to simply part you from unjustifiable gobs of your money. So, I thought I would take some time and show you some real examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly of Internet auction site ship model kits. Are you game? Then let's get started!

 

1. First Things First: AVOID PIRATES LIKE THE PLAGUE!

 

Regrettably, eBay has become a haven for unscrupulous retailers with no regard for intellectual property rights. MSW considers these folks to be beyond the ship modeling pale (see topic here). The first thing to look for is the words "From China." If you see that phrase, then speedily move on!

 

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2. Clueless Sellers

 

eBay is just chock-full of clueless sellers, i.e. people who are deeply ignorant of their kit's real value, as opposed to its imagined value. Have a look at the following example:

 

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This seller is asking for a jaw-dropping US $1098.00 for a Constructo HMS Pandora. I happened to read elsewhere why this seller thinks that this kit is worth so much. They think that this kit demands a premium price because it is rare and out-of-production (OOP).

 

They are wrong.

 

If you're a newbie and interested in buying a kit off of eBay (or any online auction site, for that matter), you really need to do your homework beforehand. This seller didn't do his homework, and that's why he has attached a ridiculous price tag to this model. Here's some things you need to think about before hitting the bid button:

 

Is this a reputable kit manufacturer?

In this case, the answer is yes. BUT ... that doesn't necessarily mean that this is a good kit. Constructo makes kits, this is true, but they've never been considered one of the premier kit makers, and they're certainly not one of the innovators in our hobby, either.

 

WHY is this kit OOP?

If it's such a great kit, why did Constructo stop making it?

 

Consider this analogy: Chevrolet made over 2 million Vegas between 1970 and 1977. The Vega is now both OOP and (thankfully) rare. Chevy Vegas don't command premium prices because they are rare and out of production. Neither do Constructo kits.

 

3. Why Buy Used When You Can Get It New for the Same Price??

 

Some clueless sellers are easy to spot (like in the previous example) because they are asking way, waaaay more than what the kit is worth. Other sellers are clueless because they are asking the unwary buyer to pay as much for a used and possibly OOP or "new old stock" (NOS) kit as that same kit would cost new, like this one:

 

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The first thing you need to know about this kit is that it is a Mamoli kit. Mamoli is out of business. The Mamoli line of kits, including Blue Shadow, is now being made and sold by Dusek. Word on the street is that the new Dusek versions are better than the old Mamoli versions. Worse still, this seller is asking for a starting bid of $175, which is about what a new Blue Shadow will cost you straight from Dusek (taking into account exchange rates and VAT), so why would anyone want to buy an older, lesser-quality version for the same price? Caveat emptor!

 

4. Yeah, It's "Vintage," But So What?

 

What do sellers really mean when they say that something is "vintage"? Vintage just means that something is old, but the word "vintage" has less of a pejorative connotation. Check out this example:

 

vintage.PNG.8cc1be508ba1db8292489719df172de0.PNG

 

There's a reason why you don't see new Scientific wood model kits anymore: they're bad kits, comparatively speaking. Sure, they were okay back in the day, but kit design has progressed far, far beyond carved balsa hulls and printed or die-cut parts. Another reason to avoid "vintage" kits is that wooden kits don't age well like fine wines. Old kit wood gets dry and brittle. Old kits also usually have inferior fittings and instructions. Best to leave the vintage kits to the collectors.

 

5. Too Close for Comfort

 

Lastly, here's a sneaky example.

 

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This one looks good at first glance. It's a current, well-designed kit from a reputable manufacturer. The "Buy It Now" price is $69 less than what the manufacturer, Model Expo, is asking for the same kit at their website. BUT ... Model Expo offers free shipping on orders over $150, and this seller doesn't. So the real difference in price (ignoring for now any promotions that Model Expo might be running -- they usually always have something going) is only $22.20. For that slight bit extra you'll get the peace of mind of buying direct from the manufacturer PLUS getting their iron-clad replacement guarantee for any missing or damaged parts. Suddenly that $350 price doesn't look quite so attractive.

 

So those are some examples of pitfalls awaiting unwary newbie modelers at eBay -- it's a dangerous e-commerce world out there! But fear not! In Part 2, I will show that there are still a few good deals to be found, even if they are now fewer and farther between.

 

Until then!

 

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Hi Chris I pretty much agree with all you are saying but I thought I could add a few things in no real order both for and against eBay depending on your personal feelings.

 

DON'T get sucked into a bidding war. Who cares who is on top? The ONLY bid that is going to count is the LAST bid that is also the HIGHEST bid. Determine early how important the item is to YOU and how much you are willing to pay, and bid that amount. You will either win it at the price you are willing to pay or hopefully less or you will force someone else to pay more than you are willing to pay for the item! I have seen items involved in bidding wars that are already higher than the same item would be if you went a couple of spaces down and bought it as a Buy-it-now item! The same thing is true on looking on Amazon or directly from dealers as you suggest.

 

While most dealers and individuals on the internet can be considered as honest within reason, there is always the exception. There is also the incidences where things just don't go as planed. I will list a few personal examples.

 

1. One of the first things I ever bought  by way of eBay was a VERY expensive one of a kind doll for my wife. I did not win the bid and thought it was all over and started looking again. I received an email from the seller stating that the winning bidder had backed out and was I still interested? I told her yes and long story short she offered to sell it to me outside of eBay for a $100 less. I thought this was a good deal and went along with it and sent her the money. (I used PayPal but didn't know the rules regarding buying at the time. Long story a little shorter the doll arrived and when I opened it the Wax over porcelain head was smashed to bits! I contacted the seller and she refused to deal with it and said she had iot wrapped by a shipping store and gave me the number to contact. I live in Washington state and they were in Florida! They told me to take pictures and submit them to UPS as it was insured through UPS. I did this and told them that I did not want to surrender the doll I wanted to get it repaired. That was about the only thing I did right. After much back and forth and UPS dragging their heals they admitted responsibility and wrote a check for the repair costs. The only problem with that is that they pay the SHIPPER, or in this case the seller! You can probably guess the rest of it, she said that they wrote the check in her name and therefore it was hers! I never saw a dime of it. I ended up contacting the designer/maker in Germany and they told me that they had a spare head on hand from the actual limited production run and if I shipped it to them they could make a new head for the doll! Shipping back and forth and a couple of nail biting months later the doll came back and looked perfect. It now stands in a large display case and holds the title as the most expensive and exclusive doll I ever bought my wife.

 

2. Over the years I have made a few purchases on eBay that did not arrive. In every case it was pretty much just a matter of filing a claim with eBay and I got my money back within a few days, including shipping. More recently I bought a board game for my oldest son's 50th birthday. He had talked more than once about this game but stated that they were long out of production and pretty expensive. I personally would not have paid $10 for one but he was right. The only way to get the game was to pay outrageous prices for what was the most part total junk! Then I found what I was looking for and won it in a bid. Made my wife happy so I figured that was good for a couple of brownie points! The seller listed it as "100% complete - Supreme Condition - Epic find" and the pictures seemed to confirm her evaluation. Again skip to delivery time. First off I had to contact her after a week to see if she had even sent it. It turned out that she had not stating that she had some family matters come up and had forgotten it! She shipped it the next day and emailed me that she had to pay $100 for shipping instead of the $16 she had charged on her listing but since she had been so late she would pay the entire amount. (I didn't say anything at the time but she was going to pay it or default on the sale) Anyway package day arrived and so did the shock! Th package was smashed on one side and the igame instructions had almost fallen out! Fearing the worst I finished opening the shipping box to find what was left. The "Epic find" had become a flattened game box and the plastic game tower was in three pieces! A further inventory showed that it was complete but it was the "Pristine" part that I had bought it for. I contacted the seller and she said she would refund me if I sent it back to her. It took several emails trying to convince her that this was not the way it would go but she never seemed able to listen or offer any alternative. And this was after sending her pictures! She even said that I should work it out with UPS as it was their fault. I tried telling her that I had already done that and been there and was not going back! Finally I gave up and filed with eBay and they sent me a return label for free. I returned it to her in a new box and when the shipping showed that it had been delivered they refunded me the cost and shipping from the original listing. (They had already covered the return shipping with the return label) and my involvement was over!

 

3. The last example was for an item that I ordered from a possibly well known vender to us here at MSW who is located overseas. I did not know it at the time but the vender also maintains an eBay store and sells their entire product line through both their on line store and their eBay store. It ordered from their direct online store and within a few days was notified that they had shipped and provided a tracking number. The only problem was that the tracking always said that the postal service in the country in question was still waiting delivery of the item! I waited a little over two weeks and contacted them about it. They wrote back and requested that I give it another week and contact them again. So I waited another ten days and recontacted  them. After a couple of days they emailed me and said that they had located it at the post office and that the delivery address had been removed or something like that. Anyway in a couple of more days the tracking at last showed some movement and in four more weeks it was delivered for a total of two months! If I had ordered it through their eBay store I would have been given an eBay time limit for delivery and if not delivered in that time would have been protected. I am sure that this vender is honest but I really was getting to the point that I was thinking I was just going to have to kiss it and the money it cost goodby as I didn't have much leverage against the seller by buying directly.

 

So eBay has it's short comings and like it has already been said the really nice deals are few and far between it seems. But sometimes it is possible to get something there you can find nowhere else, or buy something without having to worry too much about the honesty of the seller, or accidents in shipping. PayPal is also your friend in most cases, even outside of eBay.    

Edited by lmagna

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10 hours ago, lmagna said:

going to have to kiss it and the money it cost goodby as I didn't have much leverage against the seller by buying directly

Lou,

 

Right on 100 percent, a buyer purchased some polished coral jewelry I sold a pair of necklaces, earrings, and bracelets all first class imported from Italy when I had a beach shop years ago gold fittings.

 

I was diligent in my posting description, length, fittings, documentation from vendor I purchased (a well known carver of shell cameos and jewelry) had to provide extra photos she stating she was an expert on polished coral jewelry.

 

She filed a vendor complaint with a litany of complaints was not coral ( after all she was an expert didn't matter I imported these items for 15 years, measurements were wrong and I grossly misrepresented the Items. Ok advised if she paid return shipping I would refund her money. Well it did quite work that way I was remiss on the handling of returns. Ok I sent a shipping label and returned her money. Ok big mistake wanted E-Bay to remove 2 negative postings even though 1 sale was 2 items (scrooged) (was really bad I was the reincarnation of the traveling medicine man).

 

So I go to E-Bay Help was advised since I returned the funds it was the same as admitting I committed the crime of the Century for 30 days calls, reviews, documentation could not post a rebuttal. Benn a seller since 2004 1st negative review.

 

After all this she emailed me and wanted 1 of the items (believe her husband raised hell for spending that kind of money for 2 of the same, they were expensive. Do not put yourself in a position where you have to bend over.

 

The point of this E-Bay has a very long laundry list of rules for sellers and buyers regarding refunds, complaint procedures, and time limits. as always READ THE FINE PRINT. Also had a buyer do to me like Lou damaged merchandise, she claimed the insurance Lou was lucky I didn't get mine back.:angry:

 

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13 hours ago, Richmond said:

There is only one rule I tend to follow in respect of eBay and that is.........don't use it.

 

That is why I follow Richmond's advice and boycott eBay entirely.

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18 hours ago, ccoyle said:

This one looks good at first glance. It's a current, well-designed kit from a reputable manufacturer. The "Buy It Now" price is $69 less than what the manufacturer, Model Expo, is asking for the same kit at their website. BUT ... Model Expo offers free shipping on orders over $150, and this seller doesn't. So the real difference in price (ignoring for now any promotions that Model Expo might be running -- they usually always have something going) is only $22.20. For that slight bit extra you'll get the peace of mind of buying direct from the manufacturer PLUS getting their iron-clad replacement guarantee for any missing or damaged parts. Suddenly that $350 price doesn't look quite so attractive.

 

To drive this particular point home, I received an email from Model Expo this morning featuring a new promotion -- 25% off any order with no minimum. That makes the $419.99 Constitution kit now only $314.99, plus free shipping. In this instance, it really pays to have an idea beforehand of what you should reasonably expect to pay.

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PART 2: How to Spot a Good Deal

 

Okay, despite what some people believe, there are still good deals to be had on eBay, if you know what to look for. In Part 2, we'll look at some potentially good deals.

 

CAVEAT: As some comments have pointed out in this thread, there are inherent dangers in shopping at online auction sites. I should have written in my lead-off post that I was writing under the assumption that you, dear reader, already knew about those dangers. But if you didn't, now you do. Back to the shopping!

 

Potential Good Deal #1

 

Here's a potentially great deal, especially for a new modeler.

 

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There's a number of reasons why this could be a great deal. First, it's Artesania Latina's Swift pilot boat. It's not a particularly sexy model, but it is a great beginner's model, and there are a bazillion build logs of finished examples here at MSW. It's a model the average beginner has a high probability of completing. Second, the seller posted a lot of photos showing that the kit contents are all there and in good shape, plus a beginner's book is included. Third, the starting bid is only $20. Granted, shipping is also $20, but still -- $40 all together is a good deal. The point worth emphasizing with this example is that pretty much any beginner's model is going to set you back at least $50 if you were to buy it from a dealer, so getting it for less than that is good. If a bidding war were to develop over this kit, and the price were to go over $50, I'd probably let it go, because the Swift is one of the most common models sold on eBay, and sooner or later another deeply discounted example will turn up (in fact, I found several better deals on this same model while researching for this post).

 

Potential Good Deal #2

 

This next potential good deal is a candidate for essentially two reasons. First, it's a Midwest Products kit. Midwest is now out of business, but their kits still turn up frequently on eBay, and Midwest made the closest thing to fool-proof model kits as one could wish for. The first two wooden models I ever built were from Midwest, and there are literally dozens of examples in our build logs and galleries. Second, the starting bid on this kit is cheap, cheap, cheap. Assuming that the seller doesn't ream you on the calculated shipping charge, this could be a great bargain that will provide any newbie with valuable experience in working with wood.

 

Midwest kits are good examples of kits whose prices are low simply because there are a lot of them still in circulation. They're good kits regardless of the low price. Remember my warning from Part 1: the fact that a kit is claimed to be "rare" doesn't mean that the kit is inherently valuable.

 

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Potential Good Deal #3

 

This next example is potentially a steal for a modeler who is feeling a little more ambitious and has a hankering for riverboats. Amati is a quality kit manufacturer, and the seller has set the starting bid at $150, with free shipping. Here's where doing the homework pays off: the MSRP on this kit is $439, so a buyer could potentially acquire this kit for up to 66% off the MSRP. That, my friends, is a deep discount. Whereas most sellers seem inclined to set their starting bids too high, occasionally a seller, like this one, will set the starting bid quite low. Knowing what the kit retails for is the key to spotting the deal.

 

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Potential Deal #4 -- or Not (Toss-Up)

 

Whether this next deal is a good deal or not depends on how badly you want to save $5.00.

 

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This example happens to be from an eBay store. No bidding is necessary -- you can simply snap this kit up for $168 plus $29 shipping, for a total of $197. Your model will be shipped from Russia, which means it ain't gonna arrive tomorrow. However, you can order the same kit from Model Expo using their current 25% off promo (as of 22 Dec 2018) and free shipping -- for $202. It's pretty much a toss-up. I mainly included this example because it shows that there are legitimate sellers on eBay who are not trying to bilk you. They're selling their wares at prices that are competitive with more familiar retailers.

 

So that's basically it. If you do your homework, know what to expect to pay in advance (and don't allow yourself to over-bid), and check listings over thoroughly, you can find some good deals on eBay. I found others besides the ones shown here, but they were essentially further examples of the scenarios already illustrated.

 

Have fun shopping!

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You really have to know your kits, and prices...

 

I like to go there and search before buying somewhere else, to make sure I'm not missing something.

 

I recently had an itch for the Model Shipways Fair American.  It was out of stock at Model Expo.

 

I managed to get one on eBay for $150 shipped.  

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Chris,

 

For me it is not a 'good deals' issue, it's more lack of trust. I suppose if I used it, I could, by elimination, locate the trusted sellers, however I may waste a great deal of money doing so which would negate any potential saving. 

 

The sellers all seem to be one man bands who don't care about negative reviews due to the fact they are able to,  as far as I can tell, manipulate the review system.

 

So I may as well do business with renown online sellers who come with good customer support and for whom I can see feedback from people I know or trust. i.e.people on this forum.

 

Irrespective, thank you for your article.

 

Richmond.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Richmond said:

For me it is not a 'good deals' issue, it's more lack of trust.

Certainly, and I know that there are a lot of people who will agree with you on that point. On the other hand, I have made about 20 or so purchases (not a lot, I know) on eBay and have never had any trouble. My intention in publishing this post was not to discuss the perils of online auctions, which are real and not to be taken lightly, but rather to show what can be had for those who feel comfortable using the medium.

 

Cheers!

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3 hours ago, ccoyle said:

First, it's a Midwest Products kit. Midwest is now out of business, but

Chris:

Midwest is still in business - but they stopped the model boat kits entirely.

Kurt

 

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1 minute ago, kurtvd19 said:

Midwest is still in business - but they stopped the model boat kits entirely.

Oops! Yes, you are correct on that point.

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I've been buying and selling on Ebay for decades...but it's not what it used to be. Lots and lots of bad deals on Ebay these days.

Having said that, if you know what you're doing and are patient, there are still incredibly good deals on Ebay at times. Not yard sale good deals, nor swap meet good deals, but far better than retail good deals.

If you don't have patience, or have a lack knowledge of the subject objects you want, stay far, far away from Ebay. But literally, I have bought exclusive items that retail for a thousand dollars or more on Ebay for 1/10 of their retail cost. 

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Not necessarily eBay but another related topic- buying books on the internet.

 

In general I find internet book sale sites to be a boon for the ship modeler.  You can usually find what you are looking for somewhere on virtually any maritime topic. You cannot find these at your local chain bookseller. I buy a lot of books and use Amazon as well as two Internet book sale sites; Alibris and AbeBooks.  With one exception I have had excellent results.

 

 The exception-  I recently found a usually expensive book that I was looking for on Alibris.  The price was less than usual and just within the range that I was willing to pay.  I bought it and was notified the next day that the shipper had sent the book but had not provided a tracking number.  The book didn’t arrive.  After it was overdue I emailed the store that had supposedly sent the book.  I also looked up the store on Alibris’s website and found a flurry of complaints that the store reported shipping books that never arrived.  Long story short, after many emails back and forth the store said that the book was lost in the mail (not likely) and if I would be patient they would find another copy to fill my order.  After some not so subtle threats they refunded my money through Alibris.

 

The moral of the story-  This book seller seems to have a history of advertising via an internet book site expensive books at attractive prices they do not actually have in stock.  Using the “lost in the mail” excuse they sit on your money.  If a percentage of their customers don’t get as agressive as I did they come out ahead.  I don’t know if they actually ever intended to fill the order but our local Post Office told me that now days they assign a tracking number to every package so the lack of one should have tipped me off right away.  I should have also checked Alibris’ customer reviews for the store before ordering.

 

Roger

 

 

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Another good site for finding books is bookfinder.com .  I have found some very good deals on rare/out of print books there.

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I have had some great deals on ebay but occasionally been totally ripped off. On the whole, if you do your home work, most sellers are good and if you encounter a problem are helpful. But I have had some that have lied to questions and sold kits knowing they have missing parts.

 

I have also sold a lot of items and in my experience buyers are far worse. This includes time wasters, buyers that do so just for fun of not paying or complaining, removing parts and then returning and even one that has made threats because I wouldn't send an item even though he didn't pay. This one even left me negative and it didn't get sorted to another seller took out a legal injunction against him. Latest was someone buying furniture who then didn't want it because she was homeless! With the ebay fees it is often not worth the hassle.

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This is only tangentially related, but I've been looking at eBay because I'm trying to find a NOS kit from Midwest. I did find the Chesapeake Flattie there (and am now trying to get a hobby space set up), but are there alternative places to shop for older kits?

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Great topic. Another point I feel is important is Don't Be Cheap. Frugal, sure. Cheap, no. It costs money for small businesses to design, manufacture, and sell models. If you can't afford a model, you can't afford it; look for something else that's in your price range or learn to scratchbuild what you want. Sure, I'd like to have a nicer vehicle, but I'm not going to buy a stolen one to achieve that, or use a sketchy dealer that will likely cheat both me and the government. If I want to spend more money, I have to save or budget for that or accept that life doesn't revolve around getting what I want right now.

 

This means don't get sucked into aggressively looking for crazy deals, because for the most part they don't exist. If you want a model, save up for it (or crowdfund it through gifts from family) and pay the reputable manufacturer (or dealer) what it's worth while feeling good that you supported a legitimate part of the small-business economy. Live (and model) within your means and pay others the respect of supporting their efforts to do the same.

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