Level 10: Price Burnout (is ebay is killing the fun?)


“Well I saw it’s listed for X on ebay…”
This phrase is a trigger for rage for any collector…we’ve all had to endure being at a yard sale or junk shop, found a random treasure, only to be told by the seller “Just let me look it up”.

Ebay…oh ebay, you son of a bitch! With the introduction of ebay the market for items went worldwide, you could find items that were not necessarily available in your area, rare items, merchandise, and imports that didn’t always make it to our shores.

How great was that? Well it’s become a beast all it’s own, prices get adjusted to compensate for ebay fees, shipping, etc and it has had a major influence on prices in the retro market. The main problem is that the ebay mindset has made it’s way into the flea markets, yard sales and online sellers and has created a division in the retro community.

I spoke before about the duality of being a collector and reseller, it’s a fight between my wanting to collect cheap but also needing to move merchandise at a fair value. As a collector you run into ebay pricing on items so often that you find yourself, whether or not you like it checking sold listings when selling your own items just to be able to fund your own collection.

As much as I despise it, it’s part of the market landscape and isn’t going away any time soon, but things could be better…if sellers were at least better educated on how ebay works, sold listings determine prices not “buy it now” prices, etc.

Anyone who has ever perused ebay knows that like any other sale, you can ask whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean that’s the price the item will fetch. The idea that because something is old = value is a faulty thought process, Mario 3 for instance is a very common game, a popular game and fondly remembered, but with 60 million copies out there it’s not rare in anyway and never merits the asking price many sellers put on it.

I’ve said before that nostalgia can blind some sellers to the reality of what the object is worth because nostalgia isn’t exactly a license to print money. When confronted with what are obviously buy it now prices, I’ll definitely be haggling on it and frequently come across the phrase I opened the article with.

“Well I saw it listed for X on ebay…”
Ok, great, so if that’s what it’s going for on ebay….”WHY DON’T YOU HAVE IT LISTED ON EBAY?”. When I go to flea markets and yard sales and hear the seller mention ebay I start seeing red, if the price is so cherry, sell it there…oh wait you don’t want to deal with the fees? You don’t want the hassle of shipping? You don’t want to get tied up in fake claims from the buyer because ebay always sides with the buyer and you don’t want to get ripped off?

Fair enough. So don’t try to grind the ebay price on it just to be greedy, if the game is right in front of me there’s no shipping or fees to you, so don’t blow smoke up my ass about what it’s going for on ebay, there’s one thing you’re forgetting…you need my money more than I need the game.

I’d prefer you put it on ebay, if I choose to buy it then be a dirt bag and put a claim against you…ebay will side with me as the buyer and that’s a big win for me…seems like it would be easier to just sell at a reasonable market price, nobody is asking you not to make some profit, but there’s got to be some realistic consideration that goes into it.

There’s a lot of factors that go through my mind when purchasing, biggest thing I take in to account: how much you paid for it. At a pawn shop I know you’re not paying close to a fair value to get the item so don’t try to feed me an ebay price. Has the item been around for a while? If the game has been gathering dust for a year, don’t expect a dime close to what you’re asking because it’s already overpriced, which is why it isn’t moving.

Now ebay hasn’t completely destroyed what was a fun hobby, but has done a lot to poison sales outside the online market. This hurts new collectors more than ones like myself who already have a substantial collection so I’m not often looking for many rarer titles as I was able to pick them up during the cheaper days. The new guy who decides to come into the retro community is the one getting bombarded with the $50 Mario 3 because the seller saw someone asking $50 as a buy it now price.

This is where ebay ruins the hobby by making it hard for new collectors to get into the scene. It now costs an arm and a leg just to start collecting even common games which can deter a lot new collectors, the guys who’ve seen a few episodes of the Game Chasers or Pat the NES punk’ “flea market madness” and go out starry eyed looking for deals, only to get hit point blank in face with ridiculous ebay priced games.

Negotiation is key in this market where applicable, there are some sellers who will not flinch, so don’t bother trying, in that case it’s best to just move on as you can eventually find what you’re looking for at a price you want. You have to have a set price in mind and be ready to haggle it out, most times if you try it’s successful but it can be tedious.
Even non collectors are now aware that there’s value to old games which is why sometimes yard sales can be more of a hassle than dealing with your local reseller at a flea market or retail store, at least the guy in the store has done a bit of research beyond “I heard nintendo games sell for like X on ebay”. There’s nothing worse than asking a seller at a yard sale how much their copy of Anticipation for NES is and getting $20 back as a price, you know if you go on ebay that’s probably going to be the first and/or highest buy it now price.

As collectors and resellers we need to bring change to the scene, if nobody rebels against the price gouging the profiteers have no reason to stop running prices up. The more people refuse to pay ridiculous prices the sooner the profit guys get out, once the goldmine starts to dry up they’re gone.
As sellers it’s important to be aware of keeping prices reasonable,  profit is part of the game but there’s a limit. As the market changes and profiteers get out, more merchandise will find it’s way back into the market at much lower prices. Also as the hype over retro collecting eventually dies down we will see fairweather collectors dumping collections back into the market again as well.

In the meantime though it’s the retro community that has to influence the change if it’s going to happen, bitching about prices is one thing, but if we do nothing to change them then we can’t blame ebay for ruining our hobby. So get out there, get deals, help each other out, trade games and don’t give your money to profiteers and we will eventually see the change we want.



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