eBay Tips, Tricks & Strategies

Greetings pipe community! I want to offer you some information that you can use when bidding on eBay. There is a wealth of information at your disposal, including some of the finer nuances of eBay bidding.

How To Get Great Deals On eBay Pipes

Before we start, readers should know that the intent of this article is not to give you instructions on how to win high-dollar pipes for pennies on the dollar, although that is possible on occasion. You may not be able to buy a new unsmoked Dunhill for $10, but getting a vintage one for $80-100 isn’t rare. 

Below are 3 tips, or rules, on how to be a better eBay bidder and how to get better deals on some great pipes.

General Rules You Should Follow

1) Do your research. 

This is not limited to looking at the pictures of the pipe and reading the description. There is so much more to it and the more time you spend researching, the better your chances are to score a great deal. 

For example I have two Peterson pipes I bought on eBay. 

One is a pre-1970s Peterson. You can tell by how the bowl is cut and how the stem is shaped, information which I got from the manager of my local pipe store who is knowledgeable in this area. It was listed on eBay as a Peterson Standard System Pipe with a silver collar. 

The second pipe was listed as a Peterson Rusticated System Pipe, also with a silver collar. I happened to be bidding on this pipe at the same time. 

Get Your Facts Correct

Novice or uneducated sellers will usually get most of the facts correct, but may miss some important details. The first pipe, while a System Pipe, does not have a silver collar. Rather, its collar is made of nickel. Confusing the maker’s marks on the band is an easy mistake for the inexperienced buyer or seller. A trained eye would know the difference between the “maker’s marks”, which are unique to the manufacturer (K & P in this instance), and sterling hallmarks. The hallmarks can be used not only to ensure the authenticity of certain precious metals, but also to help date a piece. This knowledge is invaluable when researching estate pipes. 

Comparison between two Peterson pipes. One showing hallmarks, the other does not have Silver hallmarks.
Comparison of two Peterson Pipes

When you’re viewing a listing, look at all of the photographs and really scrutinize them. Read the entire description. If you have any questions, reach out to the seller. 

This can be one of your most useful tools that most people don’t take advantage of. Sellers want you to be interested in their auctions. They want you to be happy so you’ll come back and that you will leave good feedback on them. Most are more than happy to answer your questions. If there is any doubt, or if you have any questions, contact the seller. 

Contacting the Seller

If you have decided to use this feature, you may want to know what information you should ask for. For one, I would ask sellers where or how they acquired the piece. Personally, I like to know the provenance of an item, especially if it comes with a good story. A piece’s history is part of its value. Additionally, if I have specific concerns about a piece, I will address them directly (cracks, scratches, better pictures of markings, etc.).

RnA Treasures, an eBay Seller

I recently had the pleasure to talk to Randy from RnA Treasures, an eBay seller. They specialize in briar pipes and know the ins and out of eBay very well. RnA Treasures can be found on their eBay store and on their own webpage, www.RnATreasures.com, which includes a wonderful catalog of pipes for sale.

Question: “Do you mind answering questions or would you rather people just read the descriptions?”


Randy: “I never mind answering questions, I actually like replying to messages and making the buyer feel comfortable with their purchase and not worry that you’re getting something you don’t want, we surely have nothing to hide and have no intentions of selling anything they can’t use.”


Question: “As a seller, what is the most important thing you would like a buyer taking away from their eBay experience?”


Randy: “The sense of Connection, it’s important to us and the community, since everything is done online and you can’t physically touch the item, we want to make sure we’re here to provide quality items with quality service. We’re only treating people as we would like to be treated.”


Question: ” What do you think is the biggest mistake people make when bidding on an item or buying and item from an eBay seller?”

 
Randy: “The biggest mistake I see is people automatically see a low price and assume it’s worthless or not in the best condition. If it sounds too good to be true, ask. When buying an item make sure the buyer has a Offer button on their item if they do, they’ll take a better offer than what’s shown on the listing. You can always contact the seller and they can assist you. Check reviews again, always look for them, it’s a great indicator of what the items quality can be described. And if there’s anything you’re on the fence about, send a message to the seller, they should have no problem at all answering any questions”.

Understand the kind of pipe you are buying

Here’s a strategy I like to use. If I’m in the market for a new pipe, I would begin with a basic search “briar smoking pipe”, “estate pipes”, or “vintage pipes” on eBay, sorting by lowest price. I would then scroll through, noting the ones that looked interesting to me, the current bid, and the amount of time left in the auction.. Don’t just look at the style of pipes, but note the condition the pipes are in.

link to estate pipes on eBay
Here is a link to a similar search

Always keep within the budget range I set for myself. I also shy away from what looks like “professional sellers”.  Not that there is anything wrong with professional sellers, but it is a red flag for those of us with tight budgets. Things like professional photography are great clues to figuring out the quality or type of the seller, which may help decide on the strategy on how you will use to bid. These sellers almost always know the value of what they have, and the chances of you getting a good deal are quite low. They will have good pipes, but you will most likely not get any cheap. 

Once you pick out the ones that stand out to you, spend some time understanding what they are, especially if the brand is unfamiliar to you. Put them on your watch list and then begin your research. 

Great Resource

One of the most extensive, most detailed markings libraries I have ever seen is pipephil.eu. This website has almost every Pipe maker, Pipe maker’s mark and hallmark that you can think of. They also have examples of all of the different mark variations used throughout the years. It can be very frustrating when you see so many inconsistencies with manufacturers in the use of their marks, but it is something you should expect when buying older pipes. 

One of the best examples of doing your research I can give you is that of my Brewster pipe. A nice pot shape from a name many people have never heard of. During the course of my research I found that this was a promotional item made for Sir Walter Raleigh Tobacco. They were made by Rossi pipes in 1961 and 1962. A very inexpensive pipe made by a well-known pipe maker. It was almost 60 years old with great history. A perfect eBay find that I got for $5! 

Photo a Brewster pipe from a winning auction.
Amazing eBay find, a vintage Brewster pipe

You’re not going to find deals like this all the time, and it takes patience. You have to be on the lookout, and it may take months for the right auction to come up. This will have been time well spent when you are successful on that great deal. 

2) Set A Budget 

Go to other sources of Estate pipes, such as online retailers, and see what they are selling these pipes for. You may not be able to find the exact same pipe but you can usually find one quite similar. It is a good check to make sure you don’t bid over market value.

When you know the market value, you can then set a limit for yourself on what you would be comfortable spending on that pipe. 

3) Finding the Right Auction 

Watch for the right auction. Even if you bid on an item and you didn’t win, keep your eye out for similar auctions. 

Estate pipes that are not clean when you buy them can be a diamond in the rough, but you have to be extremely careful. When you see a pipe like this, it may be covering flaws in the photos. You may also have to spend additional money cleaning or fixing them, which may not be in your budget. 

But, on the pro side, the price is probably much better than it would otherwise be. It may indicate that the seller doesn’t know how to clean a pipe properly and decided to leave it as is. Finding a seller like this increases your chances of getting a good deal. There is a fine balance there and you have to weigh the pros and cons. 

I would stay away from items that are complete garbage. The amount of additional time and money you will have to spend rarely makes a winning bid worth while. Even if it’s a vintage Dunhill, those deep chamber cracks usually aren’t fixable!

Don’t Be Afraid

A lot of bidders will move away from pipes that they think look rough because they are afraid they might have to clean them. In most cases it is cheaper to win with a low bid and then send it out to be cleaned, or to clean it yourself, than to only bid on well-maintained pipes in the more expensive auctions. 

There are many strategies that one can employ to be a successful bidder on eBay. As I mentioned earlier, you have to decide what your tolerance for risk is. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you get carried away and start bidding outside of your comfort zone. Once you have established the boundaries for an item you want to go for, and have the self control to stay within those boundaries, you can then plan on how you can win that bid. Of course, you could simply throw a number out there, but there are more sophisticated ways to outsmart the competition. 

The following list contains a handful of different tactics you can use. Some are simple tips, while others are more involved. I’m sure most of the people reading this are not professional eBay bidders or sellers. You’re not buying up items cheap and trying to flip them — you’re most likely someone just trying to score a good deal. Why not use some of the same tactics the professionals use to be more successful on eBay? 

So here is that list of tricks. 

Bid Sniping

“Bid sniping” entails the use of third-party services that allows bidders to enter what their maximum bid is on a specific item. The service then automatically puts your bids in during the last seconds of an auction. This is designed to attract less attention to the item, and to do so automatically, so you don’t even have to be present. 

Experienced buyers use these services. You can set them up early so that you don’t have to worry about it. However, they need to be integrated with your eBay account, and you should only use services from a reputable company since they will have all of your personal information. It is best to use only bank accounts or a PayPal account that is dedicated for this purpose. 

People say that the money you save makes it worth it. Even if you are successful only a small percentage of the time you will still be putting yourself in a position to score some great deals. A hyper-focused person can snipe manually; if you stumble or hesitate, you risk not getting your bid in before the auction closes.

Proxy Bidding

You can also set your high bid right on eBay. ebay’s automatic bid feature does the work for you. Your bid rises incrementally every time someone else puts in a higher bid than yours, up to the limit you set. It’s the easiest way to bid on an eBay auction. Simply enter the highest price you’re willing to pay for an item, and they do the rest. 

Bidding on items can be exciting, but it’s a contractual obligation. When you’re deciding on your maximum bid, be sure you’re happy to pay that amount if you win the auction.

Tip from eBay

You can stay ahead of the competition using this strategy. Bids are increased until someone reaches their maximum. 

If someone immediately outbids you, it’s likely another bidder is using the automatic bidding. In that case you may have to rethink your maximum bid if you still want the item. 

Nobody knows what your maximum bid is. The amount increased over the previous bid is based on eBay’s bid-increment formula. Your bid is calculated going off what the current highest bid is. 

The following bid increments table is taken directly from eBay’s website. It is current when this article is being written in 2019. The link to the page can be found here if you want to verify the current structure.

Proxy Bidding Bid increments 

When someone else places a bid, eBay will place a slightly higher bid on your behalf. The amount the bid increases by is known as a bid increment. Bid increments are smaller when the bid price is low, and larger in higher price brackets.

Current price Bid increment
$0.01 – $0.99 $0.05
$1.00 – $4.99 $0.25
$5.00 – $24.99 $0.50
$25.00 – $99.99 $1.00
$100.00 – $249.99 $2.50
$250.00 – $499.99 $5.00
$500.00 – $999.99 $10.00
$1000.00 – $2499.99 $25.00
$2500.00 – $4999.99 $50.00
$5000.00 and up $100.00

Occasionally you’ll see bids increase by less. This means that someone else placed a bid just slightly higher than your automatic bid amount.

You need to have the self control to resist all of the “you’ve been outbid” notifications. If you can, this is a great feature. Do you have an itchy trigger finger? Well, this can be a double-edged sword. A good idea is to factor into your decision how much time is left in an auction.

Bid Increments

Using the automatic bid proxy, the bid increments goes by a table set up by eBay (see above). If you manually make a bid in some strange amount it is possible to win the auction for less that you otherwise would have. Increasing the bid by just once cent is an example. 

Low Bidding 

“Low bidding” is a touchy subject in the eBay community. Sometimes sellers will put a low bid on their own auctions to attract interest and to get the bidding started. Sellers can burn themselves. Even eBay suggests starting off with these bids to generate interest. 

In certain cases this low bid stands until someone comes along and puts in their own bid just above this initial low bid. When a seller tries to seed the auction with a lowball bid they take a risk. The price is lower than they want but someone comes along and tops it by just a little bit. The bidding never reaches the level the seller would consider his break even point. The seller is obligate to send the item at that point, even if it’s below his cost.

Some dishonest sellers, not wanting to lose any money, will not ship the item and would rather face penalties from eBay. 

It doesn’t matter when the auction closes and it’s all over, at that point the seller is locked into the winning bid. Sellers should not be putting in any bids lower than the bottom line of what they would take for it.  

If you see this low bid and bid a little above it on the off chance that the auction doesn’t generate any interest, You can luck into some pretty sweet deals.

Bidding Early

Bidding early is the opposite strategy of bid sniping. Where sniping happens in the final seconds of an auction, bidding early is more of a shotgun approach. It rests on the hope that an item will fly under the radar. If you see an item you might like, especially for a bargain basement price, just throw a low bid up and see what happens. You might bid $1 in 50 auctions and only win one of them, but you will have gotten something that may be worth much more for only a dollar.

This is something people do who like to buy things on eBay and turn around and resell them. These are long shot bids, but on occasion they can pay off. 

Blocking Edits

When a seller puts up a description for an item they may edit it as long as nobody has bid on it yet. Also, if there is a “Buy it Now” option, that will also go away once someone places a bid. 

Here’s where a bargain hunter with a keen eye can stack the deck when they come across an inexperienced or lazy eBay seller. You also have to really know your stuff and what you’re looking at. 

Lets say you see an item that you know has something special about it. Maybe a unique piece or something you recognize that the seller may not know and you see they left some important details out of their description. By quickly placing a bid on that item, you will prevent the seller from going and editing that description should they realize the mistake they made. It also takes away the “Buy It Now” option. Armed with this knowledge about their item, you may have given yourself a huge advantage over other bidders that may not know this information, leaving you in the cat bird’s seat. 

This is were really knowing what you are bidding on can truly pay off. 

The Buy It Now Option

eBay is not just an auction site, but one of the biggest retailers as well. There are a lot of people that find ebay a great platform to host their online store. Shoppers can find fantastic deals by just looking around, without having to outbid anyone or wait around for auctions to end. For this reason, many sellers offer a “Buy It Now” feature. 

If you see an item you want for a price you like, there is no sense in going through the entire process; just click the button to buy it! There are plenty of great deals, and all you have to do is look around and know what things are worth. Read the descriptions carefully to make sure you are getting what you want. For the most part it is quite a convenient way to shop and should be used if the deal is right. 

Make An Offer

If you don’t see a “Buy It Now” option, and nobody has bid on an auction, consider contacting the seller and just making them an offer. Maybe they will be open to it. They may have just overlooked adding the “Buy It Now” button. Having an offer that is appealing to them, they may want to forgo the auction process and take the money. 

What the seller would have to do at that point is go in to their account and add the Buy It Now option for the agreed upon price. You have to be on your toes because once they add that option then anyone is free to click on it and buy. You have to be ready to strike once they put it up. 

Ebay limits the number of offers any single buyer might make. 

If you like an item, contact the buyer and ask some in-depth questions. The seller sometimes has a number in mind and don’t be afraid to reach out.

Randy from RnA Treasures

Second Chance Offers

This is used when the winning bidder doesn’t pay and the seller was unsuccessful in resolving the issue. It can also come into play if the price reserve was not met, or if the seller has more of the same item. 

The seller will make the offer, but you need to be set up to accept them. It gives the non-winning bidder the chance to buy the item equal to their last bid. Second chance offers extend up to 60 days after an auction ends. 

You have to be careful of scammers. Make sure any offer you get is from the original seller. This is very important since this is something crooks use to rip people off. As long as the offer is legitimate it can be a way for you to still obtain an item you may have wanted for the price you bid. 

Make sure you haven’t got the ability to receive Second Chance offers blocked in your settings, if you want to be able to get them. 

Conclusion

So, given that we’ve just covered A LOT of information, let’s summarize the highlights of what we have learned! First, do your research. This will save you from getting ripped off, and help you to find treasures you weren’t expecting.  Second, set a budget.  Know what you’re comfortable spending and don’t go a cent over it! Nothing is worse than resenting a pipe because you got into a bidding war.  Finally, learn how to time your bids.  There are many strategies out there, so experiment and find what works best for you.

I’m not an expert on this, but it is my opinion that if you follow these tips and tricks, you’re setting yourself up for a great eBay pipe experience!


Photo of the author

David is the lead presenter for Gentleman’s Corner, a relatively new channel in the YTPC. He is a happily married man residing in Texas.  David is also a musician and artist who practices law to pay the bills.

David has only been smoking pipes and cigars for two years, and does not hold himself out as an expert on any topic! However, he has a passion for learning and constantly adding to his own vault of information, and for sharing it with pipe and cigar smokers everywhere.

Disclaimer from Briar Report Editor

The Briar Report is currently part of the eBay Partner Network. Clicking on links to eBay from the Briar Report gets them a percentage of the eBay fee should you buy something on eBay with 24 hours of your visit.

Going to eBay by clicking on a link from one of Briar Report’s websites is very much appreciated as it helps pay to keep our websites going.

Photo of estate pipes and a link to current eBay estate pipe auctions.
Link to eBay’s website

Footnotes:

If you’re interested in seeing the original YouTube video that was the basis for this article you can catch it on the Gentleman’s Corner YouTube channel or watch it here.