The internet is undoubtedly a great place for getting bargains. You can often get money off items if you buy them online instead of on the high street. Prices are often lower due to lower overheads and economies of scale. And If you look hard enough you can often find promo codes for money off purchases on every kind of website, service or sites like virgin games online and many others, who are trying to entice new customers with great deals.

Obviously one place that has often been associated with getting bargains is eBay. In terms of retro items, however, people are often being more savvy to the prices that retro items can demand now, so prices for some things are skyrocketing. But there are other ways that eBay can cost you money too. I’ve had a few instances where issues with retro items listed on eBay have not quite gone to plan. Let’s explore.

Asterix books
I collect Asterix books. I love them. Just this week I have finally completed my collection of the full Asterix set of books. But this would have been completed several months earlier if it had not been for some issues. Granted, some of them were perhaps my ‘user error’. The problem is that Asterix books come in three formats. Paperback, which is the most common, hardback, and also mini size. But they all look almost identical in a photo taken of the cover. More than once I’ve ordered an Asterix book, thinking it was a paperback but I received either the hardback or mini. Sometimes this is just my fault as I assumed it would be paperback but on closer inspection it said Hardback in the title or description, but quite often they use a generic photo of the book, rather than a new photo from the seller themselves, or they have just mentioned hardback or paperback in the small print description notes and not made it very clear. And sometimes they just actually make a mistake and have obviously copy and pasted the description from a similar entry on eBay. This hasn’t just happened once or twice though. It’s happened to me about seven times. So I’ve got a little pile of hardback and mini Asterix books that I need to put back on eBay myself. I’ll make sure I will describe them properly when I get round to selling them!

Rubik’s Magic ‘puzzle’
I distinctly remember how excited I was a few years ago when I remembered about the Rubik’s Magic and I chose to quickly search for one and buy one in a whim of retro fancy. I found one on eBay and bought it straight away. I think it had said something like ‘Rubik’s Magic Puzzle’ in the title. And the picture looked very much like what I remembered the Rubik Magic box to look like. I thought I was getting a boxed one. Perfect. But when it arrived it was actually a bloody jigsaw! A jigsaw ‘puzzle’! First of all I’ve got a bit of a (petty) pet hate about jigsaws being called puzzles, because puzzles for me is a very wide blanket term for anything that keeps you puzzled, like those little pyramid or metal ring puzzles you get in crackers. I would call them puzzles and I would call jigsaws either ‘jigsaws’ or ‘jigsaw puzzles’. So it was doubly frustrating that not only did I not get my Rubik Magic, but the reason I didn’t get it was because of someone calling this jigsaw puzzle a ‘puzzle’.

Casio Databank watch
I love retro digital watches, and my all time favourite is the Casio Databank, which I had as a kid. It’s just a thing of beauty. A few years ago I looked on eBay for one, found one which I’m sure contained the words ‘classic retro Casio Databank’ in the title, and I pulled the trigger. Imagine my disappoint when what arrived was a re-issue, and actually looked quite different from the classic 80s version in real life. It was much chunkier and quite uglier. My fault of course for not examining it more closely, but still it was slightly misleading. Since then I’ve done some more careful eBay perusing and I got a better reissue from Casio which was an exact replica of the 80s one. That was great. But then the strap broke. But now, just in the last week, I actually did manage to find a genuine one from the 80s. It has arrived and absolutely is still a thing of beauty. I got there in the end.

Mad Max VHS
I went through a spell of buying lots of VHS tapes. Most of them I got from charity shops for about 50p each. But I was really wanting a Mad Max one, because I just really liked the box art. So I looked on eBay for it. I found one straight away and bought it. It was listed as ‘Mad Max VHS’. You can imagine my frustration when it arrived and it was actually a BetaMax tape. I guess the person listing it didn’t really know the difference and thought it was a VHS tape, or perhaps uses VHS as a generic term a bit like ‘hoover’ or ‘xerox’. 

Explorers storybook
I am building a collection of both 80s movie storybooks and also 80s movie novelisations. Some of them are quite hard to find and even online you have to hunt for a while and keep an eye out. I had been hunting for the Explorers novelisation by George Gipe for quite a while. Then one day I found one. Or at least I thought I had. I already had the storybook and the listing photo of this novelisation had very similar cover art as the storybook but it was listed the item as ‘Explorers book by George Gipe’ so I assumed it was the novelisation. But when it arrived it was another Explorers storybook! The person listing it had obviously just Googled ‘Explorers book’ and found some info about it to add to the listing title. Very frustrating. I did manage to track down the novelisation a few months later.

Items just not not arriving
Some of the issues above have been because of bad or incorrect descriptions by the seller, and some perhaps could have been prevented if I had been a bit more careful, but sometimes you just get screwed on eBay. I’ve had several issues with things just not turning up. Recent instances of this that I can remember were of a classic Channel 4 NFL book from the 80s and also a really rare Captain Kremmen vinyl LP that I was really excited about receiving. The LP apparently just got lost in the post and the seller was very apologetic but for the book I just didn’t even hear back from the seller at all. They did a runner and even took the old listing down. A fine example of the risks when you buy things from eBay I guess.

So in summary…

  • Don’t rush in and make assumptions about what the item is
  • Read the full description and check for mentions of what version the item is
  • Be very wary when the seller uses a generic image rather than a photo of their own
  • If in doubt, ask the seller a question