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Strategies for Buying Test Equipment off Ebay

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by D from BC, Oct 26, 2007.

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  1. D from BC

    D from BC Guest

    Here's a few observations I've been thinking about when buying test
    equipment off Ebay..

    1) Not only am I bidding against people that actually want to use the
    test equipment but I'm also bidding against used equipment resellers
    buying test equipment to resell (on Ebay)!!??
    Lets say somebody might not care about the money selling item X.. The
    seller creates a starting bid of $100.00..Then a used equipment buyer
    blows away everybody with a $1000.00 bid and then sells it back on
    ebay parked forever at $1500.00 until a sucker comes along!!

    2) Bidding soon may attract other buyers...Bidding late and there's a
    risk of losing the bid.

    3) I suspect UPS still has the highest brokerage rates. Using the USPS
    is cheaper.

    4) I seem to dodge used equipment resellers. They know their sh*t and
    can appraise for optimum profit. They may even fish with ridiculous
    prices on depreciated and used items. It's a profit game.
    You get what you pay for.

    5) I suspect the best prices are from those that don't care too much
    about money and would just like a new home for they're cherished
    oscilloscope. Unlike the sharks from the used equipment shops.

    6) Not to bash the used equipment shops too much, they are calibrating
    and testing. They also have the capability to scrap units for parts to
    restore other units.
    Ironically, their prices are useful to roughly guess at the savings
    you get by buying from somebody else.

    7) I suspect better prices are from those that are selling due to
    upgrading, moving, company closure, gave up electronics, demo units
    and let's not forget the possibility of stolen goods.

    8) On occasion, some sellers (junk buyers) haven't a clue what they
    have and just sell at a stupid price.. That's the best. Especially
    when wise used test equipment buyers are too fat with mountains of
    equipment and can't force the bid high.

    Comments? Additions? Arguments? Observations?

    D from BC
  2. Jim Thompson

    Jim Thompson Guest


    My one and only experience buying from eBay...

    I found some way to bid that set a maximum I was willing to offer but
    all that showed was my automatic tracking bid.

    I got the item WAY under my maximum.

    (USPS is CHEAP.)

    ...Jim Thompson
  3. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    (1) I've given up on eBay auctions. If it doesn't have a "buy it now"
    option, I ignore it.

    (2) eBay would be much more fair, and robot-tolerant, if they extended
    any auction with new bids within the last five minutes. Keep
    adding five minutes until everyone's done bidding.

    And to keep it on-topic, I do have a Tektronix 561A that's been
    sitting idle for waaay too long...
  4. D from BC

    D from BC Guest

    I'm still a newbie on Ebay and I think I've witnessed this..
    I was observing bids on an item for sale. (Not me selling)
    I saw one buyer do 5 consecutive bids for some reason..
    I think I know why now..
    Perhaps it was to incrementally beat the tracking bid.
    Maybe it was like this for that bidder...
    Bid..then response..lost bid...
    Rebid...then response...lost bid...
    And cycling until the that bidder is able to counter the other bidders
    max bid value..
    I think that's what's going on..
    If so..then doing a max bid near closing should get interesting..
    Gets kinda like a lottery..

    D from BC
  5. D from BC

    D from BC Guest

    I take it as bad sign that when even the used equipment dealers won't
    bid on that 561A..
    I think those cheap Ebay PC scopes blow that away.
    Can you throw in some Elvis 8 tracks too? :p

    I'm the opposite of "buy it now"... Sometimes sellers are clueless as
    to the going price and the bid starts off stupid low.

    Yeah... In real auctions there's the "going once...going
    twice...sold!" But not on Ebay.. Bidders get cut off by time.

    D from BC
  6. robb

    robb Guest

    is that a joke ? extend it 5 minutes until everyone is done ,
    thats not fair for a buyer it just lines the pocket of sellers by
    exploiting the gotta have its and the emotional bidders who do
    not really have a max value in there head

    and OP this topic shouild be in misc or equipment not design ? i
    would have re-directed it but then you would never have seen it.

    so is the 561A considered obsolete ?
  7. Joel Koltner

    Joel Koltner Guest

    You can argue it either say... having a fixed closing time is more fair in the
    sense that, if everyone puts in their true maximum bids initially, the person
    who's willing to pay the most wins, end of story -- that's perfectly fair.
    With extended auctions, there's potentially more appeal to buyer emotion,
    getting "caught up" in the auction and bidding more than they objectively
    would otherwise. On the other hand, with extensions most everyone starts
    bidding at far less than their true maximums, so if there isn't a large amount
    of interest -- people aren't actively monitoring the auction -- you stand a
    better chance of lucking out and getting a really good bargain.

    My opinion is that they're both perfectly "fair" -- they're just different. I
    prefer fixed-length auctions since, as a buyer, I don't want to get caught up
    in a multi-hour bidding war with someone, adding $5 to the price of some
    widget every 5 minutes for several hours on end.

    I would probably take part in extended auctions done in "real time," with
    "going once, going twice..." giving no more than about 15 seconds for someone
    else to up the ante, just as in traditional auctions. Over the Internet,
    though, that kind of responsiveness is not a given (and puts dial-up users as
    a great disadvantage) so the "5 minute" option just strikes me as too slow.
  8. As far as I can see, there is only one strategy that makes any
    sense. Work out how much an item is worth to you. I.e., what is the
    maximum that you would ever buy it for.

    Then, put in a bid for that amount a couple of seconds before the
    end. (You will need an accurate clock!).
  9. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    If buyers are willing to pay more, they should have a chance to do so.
    The current system allows a robo-bidder to outbid you within a split
    second of the end of auction, giving you no opportunity to rebid.
    Removing the "last split second" from auctions also discourages
    robo-bidders, giving the humans a better chance of winning.
    Gah, I hope so. It's all tubes and silver solder, and has about a
    1MHz bandwidth. Can't even look at video signals with it. I've got a
    cheap parallel-port DSO that has more range and capabilities.
  10. D from BC

    D from BC Guest

    I gave it some thought..
    "Buy it now" is a way to beat the hunting used equipment reseller.
    If you can get there first.
    Getting into a bidding war with a used equipment reseller could get
    ugly. A good used equipment reseller knows precisely how to bid for
    prospective profit. Even a DOA item can be of more value to a used
    equipment dealer than a user.

    D from BC
  11. D from BC

    D from BC Guest

    I might check Ebay to see if I can synchronize to 'Ebay time':)
    That or, I'll find out whatever Ebay synchronizes to.

    Thanks for the tip.. I haven't thought about the time accuracy yet..
    D from BC
  12. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    Never said I put it on eBay.
    More like 1MHz in reality.
  13. robb

    robb Guest

  14. No you don't. All you need are two windows open and judge your bid
    timeing by the refresh time on one window and place your bid using the
    other window. Make sure you are logged in.

    Best regards,
    Spehro Pefhany
  15. john jardine

    john jardine Guest

    I've bought shedloads of stuff off Ebay, both on auction or "Buy it now". Be
    it England, Europe, US, Hong Kong, China, wherever, no problem. Best thing
    out since sliced bread.
    An hour ago, "won" 33 years worth of issues of the old "Electronic
    Engineering" magazine. Seems I was the only bidder :). There's no way on
    earth I could have come across such nerdy items as these, by searching local
    newspaper ads etc.

    My own personal thoughts are ...
    Equipment resellers are there to run a business. They make a profit or die.
    Hence their prices will/must always be comparatively exorbitant. Stay clear
    of them. Play the waiting game. Buy, only if you've a customer willing to
    pay for that item as part of your work.
    It's obvious who the resellers are, as apart from the high initial bid
    price, or silly "buy it now" price, the liability issues mean their item
    descriptions will be minimal yet correct, with a lot of body text dealing
    with conditions of sale. One UK company has now put the same piece of
    stupidly priced electronic junk through Ebay at least 50 times. A sane
    individual would have binned it 12 months ago. From a business POV it can be
    worth it, if they catch the unique someone looking for that exact item. Then
    that someone is happy and satisfied.
    Don't worry too much about bidding against equipment resellers. They just
    cannot profitably afford to pay the prices you as an individual are liable
    to bid up to. You know you paid a worthwhile price, the reseller shakes
    his/her head knowing they cannot compete, as they could not add anywhere
    near a useable profit margin, which must be >>100% to allow for the risk and
    other factors

    If you've the skills, then buy the stuff plainly offered as 'broken' 'won't
    power up' or 'needs repair'. Only do this after you've located the
    availability of a circuit diagram (schematic!). 99.9% of potential bidders
    avoid these items like the plague and you'll only be up against a couple of
    other hardened enthusiasts. You'll get it for a song, and a couple of hours
    work (usually :) has it running again.
    Do NOT under any circumstances bid for newish items that say "fails self

    Unsure of a good price to bid?, then always look over the 'completed items'
    listings. Items such a particular 'scope model will turn up regularly,
    (moreso in the states with it's vastly increased market size). There can be
    say a 5:1 ratio on final prices but it's a good marker.

    There's no 'ideal seller', as good stuff at a good price can come from
    anywhere. If anything and afeared of the unknown, then the guy selling his
    personal kit is a good starter. He'll describe it with great accuracy,
    explain why it's for sale and how well he's looked after it. If he can cause
    you to shed a tear for him then all's the better. And of course, a lot of
    other bidders will now jump in and the final price will be top whack.
    (that's how to auction stuff!)

    Be leery over the 'don't understand what it is', or 'lights come on when
    plugged in' type descriptions. Most are genuine, some are BS descriptions of
    junk. Look at their other stuff for sale, see if it's consistent.

    Ignore the "classic/vintage/collectable" tags, They're worthless. The person
    is clueless and selling passed on junk. Bid accordingly.

    Work out the maximum price you want to pay. Don't bid, just regard the
    goods as being on display. It's essential you keep a daily eye on the item's
    'view counter'. The rate of change of this shows the level of interest and
    what you will finally be up against. Any bid placed early on unfortunately
    shows that someone values the item. Sheep instinct then takes over with
    more and more bidders turning up.
    The problem with early bids is that people have time to think and mull over
    how much they -really really- want the kit.

    Assuming no or low bids, then two thirds of the way through the sale put a
    bid in of half your final maximum. The idea is to scare off the casual
    bidders looking for a bargain. They'll find they are constantly "outbid" by
    Ebay as they ratchet up their own bids in minor increments and then lose
    interest. More persistent, hardy individuals will ratchet up to a 'highest
    bid' position and then feel smug. Ignore these, they must be dealt with at
    the end-of-days.

    Ensure the radio controlled clock has a good battery. Log into Ebay and the
    item. During the last couple of minutes refresh the page regularly.
    Watch for the late bids coming in. These are from those who have lost their
    nerve and are now exposed. Now watch the bidding list to see if anyone's put
    in a big bid at some point such that it is knocking the others down.

    During the last 60 seconds you now are up against machine software bids
    'sniping' and the seasoned players. At T-20 seconds put your maximum bid in.
    It may not be enough. If you want, you have just enough time left to try the
    extra 10% you knew the item was -really really- worth.

    If you lose, then no problem. Someone was determined to buy the item at a
    price you aren't prepared to pay.

    Late breaking news ...
    Goody!. A HP 8640B has just turned up. I've been looking for summat like
    this for a month. Very low phase noise synth. Even better, it needs "repair"
    and even better I've already a circuit.
    The pic' is damned poor but the style and quantity of stick-on labels are
    suggesting ex UK military, which is a good sign that it's had a decent
    service history and may be complete internally.
    Tally Ho!.
  16. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    Ebay always works that way. It automatically bids for you, some small
    amount over the next highest bidder, up to your maximum.
    That's pretty common. But it's still best to "snipe", put in your
    maximum 30 seconds before it closes.

  17. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    Well, it was 40 years ago.

  18. Jim Thompson

    Jim Thompson Guest

    Good idea.

    ...Jim Thompson
  19. The desirability of automatic auction extensions on eBay lies somewhere
    between herpes and AIDS.

    An ideal auction is a Vickrey second price auction. eBay becomes this if
    you proxy bid your max once very late in the auction.

    GL gives a good example of how horrible auction extensions are.

    More at and

    Many thanks,

    Don Lancaster voice phone: (928)428-4073
    Synergetics 3860 West First Street Box 809 Thatcher, AZ 85552
    rss: email:

    Please visit my GURU's LAIR web site at
  20. Ecnerwal

    Ecnerwal Guest

    It's all but hopeless. Not entirely, but so close to entirely as to be
    hardly worth bothering. I've been trying for a few pieces lately, as it
    happens, and most get sniped up in the last few minutes (or hours) at
    outrageous prices, at least from my POV. If you have mucho moolah, you
    don't need to troll there, but you can invoke the "bid absurdly high"
    method, and you might get lucky like Jim, if nobody else bothers to go
    after the item you want.

    For research purposes of what something might likely go for, "search
    closed auctions" for what these things sold or did not sell for recently
    and decide if you like that price. You might also see the item you are
    bidding on now, that "sold" last week - so it's either been returned, or
    the sale was a can also see the endlessly re-listed
    overpriced ones NOT selling, and infer what you like about those sellers.

    Low starting price makes little difference - unless the seller
    mis-describes it to the point that the usual suspects don't notice it,
    but you somehow do, the price will be yanked up to non-bargain levels by
    the end, generally.

    "Picture is not of actual item" is a red flag, and lack of "Picture IS
    of actual item" is at least an orange flag. Or so I infer from poring
    over listings.

    Shipping (& handling) is suspiciously high from so many vendors. Many of
    those that do offer returns clearly make money every time they sell the
    same object and get it returned.

    Yet, finding stuff locally is virtually impossible (in 5 years, I bought
    one whopping 25MHz scope and let a single other scope go by - I've never
    seen anything 100MHZ or higher. I tried for 6 months or more to find a
    used sweep/function generator locally and failed. I don't want a new
    Chinese version, and I can't find/afford a new non-Chinese version).

    I finally did get a S/F-G, but nothing else "auction" has worked out.
    I've not gotten several counters, for instance. Since I am operating on
    a small budget, I keep hoping to find one that's reasonable and goes
    under the radar, but it has not happened yet, and I won't get bid up "to
    compete" - sheesh, saw another item which was on "buy it now" for $X go
    for $X+6, when the listing itself clearly indicated that the seller had
    lots of them and as many as the buyer might want could be gotten for $X.
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