eBay Bidding Strategies - Tips for How to Win Auctions September 14 2014

As an active eBay buyer for nearly a decade, I've developed a fair number of bidding strategies to maximize my chances of winning the item I want at a good price.  And as an eBay powerseller, I've also gained a perspective on how sellers think and act.  In this article, I'm going to share with you a few of my most effective tips and tricks for buyers looking to score big.  While most of my strategies were originally developed through bidding on coins, they can be applied to any and all items sold on eBay.  

The most basic mistake I see newbie eBay bidders make is mis-timing their bids.  If you place a bid near the start of an auction, you are hurting yourself by driving up the price of the item.  Bidding too early increases the chances that you'll get into a bidding war with another buyer.  As a seller, I love when two or more bidders get into a bidding war early in the auction.  Generally, you should place your maximum bid as close as possible to the end of the auction.  This is called "sniping."  The reason for sniping an auction at the last second is to prevent other bidders from having a chance to respond.  One well-timed snipe can make a bidding war avoidable.  If you don't have time to sit around at your computer all day and wait for auctions to end, there are several free online sniping services that do the hard work for you.  The one I use is Gavel Snipe—simply enter the auction url address and your maximum bid, and Gavel Snipe will automatically place your maximum bid 20 seconds before the auction ends.  You can place a snipe any time - I usually place the snipes on Sunday for any auctions that are ending in the coming week.  Thanks to this service, I've won dozens of coins that I otherwise wouldn't have a chance to bid on.  

However, there is one notable exception to the above sniping rule. While most sellers start their auction listings at the default value of 99 cents, some sellers set the start price to the minimum amount of what they're willing to accept.  For instance, you might see a Morgan dollar with a starting price of $20.  As long as somebody bids on it, the seller is guaranteed at least $20—this helps eliminate the risk to the seller of an item drawing a small number of bids and selling for a low price.   It also serves as another way for sellers to basically enforce a "reserve" price, though without the negative stigma that arises from setting an actual reserve price (note to sellers - don't set a reserve on your auctions, it will only drive away bidders).  In many cases, the seller foolishly decides to set their starting price above 99 cents but below the item's true value, hoping that the good deal will drive multiple bidders.  Unfortunately for the sellers (as I've personally learned), this strategy does not work most of the time.  

This explanation might be a little bit confusing, so let's take the example of the Morgan silver dollar with a starting auction price of $20.  Now, say the actual value of that Morgan is closer to $25-30.  The seller hopes that starting the auction with a below value price will induce multiple bidders to jump on and drive up the price.  Instead, what usually happens is that after the first bidder places a bid, the rest are scared off.  The reason for this?  The rest of the potential bidders assume that the first bidder has placed a maximum bid up to the real value of the coin ($25-30), so they believe that there's no longer a point in bidding on the coin.  As a result, the auction ends with only a single bid, and the $30 Morgan dollar sells for $20.  You would be surprised at how often this happens.  

The takeaway here?  Always place an early bid on those slightly-underpriced auctions.  By establishing your bid on the coin, you'll make other potential bidders less interested and increases your chances of getting a good deal.  


So I don't end up with an even longer essay on bidding strategies, I'm going to separate my tips for placing offers on Buy-It-Now/Or-Best-Offer listings into a separate post.  Stay tuned!  



Written by Max Breitenbach
Max Breitenbach has been collecting US, foreign, and ancient coins for over a decade, and has been writing about them for nearly as long!  Max is a regular guest blogger on CoinWeek.com.  He is currently working on a collection of European silver crowns and is planning on finishing his US type set sometime within the next century. You can find him on Google+.