Mark Dery on the old, weird eBay

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Well, a mention of Haunted Doll Watch feels appropriate here…

There’s still a lot of this kinda stuff on ebay, you just have to look for it more carefully. Maybe not grilled cheeses or cornflakes, but search “weird photo” or “unknown artist”, and it helps to specify the category.


Ebay tip: always check “used”


'Tis true.

For a long time I had saved a copy of the ebay page for “some kind of shiny screw” minimum bid 0.25, with a long encomium explaining how the author saw this screw in the middle of the road, glittering under a street light, concluding with “God I was so drunk.”


always enjoyed going through those listings. was bummed when eBay said they were going to clamp down on them.

Yeah, eBay got a lot weirder when people started figuring out that with a good story you can sell your crap for a higher price.

Lots of “haunted” stuff.

“For parts/not working” is also worth exploring. It’s surprising to me how many people cannot be bothered to determine if something works or not before offering it for sale.

OTOH, I cannot recall the last time I searched ebay specifically for something “new”.

It’s strange, isn’t it. They’re clearly working to rebrand as another shopping hub – a more forthright “amazon marketplace,” but still with the weird “is this actually coming from Azerbaijan?” vibe. But I’ve always thought of eBay as the place to go when you DON’T want something new. It’s strange, really, because it still has a corner on that market, even with local marketplaces (Craigslist, Facebook, etc.) growing their own niches.

Where else am I going to reliably get a gently used camera lens without going to a consignment store where they charge 10% off retail for the used item?


I used to think of ebay as that place you went to find good used stuff from private sellers. Until it became a an outlet for retailers. The nail in the coffin for me was the ‘sellers don’t get to negatively rate buyers’ and ‘we will do ANYTHING to protect against the possibility that ANY buyer might have even the scintilla of something about the experience that makes them think twice for even a nanosecond about using ebay again’. Killed it stone dead.

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It still is that place. You just have to wade through a lot of other stuff to find it. Yes, it’s geared to always favour the buyer in a potential dispute situation - so avoid selling stuff there that is likely to attract thr kind of assholes who are going to try to scam you.

It has always been and remains the best place to get rid of old computer parts whenever I upgrade. It remains far, far better an option than dealing with the flakes who infest craigslist, that’s for sure.

Like Archie MacPhee:

In the old days they sold stuff like cereal-box premium toys from the 1960s, plastic busts of Red Army generals, Chinese “Jass” items (paper copies of luxury goods, burned at funerals), and a one-of-a-kind Bozo the Clown one man band automata.

It’s sacrificing that which made it fun and unique in order to become another pale imitation of Amazon.

Oh yeah, I very recently bought an excellent turntable used off eBay. I realized that for the amount I’d been ready to spend for a new turntable I could instead buy a used audiophile turntable and upgrade about two significant steps in quality. (Rega Planar 3, half the new price.)

I’m blasting Robyn Hitchcock’s new album now and feeling very smug about making the right choice. “1970 is gone now, sits in amber like a fly.”

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I’ll see your Rega and raise you a Thorens TD160 in immaculate condition for $100, shipped. That was in the days when the seller (a small recording studio) was just trying to find a loving new home for the equipment. Nowadays anything like this becomes a commodity, bought and sold several times over by people who aren’t interested in the actual product, only in exploiting market inefficiencies.

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