dinsdag 17 november 2009

Treasure hunting ;)

With the 'holiday season' coming up, buying presents is on it's all time high. I like buying presents. As a matter of fact, giving presents becomes more fun with age then receiving. I guess that dates me :)

With marktplaats in Holland & ebay as a global fleemarket, hunting for cheap stuff is easier then ever. But there is an angle to make it more fun, because paying too much is for tourists. So lets employ some good old SE on the matter.

A good lesson to start with is to get to know the subject. As an example let's use Steam Engines. The top of the world market is being served by the long standing traditional firm Wilesco. They've been in the steam engine market since [or slightly before] James Watt improved the concept of steam power to a useable level, and even have a Wiki page, in three languages, including Japanees [someone say market?] :)

Reading fan pages is a treasure trove of 'unwritten' useable information, mostly you will be looking for hobbyists and other self proclaimed experts.

Then it's time to scrunch the Internets. Hit graigslist, Marktplaats, Ricardo and other 'local' fleemarkets and compair the offers and prices with the 'global' ebay prices.

Of course, the Wilesco D32 is the all time classic, with prices ranging between 1.000 and 1.500 euroos. A super collectors item is the Wilesco R200 atomkraftwerk, rare & expensive. The top spots will be a rough market and not something we amateurs want to burn our fingers on with a first try.

Since the example of the Wilesco repairman deals with a D24, I propose we start hunting for a nicely priced D24. The D24 is a powerhouse. It is the steam engine with the largest cattle volume of the whole Wilesco range.

One of the cool features of the D32 is the controle panel, the D24 has that [smaller and less] too. See here:

Google "Wilesco D24" for starters and see what you come up with. Then do the same but on your local flee market and repeat it on the International ebay. There are some pretty astounding price differences to be observed. Certainly some of them can be explained based on quality and age but the local culture is a big factor too. Try to leverage that. Dealing with people from other countries used to be hard and painful. With the coming of the Internet and the disappearing of the borders in our global villages, things are getting easier by the day. Often sellers will even state if they will post items international and if they do not, a couple of words in their own language is a good starting point. I like to use google's translate for that purpose.

Very good [for you] deals can be made with people who do not know what they're dealing with. Tell tail signs are misspelled items, incorrectly labeled items [not mentioning the type in the description is sweet], lousy pictures [too much mess around the object, dark, unsharp] and people who are clearly selling stuff that is not theirs [from past away family members, NOT stolen stuff!].

A deadly sin and pit fall in the process is... making a bit.

Never ever make a bid. Do not even think about it. People are lemmings, once they see -you- making your bid, they will not hesitate to over bid. With most online flee markets I have seen it is easy to start an email or skype conversation that is out of sight of your fellow hunters. In case of ebay that is all nice and good but most sellers there do want you to bid. If it has to be, we will comply, but on our terms.

AuctionSniper is one such 'turn the table' tools. It allows for automatic & scheduled bidding. This is good for multiple reasons:
- it allows you to bid at the last second [no one can over bid]
- you do not have to sit behind your screen at odd times when specific auctions end
- most important: it takes the emotion out of your bidding

The emotion thing is where we are suckered into spending way too much on far too little. I will not even start giving examples ;) The cool feature of a scheduled bid is that it allows you to check your information sources, make up a price and forget about it. You will not get suckered into over bidding the guy who hunts for the same items and over bids you by 2 Euroos every time. No, you've set your price and either get it or do not.

I picked up a very decent D24 for <100 Euro. Sinterklaas will be proud to see the smile on the receivers face.

Happy hunting.