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Keys to Buying and Selling on eBay
By Mike Thorne, Coins Magazine
April 01, 2013

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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Believe it or not, I wear four rings. Now, I know that sounds like a lot of bling for a guy, but they’re made out of either silver or gold, so it’s not so far removed from my coin collecting interests.

The only one of my rings that often elicits compliments is a silver, Native American-made ring with two small stones, one turquoise and the other garnet. I bought it several years ago on eBay to replace a ring I had gotten on a trip to New Mexico and subsequently lost.

In response to a compliment, I usually tell the person that I purchased the ring for $35 on eBay. At that point, the person usually says something like, “I ought to look on eBay to see what’s there,” indicating that she has no experience with the auction giant.

Because I’ve been buying and selling coins, stamps, books, and many other things on eBay since 1999, I’m always surprised to find people with no experience on the site. If you’re an experienced eBayer, you might want to give me some tips after reading this and future columns, but if you haven’t given eBay a try, then read.

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I’m going to assume that you’re completely new to eBay and have perhaps never even visited the site. To begin, you type in your browser and up pops a page with a list of categories on the left side and various other pieces of information about the site.

One thing that you might find particularly interesting as a first-time user is the heading “Shop safely on eBay.” Under this, you’ll see three headings: “eBay Buyer Protection,” “Top Rated Plus,” and “PayPal.”

If you click on the first heading, you’ll see what eBay will do to help you if you have a problem with a seller. This information is designed to be reassuring to novices on the site.

Click on the second heading and you’ll learn about one superlative category of eBay sellers, those who’ve earned the Top Rated Plus designation. To earn this rating, a seller must “commit to shipping your items in a business day with tracking provided and offer at least a 14-day, money-back return policy.” Take my word for it, it’s not easy to earn this distinction, and if you buy something from a seller who has it, you can be sure that he or she will do everything possible to ensure that your transaction is satisfactory.

As to the PayPal heading, PayPal is billed as “the world’s most-loved way to pay and get paid.” I don’t know what this comment is based on, but you’ll find PayPal is easy and safe to use both to make payments and to get paid if you decide to sell on eBay. Like eBay, in order to use PayPal, you will need to register on the site ( There, you’ll find two different kinds of accounts, personal and business.

A click on the Personal Account tab will take you to a page where you provide some personal information to PayPal. First, you’ll give an email address and a password to use when logging onto the site. After that, you’ll give your name, address, and phone number. Finally, you’ll be asked to review and agree to PayPal’s User Agreement, Privacy Policy, Acceptable Use Policy, and Electronic Communication Delivery Policy. All of this is standard fare.

Incidentally, it’s even easier to register on eBay. All you’ll need to enter are your name, email address, a user ID (mine is psychprofessor), and a password.

At the end of the PayPal registration procedure, you will be required to link your account to either a bank account, a debit card, or a credit card. This is to ensure that you will actually pay any debts you acquire that involve PayPal. I should point out that you can find plenty of negative comments about PayPal online through search engines such as Google. I would say to read them if you feel so inclined, but I personally have never had a problem with PayPal.

Why do you need PayPal? When I first started buying and selling on eBay, payments were made or received in the traditional way through “snail mail.” Now, virtually all payments are made through PayPal, which charges you nothing to make a payment using it. PayPal does charge a fee for dealers accepting payment through it, however, but the advantage to the seller is that he or she gets the payment (minus service fee) immediately, without worrying about check clearance, phony money orders, payments lost in the mail, etc.

One useful service of PayPal is called Bill Me Later. With Bill Me Later, you can purchase an expensive item, such as a coin with a price significantly beyond your numismatic budget, and pay for it over time. In fact, if you use Bill Me Later to purchase a coin that costs more than $99, you have six months to pay the amount without interest. Of course, if you don’t pay the bill within that time limit, then you’ll pay interest at the rate of 19.99 percent that will accrue from the date of the purchase.

At this point, I’m going to assume that you’ve registered for eBay and have set up a PayPal account. What’s next? How do you find what you’re interested in on eBay? And what is the likelihood that eBay will even have any coins you want?

As I’m writing this, eBay has more than half a million auctions involving U.S. coins, nearly seventy thousand Canadian coin auctions, and almost three hundred thousand world coin auctions. As the saying goes, there’s something there for everyone. Next month I’ll go into more detail about searching eBay for what you want, including how to find out what an item cost in previous sales.

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