Hello all! I apologize for being MIA lately – I have been having a test every week in school lately and plus I have been horribly ill with some type of intestinal malady that has really taken the life out of me. But don’t worry – I’m not abandoning all of you! As a matter of fact, due to my recent addiction to eBay, I decided I would dedicate a whole post on how to find, decipher, and sneakily bid on items, particularly of a vintage nature.
First, we will touch upon how and what to search for, then picking through what you find with a deciphering eye. Then comes the fun part – how to bid on the item of your lust in a way that will turn the tables in your favour from others. Ready? Let’s go!
1. What do I need to search for?
This is a labour of love for many. You can’t just expect to find what you want automatically upon the first search in the first few results. It happens, but rarely. What the key here is, is to use language and words to your advantage to bring you the best results. Keep in mind some people call things by different names, like here where I live we call it soda; out in the Midwest it’s called pop; and in the south it is indiscriminately called Coke no matter if it is Pepsi, Seven Up, or otherwise.
Here are some ideas for search terms:
Vintage: retro, midcentury, New Look, forties, fifties, sixties, 40s, 50s, 60s, atomic, rockabilly
Shirt: Blouse, pull over, button up, tee shirt, chemise, tunic
Shoes: loafer, heels, sandals, pumps, boot, foot wear
Pants: Slacks, trousers, jeans, britches
So as you can see, there are many different names that one particular item can be called. Don’t limit yourself by sticking to only one word. Also, feel free to mix and match different terms to see what you get. It’s kind of like a slot machine – you will get that big payoff if you keep trying! I also highly recommend having a thesaurus at the ready for just such efforts.
2. How do I know what I am bidding on is the real deal?
I have noticed that a lot of sellers have misleadingly posted that their items are vintage from the fifties, but upon closer inspection and other various details it is easy to see that what is being sold is a frock from the eighties. Some do this unknowingly, since they are not entirely educated themselves on the subject and just see very common elements of a time period and assume that it is so; others do this purposefully, in order for their item to move faster or to get the higher price they want in saying it is from the fifties, and assuming most can’t tell the difference. Well, I am here to educate you so you know what you are dealing with! And educated consumer is the happiest consumer.
❎ No pre-1950s item should have a plastic zipper. If anything, it should have a metal zipper. The best tellers are if you find buttons and hooks and eyes as the only way to fasten the garment.
✅ Most vintage clothing did not have cut seams until around the 1960s. Clothing before that should have raw seam edges, and hemlines should have a fairly large amount of fabric folded over compared to what we are used to seeing today.
❎ Don’t be fooled by common elements repeated in time. Have you ever noticed how styles from however many years ago seem to come back around? Look at skinny jeans now – they were popular back in the 80s, but the difference between then and now is the lack of a high waist. Those are the little nuances that you have to educate yourself on and look for in items you may purchase. In the 60s there was a throwback to the 20s in the short dresses that seem to look best on boyish figures; the 70s had a throwback to the 30s in the revival of the bias cut and jeweled earthy tones; and the 80s had a resurgence of both the 40s and 50s in peplums, shoulder pads, full skirts, and large florals. Lets think about those 80s shoulder pads for a minute: remember how obscenely large they were, like you were a member of some galactic army? You never saw that in the 40s – shoulder pads then were small and just added some structure to that area, rather than looking ridiculous. Most anything style-wise from the 80s was big and oversized; if any garment you are looking at has such qualities, as well as being made of fabrics like polyester, then keep looking and avoid that 80s knockoff!
✅ Do as much research as you can about the fashions of whatever particular era you are passionate about. The more you find out the more you will be able to decipher what a dress is or isn’t. Also, please do some research on the era that emulated it too – knowing what was common in the 70s for fashion will help you in deciphering what are 70s recreations and what are real 30s frocks.
❎ Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find what you are looking for immediately. Sometimes it has taken me months to find exactly what I want, but I’m not willing to just cave in on something that is sub-par or not entirely what I was looking for.
✅ Do save searches for items that you are on the hunt for. eBay lets you know when new items are posted with the terms you searched for since you last checked. This way you can always have your eyes peeled and not miss out on that fabulous frock because you didn’t check!
3. How do I place a bid?
Bidding is all about strategy. I have noticed a lot of people just place a bid to their maximum amount that they are willing to spend. That is all well a good, but it leaves a door open for people to still outbid you. What you want to do is to place an initial bid where the maximum amount is about $2 to $5 over the starting price. That way, if anyone outbids you, they will just be over your limit by fifty cents or a dollar. I have noticed that people placing secondary bids oftentimes just bid a small amount over your threshold, and nothing too exorbitant.
Let them be lulled into almost a false sense of security by this, and just sit on the item until it gets down to the last few minutes of the auction. What I do is around five minutes before the end, I place a two to ten dollar bid (depending upon the current price) and wait. Sometimes no bids will be placed afterwards, and then you’ve won! But if some annoying jerk swoops in and tries to steal your item, let them think they have it until the last minute or thirty seconds of the auction. This is where having a fast phone or Internet speed is rather important! At this point, place a maximum bid for your item that is five to ten dollars over what the real maximum is that you are willing to spend. If you do a little research on similar items, you will be likely to find that most people have the same maximum threshold that you are willing to pay, and therefore see a lot of similar ending prices. Most people will have the same max as you. Let’s say you have a dress that you would be willing to spend a maximum of $50 for – when you are placing that last bid, put in your maximum bid for around $60, if not a bit more. Like I said, most people will have around the same maximum threshold, so you going a bit over that in the last few seconds should ensure you being the winner of your fabulous new addition! This also does not allow much time for anyone to counter your bid, so the closer to quittin’ time you place that bid, the better.
I am not saying that this is a fool proof way to win every item, as there are a few people out there who are just willing to spend insane amounts for certain things. These people really have no maximum amount that they are willing to spend, so regardless of what you bid they will do their damnedest to outbid you. These types are a lost cause, but they are not common. I have found that my method seems to work more often than not, so I decided I would pass my bidology on to you (possibly to my disadvantage! 😉 ).
Bidding on eBay is more of a science and an art combined. Between finding what you want, deciphering between what is authentic and what isn’t, and using time and psychology to your bidding advantage makes for quite a stressful yet exciting experience! But like me, you will probably find some fabulous finds for some fabulous prices. Good luck, and have fun!