I was emailed the other day by someone wanting some advice about Power Rangers. I emailed him back with a bunch of advice about buying stuff on ebay, which might not have been exactly what he wanted but it may have been vaguely useful to him.
99% of the vintage (i.e. 'old') toys I've reviewed on this site have come from ebay. There are many, many problems with that site (a topic for another time), but it is by far the easiest and most useful site for getting hold of vintage toys (and selling them, I suppose, but I rarely do that). I tend to assume that everyone knows about ebay, how it works, and how to buy things most cheaply, but of course every day loads of people will use the site for the first time.
Maybe they'd like some tips...
1. Sniping. It's not nice when you placed a bid on an item days ago and then someone else comes along and outbids you at the last second, giving you no opportunity to place a higher bid, but 'sniping' is the best way to get things more cheaply for exactly this reason. And when you think about it, if the other person had really wanted to pay more they should have placed a higher bid initially.
2. Don't forget about auctions ending. This is the problem with leaving bidding until the last second as it's very easy to forget and miss out on a bargain. It's happened to me countless times.
3. Research. If there's an item you're particularly after, check the site every day for a while to see a) how many of these items are being listed, and b) what price the auctions are ending at. If the item is fairly common then don't rush and place an overly high bid. Bide your time and wait for that special auction.
4. Ask questions. Don't assume anything about quality or what is included - make sure you check the photos (ask the seller for more/clearer ones if necessary) and ask specific questions.
5. Watch out for postage costs. Some sellers (especially international ones) charge silly amounts to post their items. The reason being that ebay takes a cut of the final selling price, but doesn't take anything from the postage cost (so the seller ends up with more money). If you're buying from abroad, always remember that anything that is listed as being worth over £15 on a customs form may result in you being charged fees (both VAT and a stupidly high 'handling' fee by the delivery company).
6. Auction end times. It's my experience that things sell for less during weekday mornings (when people are heading out to work) and early evenings (when people are heading home again), and all day Saturday (people go out/do other things). On the other hand, expect to pay more in the evenings (especially Sunday evenings). Remember about time differences if you're bidding on international items.
7. Always remember you don't 'win' anything on ebay you 'buy' it. This isn't really a tip, but it annoys me when people refer to buying things on ebay in this way.