Ty Collector

Practical Rules For Buying on eBay
(or other online services)
eBay
 
There are three kinds of sellers on eBay: experienced sellers, amateur sellers and crooks. The biggest challenge for a serious Ty collector is to avoid being intentionally or unintentionally stung by any one of these three seller types.

We have purchased literally thousands of Ty collectibles on eBay. Our overall eBay experience has been positive, but not without a few painful stings. The best way to inoculate yourself against stings is to adopt a set of buying/bidding rules and follow your pre-set rules for EVERY purchase.

Bidder - Bear - Ty Beanie BabyThese are the rules we follow, based on our own eBay experience.

1. Understand up front that eBay is a minefield. Crooks habitually attempt to sell counterfeit Ty products on eBay. Even experienced and honest sellers sometimes unknowingly list counterfeits. The three best buyer defenses against counterfeits are to know all about the item you intend to buy; avoid expensive collectibles that aren't authenticated; and become familiar with common types of counterfeited Ty products. When a seller claims an item is authentic because he or she purchased it from another eBay seller with high feedback ratings, pass that item up. Feedback ratings have nothing to do with the authenticity of Ty collectibles.

2. You don't have to be the first collector to own a new Ty product. When new Ty collectibles are announced, some sellers attempt to pre-sell the items. There is nothing wrong with presales, except that some sellers capitalize on buyer compulsion to have it first, by charging unreasonably high prices for the items. If three new Valentine's Day beanies will be available next month at Walgreens for $5.99 each, it hardly makes sense to buy the set on presale from someone at eBay for $30.00 plus postage. Be patient and buy it next month at Walgreens. When limited edition products are announced, try to make arrangements with the sponsoring retailer to obtain them. Save money by visiting your local Walgreens, Barnes and Noble, Justice, or other retail store and ask them to hold the new product for you when the shipment arrives.

3. When you see a seller on eBay (or elsewhere) listing any Ty collectible that has never been officially introduced or announced by Ty, and has never appeared at any Ty authorized retailer, you should be immediately suspicious, especially if that seller is located in China or Hong Kong. During and after 2013, Hong Kong based sellers began listing items like this on eBay. Enthusiastic collectos in the USA, Canada and Europe, who believed they could get a jump on everyone else bought a lot of these Beanie Babies and even more so, the Boos. Those collectors got a nasty surprise. Most of the items shipped to them with scratched or mismatched eyes, open seams, other defects, or were missing the swing tag. The products were obvious factory rejects that would not even qualify as "oddities."

The only possible conclusion is that "unscrupulous" individuals at the Ty production facilities in China are either providing quality control rejects to sellers, or someone has been raiding production facility garbage dumps. These factory rejects typically sell at four to 20 times the price they will sell for when the correct versions arrive at authorized Ty retailers.

Many serious Boo collectors are finally catching on, but novice collectors are easily tricked by the factory rejects. When they find out what has happened, they try to resell the items on eBay, without mentioning the defects. Due to the large number of these factory rejects circulating on secondary markets, it has become increasingly risky to buy brand new Boos on eBay. Final word on this: if it's not in stores yet, you'll wish you had waited. No seller in Hong Kong is legally selling Justice exclusive Boos that haven't even started selling in a Justice store in the USA yet. A seller that shows they have 12 or 24 Boos with various defects did not get them officially from Ty.

4. Before bidding on (or buying) any item, read the entire listing in detail. We once paid $20 (a good price at that time) for an "I NY" bear. But we didn't receive the "I NY" bear shown in the listing photo. We received the "I New York" bear ("New York" spelled out instead of abbreviated), which was worth significantly less than $20. Before contacting the seller about his shipping error, we read the complete listing again. In very small print at the bottom of the listing it stated, "the photo of the bear is different than the bear you will receive." In our opinion, this seller knew exactly what he was doing. He used a deceptive listing to lure us into believing we were buying the "I NY" bear. We were stuck. Before bidding, we should have carefully read the entire listing to include the small print. Which leads to the next rule:

5. Don't bid on any used or retired item valued over $20 if the listing doesn't show a  photo of the actual item you will receive. Check the photo carefully to avoid being deceived. When we first started catching up on all of the commons missing from our collection, we didn't pay close attention to product photos and on two occasions we accidentally purchased McDonalds Teenie Beanies instead of the regular Beanie Babies we thought we ordered. Had we checked the photos more closely, we would have noticed the sizes of the Ty swing tags were out of proportion to the size of the beanies. We had paid six or seven dollars each for McDonalds Teenie Beanies that were worth about 25 cents each.

Sometimes an amateur seller lists the name of the beanie without saying whether it is a Beanie Baby, Teenie Beanie, or a Buddy. Amateur sellers sometimes make mistakes like that but crooks do it intentionally. I always wonder how many inattentive buyers paid two or three hundred dollars to a crook for a royal blue Peanut Beanie Baby that magically transformed itself into a $10 royal blue Peanut Beanie Buddy on its way to the buyer's mailbox. Never assume an item is a Beanie Baby. If the listing doesn't stipulate the kind of product, email the seller and ask. Most sellers attempting this type of a deception will not lie if queried directly.

6. When a price looks too good to be true, there's something wrong. Undeniably, there can be some good bargains at eBay, but you won't be finding an authenticated royal blue Peanut Beanie Baby for $25.00. The reason is that there are too many serious collectors and speculators reviewing every Ty item that gets listed at eBay. You might get lucky and snag the Royal Blue at three o:clock in the morning by submitting a last-minute bid of $575, but you won't do much better than that. We once purchased four authenticated Teddy Beanie Babies (without swing tags) in a lot for $400. At the time of purchase that was an excellent deal. Had the same lot of four been listed for $50, we wouldn't even have given it a second glance. A bargain is a bargain, but a steal is unlikely. Don't waste your time or money searching for steals. That will lead to an online crook stealing from you.

7. An item is not rare or hard to find because a seller says so in his or her listing. Rare, hard to find, ultra rare, and super rare are bantered about irresponsibly at eBay. Do the research and determine whether or not you need it in your collection. Whenever you find one particular item you intend to bid on, do a search at eBay for more listings of that item. In many cases you can find the same item in a "buy it now" listing for less than the opening bid price of the item you found first.

8. MWMT (mint with mint tag) means absolutely nothing unless you see it printed on the certificate of an authenticated Ty collectible. I shudder at the high number of unauthenticated MWMT items we have purchased on eBay that arrived in much less than MWMT condition. MWMT is in most cases a subjective seller fantasy. Never grant any weight to a seller's claim that an item is "museum quality" either, unless that description is printed on an authentication certificate. For that matter, I'm at a loss to explain the difference between MWMT and Museum Quality. I think every authenticated "Museum Quality" beanie we've ever purchased also had MWMT on the certificate. So what is the special characteristic that qualifies the MWMT for the "Museum Quality" label? It's a mystery to me, especially since we've received authenticated "MWMT, Museum Quality" beanies that had pet hair on them or had other defects. Take the authentication service ratings with a grain of salt.

9. Use eBay to find and purchase items you NEED. Early on we got hung up on the prospect of finding good deals and reselling for a profit in order to fund additional items we needed in our collection. That was probably the biggest mistake we ever made in the evolution of our collection. We were supposed to be collectors, not sellers. When we had enough stock to start selling, we learned very quickly that selling on eBay is not as easy or profitable as we had anticipated. The deck is stacked against small sellers because of the double penalty of the eBay listing fees and sales commissions, and then the PayPal commission. Add to that the cost of items like shipping boxes, envelopes and related items like bookkeeping and time spent photographing items. You might find that selling at a profit is almost impossible unless you have a means of procuring large volumes of Ty collectibles at prices far below any you might see at eBay. If you're a collector, collect. Leave the selling to retailers or long-term experienced resellers and speculators.

10. Never purchase again from any seller who burns you even once. We maintain a personal blacklist of numerous eBay sellers who have sold us substandard or smelly Ty collectibles. A truly honest seller would never, ever sell a smelly or mildewed product unless they identified the defect in their listing. But we've received hundreds of defective and stinky items from eBay sellers. We never give those sellers a second chance to sting us again. We don't like dealing with dishonest or unethical sellers. Forget leaving negative feedback at eBay when you're stung. eBay makes it too difficult to leave negative feedback. If you're stung by a seller, contact the seller directly and attempt to get your money back. Then, whether you receive a refund or not, never buy from that seller again. Don't depend on eBay to police bad sellers. When unethical or crooked sellers are closed down by eBay, they merely open new seller accounts with different seller IDs.

11. Decide the maximum amount you are willing to bid BEFORE you start bidding. If a competing bidder goes higher than your pre-determined limit; drop out. Eventually you will probably get another chance to bid on a similar item. Don't let excitement, frustration or competitive spirit compel you to bid higher than you planned. You should also stop bidding if the bids go higher than the estimated value of the item. There is no logical reason to pay unreasonable prices for a collectible just because some amateur buyer has decided to outbid you regardless of the item's real value. Use your common sense. There have been times we had to wait more than a year for some item we stopped bidding on to reappear at eBay. If you need the item that badly, contact a reputable reseller to see if they can obtain the item for you at a more reasonable price.

12. There are no gold-plated P.E. or P.V.C. pellets inside the Mel selling for $24.95 at eBay (or anywhere else for that matter). When you see a common beanie selling for more than $4.99, the seller is either a crook, or naive. The seller is counting on potential buyers who don't understand the market. Sadly, we've seen transactions where buyers paid 20 times more than a beanie is worth. Don't fall into that trap. A beanie with a real value of $5.00 is worth $5.00 no matter who the seller is. And when a seller pays nine dollars to authenticate a $5.00 beanie, the beanie is still only worth $5.00.

13. Many unethical sellers at eBay try to make up for the low prices of their items by overcharging for postage. Let me explain it this way. When we sell one Beanie, we typically charge $2.95 for postage and handling to send it USPS first class mail, in a mylar envelope. That easily covers our cost for postage, labels and envelopes. Yet many sellers at eBay charge $4.95 or higher to mail one Beanie using USPS first class mail. That should be an indicator of how ethical or honest the seller is. Priority Mail charges are higher, but stay tuned in to current USPS charges for Priority Mail. If a seller is charging more than one or two dollars over the cost of the actual Priority Mail postage, that seller is cheating you because the USPS Priority Mail boxes are free from the post office. The post office will even mail them for free to the seller's house and then pick them up for free at the seller's house for mailing. A seller who cheats you on postage is very likely to cheat you in other ways.

14. Read the seller's "return policy." eBay requires all sellers to post their return policy. If the policy is "no returns accepted," consider the risk you're taking. "No returns accepted," means no returns accepted, even if something turns out to be wrong with your item. When we sell Beanie Babies, we don't accept returns either, but we're comfortable doing that because we are fanatics about ensuring we never ship a beanie with a noticeable odor or any defect that wasn't clearly annotated in the listing. The "no returns accepted" practice is in widespread use by many sellers because of unscrupulous buyers who purchase an expensive item; claim there is a problem with it; and then return a substituted item with flaws. Yes, there are dishonest buyers too.

15. When you find a seller who is honest, ethical and always ships merchandise in superb condition, stick with that seller and try to develop an "off eBay" relationship with them. It violates eBay rules to work a deal outside of the eBay system for an item that has already been listed at eBay, but that doesn't preclude you from contacting sellers to see if they have other non-listed items for sale or even sending them a wish list. Reputable sellers are more than happy to do business direct instead of through eBay because when they deal direct they don't have to pay the eBay listing fees and sales commissions. In many cases, sellers will charge less for an item they can sell to you directly.

16. Always remember, eBay is not the only place to buy Ty collectibles. It is undeniably convenient to shop on the Internet from home, but sometimes it is less expensive to get into your car and visit a local Ty authorized retailer.


Last update - March 8, 2015

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