These days, with everyone and her second cousin shopping on ebay hoping to find a vintage bargain, it sometimes seems impossible to snag a great deal. It's a familiar event - you're watching and waiting, checking back every few hours to make sure that perfect vintage 1950s polka dot sundress is still on £4.99 and then, at the last minute, the price leaps to £90. It's happened to us all. But I'm here to tell you that it is still possible to pick up vintage at great prices.
As an experienced ebay seller, I know the importance of listing techniques like photography and keywords when it comes to an item's final price. Conversely, this knowledge also helps me to dig out the items at the back of the rail, so to speak - the ones that haven't already been viewed and picked over by a thousand other shoppers. So listen very carefully, because I'm about to share my ebay shopping secrets.
Rule #1 Obscure Searches
The number one rule of ebay shopping is that you have to be prepared to wade through pages of search results. Yes, searching "vintage 40s tea dress" will bring up the best results, but you're simply not going to find a hidden gem this way, because that's exactly what 300 other people are searching for right this minute. You want to seek out the listings which don't have the most relevant keywords in the title. So even though it goes against your instincts, you've got to make your search as wide as possible, to catch all those overlooked listings. Within the vintage clothing category, tick the box for "search title and description" and get creative - try "metal zip", or "wide collar", or "rayon", or a brand name like "St. Michael".
Rule #2 Eliminate irrelevant listings
Did you know that you can eliminate keywords from your search by adding a minus before it? So by searching for "1950s dress -style" you can exclude a good proportion of those "vintage style" (I'm guilty of it too!) dresses that crowd out the original vintage, especially on ebay UK. Of course, it does also exclude listings such as "nautical style" and so forth, but we can find them later - for the best shopping experience you need to use a variety of these techniques.
Rule #3 Browse the categories
Again, this requires some degree of dedication. Sometimes the only way of digging out those diamonds in the rough that are titled simply "vintage dress" is by ploughing through the categories. Even here, you have to be open-minded - if you're looking for full-skirted sundresses, bear in mind that the styles of the early 60s were very much a carry-over from the 50s, until the emergence of the Mod movement later that decade, but as everyone associates the 60s with monochrome minidresses, a correctly listed early-to-mid 60s dress often won't draw the views of a similar dress listed under 1950s. Don't reject the 70s and 80s categories out of hand either - there were strong 30s influences in the 70s, and a lot of 40s-50s inspired designs in the 80s, so they're worth checking. You'll want to use some search keywords though to narrow the field - even just "dress" will significantly reduce the amount of trawling necessary.