8 Ways To Bag The Best Gems On eBay

Photographed by Serena Brown.
I used to find the idea of trawling through pages of vintage and secondhand designer goods super daunting. The chances of stumbling upon a Prada Tessuto nylon bag that wouldn't bankrupt me? Slim to none. Scoring a pair of vintage boots that wouldn't fall apart after the first wear? Forget about it. That was, until I got bitten by the eBay bug.
Tired of hearing friends exclaim "It was a lucky find on eBay!" when complimenting them on a killer pair of tie-dye jeans or dreamy Matrix-style coat, I decided to roll up my sleeves and try to crack the reselling site. Armed with tips from fashion-forward friends and colleagues, I soon became that infuriating person gleefully declaring: "I got it from eBay!" Despite (many) fails and bidding losses, nothing beats the satisfaction of securing a one-off pair of kitten heels or a shoulder bag that won't pop up on the 'gram five times in one scrolling session.
As we begin to shop smarter and more sustainably, more of us are hopping onto eBay to grab ourselves a bargain. The site can be tricky to navigate at first but once you hit your stride, the good stuff makes it worth the effort. To help get you started, here are a few tips and tricks I learned along the way – and some things I wish I had known a lot sooner. Meet you at the checkout...
Dive right in when trends are hot
Nostalgic trends have been big news for the last few seasons. During the height of last summer, cycling shorts bubbled up to the surface yet again, we couldn't walk down the street without spotting a flash of neon green – think Lil' Kim in a lime bikini on the No Way Out tour circa 1997 – and everyone, but everyone, wanted a pair of minimal sandals.
We're all guilty of riding the trend wave and often the temptation to satisfy our sartorial cravings via the high street is too much to resist. But striking while the iron is hot is one of eBay's many benefits. Trends really are best shopped secondhand, just make sure to compare prices against the high street to get the most for your money.
Fashion is a cyclical process and, love 'em or hate 'em (thong sandals, we're looking at you), trends always reappear. So next time you're in the mood for a late-night shopping spree, try looking up gothic floral dresses or Penny Lane coats and see what you can find.
Photographed by Serena Brown.
Don't be afraid to be super literal
A common mistake when perusing eBay is being too vague in your search for vintage or high street pieces; the best gems are to be found by doing the complete opposite. For example, if you're looking for a women's trench coat, search the word 'trench' and then select 'women's coats', rather than searching the whole term. The search tools are your friend here. Fiddling with the filters will narrow your search (shoe size, colour, heel height, etc) while throwing up a range of similar items that may garner your interest. It's worth having a nose around the 'because you searched' section for more enticing products, too.
If you know the key terms used to describe that item that got away (mine is a glossy Topshop Boutique trench from 2017), google the name and copy and paste it into eBay's search engine.
Hauls are better when planned
Once you've got the perfect item in your sights – a jazzy '50s-style cropped shirt, say, or a cute smock dress – why not check out whether the seller has other items that are up your alley? I've hunted for Western boots more times than I can count, only to try (and fail) to nab a pair of faux-leather trousers to go with them a few weeks later. Planning an outfit (plus accessories!) in your head, then heading online to find the whole lot in one go saves oodles of time down the line.
First-time eBay users should take advantage of the 'watch' function, which ensures you don't miss out on the pieces you're interested in. It'll pop up on your account alongside your most recent watches, like those mint condition Dune boots you almost bought last payday (guilty). If you filter by size, try and have a few options available as loads of brands have different size systems.
When it comes to designer bargains, don't limit eras
Contrary to belief, when hunting for designer goods, homing in on a specific era won't always guarantee a one-of-a-kind bargain. If you're looking for a pair of Balenciaga boots from SS12, try searching the brand and shoe style, rather than the season. Right now, terms like 'Y2K' are very on trend. Plus, eBay is a goldmine when it comes to finding limited edition, practically good as new collabs. Missed out on an H&M x Margiela blazer back in 2012? Still pining after some Marques'Almeida x Topshop frayed denim? Seize that second chance by the scruff of its neck and hunt away.
Photographed by Serena Brown.
Misspellings and similar items are your friend
Human error is often the difference between finding a new plus one to take to all your festive shenanigans and lugging around your old canvas tote.
Common misspellings open up an array of goodies just waiting to be discovered – it's truly the gift that keeps on giving. Think how smug you'll feel, brandishing your Dior saddle bag that was a steal thanks to a missing letter in the listing. FatFingers is a great tool for finding common eBay spelling mistakes.
While you're at it, take advantage of the 'similar items' menu and 'other people also searched' (often on your home screen or below your watched items), which will bring up other items you're likely to lust after. It's a great tool if the thing you want isn't available in your size. If at first you don't succeed, try again.
Ask away!
One lesson I learned the hard way when I received a vintage beaded bag that I thought would fit my laptop but instead just about had room for my purse, was always ask lots of questions.
If you feel apprehensive about the photos of a particular item, ask for more images and validate the authenticity if it's a designer piece. Most importantly, check sizing, composition and material as it's unlikely that you'll be able to return your goods. If you're not convinced by an item's authenticity, take matters into your own hands by comparing and contrasting with other sites and using apps like Real Authentication, which is available on the Apple app store.
Pay attention to seller reviews, too. It's a basic tip that's easily overlooked.
Photographed by Serena Brown.
Instagram's dedicated eBay pages are a godsend
Not only is IG great for style inspiration, you can use it to acquire eBay gems too.
Hunting down the best nostalgic designer garms so you don't have to, ebay_pieces is a curated page of delicious designer eBay finds that won't break the bank. Whether you want to grab a bargain or just window shop, the popular account brings the coolest bits of eBay to your attention. From Jean Paul Gaultier to Karen Millen, this IG is grabbing the attention of the fashion circuit.
Shop on the go with the mobile app
Although we'd like to spend copious amounts of time shopping on eBay, for many of us it's not a luxury we can afford. So eBay's mobile app is the next best thing.
Keep tabs on your favourite pieces and upload items to sell whenever, wherever. If you decide to go down the auction route, try to bid for items with listings that finish at awkward times (always bid at 12 seconds, it's close enough to the end without cutting it too fine) as it's much easier to place your bid and watch things unfold. The app will always notify you when your watched items are soon to be unlisted or when they've been relisted.

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