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Insane EBay Hacks Guaranteed To Help You Find Rare Vintage Clothing (For Less!)

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These eBay buying hacks will change your life.

Thrifting tips.
updated on:
January 21, 2023

One of our all-time favorite places to buy vintage is eBay. A marketplace of all kinds of items, eBay has so many hidden treasures, it’s like the biggest and best thrift store in the world. Most people don’t know how to tap into all the secrets of buying the best vintage items from eBay. That’s what we’re here for. We’ve compiled our best hacks for finding the coolest vintage pieces (for cheap!) on eBay.

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This post is all about the best eBay buying hacks.

1. Have a running list of brands/keywords.

This really is our holy-grail tip! When you go thrifting or when you come across a piece that you like in your online searching, check the tag! There are so many lesser-known vintage brands and do you know what makes that so great? You can take advantage of that by snagging awesome pieces at crazy prices! For example, Betsey Johnson is now a relatively well-known vintage brand, so you'll notice prices for these pieces are pretty high. This is because sellers obviously do their research and know that those pieces are in high demand. High demand + low supply = high prices. Let me show you how to avoid this.

If you are looking for a vintage dress, you'll want to have built up a list of lesser-known brands whose dresses you know you like. For example, this is one of my favorite dresses that I've thrifted recently. If you look at the tag, it says "City Triangles". I had never heard of the brand before, so I added the brand name to my list for later, because most likely I'll like other stuff by that brand and sellers will list under that name. After a few trips to the thrift store, or with a little help from the free printable I've included at the end of this post, you'll have a list of rare vintage brands that you know you'll love.

2. Misspell (on purpose!)

You know the saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure"? Well, it should be eBay's tagline or any thrift shop for that matter. Typos happen on eBay a lot more than you would think. Whether the seller isn't familiar with the brand or was just rushing through the listing, you can find GOLD if you think like a seller. For example, if you are looking for a thick gold choker, think about all the ways someone could accidentally misspell something. Somebody might spell choker "chocker". I know it sounds kind of strange at first, but try it out, especially if it's something you've been looking for for a while, you might just find it!

3. Set your filters

One of my favorite things about eBay is that the filters do a good job of narrowing down results. My only hangup with eBay filters is that it resets every time you search something new. If I were to look for a vintage Dior bag, I would typically use a filter:

I set the pricing to between $150 and $400 because anything less than $150 is most likely not going to be authentic, and I want to spend around $250-$300 so I put my top price a little above because I am assuming there is some room for negotiation. I personally pick sellers in the US because I don’t want to wait a long time for shipping or pay larger shipping fees but you can definitely look internationally if you don’t mind the wait. I talk a little bit about this later, but do your own research about authenticity. Anytime you buy a bag secondhand, unless they have the original receipt, you are always taking a risk. 

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4. Do your own research

Sometimes the seller genuinely thinks they have an authentic item but they may have been lied to at some point. There are a lot of blogs that talk specifically about authenticating luxury items and they have some great information about what to look for! I typically have the mindset that I do the best I can to authenticate myself using information I find on the internet, but at the end of the day there is never any guarantee that I am buying an authentic item. There isn’t really a great system to tell with 100% accuracy whether or not something is authentic because duplicates are so common these days and can really look like the real thing. Authenticating is basically an art and not a science. Two different authenticators can come up with two different opinions. I look at it this way: if it looks real to me and I didn’t pay thousands of dollars for it, the best case is that it’s real and I got a really good deal and the worst case is that it’s fake and the seller didn’t know but it looks real! Obviously if a seller claims it’s authentic and you find out it’s fake you can look into returning it/getting your money back, but this is why I don’t buy bags just for the name.

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5. Stay realistic

Always understand that when you are buying vintage, you are typically buying pre-owned clothing. I’ve had multiple times where the seller forgets to mention a little spot or tear, or it looks a bit different than the posted photos. Just keep in mind that pre-owned items will not be of the same condition as brand new items. That sounds obvious, but everyone is doing the best they can. If the seller conveniently leaves out a very big detail then that’s a different story, but always realize that vintage shopping is an adventure and sometimes you score big, and other times it doesn’t turn out the way you expected, and that’s okay!

This same note applies to pricing. Anything is possible in the world of eBay shopping, but that doesn’t mean everything is realistic. If you want an authentic designer purse, you usually aren’t going to find one for $10. Stranger things have happened, and I’m not saying it doesn’t happen (because it does!) but just understand that everything is a balance between risk and reward.

6. Add everything to your watchlist

I started implementing this tip when someone told me that Facebook marketplace will show you suggestions based on the posts you save. I haven’t fully seen those effects on eBay, but I find it really helps to go back and look through the items you have searched recently. This is also a good rule of thumb whenever you want to buy anything, just write it down and save it, sleep on it, and if you can’t find a better deal somewhere else/can’t stop thinking about the item, maybe you should treat yourself! I always go through my watchlist and am reminded of brands and items that I think are so cool! They also make good gift wishlist ideas.

If you like this post, you may enjoy this post: These 12 Online Treasure Troves Have The BEST Thrift Store Clothes

7. Be patient

When I shop on eBay I typically don’t bid and here’s why: Yes, you can get items for crazy prices, but the time you spend monitoring the bidding war and the risk you run of losing said item to someone else is high. However, I have seen many people have success during bidding wars, especially when there’s not a lot of competition. It’s just so easy to get caught up in winning the item that you forget your highest price and keep bidding more and more and more. That said, if you want to get into bidding, BE PATIENT. In my opinion there is no point in bidding on anything when the end date is 2 weeks away. You’re showing your hand too soon. Set an alarm for 30 minutes before the end of the auction and then go for it! They later you wait the better. EBay has implemented a top price option where you put in the highest price you are willing to pay and eBay will bid in increments to get you the lowest price. If you choose to utilize this feature, make sure you’ve put in that info with enough time for eBay to bid for you. I’ve done it a minute before the auction ended and lost out on an item.

8. Always offer

I am always shocked when I hear anyone bought something on eBay without even TRYING to make an offer. The same goes for Poshmark, but that's a post for another day. Now, this is just my personal experience but put yourself in the seller's shoes. They are told that a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush. Basically, meaning when they have a real offer with real money on the table, it's worth more even if it's lower than the list price. HOWEVER...Do not lowball.

Everyone has a different version of lowballing. My general rule of thumb is to never offer lower than 50% of the list price. Sometimes I have more success with pushing my luck on Poshmark than eBay, but in my experience resellers and listers pick to list at a higher price than their acceptable price (meaning they have room for negotiation). If you offer less than 50%, most of the time you will not be taken seriously. I'm sure there are stories where people have success lowballing, but you have to understand that the lower you offer, the less likely the seller will accept, so that's the risk you take. Even if you offer 70% of the list price, the seller could have a number in their head that they want to hit. If they deny your offer, they are taking a risk themselves because they are betting that someone else will come along and pay the higher price. It's all one big game.

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9. Think like a seller

This brings me to my next point. Imagine the next vintage piece you want to add to your closet. Now, imagine you're a few years down the road and you're selling it. What words would you use to describe that piece if you were trying to clear out your closet? What words would you use if you didn’t know what you had? What if you were in a rush and just wanted the listing to be up quickly? Try these search terms using the mindset of the seller and you might just find a diamond in the rough.

10. Get creative with keywords

Like I’ve said before, think of all the ways you could describe the piece you are looking for. Maybe even go to the internet to find more information about your item. It may come in different colors or sizes. Maybe the brand has a name to describe what you’re looking for, like the Neverfull bag for example. Use descriptive words like the shape, the texture, the material, the era, etc. Keep in mind that the way you might describe an item is probably different from someone else’s description. Therefore, try all possibilities so you put yourself in the best possible position to find your find!

11. Leave out the word "vintage"

If I don't have a lot of time and I just want to get to the point, I will add the word "vintage" in the search bar as a keyword, BUT I recognize that I may not be getting the best deal. Any seller using the word "vintage" in their listings is aware that the word increases the value of their listing because "vintage" implies that essentially "this item is old and special." The best listing to find is something where the seller doesn't know what they have. Like I said earlier, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." Again, it's not wrong to use the word per se, but just recognize that anyone selling "vintage" items in some way "knows" what they are selling and they will charge you for it!

12. Manifest

This step is optional, but I have genuinely had success with it. Imagine finding your dream item. Imagine it coming in the mail, opening it, and putting it on. Imagine how you would feel if you found that item. Imagine what your friends would say. Pretend like you already have it. Now trust me, next time you go looking that exact item will show up somehow. Ask and you shall receive!

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This post was all about the best eBay search hacks.

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