Most of my gallery material was bought on Ebay and it’s a fun past time to obtain more material. But there is also a problem: Ebay is a sellers website and many of these sellers try to sell warships bric-a-brac and prints; and do I loathe prints with a passion! They fully clutter up your search results and the fine people at Ebay do not think it is necessary to allow blacklisting sellers. You can do it manually but need to do so for each search, or, you need to save your search and manually exclude sellers in that saved search. I have a few of these searches standing by, but they work poorly on some mobile applications and recently some of my templates were reset. Editing them does not work well and the tools to keep them well administrated are non-existing. I find Ebay is an absolutely awful experience as a buyer.
Should you want to buy a few pics for your own, there are a few things to remember when applying for Ebay flagellation to keep your purchasing a “fun” experience and to avoid buying bad items; it will probably happen (certainly at first) and accept that as part of the experience.
- The feedback a seller has received is a good indication of reliability. Negative feedback can be particularly telling, but always be critical as some people leave negative feedback for the oddest of reasons (because they are idiots).
- A print is not necessarily bad and I bought particularly good ones from the Dock museum (Vickers photographical archive) but on Ebay they generally are terrible. Some sellers simply download images with the most horrendous jpeg compression, print them and sell them; they’ll argue you pay them for the effort or printing and mailing them, but they are worthless. In direct contradiction to the advice above: the feedback for print sellers is often good and apparently people are genuinely happy with them. I am not one of these people.
- So fine, not all print sellers are awful people and deserve to be in special hell; I have contacted a few and simply asked them for the digital image. That sometimes works and then you do not have to pay for postage, scan and toss the original. However, the source material is rarely original and you can find it with some effort.
- When the seller does not explicitly state that the image is not a print assume he is scamming you with a print. A photograph is typically adverised as RP (Real Photo) or RPP (Real Photo Postcard).
- When you do find a genuine photograph the quality may still be wanting. The preview should be a clear, crisp image; I bought some images with bad previews and none of these images was worth the effort. Good sellers will offer a high-res scan that will give you the best indication. I always download these, just in case. I usually cannot use them for posting on my blog as they are watermarked or otherwise partly spoiled but they may come in handy for your modeling project. Good sellers will also show the rear side of the image that may have some official texts, a stamp where it was produced, and so on.
- Be careful with the image size; a 3inch image is of most limited use while a 10inch IWM reproduction is as good as it gets. I have examples where the photographic reproductions from the IWM are even better than an A3 scans they offer. Some postcards scanned at 1200DPI can be magnificent.
- Never assume that as no one has placed a bid that the item is not being watched as there are many collectors and traders active. The bidding is only over when the clock runs out and many bids are placed in the last second (automatically it would seem). Determine your maximum and submit it at the last moment too. You may overbid yourself if you start an early bidding war or tempt another buyer’s maximum. Do not fret if you loose because you will loose often.
- Some sellers post an image for a low amount with high postage costs and when the item is not sold put it up for “buy it now” at triple the price. It’s interesting to see what they offer but I avoid doing business with them.
- Some sellers put up an album whole, but others sell the photographs individually, typically with high starting prices. Oh, the fun you can have with these strings of items when you are being outbid consistently by another buyer so you just starting bidding below his maximum (looser bids) on all items just to make him hurt. But of course, even though it’s technically not shill bidding and thus illegal, that would be frowned upon so don’t do that. The entire album is usually not worth it either as there are so many photographs in it that are simply not interesting but nevertheless included in the price.
- No need to pay a thousand pounds for that special original photograph of Winston that you can also buy at the IWM or download for free. Do a Google reverse image search on your candidates. Google “reverse image search” if you do not know how. This goes for postcards too; there are millions to be found on Ebay, all the same. Now you know where all these prints come from.
- Some sellers do not ship outside their country of residence. This is particularly annoying for a Dutchman to search for British images, because results from local shippers do not show up in your results unless you manually change your shipping country to their location every time you enter a search. Many sellers are unaware they have this local option selected and are willing to ship within Europe so I can only imagine how many fine items went under my radar because of Ebay’s awful search engine. People who refuse shipment out of the UK deserve to be in special hell.
- And finally: good and rare footage is simply expensive and you’ll recognize it at such after a few years, so choose your subject carefully. Avoid that rare Tirpitz album with 200 images. You may get lucky, but usually you have to pay. Accept that some items are out of your reach. I do not have any original HMS Hood material because many people are willing to pay very high prices. In all honesty, I have not found any HMS Hood material that was really worthwhile. Except that 5.5inch tampion I just had to let go.