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Maximize your eBay moola

To get the lowdown on how to get the most money for your Mac, I talked to eBay’s director of education and the author of The Official eBay Bible, Jim “Griff” Griffith.

Q: What’s the first thing to do when selling a computer on eBay?

A: The first thing to do is to take a picture of all of the items. You’re going to do a lot better if you sell the computer with as many of the original accessories and contents as possible. This is where a lot of casual sellers on eBay fall down. Make your photo look professional by putting a background behind your items. In a pinch, a white, or preferably darker-colored, bedsheet will do just fine—no patterns. The point is to isolate the items you’re offering from anything else in the room.

Q: How can someone get an idea of a computer’s value before listing it?

A: It pays to research, and research on eBay is very easy. With something as definitive as a computer, you can search for the computer maker, model, and number if there is one. That will give you some information, but what you really want to do, once you get the search results, is to look over in the left-hand column, under Search Options, for Completed Listings. Then you can see listings that match this keyword search and that have closed in the last two weeks.

If you’re selling something in the auction format, you have to be reasonable with your starting bid. If the research shows something is valued at $100, starting it at $90 is foolish; no one is going to bid. But if you put a starting bid of $10, then your chances of getting a starting bid and getting someone into the game are much better.

Q: Is there an advantage to setting a Buy It Now price?

A: There may be, depending on the age and type of the computer. The advantage to a Buy It Now price is that if it’s reasonable, you can make a quick sale. There are a lot of folks who love the auction format, but there are probably just as many, if not more, who are uncomfortable with it and prefer to just search by price, find a good deal, and buy it. Any seller in an auction-format listing can include a Buy It Now price, and doing so can open up the listing’s appeal to a wider array of buyers.

Q: Is it better to have a shorter or longer listing time?

A: There is a general rule that works for most situations. The rarer your item, the more it benefits from being up longer. And if you’re not in a rush, you have nothing to lose by having your item up for seven or ten days.

[ Mathew Honan is a freelance technology writer whose work also appears in the National Journal’s Technology Daily and Wired.]

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