Buying/Selling/Trading/Auction - PART III SELLING
For Toy-related Newsgroups
Frequently Asked Questions & Posting Guide
Developed and Maintained by Eric G. Myers & Scott J. Gordon
Version 2.0 - 6/98
This document may be reproduced in whole or in part as long as no
modifications are made and the maintainer information and all
acknowledgments are kept in tact as appropriate. For corrections,
additions or questions, please contact [email protected].
FAQ Index | General | Buying | Selling | Trading | Auctions
FAQ Index | General | Buying | Selling | Trading | Auctions
Q3.1: Where should I post my ad?
A3.1: In selling items, just as in real estate, the 3 most important
things are: Location, Location, and Location. You want your ad to be seen
by a receptive and enthusiastic audience. You do not want to annoy
potential customers or look like a newbie either.
First and foremost, crossposting between rec.toys.action-figures.marketplace
and rec.toys.action-figures.discuss is strictly prohibited. These two
newsgroups were created to separate marketplace and discussion posts.
If you do crosspost, you will most likely be met with a number of e-mails
advising you of your mistake. Marketplace posts are explicitly off-charter
So, selecting the appropriate place to post is the first, and possibly
most important, decision for you to make. There are several other
newsgroups in this hierarchy. Each caters to a particular group of
collectors. In addition, there are several sister newsgroups in other
hierarchies that also deal with toys in one capacity or another
(e.g., rec.arts.sf.starwars.collecting or rec.collecting.dolls).
Should you post to all of them? Absolutely not!
Its best to pick the most appropriate group and only post there. However,
if you have a varied selection of items for sale, you might cross over
into more than one category. If you have 300 action-figures for sale and
5 Hotwheels, then don't crosspost the whole list to both the action
figure newsgroup and the cars newsgroup. Consider splitting the list into
two posts and posting each appropriately. It is reasonably well-tolerated
to crosspost sales items to other groups as long as sale posts are
permitted on those groups. Choose wisely.
Q3.2: How often should I post my ad?
A3.2: You should not post the same ad any more frequently than weekly.
There is not enough readership turnover to justify posting your ad daily.
Frequent reposts are a waste of bandwidth and often irritate your
potential customers. Remember, Usenet news posts remain on most
servers for *at least* a week (and in most cases, quite longer). There is
no need to repost an ad daily. Also, those who post repeated ads often
find their way into killfiles. You can't sell to someone who doesn't see
any of your posts. Auction updates may be an exception and may be
posted more frequently (see Q5.5).
Q3.3: How should I compose a good subject line?
A3.3: A clear subject line is the best bait for getting people to read
your ad. Unclear, vague or irrelevant subject lines will often get your
ad ignored. Use the appropriate abbreviations (e.g., FS, AUCTION, WTT,
etc see Q1.5 ). Then use a brief yet descriptive phrase to entice your
readers. The more specific the better. Here are some examples of good and
bad subject lines:
Bad: Action figures
Good: FS: Action figures: Marvel, DC, SW, Spawn
Bad: Old Toys
Good: FS: '50's & '60's Tin Toys
Good: AUCTION: GI Joe: Figures, Accessories, Vehicles
Avoid using non-alphanumeric characters in your subject lines. Don't
use these types of characters to set you post apart. Many newsreaders
truncate subject lines to shorter lengths. Therefore, a subject line
that was intended to read like this:
Subject: ###############Action Figures FS!#############
Could end up looking like this on some newsreaders:
This makes sense to no one and are often ignored by readers. Also, the
use of non-alphanumeric characters or special characters to make your
posts stand out or be listed first on newsreaders that sort
alphabetically is frowned upon. They only call attention to the fact
you're trying to call attention to yourself. These types of practices
often get "killfiled" by a large segment of the readership. Being
"killfiled" means that these types of posts are automatically screened
out and discarded without ever having been seen by the reader. Remember,
a good subject line is your chance to make a first impression. Make it
Q3.4: Should I set a price, let people make offers, or conduct an
A3.4: This is really a matter of personal choice. Some factors you may
want to consider include the time you have to invest in selling the items
you have and the price you wish to get for your items. Straight sales are
the simplest in regard to time investment. You set a price and wait for
an offer. Letting people e-mail you offers is a bit more involved. Its
important to note that many people won't even respond to your ad if
they don't have an idea about the price of the item in question. In
addition, people may underbid what they would actually pay if the item
had a price on it (who doesn't want a bargain?). So, having people
e-mail you bids can easily turn into a miniature auction. Having people
e-mail bids may be the best mode of action if you are truly unsure about
the value of the item yet are unwilling to conduct a full-blown auction.
Keep in mind that while you may only have one figure to sell right now,
you may acquire others later -- treat everyone who responds to your ad
with courtesy, even if you feel they are making exaggeratedly low
offers; they may turn out to be people whose business you'd like later on
down the road, and some people have long memories. Courtesy goes a
VERY long way!
An auction is quite a bit more involved than a straight sale. Auctions
involve a significant time investment and a good deal of organization to
be run effectively. See the section on Auctions below for more specifics
on running an effective auction.
Q3.5: Shouldn't I post each item I have separately?
A3.5: No. Repeated posts for single items by the same seller are
considered poor netiquette and are a waste of bandwidth. As a seller,
you want to be as considerate and thoughtful of your potential customers
as you can. Annoying readers with multiple posting may get you noticed,
but not necessarily in a positive way. Wasting bandwidth like this often
attracts negative comments (flames).
Q3.6: How should I package and ship toys I'm selling or trading?
A3.6: This is an important question and one that has many legitimate
answers. Just keep in mind that the sender is responsible for making
sure that the item(s) arrive in good condition. Much of this depends
on the toy itself. The first component is a good sturdy box (Loose
figures can sometimes be shipped via padded envelope without
problems). I suggest NOT using the 'Priority Mail' boxes supplied at
the Post Office. These have a tendency to flatten out during shipping.
I suggest finding some type of box made from at least some
corrugated cardboard. For larger items, boxes from liquor stores
work exceptionally well (and they are free...a definite plus!). Choose
a box size that will accommodate the item without having to bend,
fold or otherwise damage the toy package.
Next you need to consider some type of packing material. The most
frequently used material is obviously newspaper. This can work
effectively if you use some common sense. Since most action figures
(as well as many other toys) have 'bubbles' it is important not to
crush the bubble with your packing material. You want the packing
material to surround the entire item without crushing it. The goal is to
keep it in place and provide extra cushioning should the package end
up underneath a stack of heavy boxes during shipping. Remember, you
are not stuffing a turkey. Crumpling newspaper works well when
used carefully. Rolling newspaper into 'logs' can also work but takes
some practice to pack an item securely. The next level up from
newspaper would be bubble wrap or styrofoam 'peanuts.' Each of these
methods has its own ups and downs and is really a matter of preference
and your own experiences. Go with what works for you. Bubble
wrap can be an extra expense but does provide good protection if
used in sufficient quantity. Peanuts also provide excellent
protection and are usually quite cheaply available. Remember to be
careful with the use of tape on the inside of the box or with packing
material. Tape that is applied to a toy package may not be easily
removed. Its also a good idea to put the item you are shipping in some
type of plastic bag (like a plastic grocery bag or Toy R Us bag) before
putting it in shipping material. The bag will help protect the toy from
being damaged by the shipping material (i.e., ink from newsprint,
styrofoam getting inside bubbles, etc.).
Once you have the item snugly in the box, seal the box with
appropriate packing tape. Regular thin Scotch tape is usually
ineffective unless used in large quantities. Make sure the address is
legible and written preferably in dark, block letters. Don't forget
to include your own return address. If a mix up occurs with the
delivery address, you want the item to come back to you rather than the
dead letter office.
Now you need to pick a delivery service. You have several to choose
from. The standard is the United States Postal Service. Currently you
may send up to two pounds via Two-Day Priority Mail for $3.00.
This is usually sufficient to ship one or two action figures in a
suitable box with appropriate shipping materials. Occasionally you
will have to pay a little more depending on various factors including
the type of item, the size of box and the type of packing materials used.
The next most used service is UPS. This costs a little bit more but
delivery is generally reliable. In addition, UPS insures all packages
for a standard amount (you may increase this amount for a fee - [see
Lastly, there are many overnight shipping services (Federal Express,
DHL, etc.) that can be used to get a package somewhere in a hurry.
This is probably the least used method for shipping due to cost
Last but not least, its always nice to e-mail the package receiver
letting him or her know that the package is in the mail. Also politely
ask that they drop you a quick note letting you know when the
figures arrive. With luck and good planning, you will have made a
Q3.7: Should I insure packages?
A3.7: There is some controversy regarding this issue. However, if the
buyer wants to pay for insurance on top of all other agreed terms of
your deal, by all means get the insurance requested. If you are
shipping an item of exceptional value (suggestions have ranged from 25
dollars on up through 250 as minimum values for obtaining insurance...
a happy medium might be 50-100 dollar value). Here are some of the
controversies. First, insurance will often only cover the ACTUAL
value of an item as opposed to the PERCEIVED value. What that
means is that if you are shipping the latest, currently shipping but
rare Spew(tm) figure (let's say Hamburger Head Angela with
Specked Panties), it may only be worth what you paid for it retail. It
doesn't matter that someone sent you $50 for it. For insurance
purposes it will probably be worth retail price. However, there
are some exceptions. If you have an appraisal of value from some
reputable source, you may be able to get more back on an insurance
claim. This is very difficult with currently available/shipping figures.
No matter the rarity, if its currently available, its probably valued at
retail price. Even with older figures, sometimes an appraisal is not
acknowledged by insurance. If you have questions, contact your local
Second controversy: Insurance may only cover the toy inside the
package and NOT the package itself. Many people collect MOMC
(see Q1.5). However, if the card or bubble is damaged in shipping
and the figure is left intact, insurance may not reimburse you.
Again, check with your local postmaster if you have questions.
In short, insurance is a matter of choice. Know what is covered and then
decide for yourself. Remember, if the package you send to someone
else does not arrive or arrives damaged, netiquette states that the
shipper is responsible for making amends.
Q3.8: Why isn't there a rec.toys.marketplace group?
A3.8: A group (or hierarchy) such as this has been suggested repeatedly
in the past. There is a rec.toys.action-figures.marektplace group but it is
not appropriate to post items other than action figures.
To date, no group for the entire hierarchy has been formally proposed.
However, several individuals are actively investigating the best way to
implement a marketplace to serve the hierarchy and its individual groups
most effectively. If you are interested in contributing your time (and
patience) to this lengthy and involved endeavor, contact Eric G. Myers
([email protected]) for further details.
Q3.9: Someone sent me a really nasty e-mail in response to my ad? What
did I do to deserve this?
A3.9: In all likelihood, you didn't do anything. No one should be rude in
response to an ad. However, given the recent state of affairs in regard
to the "Scalper vs. The Price Police" (see Q above) many times tempers
flare. Some of the things that have been known to attract overtly hostile
responses have included:
- If you post in the wrong place (i.e., rec.toys.action-figures.discuss)
you will receive some e-mail pointing out your mistake
- Ads for currently available items priced 2-5 times the retail price
- Ads with high prices that appear out of line with the majority of other
ads on the newsgroup
- Ads with misleading or false information
- Ads for off-topic items (e.g., comics, cards, video games, etc)
- Ads that quote guide prices as gospel
- Ads with subject lines containing words like "CHEAP!" or "RARE!"
when neither is the case.
- Repeatedly posting the same ad daily or more frequently
- Posting multiple ads for individual or small groups of items
The best piece of advice is to look at other ads selling the same (or
similar) items. This make take some time as not all items are advertised
with the same frequency. A little familiarity with your target audience
(i.e., the readers of the newsgroup) will go a long way to avoiding
problems in the future.
The bottom line is that no one should be rude, nasty or insulting in
response to an ad no matter what the content happens to be. That
doesn't mean that you shouldn't expect negative responses if your post
contains misleading or false information. It just means that there are
civil ways to express one's displeasure.
Q3.10: What is "undercutting?" Is this an acceptable practice?
A3.10: The term "undercutting" refers to the practice of following up
another seller's ad post with your own post for the same item for sale
at a lower price. This practice has been somewhat controversial and
probably requires some careful consideration before you try it. A
common misconception regarding undercutting is that the undercut
somehow tampers with or interferes with the original seller's ad. This
is wholly incorrect. A follow-up may quote material from the original ad
post, but the original post itself is left untouched just like any other
post on a newsgroup. Objections seem to be raised primarily over the
etiquette involved in the practice of undercutting. Some people feel it
is distasteful, rude or unethical to quote from someone else's ad when
offering a lower price. Others feel that posting an undercut as a
follow-up is actually desirable because it takes advantage of the
threading of many newsreaders (i.e., putting related messages together
in a cluster or thread). Several other newsgroups have had debates and
straw polls regarding the issue of undercutting (this is not a new
practice or issue). Almost always, the vote has been in favor of the
practice of undercutting. While it may be distasteful to some, it may be
of benefit to others. Ultimately, the buyer is the beneficiary of an
undercut post. And the original seller is always free to counter with an
under-undercut. The easiest way to avoid being undercut is not to place
a price in your ad. Of course, this has its disadvantages as well (see