Harry Potter and the eBay Bargain Hunt

Add some magic to your eBay buying — Sam Carson looks at free searching and bidding tools.

Tags: Buying, Searching, Sniping, Free Tools

Recently I used a series of free eBay tools to sell some ugly unwanted Garden Gnomes. With my profits in hand, I am on a bargain hunt for presents for my Harry Potter mad niece and nephew, whose birthdays are not far away. I will once again utilize third party eBay software that is completely free to:

  • Quickly and easily search eBay for potential items.
  • Capitalize on poorly or improperly listed items, which translates into very hard to find auctions.
  • Be the first to discover bargain "Buy It Now" items, and snap them up before anyone else.
  • Strategically bid on eBay auctions to keep the price low and avoid a bidding war.
  • Get great bargains and maximize my buying power.

Prisoner of Poor Spelling?

Harry Potter Misspelled

With thousands of items being listed around the world at any given moment, it is no surprise that some of them contain spelling mistakes. In the keyword-driven world of online shopping, a typo is a buying opportunity: misspelled listings will not be found by a correctly spelled search.

This situation is so common that tools like Invisible-Auctions.com were developed to capitalize on spelling mistakes. Invisible-Auctions.com is my favorite of the free typo search tools available. Their software predicts the most common misspellings of the keywords you enter, and presents auctions that may not be seen by the general searching public.

But I'm looking for Harry Potter stuff. How many people will really get this listing wrong?

Sixty-six, to be exact (including Store listings). Invisible-Auctions.com produced over 45 different combinations of how not to spell Harry Potter, including harry ppotter, harry pootter, and harry pottter. These keywords were automatically entered into eBay's interface, with results ranging from "Harry Pottee Trading Cards" to "Harry Porter Pendants". The spellings have little in common, but the bidding does: there are hardly any bids on them at all!

I bid on a "Harry Pottr Wall Plaque", brand new and with no bids. No one will search for "Harry Pottr", so I'm confident of winning it for the starting bid of $3.99. My niece will be delighted to have it on her bedroom door!

Cast an Automated Search

For those who like Buy It Now listings, an excellent service offered by AutomatedSearches.com will keep you first in line for bargains. Type in a keyword, and make sure that the correct eBay site is selected (US, Australia, UK, etc.). The service will then email you when a new item appears matching that keyword. This is great for keeping an eye on the market, but even better for those who want to be the first to find a "Buy It Now" deal!

I type in Harry Potter, select "Buy It Now and Fixed Priced Items" and wait. The search can be further refined by category and price range. AutomatedSearches.com has the option to conduct a search every 15 minutes, every hour or every day. I select every 15 minutes, because I want to be the first in on a Buy It Now deal.

This is a waiting game, and it took a few emails before the automated search actually produced a bargain. There were many reasonably priced Buy It Now listings for Harry Potter, but not the bargain I was looking for. Then, suddenly it came: a Harry Potter Lego set for $5. I jumped at the deal, and quickly bought the item. What a bargain! My nephew will love the Lego set.

Chambers of (Research) Secrets

Power buyers might want to read about free research tools Mpire Researcher and Terapeak in my previous article — Don't pay for eBay selling tools! These web sites can tell you what others have paid for recent auction items. They are free for eBay.com, and Terapeak has the option to pay for international eBay data.

Harry Potter Action Figure

Professor Snipe

This is how I met Professor Snipe. Years ago, when I first started buying things on eBay, I was bidding on an item. It was new and exciting, and as it came down to the wire, my bid was in the lead with seconds left. I hit refresh only to discover I had been beaten. "Wow," I thought, "that guy had great timing", as he had waited until the very last possible moment.

Now I know I didn't lose to a brilliantly timed bid, I lost to a sniping service: software programmed to bid at the last moment of the auction. The idea of sniping is certainly controversial, when I first discovered it I thought it was unfair: people bid on auctions to get a great deal, then others were stealing it at the last minute. On the other hand, this software is openly available, and shouldn't those who have taken the time to discover the tools get better deals than those who simply turn up at the auction?

The concept is this: why bid early and risk driving the price up in a bidding war, when you can bid as late as possible and get the lowest price? The software makes it even easier, as you don't have to wait for the auction to be closing. Just enter the item number and your maximum price, and the software places the bid for you when the auction is in its final moments.

There are dozens of sniping tools available, and a handful of them are free. JBidWatcher is based on the Java platform so can easily be run on Mac, Windows and Linux systems. Bid-O-Matic is Open Source and runs on Windows. These software packages work well, but have an unfortunate drawback: they require your machine to be turned on to place the snipe bid. This is not a problem for web-based sniping tools, such as the free Gixen, but these require entrusting your eBay details to an online service.

Bid groups are another advantage of sniping. I am looking for Harry Potter action figures, and there are quite a few listings. The old days had me watching one auction at a time, and bidding carefully, only to fall victim to a runaway bidding war that left me with one option: give up and search for a second listing. I find ten listings, enter them into my sniping program as a bid group, put in the number of items I want and my maximum bid, then go out and meet friends for a coffee.

While I'm out my bids are placed automatically, and if my maximum is beaten, the software moves to the next auction. As I want two bespectacled heroes, the software works through the group one auction at a time, until two figures are won. Meanwhile I'm sipping cappuccino. Easy!

Witchcraft and Wizardry

In any marketplace, there are tricks and advantages to maximizing your buying power. Shopping on eBay is no different. With these free tools, I was able to capitalize on typing errors, find fixed-priced bargains before other buyers, and place strategic bids. The result? Armloads of Harry Potter presents, from the world's greatest uncle, which didn't break the bank!

More Information

Typo Searching


More typo search tools

Automated Searching

Little Witch


More automated search tools

Research Tools

Don't pay for eBay selling tools!





eBay's Bid Assistant (group bidding without sniping)

More free snipers

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About the Author

Sam Carson is from Canada, but now lives in London, England, where he is reforming after years lost to a heavy sailing habit.

He can usually be found at Carson's Post.

Article Added: 18 September 2007
Last Updated: 13 October 2007

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