You Can Still Find Rare and Unique Items on eBay

Minnesota plate
Some say that eBay has changed—but the numbers and products on offer tell a different story. eBay

Word on the street is that eBay isn’t what it once was—that an increased focus on resellers and liquidators and an encroaching army of Chinese sellers with inexpensive import goods has rendered eBay less useful to the kinds of shoppers that once frequented the marketplace. How true is this?

Vintage and Retro Goods on eBay

Vintage and retro goods have long been an indicator of eBay’s success as a unique shopping platform different in critical ways from other alternatives like or Etsy.

Terapeak recently looked at the sales volume of vintage and retro goods on eBay and found a thriving $1.1 billion market and all kinds of interesting goods that would interest even the most specific and discerning enthusiasts and seekers-of-unique-items.

So with that said, it would seem that the availability of vintage, retro, and other kinds of unique goods hasn’t declined on eBay all that much, and certainly not as much as some in the eBay blogosphere or on eBay message boards have suggested.

What Has Changed

What has changed is that eBay has gone out of their way to implement policies that are friendly to very conscientious sellers selling high-quality items, and to reduce the visibility of sellers that are on the margins and fringes of the “unique” items world, including sellers of goods that are perilously close to junk and sellers that have a fly-by-night customer service style.

These strategies have included things like the Cassini search system, which gives eBay more control over which products and sellers are promoted and which ones aren’t, and a collection of seller performance measurements, beginning with detailed seller ratings a few years ago and culminating more recently in the defect rate calculation.

Taking a step back, it looks less like eBay has been trying to squeeze sellers of unique and niche goods out of the marketplace, and more like they’ve been trying to ensure that when these kinds of goods are on eBay, they’re both cool and desirable and being sold by responsible sellers.

How to Find Them

The easiest ways to find interesting goods on eBay are to use your common sense and obvious keywords. For example, try:

  • Rare
  • Unique
  • Discontinued
  • Vintage
  • Retro
  • Collectible
  • Unusual
  • Cool
  • Amazing

And so on. There are also a decent number of “vintage” categories on eBay to search through. Once you’ve identified the kinds of searches that turn up the products you’re after, save the searches or add them to your feed so that you see what you’re looking for each time you visit eBay.