If the video comes without a box and the seller says s/he can't find it or it's lost, it's probably a home-made video.
If one seller lists the same rare, out-of-print, hard-to-find videos over and over again, either in black clamshell cases with artwork inserts, or in plain white boxes, those videos are almost certainly home-made. Stay away!
To see a seller's sales history, do a search on the link below, enter the seller's ID, select completed items and 200 per page. If you see the same title over and over, you're looking at a bootlegger.
Items By Seller
If the seller's feedback is "private," or less than 96% stay away!
If the listing doesn't state "factory original," stay away!
If the seller is listing rare items at prices that are too good to be true, stay away!
If the seller is listing rare items but without details, email and ask if the video is in its original case, and ask about its condition. 9 times out of 10 you'll be told it's a "rental." Stay away!
If a seller is showing a photo of a perfect video and slipcase but the description says it is a cut box (or a nice hard case)--this is a classic bait-and-switch tactic--Stay away!
If the seller is brand-new, has weird descriptions, and a long list of highly desirable videos, you're probably looking at a bootlegger who got thrown off and has returned under another name. Don't buy from a seller like this!
If you're not sure whether a movie has been issued on DVD check on Amazon.com or at www.imdb.com. If it's not listed it hasn't been issued--for heaven's sake don't buy a DVD copy from ebay; it's certain to be a bootleg.
If you're uncertain about the authenticity of a video, check the seller's other items. If they're all tapes in clamshell cases with art inserted or DVDs of videos that have never been issued on DVD, you're looking at a seller who's in the business of copying videos. Don't bid!
Always always check a seller's feedback. If all the neutral or negative feedback is from unhappy buyers and the seller has a horrible, insulting manner toward the buyers, stay away. If all the seller's videos are very rare, but multiple copies are available, and s/he doesn't accept Paypal but wants checks or money orders, don't bid!
Stick with sellers who accept Paypal, (which offers you some protection) and who show pictures of the actual item on offer. Always go with the seller who states his/her product is factory original/in the original packaging, who has a high percentage of positive feedback (98% or better), who accepts Paypal payments, and who answers your questions directly, without being evasive.
These days, sadly, most of the rarest videos are only being offered by bootleggers--at prices that are too good to be true. The reality is: you are not going to get a true, authentic collectible for a buy-it-now price of under twenty dollars.
If you've been stung and got stuck with a bootleg, or didn't receive what you paid for, make a big fuss! Open a claim in the dispute console on your "my ebay" page, start a dispute in Paypal's Resolution Center; complain to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.IC3.gov) and to the US Postal Service if you paid by money order. Don't just quietly accept the situation. And let me know the seller's ID so I can add it to my list of offenders.
Some of the most frequently bootlegged/copied videos offered on ebay are:
A Gathering of Eagles
A New Leaf
A Smoky Mountain Christmas (Dolly Parton--never issued on DVD--beware of clamshell fakes)
A Warm December
Back Street (not on DVD) Clamshell case copies are everywhere.
Bad Ronald (never issued on DVD but constantly on offer by one seller)
China Beach, premiere episode
Elvis and Me
Full Body Massage
Howard the Duck
If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium
In A Child's Name (usually offered without a box)
Janis, The Way She Was (never issued on DVD--one seller endlessly offers DVDs)
Little Darlings (Tatum O'Neill)
Love Among the Ruins
Man In the Wilderness
M.A.S.H. - Goodbye, Farewell, Amen
Mind Walk/Mindwalk (bootlegs everywhere--be very careful on this one)
Motown 25, Yesterday, Today, Forever
My Foolish Heart
Naked Tango (clamshell cases but almost never the original slipcase)
On Borrowed Time
Rachel and the Stranger
Resurrection (Ellen Burstyn)(clamshell case bootlegs galore--be very careful on this one)
Rhapsody in Blue, Robert Alda (never issued on DVD)
Rich Man Poor Man (never issued on DVD in N. America)
The Chalk Garden
The Dollmaker (beware of clamshell cases on this one)
The Enchanted Cottage
The Glass Slipper (Caron)
The Mortal Storm
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Tango Lesson
The Trap, Oliver Reed (frequently offered with a free soundtrack CD)
Where the Lilies Bloom
Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe (never issued on DVD)
Young Tom Edison (offered with sequel--beware!)
Someone emailed me to say that it's okay to make copies of videos whose copyright has expired or never been filed. Not true! Ebay's policy is very clear: home-made copies are not allowed for sale on this site. End of discussion.
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