Buying and Selling Laserdiscs on eBay
Laserdiscs are wonderful, collectible items. The laserdisc format was invented in 1978 ... with the first players coming onto the market a few years later. The CD was a spin-off of the Laserdisc technology ... with the first CD being released in 1982 ... Billy Joel's 52nd Street. Laserdiscs have less data compression than a DVD. The sound tracks on a laserdisc can sound great because they use that same CD file technology. A laserdisc can carry many more colors and finer detail than a VHS tape ... especially in the darker shadow areas. The last laserdiscs were made in the year 2000. I do not know the final title produced, but a couple of the last ones were Fight Club and Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace. The Japanese were really fond of the laserdisc. A huge quantity of titles and discs of the highest quality were manufactured in Japan and are treasured by collectors, today.
First ... let's be sure that you do, indeed, have a laserdisc for sale. A competing format at the time was the RCA SelectaVision VideoDisc CED system. These are often erroneously called "laserdiscs" on eBay when in reality they are CED's ... Capacitance Electronic Discs. The CED is easy to discern ... it has a plastic frame around the perimeter of the jacket and the disc is locked inside ... only to be removed during the "load" function of the RCA SelectaVision player. If you do force the jacket open, you will see that the actual disc looks like a giant brown floppy disc. The CED player had no laser. It had a fine wire stylus that actually gently dragged across the disc as the disc spun and measured the capacitance differential between the recorded "spots" on the disc. Those CED's can be played ONLY on the RCA SelectaVision player.
The Laserdisc, as we know, looks like a giant CD. They came in several diameters. The most common is the 12" ... but there is also 8" "single" size. Sometimes the outer layer of plastic on the disc is color tinted. I have one that is "blood red" (Evil Dead II - Dead by Dawn) and one that is golden yellow (Ranma 1/2 Super). I also have an 8" single that is normal CD-looking on the playing side and opaque white plastic on the label side (Tina Turner's Private Dancer video single).
Your listing title should have the Title of the disc first, and must include the word "Laserdisc". I see many listings where it just says LD. As a laserdisc buyer ... I cannot search for LD ... Do you know how many times LD comes up? ... VERY many! When I search eBay, I search the DVD-Movies category for (laserdisc, laser disc, laserdisk, laser disk, LD*) ... I still get some Mormon - Latter Day Saints - LDS listings ... but most everything else is laserdisc related. When I find a laserdisc that I want to bid on and the listing title only says LD, I know that few other collectors will find this page unless they were searching for this exact title and they did not include the word "laserdisc" in their search phrase. When I DO search for a particular title ... I still use that whole phrase and plus the title ... (laserdisc, laser disc, laserdisk, laser disk, LD*) Tron ... That will find the movie Tron on laserdisc if it's available on eBay. Sometimes I click the "include titles and descriptions" button to see if the disc I want is included in somebody's listing as part of a Lot or Collection. That search will also bring up DVDs with that title ... but at least it finds 'em.
Another item to include in your listing title is the genre, if it is special. Some sellers say Horror or Drama in their titles. That is not specific enough and I doubt that anyone searches for DRAMA when they enter a search phrase for laserdiscs ... that is simply a waste of five of your valuable letter spaces. But ... if your disc is of a Live Concert ... be sure to include LIVE or CONCERT or MUSIC or MTV (if appropriate). Buyers do search for those words. So, in addition to Elton John World Tour Laserdisc ... add Live Concert. ALSO ... if you have an Anime title ... be sure to include the word ANIME in your title. I often include both ANIM* and JAPAN* in my serach phrase ... to catch anime, animation, Japan, Japanese in my laserdisc search results. My search phrase now looks like this: (laserdisc, laser disc, laserdisk, laser disk, LD*) (anim*, japan*) . That brings in all of the laserdiscs with anime and Japan in their listing titles. Again, with the thousands of titles on eBay at any moment, finding only the anime titles requires that special search phrase ... and if you only say ARMITAGE III Polymatrix Laserdisc ... I will not find your disc while I am surfing for anime. Other often-searched key words to consider, if they apply, might be Documentary, PBS, Criterion Collection, NASA, THX, Widescreen, Letterbox ... you get the idea.
When selling laserdiscs, consider a 1-Day listing duration on your auction. Laserdiscs are almost "impulse buy" items. Sometimes I search eBay for a particular title ... but most of the time I just cruise the listings hoping to see something interesting. So a 1-Day listing duration really works well for laserdiscs. With several thousand laserdisc auction listings up at any moment, and of those, hundreds closing within the next day, or two, the buyer who is just surfing through the listings usually will not get into auctions that still have days to go ... he may not even get past tomorrow's listings. From experience, I have seen that there is little to no action on your laserdisc auction listing until the last day ... maybe even the last few minutes before your auction closes. So ... unless you have a rare title that you want to expose to collectors for a whole week ... a 1-Day or 3-Day listing will be more interesting to you and give you quicker sales of your inventory.
Be clear and be fair in your item's description. As a laserdisc collector, myself, I have some concerns when I read the listings on some of the laserdisc auctions on eBay. A couple of the instant turn-offs are: "I no longer have a player but it played well, as I remember" and "Sorry, no returns." The guy who no longer has a player would know what a good disc looks like ... if he ever really had played laserdiscs. What I want to read is "Disc is like new" or "Disc has a couple of light scratches but plays well." And ... Returns are part of the business. Any laserdisc sale should be backed by the option to return a disc that doesn't play for some reason. "No returns" means no customer satisfaction in case of a problem. I used to frequent thrift stores. They usually have an "All Sales Final" sign. One of the stores used to put the price on the item with a grease pencil. Sometimes a stereo receiver or a tape deck would also be marked "Not Tested" ... marked with that same grease pencil. I soon found that "Not Tested" really meant "Not Working." That's what I think when I see "No Returns" on an auction.
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A laserdisc collector is looking for two things: a clean disc and a nice jacket. The cover art on the jackets can be more valuable than the film on the disc! When you are writing your ad copy, please include a note about the condition of the jacket. Be honest! The buyer will spot any flaws, soon enough, when he gets the disc. Given the choice between two auctions for the same disc ... one says "Up for sale is a laserdisc" and another that says "Laserdisc looks new, jacket has slight crease in the corner and normal shelf wear." I would strongly consider the 2nd one ... the auction that is giving the most information.
As with VHS tapes and DVD's, laserdiscs often had several editions for the same title. There may be both a 1984 release and a 1993 release. There may be a Pan-&-Scan edition and a Letterbox edition. The best versions that collectors are seeking are the ones featuring Widescreen or Letterbox, THX and/or AC-3. Adding these kinds of notes will help to inform the buyer about which version you have for sale. The BEST way to identify your particular edition is to mention the catalog number or the SKU product barcode number on your disc's package. The catalog number is usually on the spine of the jacket. It will look something like PILA-3314 or LV 44275 or similar. Anyone looking at your listing can then go to LDDb.com, enter that catalog or barcode number in the search window, there, and view the details of that particular edition of laserdisc. (If you get a "no result" ... try the same search but take out any word spaces or hyphens ... or try searching for the title's keyword.) When reading the barcode, be sure to use all of the digits ... even the little tiny ones at left and/or right of the barcode. Use no punctuation. It should look like ... "The barcode is 027616041364". You can check that on LDDb.com and see that the movie is "King Solomon's Mines".
LDDb.com (Laserdisc Data Base) is a great site to visit when buying or selling a laserdisc. That site has close to 48,000 laserdiscs in its database. There is often a picture available that lets an eBay buyer visually check to identify a disc by comparing it to the picture in the eBay listing. I have done this, myself. The Beatles "Yellow Submarine" ... the Japanese Widescreen edition is one of the "holy grails" of laserdisc collecting. The eBay auction I was looking at had a picture of the cover of "Yellow Submarine" but no other info ... "You are bidding on a laserdisc for sale: Yellow Submarine." So, I went to LDDb.com, entered the title in the search window and saw a list of the half-dozen versions that have been released. By comparing the cover's picture, I could see that that was not the version I was looking for. So, I didn't waste my money on buying the wrong version. Along with the disc data and photo, LDDb also will sometimes have a price history or a bid history available. By going there first, an eBay seller can get a handle on the value of his item.
See my other Guides: Evaluating, Setting the Value of a Collection or Lot ... and .. Setting the "Slow Item" Starting Bid Price ... to see my strategy for pricing laserdiscs and other "low competition" items. Your asking price is probably what you will sell for ... if it sells.
Packing a laserdisc for shipment needs to be done correctly. Remember that the cover jacket is valuable, too, and a crease or crunch will devalue the whole disc. The best I've seen is to pack the disc in a slightly oversized box ... 14x14x2 is great ... and add packing peanuts or bubblewrap to keep the disc from rattling around. The corrugated mailers made for LP albums work well, too ... but do not have the added protection given by an oversized box. The packages ship well via Media Mail ... and postage is calculated by weight to a given destination. So ... a slightly larger box doesn't add much additional postage when compared to the protection it offers.
Another shipping problem and room for damage with a laserdisc is that a sudden sideways jolt can send the actual disc, itself, through the top, bottom, or side of the jacket! I have often seen jackets with what is called a "split" in one of its sides. That's a place where the disc has cut through the wall on the edge of the jacket. Again ... this devalues the disc. Those corrugated LP mailers do hold the laserdisc tightly in its jacket so that it cannot move when jolted ... a good thing. When using an oversize box, I have seen three methods to avoid the split. One is to wrap the laserdisc tightly, like a present, in newspaper or some kind of wrapping paper. This reinforces the jacket and adds some resistance to disc movement. Another method is to be sure to float the laserdisc jacket in peanuts or bubblewrap so that the packing material absorbs the shock of any impacts. Finally, I have seen the laserdisc removed from and placed on top of the jacket so that if the disc shifts, the jacket is not involved. That last method works fine ... but it just seems wrong ro pull the disc out of the jacket for shipping. I recommend leaving the disc in the jacket and floating the whole thing in a sea of peanuts inside the oversized box.
Finally, a good photo is always a "plus" with any eBay auction. Try not to use a database or promotional photo. Use an actual photo of the laserdisc jacket that you have for sale. Usually only one clear photo of the front of the jacket is required. I have seen some laserdiscs images that have been scanned on a small desktop scanner. You don't get to see the entire image ... but still that can be OK if the written description is complete. If you want to add more photos ... cool! A shot of the back of the jacket can be great ... especially on music concert discs ... so the buyer can see the names of the songs or chapters or any special features that are advertised on the back of the jacket.
Love those laserdiscs! They are becoming ancient technology ... they look and sound great ... they should last forever ... and the prices are very reasonable. What's not to like? I just saw a quip ... "In the giant stream of time, the survival rate for any video format is zero." So ... enjoy them while they are still available.
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