This guide is to help people who are both selling and buying computer games, specifically addressing the needs of collectors. I have had a number of experiences as a collector for various systems and these experiences have been, as the title implies, good, bad and ugly. The vast majority of my items have been exactly as described in the lot description and have been shipped to arrive in great condition. I am going to outline several issues that have come up and suggest the best ways to have your items shipped so that they arrive in great condition.
The majority of collectors and sellers have a good understanding of basic issues. If a lot description says that it is "complete", this means that it contains at least three critical items: the cartridge, the manual and the box. If it contains the cardboard or plastic inserts and other documentation, that is great. Some games came with a poster, which is a great bonus item and should be described as such for you sellers out there, because for some collectors, this will be a real deal maker/breaker because they want EVERYTHING that was originally in the box. If the cartridge has normal wear and tear, describe it as "used" condition, perhaps with a bit of additional description (free of ink/marker/crayon, etc.). If it looks like it just came out of the box, then describe it as "mint" (no marks or wear) or "near mint" (very few, light marks, have to look close). The same terms may be applied to the manual and box. Remember that for a buyer, especially a collector, it is critical that they understand EXACTLY what the condition of the item is. Getting a shipment that is not as described is almost guaranteed to be a disappointment and may generate bad feedback. Speaking from personal experience, I provide excellent feedback to everyone who gives me an accurate description and what I receive is exactly what they SAID they were selling. Make sure that it is so that everyone knows exactly what the item is and its condition. The vast majority of sellers do a good job with this, if you are unsure, just check a number of similar listings and see how other people describe their items. Keep in mind that not everyone describes their items in a way that will maximize returns. Knowing exactly what you have and its condition is one of the best ways to get bids. Instead of saying that you have an old cartridge, not well described, no picture, unsure of status (why waste everyone's time - is it broke or not?) do a bit of homework and find out about it (you are familiar with Google, right?) and take a photo along with a description that adequately gives the reader a good idea of what it is and its condition. Better descriptions lead to more bids and a higher selling price, along with making buyers happy when they get exactly what they bid on.
Now I am going to address the Bad and the Ugly part of this review. On a few occasions, what started out to be a great purchase ended up being a disappointment due to poor shipping practices. There should NEVER be a case where a good job was done describing an item, the bidding was completed for a good price for both seller and buyer and the item arrived trashed. This is usually due to a couple of bad practices which I will describe and totally NOT recommend. The first is selling a cartridge or program in a box that is in good collectible condition, then placing it in soft packaging, like a thin bubble envelope or even worse, brown wrapping paper (particularly common with packages from the UK, for some reason). What often happens is that the other packages crush the box, so the reason you bought the item in the first place (because it has a mint condition box, for instance), gets ruined by the postal service during shipment. Even worse, packages wrapped in brown paper (very fragile) can be easily torn during shipping, meaning that not only does your collectible box get crushed, it may never arrive at all if the fragile brown paper covering comes off during shipping. Some buyers give you the worst of both worlds: they charge you for Priority Mail shipping then ship it in a soft envelope which essentially means that you are paying extra so your items can get trashed. If your buyer gets a ruined product, or doesn't get it at all, do you think that you will get good feedback?
Fortunately, these shipping problems can be totally eliminated by using a few simple strategies. For many sellers, the easiest and best strategy is to use the boxes that the USPS provides for people to ship by Priority Mail. Yes, it is a bit more expensive but every time I have received a complete video game cartridge with its box and manual it has been delivered in excellent shape, without any damage. I am surprised that more sellers don't stress in their descriptions that they use Priority Mail and ship items in the Priority Mail shipping box specifically to ensure that it arrives fast and without damage. For other types of shipping (UPS and Media Mail), no shipping boxes are provided, so you have to use an existing box. Why not make a cardboard sleeve, place the cartridge/box/manual into it, place in the center of the box and place a few crumpled newspapers or packing peanuts around it? This has always worked great for the shipments where this has been used - items arrived in perfect condition. If for some reason you HAVE to use an envelope, use a bubble envelope and flatten out the box (take the cartridge, manual and any inserts out of it first, place in a cardboard sleeve to protect it and then ship it. Not as good as a Priority Mail box, but better than just stuffing a good condition box in an envelope. Before using any kind of soft packaging, make sure that your buyer knows you are going to do this, and that he/she agrees it is OK to prevent disappointments. Shipping can be pretty rough and whatever you can do to make sure it arrives in the same condition as when it was packed will go a long way to getting that good feedback we are all looking for.
For you sellers that are shipping internationally, a couple of suggestions. First, PayPal is the only way to go. Cash, money orders, etc., going through the mail is problematic at best. Even when this go well and no one steals your money, it takes forever to get funds to the seller and really complicates the transaction and the time it takes. International wire transfers? Don't go there - very difficult and expensive at best, money disappears at worst or someone claims they never got it. PayPal protects your financial information, takes care of the wire transfer, money exchange, etc. and it all happens in the blink of an eye, quick, fast and traceable. In my opinion, it is really the only way to go. For you sellers out there, keep in mind that international transactions tend to be expensive and take extra shipping time. It is a really good idea to do some homework and give your buyers as much information as possible about the shipping costs. I remember once getting a book from Australia from a seller who did not post any shipping information. I assumed that I would be offered the normal option of surface shipping, which takes a long time but is a lot less expensive. Unfortunately, the seller only did shipments by air, so I paid $30 to ship a $3 book which I was in no critical need to get in a couple of days. Would I be willing to pay $100 for shipping? Absolutely, for the right item (a rare item for my Vic-20 collection, such as a Japanese Vic-20, also known as the Vic-1001, for instance), but it would need to be something I could get no other way and I would also want the seller to be totally upfront as to the shipping cost. No surprises means that everyone is on the same page and ensures a satisfactory transaction for everyone.
I hope that this review has been helpful to both sellers and buyers out there in helping everyone get collectible videogames to buyers in great condition. By the way, my best videogame purchase on Ebay was placing a $3 bid (with a $125 limit) for a Vic-20 cartridge called Dancing Bear in the original box, still shrinkwrapped. I didn't think that I would win this because the rarity guides for the Vic-20 say that just the cartidge alone is worth about $40.00 and I had lost a lot of bids at that time on rare items to people that had a lot more money. Final price? $3. And it arrived in absolutely perfect condition. The seller got great feedback.