Buying Online: Some Tips

Buying gaming items online can be confusing and annoying. Sometimes you buy a figure or card for what seems like a good price, only to find out that you overpaid; sometimes you pay a good bit for an item that's supposed to be "rare" or "hard to find," and then later discover that you have an all-but-worthless item on your hands.

To avoid these mishaps, here's what I recommend:

Step 1: Know the item's relative rarity and "going price" BEFORE you even shop.

Looking up the figure or card online will show you some current prices that people are offering the item for. However, if you don't check other sources for alternate prices, you might accidentally pay far too much for it. Here are some of the best price checking/rarity services I've been able to find:

Cardshark (M:TG)
HCRealms Units Page (HeroClix) Trading Forums (SWMinis)
eBay (M:TG, HeroClix, SWMinis)

Step 2: Comparison shop, comparison shop.

Once you know what the general "going price" is, check out lots of different online stores to see what deals you can find. It helps if you have pen and paper (or a blank document open) as you search through the different sites, so that you can note which sites are selling the item you want, what condition it's in, and for what price. This will help you narrow down who to buy from when you're finished searching.

Check out my lists of reputable online stores for M:TG, HeroClix, and SWMinis:
MTG Online Stores
HeroClix Online Stores
Star Wars Minis Online Stores

Step 3: Check to make sure the item's condition is what you want.

Don't just buy a Heavy Play M:TG card because it's the cheapest listed--be sure that you will be okay with the condition the item is listed to be in. (Also, when you do buy from a seller, print out or screenshot the advertised condition of the item, just in case the seller you bought a "near mint" item from decides to ship you something that looks like a dog chewed on it.)

Also, if you're buying a newer HeroClix or SWMinis figure, make sure that the character card comes with it. Only older HeroClix figures with red, blue, or yellow rings around the base have no cards.

Step 4: Check payment and shipping options BEFORE you buy, if possible.

Many online transactions are now done by Paypal, but check the seller's info first to make sure you can pay the way they want you to. Some sellers may require money orders or checks instead of paying online.

In terms of shipping, make sure that the shipping methods can reach you. For instance, UPS will not ship to a Post Office Box (found this out by unfortunate experience). Also, remember that shipping costs money, too, so budget that in as part of the price of the figure.

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