Selling Expensive Gear Online? Resale Outlets May Be Your Friend
Here’s an in-depth look at why resale outlets could be your next best friend—easy quotes, easy shipping, stress-free results.
While gear acquisition syndrome—G.A.S. for short—is recognized in the digital age, the other side (getting rid of your gear) is often disregarded.
It’s easy enough to buy something, right? It takes just a single click if shopping from somewhere like Amazon. Selling said gear, however, can sometimes be a tedious task.
The need to take photos of your lens, document any issues, find the shipping weight, then upload everything correctly to eBay can undoubtedly take more than thirty minutes.
However, increasingly over the last several years, we’ve seen camera outlets offer a buyback/trade service, and since 2019, I’ve exclusively gone that route.
Let’s find out why.
I first have to point out that I’m from the U.K., and I live in a small coastal Welsh town. Therefore, the idea of uploading a $4,000 cinema lens to sell to the Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist isn’t an option.
Therefore, I’d usually sell my gear through eBay, and the equipment is often swooped up by someone in a heavy production city like London. However, this—especially with expensive lenses and cameras—always results in at least one week of anxiety-induced account checking, as I’m constantly checking the tracking and seeing if positive feedback has been given.
See, while I’ve been selling on eBay for years (I recently just crossed the 2,000 feedback mark, I’ll have you know), and have had little-to-no negative experiences when it comes to selling, the amount of articles I see about a photographer being scammed makes me feel uneasy about the process.
It’s often said that both eBay and PayPal lean more towards protecting buyers than sellers. And, as someone who’s had books arrive damaged, or collectible statues arrive in pieces, I can say as a buyer, they certainly have your back.
However, when browsing Facebook, I’ll often see an article from PetaPixel or F-Stoppers about how a photographer/filmmaker has had their gear essentially stolen, as the buyer had gone through several loopholes of claiming that the gear was either broken or wasn’t as described. And, upon receiving the item back, the seller has an item they have never seen before. Or, at least, a scam of this variation.
Now, if this is a $100 item, the process of losing it is going to suck, but it’s not going to be the end of the world.
A $2000 lens, however, is a different story. And usually, when I sell a lens, it’s because I’m upgrading to another. Therefore, I’d be out of pocket from both the loss of the lens and the acquisition of the upgrade.
Which terrifies me.
Now, here’s the somewhat ironic touch to this article. I’ve never actually had a bad experience selling a camera or lens, or anything expensive on eBay.
The most expensive camera I’ve sold on eBay was the URSA Mini 4.6k EF for $3,050, and the most expensive lens (sold as a bundle set) was a Sony 24-70mm F2.8 G Master plus the Sony 16-35 F2.8 G Master for $3,775.
Not the extremely pricey amount they cost new, but still, a significant amount of money to see go astray if something were to go wrong. However, both recipients were happy with their purchases. And, that goes for every other camera sold, too—from my GH5 kit to the old school 5D Mk II.
Interestingly, I’ve also sold several high-value goods to new eBay users or users with zero feedback. All of which made me feel queasy upon giving the parcel to the post office assistant, but no negative experiences . . . so far.
So, why the hesitancy? I guess it comes down to the what if? What if I sell this $3,500 camera and run into an issue, and the buyer has their loopholes planned out. What if the courier loses the parcel, which requires me to run through several stages of claims. Additionally, what if someone decides after a few days they have buyer’s remorse and don’t want the lens. I don’t operate with a return policy, but they can damage the item and then claim it arrived as such—again, leaving me out of pocket.
This is why, for the past few years, I’ve now been selling my gear back to camera outlets, like trading in your games at Gamestop, but with actual value to what you’re selling.
As I’m in the U.K., I’ll be referencing the company I sell to—MPB.com—but I can also see for our U.S. readers that B&H and Adorama offer similar services. And, for what it’s worth, MPB also operates within the U.S. despite being a British company.
With MPB, I input the item I want to sell, list its condition, and instantly receive my quote. After that, I choose what day I want the lens to be picked up, and the moment I hand the item over to the courier, it’s MPBs liability if something goes wrong in transit, not mine. So, what’s the catch when selling to an outlet like this?
Well, as we’re selling to a company whose goal is to make money off what we’re selling, opposed to a private buyer who intends on using the lens for personal use, there’s a slight undercut in the market value. However, most of the time, that isn’t too drastic. Most of the time being the key phrase.
For example, if we look at eBay, we can see the Canon 70-200mm F2.8 Mk III has recently sold for an average price of $1,500, and MPB is offering to buy it for $1,300.
It’s undoubtedly on the lesser side of the median selling price, but it’s not too low.
We also have to factor in the 10% selling fee from eBay. Although, if lucky, eBay does offer low selling fee promotions throughout the month. Sometimes, I can snag a $1.50 selling fee offer. So, a $400 fee on a $4,000 sale becomes nothing more than a dollar. However, these are few and far between, so let’s also subtract 10% from the median selling price, putting it at $1,350. Still, we’re above what MPB is offering us.
Yet, it’s that peace of mind that I pay for. I would prefer to sell a lens, losing $200-250 of the market price, knowing that it’s going to a reputable company where I’ll be reimbursed with no issue. And, most of the time, the money is transferred on the day they receive the lens.
Now, I tend to keep my gear in immaculate condition, and with that, the quality I’ve listed the gear as is usually respected by the inspector. However, I have had two or three instances where they devalued the equipment by a grade, and I could either accept the lower offer or have the gear returned.
Likewise, sometimes I’ll input something for a quote, and the value is entirely off the mark. I recently purchased a Pentax 645 75mm f/2.8 for $670, and after a month, I just knew this lens was not for me. Far too soft at 2.8.
So, I opted to sell it, yet MPB was only offering $200 for a month-old lens, and it sells for $350-400 on eBay. Although, as noted earlier in the article, this is the type of lens I’d sell on the aftermarket websites because its value is low.
In conclusion, if you have an expensive camera or lens to sell, and feel slightly wary about placing it for sale across the third-party marketplaces online, I highly recommend selling it to a camera outlet. I don’t know if I’m too much of a pessimist, but I’d much rather lose $200-300 market value than the total hit and have one of these articles written about my story.
You’re not losing money—you’re gaining peace of mind.
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