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So you want to buy a vintage Zodiac on eBay?

Started by Butch, April 10, 2011, 08:47:06 AM


Hello All!

I have been thinking about writing this for a while now and wanted to start this with a sticky so other new members see it. Please keep this discussion to any deals you came across, real or imagined, and let's not slam eBay or any individual sellers.

Can you buy a deal on eBay? Yes! Does it happen a lot? No!! Should you be ready to pay a lot of money for that deal? Maybe?

In the world of Zodiac collecting it is hard to get parts. The company that made the watches we want went out of business 30 years ago. And then changed hands 3 or 4 times since then to boot. Parts for Astrographics, Sea Wolfs, etc. have not been made for the last 30 years. It is also hard to find a watchmaker with parts. Even harder to find a watchmaker that can properly adjust a 30-50 year old offset canon pinion (OCP) in a Zodiac. Harder still finding one that has any new OCPs if they cannot adjust the one in your watch. Every Zodiac movement since the early 1960's has an OCP.

Cosmetic parts? ForgetAboutIt! There are no bezels, crowns, or any of the glass crystals with the decals on the bottom of them. See the Astrographic or the Super Sea Wolf for examples. New dials or hands? A tough find any time, especially for YOUR watch. Bands? There is another topic elsewhere here for that need. Also be aware that none of my many watchmakers over the years have ever been able to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. (Why do I need a purse?)

OK, I think you get the idea, right? So now, you think you got a steal buying that Sea Wolf for only $125.00 on eBay. Cool! Now you go to get it fixed and can't. Or at least you cannot get it restored to its original condition due to the above parts reasons. Then your watchmaker tells you he can't fix the movement because over the last 40 years there have been so many OTHER fat fingered watchmakers in it that it is no longer serviceable. Now he, or even you, have to go buy another watch, and pray that movement is serviceable so that he can put it in your watch.

Let's talk about the sellers on eBay now. Are they a bunch of crooks out to separate you from your money while giving you junk? Not at all. Some of us here are sellers (as well as buyers) on eBay. Do most of them have no idea about what they are selling? I have to say yes here. Most of them just buy in yard sales, estate tag sales, and maybe going out of business lot buying. So while they know "old stuff" they probably do not know Zodiacs. Other than that when they go to list something on eBay they are provided an opportunity to see what their item "is worth". How? Well, eBay provides them with a search of past auctions where others paid too much for them, and Holy Smokes! This Sea Wolf (GMT, Astrographic, Moon Phase, etc.) is worth over $500 so they are going to list theirs at $600 because it is so much better!

Add to that the high eBay fees the sellers have to pay, along with their costs of running around buying this stuff, and you will see why there are not a lot of auctions today that start at a $1 and finish under $125 for a Zodiac. And if you did find one, GREAT! Return to paragraph 3 at this juncture. Now that eBay is even including the seller's shipping costs in its fee valuation, it is going to be interesting to see how eBay can generate even more revenue in the future. Can eBay "tax" anything else on the sellers? Maybe a membership fee to sell there? Or one for the buyers to buy there? Or BOTH!?!?

So, what do we have? eBay with its high fees, is encouraging its uniformed sellers, who do have expenses, to provide auctions with high starting prices, to sell Zodiacs that you may or may not be able to get restored, due to some watchmakers being unable to do the work on them and quite probably not being able to get the parts needed for your restoration.

You're screwed, right? Nah. But you have to exercise caution, patience, and restraint. You have to check the seller's reputation (his feedback). Also look at his prior auctions. Does he sell watches, or mostly old yard sale junk with the occasional watch? Do YOUR research. Know what a particular Zodiac is worth. Contact the seller before the auction ends to verify condition and how it runs (and I mean 3 days not 3 hours before). Be prepared to jump on something when it is offered at a reasonable Buy It Now price ($300-500), BUT... Only if you know what it is, and what it is worth. And only if the description is complete and the photos are satisfying.

At this juncture I will let you all join in and see where this thread goes from here.
Collecting Zodiacs is not for the meek; be an educated collector.
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