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Spring Cleaning Time: Selling Used Camera Equipment

Last month I bought the amazing new Nikon D2x digital SLR. Not only did that result in my having one more camera than I used to, it also meant my wallet was a bit lighter than I would ordinarily have preferred. While an incredible machine, the D2x isn't cheap. Hence, it was time to sell some gear I wasn't using anymore to recoup some of the cost. Spring cleaning time, you might call it.

The longer you've been interested in photography, the more gear you too are apt to accumulate. If, like me, you find that certain items remain forever on a shelf at home rather than in your camera bag when you're out shooting, it may be time to sell them. Doing so may seem a daunting task, if you want to get a good price.

The number one rule for selling used camera equipment (or used anything for that matter) is to fairly and accurately describe it for potential buyers. If there's anything wrong with that lens or camera you're trying to sell, make sure you disclose it or risk having a dissatisfied buyer and a potential ugly situation. There's nothing wrong with selling an item in less than perfect condition, but you owe it to others to make sure they know the actual condition before they hand over their hard-earned money. Developing a reputation for shady dealings something you don't want. Sites like eBay even have feedback mechanisms to make sure your reputation follows you. Make sure it's a good one.

One of the best places to look for interested buyers is among your circle of friends. Photographers often know other photographers, or at least a few folks who might be interested in getting started taking pictures. If anybody is going to trust that you took good care of your equipment and have fairly described and priced it, they should. Be nice to them and someday they may be able to return the favor with their used gear.

Here in Seattle, I belong to the Seattle Mountaineers Photography Committee, an active group of outdoor photographers. If you are a member of a similar group where you live, this might also be a good avenue for advertising your sale items.

Some local camera shops accept used gear on consignment, taking a cut of the proceeds when things sell. Others may actually buy used equipment outright. Be aware that they will have to buy things from you for less than they think they will be able to sell them for in order for it to be worth their while. Since they will likely sell things for market value, you will get somewhat less than that, maybe significantly so. If you take it to a high volume store, the expense may be worth it in order to reach a greater number of potential buyers you wouldn't otherwise be able to, but this probably shouldn't be your first choice for trying to sell things. Consignment lowers the dealer's risk so this sort of arrangement can often work out better for you than selling it to them, so long as it does indeed sell in the end. Here in Seattle, CameraTechs, an excellent repair shop, has an interesting twist on things. They have low consignment fees but will inspect any items accepted on consignment, deducting the price of repairs from the seller's portion if things sell. This means the buyer is guaranteed of getting gear in good working order, and so long as it was in good shape to begin with, the seller loses little on the sale themselves.

These days, one of the largest marketplaces for selling used equipment is online. eBay is a household name. Although I consider eBay to be a bit too wild and woolly to do much there myself, many people actually make a living buying and selling on it. If nothing else, eBay can serve as a gigantic database of market prices. It's fascinating, but you can find almost anything listed on eBay. If what you are trying to sell is or was relatively popular, there are probably multiple listings for it that you can use as a guide for what something might be worth. Be sure to pay more attention to completed listings than current ones since they represent what people have actually paid for things.

Instead, I've found that websites dedicated to photography provide better means of reaching like-minded buyers. A number of photography sites feature online discussion forums. If those forums happen to include one for buying and selling, it may be just the ticket for cutting through the overwhelming volume of eBay postings. I've mentioned them before, but Nikonians has long been one of my favorite online places to hang out. Being very community-minded and dedicated to the Nikon system, I've had excellent success selling things on Nikonians. If you participate in online discussions either on Nikonians or elsewhere, people there may already know you, enabling you to connect person to person more easily than as an unknown on eBay.

An excellent site for buying used equipment is As with local stores that resell gear, they have to pay below market rates in order to be able to make a profit when they in turn sell to someone else what you sell to them. As such, selling to them may be simple, but you will almost certainly do better if you can connect more directly with your buyer elsewhere.

Payment for online sales is a subject sure to make some people uneasy. Selling through a site where you are more likely to be able to trust your buyer can help, another point in favor of websites such as Nikonians. The level of risk you are willing to accept is up to you, but when in doubt, be sure to get payment up front and allow it to clear your bank before shipping. Paypal, an online payment service, has become a household name much as eBay has. Little wonder that eBay bought Paypal some while back. Although Paypal takes a cut on transactions to fund their operation, they provide a valuable service by acting as intermediary between buyer and seller.

By selling online, you will probably need to ship the goods to they buyer when the transaction completes. Be sure to pack things well to avoid damage in transit. Although UPS offers insurance, they are very resistant to paying unless you can prove it was packed adequately. When in doubt, over pack. Better safe than sorry, as the saying goes.

The bottom line is that doing a little spring cleaning can help fund your desire for new gear. And that can be a very good thing.

Date posted: April 17, 2005


Copyright © 2005 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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