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Vintage Tees 101: eBay

Other guides:

Vintage T-Shirts 102: Avoid buying a fake.

Vintage T-Shirts 103: The Brands Gallery.

Vintage T-Shirts 104: How to Spot a Fake.

ebay shopping guideIf you’re looking for a specific and genuine vintage shirt, you probably aren’t going to luck out at your local thrift store. Take my word for it – I was just there and grabbed all the good stuff. But from time to time the auction format is exciting – you just have to be aware some sellers set out to mislead. So now that you’re serious about finding that authentic New Kids on the Block tee you’ve always wanted (seriously?), I have put together a comprehensive three-part lesson to assist you along the way.

Some search techniques described below are only available to eBay members, so if you’re new to eBay, register here. Don’t worry, it’s free and you don’t have to enter any credit card information.

search bar exam

Use the search bar to find your item and go with the most basic search terms possible, such as “vintage New Kids shirt.” If that initial search brings in too many results, you can narrow your focus by adding words like “NKOTB,” “concert,” or other related words.

Sometimes shirts are described in different ways. For example, an Iron Maiden shirt could be listed as “vintage Iron Maiden jersey” and wouldn’t appear in your search results if you entered “vintage Iron Maiden shirt”. Go ahead – click on each of those links and you’ll see how they fetch different results. Remember that varying your search by leaving out the word “Iron” may also increase your hits. Make sure to mix up your search terms as much as possible and be creative to broaden your search outcome.

feedback rating

choose sellers with good grades

If you find something you like, make sure the seller is reputable. You wouldn’t buy a watch from some dude on a street corner wearing a trench coat, would you? Most eBay vendors don’t specialize in vintage shirts sales; thus they may not grade their items accurately. Some sellers are fly-by-night reproduction operations while some luck out by raiding their granny’s closet and finding out she was a closet death metal fan. These dealers usually won’t provide sizing data or photos of an item’s brand or flaws.

Transactions with a seller like this can be hit and miss, too. Sometimes you’ll receive an item that doesn’t fit, is in poor condition, or is not a real vintage article. Always check out a seller’s eBay rating and comments. If you see a bunch of buyers who have complained about receiving a fake item, one in poor shape or the wrong item, take those comments as a sign of a bad trend.

If the merchant is listed as a “power seller,” it’s an added bonus. This designation means the seller has a more consistent selection of products and maintains a high positive feedback rating. This rating is difficult to achieve if you aren’t honest about the condition of your shirts, especially when it comes to vintage clothing.

do your homework

Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of professional vintage outfitters to choose from on eBay. With these organizations, the guideline is: what you see is what you’ll get. Many have a strict policy of not dealing in reproductions or fakes. Repros and fakes make us genuine vendors angry… Almost as angry as Axl Rose was when some fan threw a water bottle at him during a G ‘N R concert.

Defunkd sellers take the time to accurately photograph and grade their items. They also provide measurements so you can compare them to an article of clothing you already own. It’s not a good idea to “eyeball” your size, since each t-shirt seller has a slightly different method of determining sizes. To make it more confusing, in general, a vintage large is a medium by today’s standards. In other words, always compare chest and length measurements to ensure the item will fit. Most sellers won’t accept returns due to sizing issues. And if they do, you’ll most likely lose out on the shipping fees and wasted time.

No matter where you make your purchase understand that you are purchasing a vintage shirt that has been worn to different degrees. That is, unless the item is listed as “new old stock” (NOS) or “deadstock.” If the shirt is NOS, it has not been washed, so factor in slight fabric shrinkage when measuring. New old stock usually exists as a result of a retailer who stored away the clothing decades ago because it wasn’t selling. However, also be aware that some counterfeiters are claiming their repros are new old stock to justify being in mint shape. In this case be extra cautious in making sure it’s a true vintage brand. When you receive the shirt check that it’s the exact brand pictured in the auction, as some sellers are pulling the ol’ switch-a-roo.

Always look at the seller’s past auctions to find out if they keep listing the same questionable items over and over. This can be done by selecting View Seller’s Other Items in the Meet the Seller area of the seller’s specific auction page. If the seller has a store, click List beside View Seller’s Items. After eBay fetches their current inventory, along the left-hand side, under Preferences/Search Options, check Completed Items.

Also, get to know your favorite seller’s grading terms. View several of their items and take note of how products are listed using different descriptions, such as, “mint,” “excellent,” “good” or “poor.” In the same way sizing can vary, some vendors have their own grading system.

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Jimmy founded Defunkd in 2004 when he started selling vintage t-shirts online. 20 years of experience later and he hasn't looked back since. Actually, he looks back all the time given he's a sucker for nostalgia. For more, check the history of Defunkd and Jimmy's Expertise.

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