Deciphering eBay Camera Listings: A Guide for Newbies

Since last year, when I dove headfirst into photography, I have taken chances buying gear from Goodwill and eBay. Both sites worked well for me because I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on gear,  then decide I had no passion or talent for photography. Well, I’ve found I do have the passion; as to talent—that’s not my call to make. Anyway, now that I’ve gone all-in on the Vintage Minolta Love Project and possibly a Minolta ebook, I’ve spent a lot more time looking for gear to fill gaps in my collection. That means I’ve read hundreds of camera listings since the lockdown started, and I’ve bought more gear.  

Most purchases have been great finds, and those from Goodwill have been very pleasant surprises. Every camera and lens bought from Goodwill has worked perfectly and looked great, too, except for the missing mirror foam in an SR-T 101 (I was buying the lot for the lens, not the camera, and the lens was perfect). 

Fungus in lens that “looks great!”

eBay has been a completely different story. It’s not that I haven’t done well on eBay—I have. It’s just that on eBay, there have been many more instances of the ol’ yokey-doke. The word “mint” obviously means something different on eBay than it does in real life. Likewise, “works fine” has the same connection to truth as does “I only had one drink” and “I didn’t know you were gonna eat that.”

Maxxum 70 viewfinder

After sending back a few cameras that were in “good working condition,” at least one of which would not even turn on, I realized my problem was I just didn’t understand eBay-speak. Having reconsidered my returned items, I offer this dictionary of the true meanings of eBay camera listing terms.  

Used: I don’t know where it came from or anything about it. That’s all I’m willing to say on the record. No Returns. 

Pre-owned: I avoided saying “used” because, well— it sounds like you have to wash your hands after touching it.

Make Offer: I’m interested in offers only if nobody bids. 

As-Is: It’s broken. I know that, but if I say so, you won’t buy it.

Excellent Condition: It was in excellent condition when I last used it 25 years ago. Now, only a few things are broken. Seriously, just a few…

Like new: I shined it up and cleaned it off, so it looks like new to me. 

Mint:  It has no flaws that you can easily find.

Parts Only: I found this in my cousin’s basement, and she didn’t want it. It’s beyond repair, and most parts don’t work, but thought I’d try to sell it anyway.

If you have additional definitions, please send them. 

Happy eBaying!!!

** The featured image is of a Maxxum 70 sold as used. The eBay definition of “Used” requires an item be fully operational. The camera was cracked, flash was broken, and viewfinder full of orange-yellow goo.


  1. Oh yes, the “working condition”. I got two SR-Ts that were listed as such, neither worked properly. The worst is one was from a reputable camera shop! Guess the Quality Control person was off that day…

    1. Quality control—-good one.
      I bought a Minolta ER from someone who swore it worked. Not a single button worked. Shutter was jammed and advance stuck. Focus ring was loose. Nothing worked.

  2. I agree, you are gambling on Ebay. I’ve had the same issues on all sorts of items, and bought some of the best stuff I now own!

    1. Thanks for your comment! I write to sellers before bidding. Even so, lately I’m receiving more things that don’t work after being assured everything worked great. I asked about a working meter in one camera, and was guaranteed it worked. Camera arrived with and a decades-old, leaking 625 mercury battery. Clearly it had not been used in years.

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