What Condition Is Your Item In?

Grading an item’s condition requires assessing that item's appearance, age, history, and/or functionality. This assessment will color the item’s description (which must include any flaws or defects), help you complete the "Sell Your Item" form (a drop-down menu asks for your assessment), and determine how to photograph the item (the photograph should accurately reveal the item's condition). Here are some things to keep in mind when assessing an item’s condition.

Condition affects value. Some sellers may think that Internet anonymity frees them from the consequences of misrepresenting their products, but the rules are the same as for any “bricks and mortar” merchant — it is unethical and illegal to do so. You are legally obligated to represent the item accurately and to disclose defects. The eBay community has its own rules for dealing with disputes over how an item is presented. These are discussed in Rules, Disputes and Feedback.

New or used. Initially, you must indicate whether your item is "new" or "used." An item is new if (1) it is in the original condition from the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer; (2) it has not been refurbished or used for any purpose; and (3) it has no known defects or damages. You can also state that a handmade or custom-made item is new if it has never been used for any purpose.

Mint to poor condition. eBay sellers often grade their items using one of these terms: Mint, Near-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor. Mint indicates perfect or pristine condition, and poor means very damaged or heavily used. There are also variations on these terms, for example, Mint in Mint Package (MIMP) or Mint No Box (MNB).The use of these terms is subjective and experts generally advise that you rate your items critically, suggesting that when in doubt, step down a grade rather than up. If you are looking for guidance, search through eBay’s Reviews and Guides section, where many users post guides for authenticating merchandise and collectibles, or use Google to find the grading standards for your category; for example, two searches we made turned up grading suggestions for vinyl recordings and grading conditions for antique fishing lures.

WARNING! In some item categories, particularly the collectible coin market, some shady grading services artificially pump up an item's value in order to unload similar items. Check eBay category chat rooms for warnings about such businesses. eBay is also in the process of creating a “wiki” – a user-edited, encyclopedic online resource to help users.

Professional appraisals. Buyers and sellers can also use eBay's Authentication and Grading Services. For a fee, an eBay-approved professional evaluator will evaluate an item for authenticity or physical condition. eBay's evaluators  primarily deal with collectibles and gemstones. For other items, you can learn more from WhatsItWorthtoYou.com, or by locating a professional appraiser in your area using the Find an Appraiser service provided by the International Society of Appraisers.

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