24 January 2013

Buying Filofax or Organisers on Ebay

Ebay and other auction sites are obvious places to look if you are looking to buy a new organiser of any brand.

However, if you aren't very experienced at buying on Ebay it is very easy to get caught out, especially with organiser products.

Firstly understand how the auction process works. Refer to the on-line help on the site for this, they do differ depending on which site you are using. On Ebay there is also a 'Buy It Now' button on some items.

Be careful to study the advert in great detail. Look at the description and the photos. Do the photos tie up with the description. Does the internal view look right?

I've seen a few 'Personal' Organisers that were in fact Pocket size, more recently an 'A6 Filofax' Filofax don't make A6 size organisers... again this was a Pocket.

And here is a classic example spotted by one of our keen readers!

A5..... no... look at the rings... that is a pocket. And if it was A5 then the price of £80 is a bit of a stretch for an A5 Finsbury... but for a Pocket?

Why are there so many mistakes when all Filofax organisers have their details stamped in the inside of the cover? Well I suspect in most cases the seller is not an expert in Filofax or any other organisers. Take a look at the other items they are selling or have sold, this often gives you a clue. You are most probably more of an expert because you are reading Philofaxy.

Also be careful with other makers size conventions. Aspinal of London have a 'Compact A5 size' which in fact is Personal size paper in Filofax terms, but they call it 'Compact A5' because the organiser it self is just slightly smaller than A5 paper.

The word 'Vintage' is often attached to many Filofax Organisers on Ebay if they don't appear to be from the current range... now in car terms a Vintage Car is one built between 1919 and 1930. Filofax came out in 1921.... should Vintage Filofax be only applied up to say 1999? You decide, but don't think you are getting something that is old just because the seller has added the word 'Vintage' to the description!.

Then you get oddities, the same company selling on Amazon and Ebay, but different prices! You might recall the A5 punch I discovered on Amazon as an alternative to the KW Trio. Well the same company that is selling on Amazon also sells it on Ebay for a cheaper price. 

'They want how much for that Filofax organiser????!!!!' Yes another issue with inexperienced Ebay sellers is they get some rather grand ideas about prices.

How about an A5 Siena for £450.00.... on Buy It Now. When it was pointed out to them that their price was way far 'North' of the retail price they reduced it to £399.00 I didn't bother to send them another email... clearly they never understood where the decimal point should go!  In the end it disappeared and reappeared at a little more sensible price... still too high in my book, but they will find that out soon enough... when it doesn't sell....it didn't and it has disappeared before the end of the auction.

So how much should you pay? Do your research and see what the current price is from all sources: Filofax website, City Organiser, Philofaxy Ad-spot, and past completed prices on Ebay. Don't forget to allow for the cost of postage and some of the sellers will inflate that amount too....

Once you have decided on how much you should pay for your target organiser,  stick to your maximum price and don't go over the top of that price.

We sometimes see bid prices higher than the retail price... A5 Osterley for £205 plus postage... when the same item can be got for £175 from City Organiser... I know where I would be spending my money... not on Ebay.

Never be afraid to ask for a second opinion on an item you see for sale on Ebay or another auction site.

That is the big advantage of the Philofaxy community on the blog, on Facebook, on Twitter etc. We can all pool our experience and help each other. Share a link and ask for opinions, people will give you honest answers too. Is it what the seller says it is, is the price right etc.

Good luck!

Thanks and acknowledgements to Tracy for spotting several of the items mentioned in this post. 


  1. Hi Steve, I too saw the £205 Osterley and could not believe the biiding frenzy where its still avaliable elsewhere at a cheaper price. Thanks for the tips though, great post as always.

  2. Yes the price shot up to £205 and then sat there for 6-7 days, I was watching it at the end to see if there was going to be a last minute increase in bids, but no activity at all... I think they all came to their senses and realised they had gone over the top with the price on that one.

    Not the last though I'm sure!

  3. Thanks for another great post, Steve.
    I agree that we're probably experts compared with most sellers. My A4 Identity arrived in an Identity box & turned out to be a Strata!

    I've bought & sold quite a few filos on eBay in the past. If I'm in any doubt I will always send a message to the seller & politely ask if they could tell me what it says on the inside cover.

  4. The very nature is that most people sell them because they're unwanted gifts or something, which means they don't know much about them

  5. I think Ebay offers a great way to sell unwanted items - but I agree with all your points Steve. I always investigate the internet to check prices etc first - I think a lot of people must just use ebay as their yardstick as I can't believe what people pay for some items.

    The postage thing infuriates me - what I do now when selling is to include postage and where necessary include my costs in the price I set for the item. It means I can choose which postage I want to use (i.e. low cost items will be posted using a budget option, whereas high cost items I always send with tracking for safety as I've had people they things haven't arrived, when I'm sure they have)!

    You just have to be a bit careful and not get carried away being competitive. Just decide what the item is worth to YOU before you bid. Also don't be afraid to make an offer if there is an option to do so - often a sensible offer is accepted as the seller just wants to sell.

    1. Forget to say - when I buy I always add up the price and p&p because to me that is the actual cost.

    2. I do this too, i shop around, add up the price and the P&P and then decide on a set bid. I only go into a bidding frenzy when i really want the item, which is really rare.

      I also do what Anita does, if in doubt ask them to read the inside cover or ask about how the rings are spaced.

      There was a woman recently who had a pocket filofax with postage of nearly £6 (when second class is £2.20) - so i messaged her to ask that if i should win and postage was lower than her estimate would she refund the difference (minus her P&P costs and listing fee etc) - she was really nice and asked me all about the different postage prices and then changed the listing! There are some nice sellers out there!

      I got very excited about the mentioned Pink Pocket filofax as i wanted the model, i laughed at the price of the 'A5'!

    3. When I choose to watch and possibly bid on an item, I do a lot of research on the model and will ask the seller for more details or pictures. I keep an Excel spreadsheet where is will enter he current bid (updating as necessary) and P&P plus my maximum bid, based on the maximum I'm willing to pay.

      When I bought my Personal Eton, the seller discovered after the fact that P&P was £4 less than the eBay listing said it would be an sent me a refund.

  6. Very informative post Steve - I've had the same 'higher than the retail price' experience too (haven't bought tho!). We sell on Ebay and Amazon and the prices do differ but there is a reason - on Ebay we match the prices on our website as we offer the Ebay link on the website products in case people prefer to pay via PayPal. Slowly we are applying this offer to all products but it takes time! It is still cheaper (would you believe) than offering PayPal on the website which is massively expensive for us as an online retailer. With Amazon we stick to the retail price so as to not undercut our retail customers and, like James Daunt of Waterstones my views about Amazon are well known! Consequently until the sales start we sell very few but we have yo have a presence there.

    On a totally separate note we have a number of 2013 Filofax diary refills in Personal, A5 and A4 - all week to two pages - which we are selling on Amazon at very keen prices (we keep the postage elelemnt high in order to keep the Amazon fees low but they are still the cheapest on there - well today anyway - here is a link in case anyone is looking for a diary refill: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/shops/storefront/index.html?ie=UTF8&marketplaceID=A1F83G8C2ARO7P&sellerID=A8HLA2EWTYKMI

    The reason for this (in case anyone is remotely interested!) is that when we sell Filofax Organisers on our website (as we now do!) we fill them with a free Dodo Pad diary refill - either mid year or calendar year according to choice.

  7. I have bought quite a few Filofaxes on eBay and generally they have been excellent, but you have to be vigilant. One A5 looked suspiciouly like a Personal-size, and when I queried it, the item was removed. I have also spotted ones that are described as Filofaxes, but are not - they are Filofax-type organisers.

  8. There are bargains to be had on ebay, and there are also rip offs. Caveat emptor....

    I always bid the price I am willing to pay for the item. That way if I am outbid, I don’t feel I have 'lost out'. Sometimes mistitled Filofaxes have attracted few or no bids because they don’t come up in searches, enabling a bargain to be had.

    With regards postage - as a recent novice ebay seller (of workbags), I found it difficult to judge the actual cost the Post Office would charge me and often lost out. I noticed one huffy ebay seller point out that postage includes the cost of box, bubble wrap, jiffy bags, brown tape, etc. It wasn’t until I became an ebay seller myself that I realised how expensive packaging can be!

    1. I'm not sure where you're from, but I use Royal Mail's Price Finder
      to work out the postage when I'm creating a listing. We also keep bubble wrap & jiffy bags so rarely need to purchase them.

    2. I have quite mixed feeling about this - if you go into a shop they don't add extra to cover the heat and light - it's sort of built into their pricing model. If you want to sell something it doesn't help to alienate the buyer! I am put off by high p&p rates and will not bid if I think the seller is 'trying it on' with that. If I offer a buy it now price I often include P&P to remove this but make sure I am happy with what I end up with by checking the Royal Mail site (as per Anita's link above)

      I'm not entirely sure if you pay fees on p&p with ebay or paypal and I hadn't thought about the point Lord Dodo mentioned regarding having high p&p fees but a low selling price to avoid fees (as they indicated on Amazon). I can see some benefit from doing that - as I said earlier I tend to factor the two together when deciding how much I want to spend.

    3. PS - I save jiffy bags, boxes, bubble wrap and packaging and re-use wherever possible. Seems sensible to save resources where we can.

    4. Hmmm....I too keep all incoming packaging to reuse, but with several items to pack, my supplies were soon used up. I had no means of shipping without buying new packaging and I hadn't factored that into the postage.

      As I say, I was shipping bulky workbags; it was hard to get an accurate postage quote. I guess it's easier to quote the postage for a regular shaped Filofax.

      I agree, as a buyer I look at the combined price of the item; as a seller I set a fair and low selling price to attract buyers and the PO quoted price for postage.

      To be honest I was not that impressed with my selling experience on ebay. I will be returning to my usual method of taking unused things of value to my local charity shop. Less hassle and helping a good cause!

  9. The other thing is the pictures! The best pictures show a great shot of the rings so you can see if it's old or new and don't forget when I got my emerald finsbury I thought I was bidding on an aqua one. The lighting was so bad, not that I'm sorry about it but I just as easily might not have been! Also even if a seller doesn't list your country in the auction they might be willing to send to you, just ask before bidding. And check feedback - no matter how good the auction looks you can't beat dealing with someone who has great feedback - and I mean nothing less then 99 %.

  10. Thanks for that, Steve. I've looked around on Ebay but it scares me a little. I feel more prepared after reading your article. I might have been a little too trusting but now I know to really pay attention to all the details. Thanks again.

  11. Steve and I have exchanged a could of emails about starting a Filofax specifications database here on Philofaxy which would help any of us that are buying used Filofaxen.

    I'm envisaging that once we get it in place, any of use could look up, for example, Personal Eton, see what colours it came in, know that it had twopen loops, was made of soft lambskin leather, a zip pouch in the inside back cover, 7 credit card slots in the inside front cover, bill pockets front and back, ring protectors and a dome clasp.

    Steve said he'd create a post about this.

    1. That should start:

      "Steve and I have exchanged a couple of emails..."

  12. Great advice. I have made some good purchases on eBay (personal, A5, pocket and mini) but have also seen dodgy specifications and price several times as well!

    Your post was also very timely for me

    I recently decided my current job role would benefit from an A4, (and also just wanted to expand my collection!), so have been trawling for weeks and am amazed at how much they are going for as used items. Even the non-leather ones are still going for around £30 quid...unfilled!
    And that's not including the £7+ postage charges...

    So, as an interim measure, whilst I wait for that elusive bargain, have sourced a 4 ring zip around Collins binder on Amazon for £18 incl postage, (which incidentally was also over priced on eBay), and have bought some Filofax inserts via eBay as well

    I'm actually quite enthused by the prospect of pulling it all together now...


    1. webheadjunky: I think in the case of A4 sized binders, the prices tend to be quite high because there are not that many offered. There are dozens of Personals and A5s on eBay - particularly the UK site - at any time, but not many deskplanners.

  13. Very true Alan. A bit of buyer savvy would help though as well. I am looking at a used Filofax A4 Identity at present. Seller has noted some minor damage. It is unfilled, and is sitting at £36 incl P&P with half an hour to go.(Item 200880750379) Yet elsewhere on eBay, another vendor who I have used before is selling a brand new one, filled, for £43 including postage as a "Buy it Now" offer!! (Item 360569010173)

  14. I have been very lucky so far when buying Filofaxes on eBay so far (touch wood...). I have just got another on the way, which only had one photo and was so totally bizarre that there was no way of checking it against anything. I probably should have asked to see more photos (ie rings and stuff), but it was too cool and I was too busy :-) Oh well, it should be with me on Sunday evening so I guess I´ll find out whether I was lucky again or not then (I´m sure it´ll have rings in it...) :-D

  15. Oh I've done great up until now. My best purchase was a mini finchley which came unused and boxed for £17. I've been using it as my personal organiser and wallet for 3 years now and have never looked back

  16. Oh, but sometimes you really luck out! I bought what was described so eloquently as a "Pink FiloFax". Examination of the photos showed it was a Bloomsbury, which I couldn't really find anything about online. For $4.99 I figured I would chance it! It showed up and is not just a personal as I guessed, but a compact. I would never in a million years guessed that I would be able to downsize to a compact but I LOVE it. Just today I tried out my Malden again and it feels so bulky! Plus I thought that I had gotten one of the good ones in terms of ring issues with my Malden...then I got the Bloomsbury. Those things are tight! I'm not really sure about the time frame in which the Bloomsbury was made but I feel like the quality is way better than the present line.

  17. Hmm. The issue of "overcharging" for p&p on Ebay is a difficult one.

    Theoretically, increasing the postage charge enables the seller to offer a "Buy it now" for a lower overall price, for a given margin, because commission is only charged on the actual item. Traditionally, many items were offered for as little as one penny (or cent) with a ridiculously high p&p charge, and everyone understood that this was the way to substantially reduce selling costs. Ebay have changed things somewhat, over the years, in the "interests of fairness", but the obvious side effect is that sellers pay Ebay much more in commission, which is inevitably passed on to buyers in the grand scheme of things.

    It's easy to add two figures together, or select "list items in order of price (either lower or higher) including p&p", and so long as the total price is within your budget then you should allow yourself a smile, knowing that your seller has managed to successfully evade the "p&p police", potentially resulting in a better deal for the buyer.

    However, my advice to sellers, and particularly to sellers of binders, is that some buyers will inevitably think that packing supplies don't cost anything at all, and if your p&p is more than the price of the stamp then you could be unwittingly risking being (unfairly) marked down, which may affect your "visibility" with those buyers who view listings using (the default) "best match" setting.

    In my opinion, a good policy is to just charge the stamp price, and add all your packing material costs onto the item price, in the same way that elctricity etc is built into the price of apples at the grocery store. Of course, offering "free p&p" appeals to many buyers, and may indeed be searching for such items, rendering any "p&p extra" items completely invisible, so it's worth considering going down the "free p&p" route, and certainly this is my own modus operandi.

    It's all a matter of attracting a sale and then managing the buyer's expectations - although there was clearly no hope for one particular buyer who marked me down for excessive p&p, on a "free postage" item.