December 2000 Feature
Home / Features / Ebay
    Ebay and your Indian
   By Tim Pickering
What can Ebay ( do for your Indian?

Well, on Ebay you can buy an Indian, for one thing.  And parts for Indians.  And Indian lapel pins, and zippo lighters, and brand-new “antique” enamel signs, and … I’ll pause here, because several of you will doubtless be flipping through your Parts List right now, looking in vain for the Springfield part number for “lapel pin”…

I’ve only just latched on to this Ebay thing myself.  I mean, I’ve known about it for a couple of years, but only recently have I actually dipped a toe in its water to test the temperature.

I thought it would be good if there were an article in VI about Ebay, because it seems a useful cyber-tool to keep tucked in an Indian rebuilder’s toolkit, yet many of us may not have dabbled in it yet.  Besides, I figured if someone out there could be persuaded to write a magnum opus on the subject of Ebay, I could myself swot up on the strategies revealed therein, and be in much better shape to get out there and grab me some bargains!

So I sent out the following message to the Virtual Indian e-list.

From: "Tim Pickering" <>
To: <>
Subject: [Virtual Indian] Ebay review for VI - any volunteers?

Click on pictures for full size

From the sublime to the ridiculous.  This Dispatch Tow was offered at opening bid of $25,000, and that’s the way the auction ended, at $25,000 with no bids.  So if that was sublime …

> Listers
> Does anyone want to write an article for VI which explains all the
> in's and out's of buying stuff for your Indian on ebay?
> I've recently got bitten by the ebay bug myself (I'm writing this fast,
> before they come to repossess my computer!).  Sitting here on my
> rock in the South Pacific, I find that suddenly I have unprecedented
> access to the garages and attics of North America!  I am, however,
> a novice at ebay-style auctions.
> Some of you out there seem to keep a sharp eye on ebay
> offerings, judging by the messages that come to this list about
> "have you seen the such-&-such on ebay?".  Some of you must be
> pretty well-versed in it.  Eh, Rick - did you manage to get those
> rods you were bidding on the other day?
> On the assumption that many Indian novices may also be ebay
> novices, I think it would be great if there were an in-depth website
> review written for VI about ebay, that explains its worth as a tool for
> the amateur Indian restorer.  What are the do's and don'ts, pro's
> and cons, traps for the unwary, best bid strategies etc.  And a few
> colourful stories about bargains you got, or ones that got away.
> Any takers?
> Or perhaps there's a site already out there that covers this.
> Anyone have the link?

I must have been far too obvious about my “hidden” agenda, because no one person stepped forward and offered to bend their back to this task.  Rather, lots of short anecdotes started appearing both on-list and in my private emailbox.  Before I knew it, hey presto!  Instant article!

So here it is.  VI listers’ impressions of Ebay, arranged under four headings; Good Experiences, Bad Experiences, Bidding Tactics, and PayPal.

 … then what does that make this?  There were three (3) auctions for 2000 Chiefs at the same time when I checked out E-bay’s “Indian” items.  This one, with starting bid at $18,500 and no bids yet with 3 days to go, had a description that opened with WE NEED TO SELL THESE BIKES and mentioned that they also had a red/cream and blue-grey one to sell as well.  A dealership gone sour, perhaps?

“Gave up on the rods since I traded all my Chief engine parts for the 39 Scout that was in pieces, also on e bay.  BTW, all the Chief parts were bought on ebay as well, so far I have spent very little actual green money and have amassed a large stash of Scout stuff". Rick


“Tim, I thought I would write you off line regarding ebay. I have been building and riding Indians for over 25 years. Lots of the old, spare, wrong, broken etc parts have been accumulating. I have been going to swap meets for at least that long. The jewels sell quick (especially if they are priced low. The boat anchors stay and stay. I started listing stuff on ebay over a year go. The average or bad stuff I describe accurately and price low and let the bidders decide what it is worth (to them). I have sold stuff from $2 to $200. 

Every person, over 200, have been extremely happy. I am happy. I got my extra stuff to someone who needs it or can use it for a fair price for both of us. Plus I don't have to look at the same part at my swap spot, year after year. I had 2 sets of Chief mag idler gears for over 15 years at the swaps, no one even looked at them. I put them on ebay for $20 and a guy in Norway bought one set and a guy in Amsterdam bought one set. They wanted to know why they were so cheap - what was wrong - when they got them they were flabbergasted at the quality and shape. I now have 4 empty crates I used to haul around, if I keep going at this pace, next year I will just be drinking beer at the swap with no parts to peddle... That’s my story as a seller on ebay.

For a buyer - email correspondence through the auction is a must, ask for clarification from the seller (you have 7 days during the auction) ask for more detailed photos - you can get a feel of people right away - I had one unhappy customer - and I knew he was a complaining, bitching type, over a HD $5 part - I could feel it ... but that’s gonna happen.

Look at the seller feedback, check him out with past customers. I feel it is a great function for people who know what they want and people who can't or don't want to go to swaps or advertise. There are some good deals out there. But you will probably hear from many on the list that it is a robbers gallery...” 

My opinion,


This Indian clutch release bearing was being quietly stalked by someone with bidder-name “creepinogie” at $19.99, but this someone was too cheap to slug it out with the 11th hour winner who got it for $26.02.  Doubtless this someone is confident that the same vendor will offer another one in a week’s time
From: "Grabowski" <>
Subject: Re: Re: ebay stories

“I'm sure that there are people that try rip-offs.  E-bay has a feature whereby you can view comments from other buyers/sellers about prior sales.

In the week prior to my visiting in Wisconsin, I made three e-bay purchases and had the items shipped to Madison.  All three got there before I did just as promised.

Over a month before I went to Madison I ordered two items from the WB (Warner
Brothers) online store.  Only one ever arrived and it got there the day before I left.  I have a slight attitude with the store - enough said.

Go figure - My experiences with e-bay were better than with a big store.”



Subject: Re: ebay stories 

My first and only e-bay experience was buying some '58 car parts off e-bay. I called the seller to make sure they were an actual business. They had other parts I wanted that were not on e-bay. Not only did they send me the parts I ordered and the things I had high bid on, they sent me some parts they didn't think they had at the time, for free. Packed everything together to keep down shipping charges and informed me when it was shipped. Every thing was better than I expected. They called me about some other parts, apologizing for not calling sooner! Needless to
say, my experience was great. I will deal with these people often. I know everyone isn't this way. (Saw some of the same parts on e-bay by someone else a week later for twice the price and no bids) Do have some bid stories, too.”

just  a  girl.............on a '47 Chief


From: "Rohan Bradney" <>
Subject: Re: ebay stories

“E-bay stories ??  I'm thinking of writing a (humorous) book on it, and I'd never heard of e-bay 18 months ago. Think that says it all, its worth doing al ittle trading just for the life experience  !!! 

All of the folk I've dealt with have been really good to deal with. And so far I've yet to be burned, although it was close a few times. Some folks are pretty good at inventing stories on why things haven't shipped yet, best one was a NZ pirate who took 3 months to ship, claimed he'd accidently addressed it to the USA. Think it was true !!!       But  I'm still waiting on some Ace parts to come from Ontario Canada, bought privately after didn't meet reserve on e-bay, think I have been dudded.  Post Office says it can take 3 months if the ship does an all-ports stop, I'm still hopefull.  Wonder if the Mounties respond to e-mail call-outs ??

As to the power of e-bay, and the junk it brings out of the woodwork. When I started on this Indian/Ace thingy, everyone said there was no parts lists for it, and no owners manual or service documentation.  A regular search of e-bay soon produced 2 different parts lists and an owners manual, thanks mostly to some eagle-eyed vigilance and bidding by Perry et al in Canada, e-bay searchers extraordinaire, thanks mate. Interestingly, all of them came from non-motorcycle folk,  I'd put this down as a minor miracle, took almost 80 years for them to resurface, some folk had even claimed they were never produced. These are the only known survivors, I have a copy if anyone wants a copy of a copy.

And for the mandatory links, my fav-o-rite is this type of Indian4 on e-bay. These things sell for nearly as much as the real thing  !!!! My nit-pick is the horn is on the wrong side, and the IndianRed looks a little yellowish.

And the other Indian4 link for today is
Wait a minute, I know that seller. Nitpick is that the decal saying Indian4 is missing... (Aaaaaagh !!!!).  Buyer needs to talk to someone that bought a dozen such decals a few weeks back. Anything you could ever want is on e-bay, and then some..

Look forward to the article.
Fours 4ever (ma twin was reluctant to start !!)”

Or if that was too expensive, how about a bearing & seal locknut for Chiefs, Scouts and 741s, which closed at $10.50?

Check out Rick Abbott's modernised version of this nut with a lip seal here


Tim: I once bought a cylinder off ebay. Decribed as perfect, no fins broken, bored to 40 over, good valve guides.  So I bought the damn thing for 200 bucks.  When it arrived, 45 bucks in shipping and duty and tax later I looked in the barrel and found a huge score so bad that boring it 90 over would not fix it, It was obvious time for a resleeve. Also the guides were busted off and cracked. I emailed the guy and he said I was full of shit. So I took a picture and asked him in in fact he ever did see this thing, He admitted to the problem, (what else could he do) and told me to send it back. Well that would now cost me a grand total of 100 bucks and I would not have a cylinder at all. So I asked for some of a refund, he offered 50 bucks and I took it and ran, It now holds the door to my shop open when its windy.”
Rob Olsen


Click on pictures for full size

From: LLandstrom <>
Subject: Re: ebay stories

“I was low bid (only bid) at $1.75 and the guy still has not sent it out. It was a front wheel.

I got burned on a Sock Monkey set of instructions for $2.But after tactfully nagging finally got it 6 months later.

Most people are really nice to deal with.”



From: "Charles Garrett" <>
Subject: Re: Re: ebay stories

“I don’t suppose we like to admit that we've been had.  I bought 2 MC license plates and they turned out to be the little license plates that came with cereal
boxes some years back.  Also there was a fellow in St Louis that had a bunch
of MO MC license plates that were being bid up out of my range then he pulled
them on the pretext that they were of great sentimental value to him.  It turns out that one of the toy etc dealers at Davenport was bragging as to how he had contacted this guy and made a deal to buy them all.  The last second vulturing of bids is also frustrating but part of the game I guess.

PS,  Sock monkeys are neat little fellows.?

“Some years ago there was a horsey news paper in New England called The Evener and somebody was ripped off by an advertiser and informed the paper. The paper in the next issue published the advertisers Name, address and where he could be found.  Effective EH!” Chuck


“My experiences have generally been positive from EBay but I have had some problems that wouldn't have happened if I had done my buying in person or from reputable dealers. Ebay gets all kinds though they do weed out the bad apples - eventually.

I was ripped off on Ebay by a guy who represented himself as a "fire department" selling old police radio equipment. Had 12 positive, glowing recommendations. He had the fire department's web page, the whole 9 yards - worked shifts, cheque to administrator (his wife it turned out) etc. I paid a lot for a radio and nothing showed up. EBay has insurance but you have to move very quickly, no time for snail mail. The insurance also only covered me for a portion of the loss. If I recall correctly they paid $160 and and I lost another $80. Better than taking the whole
loss though.

I also lost when I had 3 parcels over the last year "disappear" in the mail (not insured) and 2 cases of sending cash via registered mail where the registered mail "disappeared". I know - NEVER send cash! 

I have also had 1 shipment damaged, and another virtually destroyed by UPS - then they give you interminable run around to make a claim. Incredibly via contacts Ebay I purchased the fully authenticated silk WW2 AAF mission map used by Paul Tibbetts to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, signed and dated by Tibbetts. It had been in a family for over 50 years. I had it shipped express via UPS with $600 insurance to basically cover the value of the museum quality framing. I got the piece in the promised 3-days they (UPS) really beat it up. They completely destroyed the framing and backing and only by the grace of God the map was not torn or damaged by the many shards of glass. Since June when
this happened UPS has dragged their feet on paying the claim, which is only covering re-framing. The seller is fed up because of what happened to his family heirloom and UPS won't deal with me "the recipient" - even though I owned the item and I paid the shipping. Pick you shipper carefully.

Have fun on Ebay but know the risks.” Bob

[Well, I suppose the seller won’t have been half as “fed up” as the people of Hiroshima!]


From: "Fred  Johansen" <>
Subject: Re: Re: ebay stories

“Actually E-bay is horrible, the worst.  Tell all your friends that too. Now maybe I'll have less competition!!! :-) Hey, not a bad smiley face either.  I'll be a computer nerd yet.”

There seem to be a dozen of these every week.  The ubiquitous “Indian” tin sign, this one with a description claiming “in mint condition with little or no wear”.  Well, how could it possibly be worn, if it was only made last month in Taiwan?  It closed with no bids at $9.99

From: "Grabowski" <>
Subject: Re: Ebay review for VI - any volunteers?

“If you find some thing that you just can't live without - wait until the last few minutes of the auction and do your bidding then.  If you place a bid higher than the high bid the next person has no time to rebid.  Of course there are several people out there that do this.  Good Luck.”


From: "Jim Jones" <>
Subject: Re: Ebay review for VI - any volunteers?

“A problem with eBay is that it is easy to find something that "you just can't live without".  The last minute bid "sniping" tactic does work, but is sometimes defeated by the "giant wallet" tactic. The "giant wallet" practitioner just leaves an amazingly large bid and knows it will hold up.  Some folks pay a bizarre amount for trinkets.  The more expensive items are sometimes a bargain as there are fewer bidders.  My best purchase was a set of original kidney bean saddlebags found when I accidentally transposed letters and did a search for "Indain Motorcycle".  Only 2 other bidders were interested/found the item.  If the item is searched for by it's name rather than found under "Indian Motorcycle" it may be cheaper. Best of luck with your bidding.”

Jim Jones
(640 on bay)

“Indian” pewter & enamel belt buckle, opening at $19.99, which also didn’t sell. Is the market for such trinkets being over-saturated?  Certainly there’s more of this stuff listed on e-bay than actual parts for Indians.

Subject: Re: VI Support - PayPal

“Paypal is the coolest and simplest web tool I have seen in the last year. Note to you guys who sell stuff on ebay: if a seller isn't set up to do Paypal, I won't bid.”

yet another 47 Chief


“Billpoint’s little racket is that they charge a fee for the transaction that PayPal don’t … but they put the funds right in the bank for me … AFTER they hold it for 3 – 4 days and get the float interest out of it.  Course with PayPal you have a running account that they get the float interest on... either you can spend it or have to request it … so a check can be forwarded to ya.  They got ya comin’ and goin’.” Carl



From: Stan Jessup <>
Subject: VI Support 

“Two months ago, I discussed with Moen a plan to generate some VI funds through PayPal referral fees. In a nut shell, all you have to do is join Paypal using the referral link on my site and Moen gets $5 for each new member. You don't even have to use PayPal, just sign up to be able to, then forget it! There is no
obligation involved, and you don't have to buy anything. They also give YOU $5 for signing up as a new member, and you can just have them send it to you....... There are almost 300 VI list members...... DO THE MATH!  If only 100 signed up it could fund the VI for 2-3 months.”


[This last message has been toned down a little by judicious editing, as it was originally written within the context of a rather heated discussion on the VI e-list about a certain publisher’s subscriptions policies …]


Subject: Re: VI Support - PayPal


“I just signed up. That was easy. Let me know if you don't get confirmation on 
the $5.00 for the VI website.”

John Dubel


From: Stan Jessup <>
Subject: Re: VI Support - PayPal

“Thank you John! You are showing as "pending" which simply means that they will credit the account when you are confirmed via mail at your home address, which is the final phase of registration. They are very concerned about security, and take some drastic steps to ensure it. 

Oddly enough, I have sold $1370 in parts in the last 2 months from my site using PayPal, and in almost every case the purchase was from non list members. I think there were 2 exceptions. Obviously, many folks like to send checks, which still dominate as the preferred method.

To answer one of Tim's questions about Ebay, credit card recourse can be used if the seller doesn't ship an item (with PayPal), if they are "verified" sellers. Most credit card transactions have protection built in.” 

Thanks again John! 


Just when you thought it might be safe to bid on Indian junk-artifacts, fourteen crazy people go and push this pair of “Indian Oil-Can” salt&pepper shakers from $9.99 to $50!  Described as VERY COOL, they were made by a SoCal artist for The Thunder Roadhouse Café in Hollywood, but not used because “they thought people might steal them”.  Sheesh!!!
Well, a good sprinkling of responses, covering most of my own queries about Ebay.

Now let me tell you how I myself been getting on …

In fact, I’ve now learned some salutory lessons about Ebay, and unfortunately learned them the hard way.  The problem is not with Ebay, but with myself.  I’m simply not a seasoned campaigner at any form of auction, and have still got to learn the knack of keeping my hands firmly thrust into my trouser pockets when the situation demands it.  I’ll tell you a story so you can see what I mean …

My first look at Ebay was for the purpose of picking up a Harley 84-96 single-disc brake caliper.  Back in 1995 I had bought a Harley FXE front end for the express purpose of using it on the FrankenChief, however owing to a lapse of concentration on my part when doing the haggling it came with the disc rotor but no caliper.  H-D brake calipers are rather thin on the ground here in the sunny Fiji Islands, so I had a choice of either waving my credit card at a Stateside parts retailer, or getting one on Ebay.

I did a bit of homework first, calling up VI’s premier dealer Cotten at Liberty Motorcycle Specialties who informed me that, according to his catalogues, retail price would be around $218 or so.  Then I did a search of the Ebay American Bike Parts pages and found two of the calipers I wanted, one chromed and one black.  I preferred the unchromed one (opening bid $79) and, figuring that a fair price for a secondhand as-new item is about 2/3 of its retail price, went for the “big wallet” approach and left a maximum bid of $150.

There was a furious bidding war for both calipers, and my one got pushed to $151 by a guy called schoonie69.  Was I going to sit back and let myself be out-bid by this upstart, for the sake of a mere $1.00?  Was I heck is like!!!  I leapt in with a last-minute sniper attack, and the caliper was mine for $152.

The other chromed one also went for $152.  Interestingly, the auction post-mortem revealed that schoonie69 had bid on that one too, but had dropped out at only $121.  Anyway, The Market had spoken.  It seems that secondhand as-new H-D brake calipers were worth $152.

The vendor appeared well pleased, because when we consummated the deal he offered, without any prompting from me, to throw in two extra sets of brake pads which were worth $30 per set when brand-new.  So I was reasonably happy, thinking I’d got my caliper for $70 less than retail, and scoring another $60 worth of pads for free!

Well, that was three weeks ago, and said brake caliper has since tumbled into my mailbox, looking exactly as the vendor described it and complete with the extra brake pads as promised. 

Then last week, again cruising the American Parts pages but this time looking for a brake line, I come across the same vendor again, offering the same part in an identically-worded advertisement, using the same picture, and with the same opening bid of $79. 

And there it sat.  And sat.  And sat.  The auction finally closed, having attracted zero (0) bids, at $79.


I thought, now this is more like it!  A 741 motor for $455, a nice basis for an entry-level Indian project, perhaps?  That’s before I realised it came with no transmission, cams, oil pump or distributor.
I’ve also been nibbling at some Triumph parts, because, well, in the USA secondhand Triumph parts are just so damned cheap!  I have two Tiger Cubs, not because I wanted them particularly, but because they were given to me for free.  Having now got them, I can see that they are in fact quite cute in their own way, and when it comes to both appearance and performance they make an Indian Arrow look like a sick joke.  If Max Bubeck had ridden one, he may well have won far more Greenhorn enduros than he did!  So I may well do something with these Cubs one day, and to this end I’ve already acquired from Ebay the hot “R” camshaft for Cubs, at $24.95, and I was the only bidder.

But the same trend has emerged as with H-D brake calipers.  Someone offered a set of NOS rubber fork gaiters for a Cub.  A snip at $9.99 and I was the only bidder.  As soon as those ones sold, the vendor offered another set, same ad, picture, and everything.  And so it went with 12”-over Triumph fork tubes.  Please don’t ask what I want those for.  Ummm … alright (thinking quickly), I want them as knife-edges for an Indian crank-balancing stand, okay?  The first set sold for $51.50, but now another set has been offered by the same vendor.  Privately by email they told me that I could cut right to the chase if I wanted, and buy a set directly from them for $45.  I’ll sit tight for the moment, however, because right now I am still the winning bidder in their second auction at $31.50, and there’s no reserve.

So there are bargains to be had, but one can still be easily had.  If I’d jumped in and pursued the first set of Triumph fork tubes I saw like there was no tomorrow, I’d have had to pay more than $51 for them.  But I’d already decided that I can either take Triumph 12”-over fork tubes, or I can leave them alone.  By sitting back and waiting, I may get them for only $31.

How does one know whether to jump in, or sit back? 

This is the knack that I still have to acquire.  And I guess it depends on what it is you’re bidding on.  This is where our success with Ebay really has nothing to do with Ebay itself.  The answer rests within ourselves.  It depends upon how badly we want a particular item, and how good we are at playing poker.

Personally I have always been a lousy poker player, and this is something I have to keep firmly in mind.  The main lesson here is that we have to decide whether an item is a rare and highly desirable item, or one that is likely to come up time and time again.

So here’s my advice to you (and to myself).

If the item you’re bidding on is a set of Crocker cylinder heads and barrels that you absolutely must have because you already have the crankcases for them, then use the “big wallet” approach and stand by to repel sniper attacks.

If the item you’re bidding on is a common-or-garden H-D brake caliper, then fix an amount firmly in your head that you are willing to pay, leave this as your maximum bid, and don’t be goaded into going beyond it.  Because there will always be a next time.

Go bid.

Maybe this could represent a genuine Indian-on-Ebay bargain?  Get this 1914 lump for a grand (current high bid is $999.95) then fit it into a $50 pedal-bicycle of your choice, for a low-cost way into the thrills of pioneer motorcycling!
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