How I Sold A Piece Of Paper As A GPU For $1150

How I Sold A Piece Of Paper As A GPU For $1150
Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku Australia)

Earlier this year I sold a piece of paper as a GPU on eBay, and the bids went all the way up to $1150 for what must be the most valuable piece of A4 I’ve ever touched. How did we get here? I’ll take you through the process.

It started with an innocent enough proposition. Around January this year, I felt that my trusty PC could do with an upgrade. My CPU is excellent, but a GTX 1050 Ti just doesn’t get close to cutting it for any AAA release these days. I turned to the obvious places, hoping to snag myself something that would do the equivalent of adding racing stripes to my rig. But instead, what I found was a world filled with nothing but ‘sold out’ signs, and ‘pre-order’ signs.

If I’d paid any attention at all to the tech world I would’ve known what I was in for. But I didn’t, I was naught but a pleb, with a second-hand PC that needed stepping up.

I scoured all of the sources I could find, trying my best to fight against the GPU shortage and find a card that would work in my rig at a price that didn’t make me want to shoot myself in the nuts. It quickly became apparent that I was never going to be able to find anything in a traditional store.

After a solid while of checking back on these sites, it became apparent that I’d have to turn to second-hand, or resellers. I was hesitant, because I’d seen what had happened with PS5’s and Xbox Series X’s at the end of last year, but I’d told myself there’s no way this could be that bad.

I was very, very wrong.

GPU’S on eBay

gpus
A shot of an RTX 3070 listing taken at the time of writing, where the card is marked as the “#1 best selling product” on eBay in the computer graphics & video cards market. The RTX 3070’s original Australian MSRP is $809, but this listing is retailing for $1999, more than double the price. Image: Kotaku Australia

If you pop onto eBay and look up RTX you’ll find every card possible, at absolutely insane prices. This isn’t news at all. But it is incredibly frustrating. The case in point for this has to be the RTX 3060 Ti. A card with a MRP of about $US500 regularly sells on the marketplace for more than $1500.

There’s also a push from people to raise the general price of the cards, as you can see with some absolutely insane listings.

Having a look at the cards on offer, there was a couple of things I was noticing again and again, namely that resellers would bid on other cards. A group of about five accounts popped up at the start of every new listed item and would pretty much instantly double the prices of the listings. At speeds that felt beyond the capabilities of any rational human. I suspected bots.

Looking at ways to confirm my suspicions I put up a listing for a Nvidia 3060 Ti *PAPER EDITION*. I filled it out with the specs of a normal GPU, and put the following as its description:

Image: Supplied

“This ad is an attempt to combat bots, don’t bid if you want the actual card, listing is for an image only, delivered via email as well as A4 print of image sent to physical address,” I wrote.

Feeling this would be enough to ward off any human from bidding, I felt comfortable letting the listing go live. Instantly I was inundated with messages about the listing, some authentic people just asking if I could sell now, and some asking, very earnestly.

Image: Supplied

An excellent question, the answer to which we soon found out was that it’s not illegal, but it is frowned upon.

I was also asked, “Do you even have a 3060 Ti to sell?” which seemed a bit redundant; I’d tried to make it as transparent as possible how this was a fake listing.

Responding honestly to people I hoped would avoid getting any real bids caught in my bot net.

Still, without any doubt, the listing was reported. This didn’t stop a number of bids going on the non-existent 3060ti. A full list of bids can be seen below. This is where I knew I’d found something of real interest where the same names were bidding against themselves. Multiple times in a row.

The fishy smell had turned sour, and was overwhelming me.

gpu
A shot of the bids on the “graphics card” — you can see instances where the same seller has bid multiple times. IDs have been blanked out for legal reasons. Image: Supplied

An important distinction to make: when you put a bid in for an item, you can set a max top bid, and any competitive bids would automatically be overcome by your top price. I thought perhaps this was what had caused these multiple bids to occur. However, digging around it is instantly apparent this is not the case. eBay states “automatic bids will not be included in this list”. So, as far as eBay was letting me know, every one of these bids was a bonafide customer, eager to take my wares.

Image: Supplied

Now, after a tense week, where I honestly felt like I’d be carted away for fraud at any minute, my Paper Edition 3060 Ti sold — for a ridiculous $1150.

This is the exact result intended by the accounts that faked my bids all the way up to 2.1 times the card’s genuine value. All for a piece of paper openly acknowledging it wasn’t the real deal.

The eventual top bidder was a reseller account that never paid, and never responded to my messages about why they bid on the item. A day later, the same account took down a listing for a 3060 Ti with a ‘buy it now’ price set at $1500, marginally higher than what they’d bid in the fake auction I’d run.

I felt vindicated by my experiment, but deeply saddened by the experience. The rotten smell had now become a truly bad taste.

eBay’s Response

I reached out to eBay to ask what they thought about my experiment, and the company redirected me instantly to their policies.

“All listings on eBay.com.au have to offer a physical item or a tangible service. Listings that are blank, or don’t offer a tangible item or service, aren’t allowed because they can cause confusion for buyers and increase the risk of fraud,” eBay said when contacted.

Having a photo of a product broke these rules, and I was told that listings would be removed, and users punished for putting them up. What the punishments entailed exactly, I couldn’t find out. But I never encountered any punishment for my supposedly fraudulent listing.

The main piece of info I received about this whole process was that eBay’s Money Back Guarantee would always ensure that if a wildly different product arrived to the item listing, a buyer could return the item for a full refund. But what happens if that description perfectly matches the item sold? That’s something eBay didn’t cover in our limited interactions.

Another thing that eBay didn’t touch on was the multiple bids, sometimes against themselves, that drove the product price up. All I was told, again, was that ‘automatic bids’ aren’t counted in a bid list. This doesn’t stop the fact that even now you can see the same thing happen on almost every listing for GPUs.

An absolute horde of bids from the same few accounts, which, when you look into them, almost exclusively bid on GPUs or computer components and have next to no rating. They’ll also never win the items they bid for. It’s a deeply frustrating occurrence, but the kind that anyone searching for electronic parts is well accustomed to.

Looking at buying a GPU?

With that experience wrapped, what can you actually do if you want a GPU? The sorry answer, I’m afraid to say, is that short of selling both kidneys for a mid-range graphics card, there isn’t a whole lot to circumvent the shortage.

Nvidia has openly acknowledged that the shortage is only going to continue, superconductors aren’t being made any quicker, and prices for GPUs are only getting higher and higher.

At a time when Nvidia have just announced they made an absolute killing with sales of their crypto-specific cards, this is an absolute punch in the guts to gamers worldwide. A possible solution might exist with AMD cards, which are vastly more competitive these days, and AMD’s FSR might be a DLSS killer for getting your games to look excellent and run well.

If you’re absolutely set on a 30-series RTX GPU, Falcodrin is a Twitch account that runs constant checks for genuine sales and will let you know if they’re vastly overpriced or not. They’ve also managed to do excellent work in sniffing out when the cards will go on sale allowing you to hop in a queue for a hopeful purchase.

But, again, bots will scrape these websites clean of any drops in minutes, so it’s a crapshoot.

If you want an immediate fix, the 3080 Ti and 3070 Ti coming out for sale soon will be your absolute best bet for a reasonable price-to-output ratio if you can find whatever golden shop will sell a 3070 Ti at its $959 MSRP instead of joining the global price hike.

Whatever your solution, short of tearing your hair out, burning your pc, and committing to gaming exclusively on a GameBoy Advance, or playing chess, we wish you the absolute best of luck.


Rian Howlett is a Hong Kong-born Australian writer, comedian and actor whose work has appeared at Man on Many and Happy. You can follow him via Instagram, on Twitch, or add him on Facebook if you’re over 40 and want to 1v1 him in a comments section.

Comments

  • After obtaining a 3080 earlier this year, I sold my 1080ti on ebay. I put it up for auction, and I was blown away that the winning bid hit a whopping $993.95!
    If you do happen to upgrade, and have a similar spec card to get rid of, I can highly recommend chucking it up there, cos you won’t be disappointed!

  • I sold my RTX 2080 FE for $1200 this year. I friggen paid $1200 for it in 2018. The world is insane

  • On what basis do you believe the bids were fake? Isn’t it entirely possible that the winning bidder would have paid you if your listing hadn’t been fake? I’d be inclined to go directly to eBay once I realised I’d been scammed. And if the item category and title don’t reflect what’s being sold, I’d consider it a scam no matter what you put in the fine print.

    As for the multiple bids thing, I’ve seen that happen many times in auctions. It usually indicates that either (a) the buyer doesn’t understand the Dutch auction system, or (b) they’re trying to probe what the maximum bid of the other buyer is. In this case it is most likely (b). If you’re bidding on many auctions for the same type of item, it’s not at all clear that making your maximum bid in one of the auctions is going to get you the best price.

    It sucks that the semiconductor shortage and crypto arseholes have pushed prices up, but it’s not clear anyone else here was working in bad faith.

      • For saying that someone selling a piece of paper in the “Graphics/Video Cards” section of eBay is a scammer?

    • It’s been well documented that shill bidding is a problem for eBay. Your defence of it makes me think you must be reseller. Shame.

      • Which bids in the story do you believe are shill bids? From the information provided, none of the bidders were collaborating with the seller (or with each other), and all thought they were bidding on a graphics card.

  • I find it suprising how misinformed and uneducated people are regarding ebays bidding process.

    let me clarify for you.

    ALL BIDS ARE REAL.

    Now you are probably asking why multiple people are bidding against themselves jacking up the price?

    short answer they are not.

    Hypothetically lets say i place a bid on an item that is currently at 500.

    if i bid 800, the price DOES NOT JACK UP TO 800. Instead it bids at 505.

    If you come in and bid 550, it only attempts to insert incremental bids until it hits your max of 550, then the new highest bid will automatically be MINE at 555 because my previously set max bid is at 800.

    basically these people are not bidding against themselves. they are just being outbid by someone who had a higher max bid. Because their bid still raises the price, it registers.

    in your image above, people are bidding in increments of $20

    • Wouldnt those in between bids until your top bid be the “auto bid” bids? Which technically shouldnt show up on that list since auto bid is off.. it will only show manual bid increments.

      That being said I’m not going to automatically assume those bids are meant to artificially inflate the prices since were missing one important context. The time of bids, if we actually had the time stamps for each bid then you would actually be able to see if the bids were a response to a higher bid since the higher bid on top would be closer to previous bids whereas if the final bids were incrementally being increased on different days that means the bidder has been artificially inflating the price by incrementally increasing top bids when no one is bidding.

      • None of the auto-bids are shown in that list. What makes things confusing is that the bids are shown in the order they became the top bid, rather than the order they were placed. The time column has been cut off from the screenshot, which makes it more difficult to see what’s going on.

        I think this is the chronological order of bids (using the star counts to identify bidders):

        1. #3 bids $606
        2. #55 bids $650
        3. #3 bids $636 (automatically outbid)
        4. #3 bids $656
        5. #956 bids $777.77
        6. #816 bids $676 (automatically outbid)
        7. #816 bids $696 (automatically outbid)
        8. #816 bids $716 (automatically outbid)
        9. #816 bids $736 (automatically outbid)
        10. #816 bids $756 (automatically outbid)
        11. #816 bids $776 (automatically outbid)
        12. the winning bidder bids at least $1,125
        13. #127 bids $900 (automatically outbid)
        14. #127 bids $960 (automatically outbid)
        15. #127 bids $990 (automatically outbid)
        16. #188 bids $1,025 (automatically outbid)
        17. #188 bids $1,100 (automatically outbid)

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!