Selling Boxes

silver iphone 6 on white table

Have you seen those news stories where somebody has bought the latest Xbox from eBay for an incredible bargain price and it turned out just to be the box?

I always wondered why anyone would sell a box for legitimate reasons until such a time that I wanted to – I bought my wife a used iPhone earlier in the year and I wanted to put it in a genuine box to, well, present it better. And I turned to eBay and found such a box.

And that got me thinking. I had a cupboard full of Apple product boxes – I could make some money from selling these. I’d love to say it’s going well, but it’s not.

Just to try things out I decided to sell 2 items, both a different proposition…

  1. A recent iPhone box, with all contents, including a charging cable, except for the phone. Most people don’t include cables, and as this costs £19 new from Apple, this pushed up the price I put it on for. Instead of an auction starting at £10, I put it on at £30.
  2. A box for the recent release of the Apple TV 4K. Just the box, nothing else. Didn’t expect this to sell.

Let’s see how they went and what it taught me…


Nothing happened for days. No bids and no watchers. I realised that the starting price was too high so I dropped it to £20. It sold. At £20, with just a single bid.

Not great but I didn’t need the extra cable so I’m now £20 better off. I can’t complain too much, right? Expect the buyer didn’t pay and I ended up having to re-list it. Sigh.

Apple TV

Oh dear God. Where to start.

In both cases here I made it clear I was selling an empty box – in both the subject and description. Although I’d taking a proper box photo, for some reason (maybe I’d forgotten to attach it), eBay used a default photo for the product showing the Apple TV. I started getting bids, which was unexpected and, after a few days I realised about the picture and updated the picture to my own – one of the closed box and one of it open, showing it empty.

And the bids kept coming. The night before it was due to finish it rocketed to £82. For a box. I knew this was ridiculous and people were obviously thinking this had an Apple TV in it, so a couple of hours before the auction ended, I contacted all of the top bidders to be clear what they were bidding for and they should retract their bid if it wasn’t what they wanted. 2 bidders did this but a third didn’t. It sold for £78. I’m guessing they didn’t get the message in time.

I wasn’t sure about this. I’ve been clear throughout – this bidder came in after I updated the photos, so we can’t pin it on that. The photo shows an empty box and I state it is an empty box wherever I can.

But I’m an honest person, so I decided to see what the winner says before deciding how to proceed. After a few prompts they eventually replied and admitted it was a mistake. They agreed to cancel the sale – eBay refunded their money, bar the fees, which was over £10. I never heard anything more.

Next time? There are 3 things I need to do…

  1. Check the photos! Probably make the photo of the empty box the primary one.
  2. Make the “Box only” more obvious where I add it. e.g. THIS IS JUST THE BOX
  3. eBay has a habit of adding in product information automatically, which I can’t then remove. So, for the Apple TV box, it tells you about the specification. I left it because it’s useful, as you may be wanting to check the box is for the very specific version that you have. But, on hindsight, this could be causing some confusion, so I’ll exclude this for future auctions.

Update: 11th November

After re-listing the Apple TV box it sold for £10, with just one bid being withdrawn. Sadly the winner didn’t realise it was an empty box, despite the product image being of an image box and both the title and description stating, in all caps, THIS IS JUST A BOX.

My patience ran out and I sent him a snarky message before cancelling the sale and re-list. He hasn’t paid so there was nothing else I could do. I’ve dropped the price to see if it may sell genuinely but I suspect it’s just always timewasters.

The re-list of my iPhone box is due to sell too… let’s see how that goes. Lots of people sell these boxers so I’m unsure how they cope with this. But, seriously, if anyone now pays up, they get sent it.



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