Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Making Money Trading Lenses

I recently sold my Tamron 17-35. I got a little more for it than I paid for it about two years ago. (Overall I lost a little on it because I spent extra to to replace the easily damaged petal hood.) Same goes for a Nikon 24mm AF f/2.8 I had for a short period of time that I had this year. Taken together, the cost of ownership for  these two lenses was essentially zero, not factoring in inflation or currency exchange.

The smart money is on lenses, but only if you choose your lenses smartly. Buying a used lens is like buying a used car... somebody else has paid for the depreciation. The only difference is that you can keep using a well kept lens... a car will breakdown eventually. As much as the world has advanced in terms of technology and manufacturing, it's still time consuming and relatively expensive to produce good optics. That's why lenss are such a good value on the used market.

  1. Don't pick kit lenses. There are too many of them out there.
  2. Pick a lens that has good reviews and tests well. Don't pick one merely for the name brand. About the same time that I was selling my Tamron, a Nikon 18-35 went up for sale as well. I made my sale... the Nikon stayed up on Craigslist for much longer. Why? That particular Nikon actually costs more, but is worse off optically. Some people won't touch the third-party brands, but in the age of the internet, everybody is familiar with everything.
  3. Pick a lens that you will actually use. The value of it is in using it and recouping your money when you are done, not in having it sit in storage for two years.
  4. Know who you are selling to when you are done. Even though I was using the Tamron as a top-notch DX normal wide-zoom, I knew my target buyer would be a D700 shooter looking for a less expensive alternative to the Nikon 17-35 or 16-35VR. And that's who I eventually found.
  5. If it doesn't grab a bite within three days, don't immediately re-post. Both of the lenses that I sold were actually listed more than once. Each time they got a few emails for interest, but nothing concrete. The thing to remember is that the longer an item is listed, the more its value is reduced. Eventually a Craigslist hawk is going to pounce, point out that your item has been up for a long time without being sold, and then negotiate you down off of your price. Think that doesn't happen? Ask any real estate agent what they think about clients who list their homes too high and then have them sit on MLS for months...
  6. Clean your lens. I highly recommend a using sparing dab of Armor All on cloth to wipe down your older lenses. It's an easy way to take years off of the appearance of your used equipment.
A final word about currency exchange. The value of the Japanese Yen to the U.S. dollar is rising over time. The first impact that this has is that it raises the local price of new Nikon equipment. The second impact that it has is that it subtly raises the value of used equipment as well, particularly for lenses that are still being sold. Think of the 24 AF-D, the 50 AF-D, etc... lenses that have been essentially unchanged for the past decade. These guys are still being sold in stores, and so long as the retail price remains intact, so will used prices be preserved.

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