"coburlin": That's Outrageous!


"coburlin", The eBay buyer/seller of HP calculator products has been discussed here before. Several years ago, he was snapping up HP calc's at astonishing top-dollar prices, and driving up the market.

He's still bidding on these items (more reasonably now, it seems); he's now trying to sell ordinary stuff at sky-high fixed prices, with "immediate payment required". I wonder how successful he's been, because only suckers and those with much more money than time would pay what he's demanding. Yes, "demanding", because he's essentially running a clip-joint store in the auction department, instead of offering products at auction.

Here are some of his more egregious present listings:

  • HP-41CX "Scientific Calculator with X Memory Module" for $389 So, what is this really? It is described as a 41CX with a 1986 serial number. However, the low-resolution picture appears to show a 41C, with a fullnut display and silver border. No case or manuals, apparently. "Guaranteed in working condition and sold as is pictured"; however, "No returns or refunds as all items are sold as-is." So what's the "guarantee"? Caveat emptor!

  • Banged-up "HP-16C Computer Scientist Calculator & Manual" for $289
    Here's a 16C with a deep dent on the bezel and a flat-bound manual, offered at an exorbitant fixed price without insurance -- like everything else from "coburlin".

  • "HP-41C Scientific Calculator Original Box Set" for $289 That's quite a high price for a 41C with one 64-register memory module, even if it does have the lower half of the box included.

  • Also offered are an 11C for $289, another 16C for $319, a 45 for $289 and a halfnut 41CX for $429. All have manuals and slipcovers/cases, but are in used condition with scratches.

Only the first item seems to be misrepresented (perhaps inadvertently), and "coburlin" does ship to some foreign countries (unlike some sellers).

However, I think that eBay should change some policies to discourage those who offer price-gouging non-auctions. Maybe a non-refundable fee should be imposed, even for unsuccessful auctions. Perhaps a separate section should be reserved for "fixed price" offerings (like Half.com)

What do y'all think?

Edited: 13 Mar 2005, 10:17 p.m. after one or more responses were posted


My thoughts about this.

He's a poor little thing... If he finds anyone dumb enough to buy the stuff he once thought about selling these high prices, then we have at least two poor little things. And BTW, the HP16C's protective case shonw in the picture is, in fact, a Pioneer one, not the standard Voyager case.

Too bad we find people like him sniffing around here.

My opinion.

Luiz (Brazil)

Edited: 13 Mar 2005, 6:06 p.m.


It's a free market. Let him ask as much as he wants. The market will determine if he's asking too much.



It's a free market - don't get wound up by one seller. Have you checked his buyers feedback? He almost never sells any of his overpriced stuff.

Maybe you're not aware of eBay policy - that auctions with high reserves or "buy-it-now" auctions are still charged rather high listing fees regardless if they close or not. eBay understands that people that try to scalp things should pay more up front than those who will use a real auction and take their chances. Check out the prices to just to list things - you'll be surprised.

Rest assured that most of the money made on those overpriced b.i.n. sales go back to eBay in form of listing fees... It's really rather comical. Just have a look at what he actually sells verses what is listed time after time. Sure, a few things went around Christmas but since than, he's lucky if he's sold more than one or two calculators.

There are fewer fools out there than you may think - he's one of bigger ones if you ask me.

PS: He also emails just about every seller of things HP and asks for a BIN price so that he can grab stuff early at low prices and prevent it going through a normal auction. I once saw him convince a seller to do a b.i.n. on a 29C really cheap (<$50)- which he resold a month or so later for >$200.00. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile...


I'd also be wary in an EBay transaction, of someone asking you to 'pull the auction' and where he then buys directly from you, the seller.

That's not BuyItNow, that's totally bypassing whatever minimal EBay protections, etc. exist.

I've also made enquiries about a few EBay non-calculator item details (technical and condition questions) and the seller also offered to pull the auction and sell direct to me. Given I had questions in the 1st place, this made me even more wary - esp when he suggested it first.

Bill Wiese

San Jose


I agree with you. eBay is alughing all the way to the bank. They are the ones making money!!!!


I too have watched'coburlin' simply because he always places a bid on something HP that I have decided to bid on. Like you all have pointed out, he bids on anything HP. But I have also noticed that if a high dollar auction is not selling, he changes the auction to a "PS2 mouse" priced at $0.99 and about $25.00 shipping, being sold as-is. That way he is only charged for listing a $0.99 item. I bet Ebay would really frown on that practice if they knew.


eBay is supposed to assess the ORIGINAL auction and prevent last minutes changes.


As long as there has been no bids, the seller can revise the auction up until there is 12 hours left. The seller can not revise, only make additions to the description, if there has been a bid placed or there is less than 12 hours remaining.


Can one change the auction (within the conditons and time limits you mentioned) such that eBay's charges drop down?



Thanks, all, for your enlightening responses. I admit to not knowing eBay's policies for sellers very well. It still bothers me, though, when I see sham "auctions" cluttering up the listings. I don't like to be repeatedly confronted with sky-high "take it or leave it" prices. These sellers are taking advantage of eBay's name recognition, when they ought to be using Half.com, eBay Stores, or their own Web-based store for fixed-price merchandise.

What eBay ought to do (if they don't already) is charge an up-front listing fee that is based on the lowest acceptable bid price (Minimum, Reserve) and is non-refundable in most cases. Any additional fees can be collected upon successful sale.

Also, that Minimum or Reserve price should be no greater than 80% or so of the BIN price. Merchandise sold at fixed prices should be listed in Half.com, which eBay has made easier to access than three years ago.


Well you could buy from my collection instead:

16C, 17B, 17BII, 18C, 19BII, 25, 28S+a_lot_of_books, 32S, 32SII, 41CX+a_lot_of_books&modules, 42S, 48SX+a_lot_of_books, 49G_unique_(ask), 49G, 71B+some_books&modules, 75C, 700LX+Nokia_phone*2

No dents or scratches except the 75C, which has tape on it!
The 41CX has spare calcs included, non-working...

Everything else is in full working condition.



Enough said...


DROP me an e-mail (just DROP the DROP_ off)

state what you want to buy and buy it and enjoy it

[VPN] - with broken heart (I'm broke)


This is true. I had one of his calculator in Ebay "Watching" status and some days later suddenly the item appears as a PS/2 mouse ?!


Some people are dumb enough to pay high price for obsolete vintage hardware, so what?
Do you know why engineers never climb the corporate ladder high enough? Because they live in a fantasy, technical world cut out from the real, marketing world.
They even buy things from me, 'nough said!


Pardon me, but this 'fantasy, technical world' is in fact what financial-only people (I mean financial-only people, those who can only count profit from products they deal with) have to deal in order to exist. I'm an engineer, and I have no interest on 'climbing corporate highs' because both (1)I have no skills to do so and I face it easily, because (2) I think my 'life time' is better used by developing devices that make 'fantasy, technical world' a reality. Maybe I cannot get a Nobel for doing so, but I hope having my existence remembered by something I did to make peoples life better. I have nothing against finance and people who deal with financial activities, I actualy believe that when done in accordance with peoples needs, financial agreements make life easier for many. What I disagree with is the thinking that engineers live in a fantasy, technical world. Engineers develop many devices and machinery, like bulldozers, airplanes, construction tools, computers and calculators to be used in the field so real world looks as it is.

I guess that those who live in a fantasy world are the ones that cannot see this.

Luiz (Brazil, Electrical engineer)


So, you take profit of not-knowing persons like beginners? Wow, what a sad world....


[B]Coburlin wrote:[/B]
Do you know why engineers never climb the corporate ladder high enough? Because they live in a fantasy, technical world cut out from the real, marketing world. They even buy things from me, 'nough said!

Hmmm. Most of the engineers where I work have to spend a lotsa time cleaning up the messes created by the "marketing oriented" MBA types. I've seen lotsa chips intially spec'd out w/all sorts of conflicting features by the sales and marketing types. One MBA/EE wanted 2GigaOps of DSP work for a digital camera to be performed on a 70MHz ARM.

And, dear sir, if you were high enough on the corporate ladder you've so assiduously scaled, I doubt you'd have time for EBay-ing.

Bill Wiese

San Jose


While I cannot speak for Coburlin, I can easily speak for myself. If my wife flat out said my hobby was over and if I want to continue it had better be as a business, I would operate just LIKE Coburlin. And he probably sells some of his equipment. The wife would be happy, I would be pretty happy (except, in a similiar way to the Warren Beatty movie, Heaven can wait, ie Where the owner of the team sold to Warren Beatty for 3X the value and was ticked off).

While I may be giving Coburlin the benefit of the doubt, I would operate my business just like him. I just can't seem to sell these calculators.

I even hate trading anymore, but I am just to cheap to pay the high prices (today, anyway, in a month or a year or if I start to make a LOT MORE $$$$, my budget may grow). And I don't feel all that comfortable selling my stuff either. I don't think many of the older calculators should be selling for $100's of dollars. They just aren't worth it (but I have paid it, as many of us)! But we are not typical and while pocket calculators have actually regressed, more calculational power is available to the average user than ever before. As elitests we may want the best, but adequate is readily available for $20 retail. RPN (in the Hp33s) is also fairly easy to acquire for $50. While I am not a big fan of the Hp33s, it is the cheapest an RPN calculator has ever been. And it is a fairly powerful calculator, certainly nothing out there today matches up.

So we make our own beds.


"And it is a fairly powerful calculator, certainly nothing out there today matches up."

This is not quite true. It is the cheapest RPN calculator out there, but there are some casio models that have more functionality such as derivatives and more for under $20.


No, the Casio still doesn't measure up. But it may certainly provide a better price to performance ratio.
I don't have all the Casio's but I do have a few (well not the 995 or some such series, not sold in the US). But I admit, Casio's do make a good calculator, and if you don't need or WANT RPN, they are always a good buy.


I guess my point was that other than RPN, there are $20 casios that give more functionality than the 33S.

For example, for $15, the Casio FX-115MS Plus Scientific Calculator will do integration and derivatives. You must pay 333% more to get a HP33S.More functionality in most ways and much cheaper.


Or, try this Sharp model with integration and derivaties for $15:


$15 buys a lot of calculator, and in quite a few ways, much more of a calculator than the HP33S.


Funny how the link to the Sharp showed me a special offer to buy the sharp together with a 33s.
I can't figure out why would anyone want to buy them both!



With the 33S, you could easily calculate RPN-style

how many times more expensive than the Sharp it was;-)



The 33S gives you programmability, which the cheap Casios and Sharps lack. On the other hand, Casio and Sharp offer inexpensive programmable graphing calculators starting in the $40-50 range, which are obviously competitive with the 33S

Edited: 14 Mar 2005, 2:11 p.m.


My wife got involved and instead of looking at the top prices, I am forced to look at the cheap ones: we agreed that I would have only a certain amount each month to spend on calculators. I just lost a "cheap" 65...:-( but my monthly money is today carried over :->



@Arnaud: Do we share the same type of wife :D :D :D

Same game at my home each time I try to got some special 34C, 97 etc...



Yes, but that could change if you convinced her about all the money there is in this business!!!! Just LIKE cobulin. Of course I would have to sell a couple of calcuators to placate the wife and show her how profitable my hobby was ie sell one calculator a month for $3-500 and buy 20 (OR MORE!!) for whatever I can ("I buying them for investment and later sales Dear", I would tell my wife).

Whether coburlin has that problem or not, His buying and selling methods would probably be mine as well for the reasons I stated above.


First - it's free market. Skyrocketed prices annoy me as well, but you just have to learn to say "no". If someone is willing to pay this price - so be it. I won't.

Second - I'm not sure about US laws, but here in Germany, he does very likely commit tax fraud; by our laws, if you buy something to sell it with a profit repeatedly, you are considered a dealer and need to register *and* pay a bunch of extra taxes.


In the US, you are required to report income. It does not matter where it comes from; technically, all income must be reported (though some categories are unofficially left alone--except when someone is dragged in for something else--then the IRS goes over you with a fine tooth comb).

Most states also have tax requirements: and here it varies, but many have both an income tax and a "sales" tax. If you buy anything, from anywhere, your state may require (though few ever check up for small stuff) you to pay the 6% or so tax. (I paid it last year, for my calculators). If you sell, you are not required to collect it, unless you are registered as a business and have a sales tax number.

The US federal tax code has different income categories, and one is "hobby" which is what many who dabble in stuff have to claim as. Hobbies are limited in what losses you can offset, whereas businesses may offset all losses against gains. The point of the hobby category is to prevent all citizens from becoming "businesses" just to support their favorite hobbies---if you have a business, and it does not make a profit 2 (3? can't remember) out of every 5 years, then you are forced to report as a hobby.

So, you see, your average U.S. citizen probably pays just as much tax, as a percentage of income, as a European, yet the European is a "socialist" and the american is a "capitalist". Go figure. The Federal budget is about 1/3 of GDP, and yet we are not socialist? Nope.

The only real difference between Europe and the U.S. (regarding taxes) is that in Europe, the Rich pay their fair share, wheras in the U.S., the wealthy pay at a lower rate than the worker (28%) since they only make "investment" income and pay into social security only up to that level paid by a person making $88,000. And they take advantage of the many legal "tax shelters" to get the rate even lower.

When I was married with no children, with two working, family income $40,000, which is at the lowest "marginal" rate, we paid, in total of federal, social security, medicare, state, sales tax, property tax, personal property tax, 45% of our income.

John Forbes Kerry paid about 10% against his gross income last year.

Republicrats and Demopublicans are the same here, too. Neither will actually reduce government (though interestingly the Clinton era was more frugal than either of the Bush years).

So much for truth in government and taxes.

Regards feom the West side of the pond.


Edited: 15 Mar 2005, 10:14 a.m.



re: "if you have a business, and it does not make a profit 2 (3? can't remember) out of every 5 years, then you are forced to report as a hobby."

Actually, you only have to try seriously to make money. Some businesses (witness the airlines recently!) manage to lose money year after year.

Some friends of mine and I ran a single airplane rental business years ago and always managed to lose money (after depreciation was included - that's the only reason you don't actually lose your shirt!). Since we could show a lot of real rental income and the plane was located where at least two of us could not take advantage of the situation (we were all pilots, but I never flew that plane), the IRS never showed concern.


Yeah, he used to be Berlin.


Hi Bill; Regarding your comments on our taxes here in the US: i think we agree, but it may be worse than you stated.

Sometime in the 80's i read a libertarian essay on taxes. It was annotated and had graphs and flow charts which showed that when one factors in the rise in prices passed on to us due to import taxes/duties, inventory taxes, transportation taxes and the like (which are paid by businesses before we get a chance to be taxed on the same merchandise) plus what we property owners shell out for special assessment districts, bond measures and other taxes-by-another-name (then pass on to our renters); we pay more than 70% of our income to the government.

I appreciated your take on the "Republicrats and Demicans".


We are all smiling, because coburlin has not sold one of his items on ebay. The are all relisted now...


I noted that the "HP-41CX "Scientific Calculator with X Memory Module", originally for $389 was relisted for $349. Unfortunately, the mismatch between the title and the photo was not corrected or even mentioned. The original "auction" turned into a 41C with Quad Memory with an incomplete manual set, selling for $189.99.

The banged-up "HP-16C Computer Scientist Calculator & Manual" is out there again, still for $289 and still dented. The original link has turned into a 95-cent PS/2 Mouse with $14.95 S&H.

The "HP-41C Scientific Calculator Original Box Set" also turned into a 95-cent PS/2 Mouse with $14.95 S&H before the "auction" expired.


That would clearly be a fee-avoidance issue, not kindly looked upon by eBay.

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