How to Buy Nice Keyboards In Second-hand Markets?
written by Ruseupi
Mechanical Keyboard Evangelist. Fallng in love with mechanical keyboard since 2004 and running a personal blog about keyboard
Posted on March 20, 2019 at 12:52 PM
When looking for keyboards in second-hand markets, it can get tricky sometimes to decide on how much you should pay for keyboards in 'decent' conditions. It is fine if you are convinced of the seller's price and left satisfied of the purchase, but that might not always be the case. This article is a story about a second-hand market where users trade their keyboards.
1. Switch Prices
The switch takes the biggest part in determining the price of a used keyboard. As brand-new switches without lead on them are being sold in general shopping malls, the price of the switches in mechanical keyboards tend to be fixed. The most popular Cherry MX Switches were sold for under $20 to $30 per 101 to 108 of them (the new Cherry MX price is now between $30 ~ $50 per 100). However, as there is a limit to the durability of the switches, used ones in different conditions should be taken into deep consideration. Made-in-China mechanical switches are sold for about $5 per 100 of them, so when buying more than 10,000 new switches, new switches can actually be cheaper than used ones. As more Chinese switches are being sold, some say that new switches- even though they may not be authentic- are better than used ones in terms of price advantage.
2. Switch Condition
So how do you check the condition of the switch? The best way to check them with your eyes is by examining the condition of the switch case. When examining the upper housing of switch, select the cleanest switch and determine the overall condition of the keyboard by the number of switches in similar conditions. When buying only the used switches, avoid ones that are not clean where the lower housing is touching and have seared marks on the plastic. You should also consider if the keyboard has been disassembled or not and the seller's tuning.
3. Buying NIB (New in Box)
The simplest way of buying a NIB is from shopping malls and open markets. New products packed in boxes are called NIB from places like eBay, and unopened products are marked "New in Box". Therefore, it is recommended that the seller correctly marks new ones as "new", used ones as "used", "unused" if it has only been unpacked, and "new-product quality" if it has only been unpacked to check if it works. ("new-product quality" means close to a new product or is the same quality as one) Also, if the seller sells NIB as a single product, it is best to question the possibility that the product is a mere box collection and not a NIB. It is because sellers with NIB products usually sell many at once. The seller only sells for the cash; it should not be forgotten that the buyer takes responsibility of the outcome in a transaction with an individual.
4. Buying Boxed Products
When buying used keyboards, some may come with a box or in a kit. Obviously, boxed products are higher in value than products without boxes but generally, buyers prefer products without boxes because they are cheaper. Some new products come in different bulks or refurbish, have different packaging, or not include items in the kit. Old keyboards that were not sold singularly were sold packaged together with computers. Therefore, it is easy to see only the keyboards packaged. (Example: buffers in the shape of a keyboard) For keyboards that do not have labels or any special record on them, boxes sometimes act as identifiers as some of them have labels of manufactured year or manufacturer.
5. Evaluating its Usability
The best way to determine how much a used keyboard has been in use is to check the surface of the keycaps. The usual ABS keycaps, double shot keycaps and ones without durability coats wear off shiny in just a few months of use. If the seller has posted pictures without much light, it would be smart to ask for pictures in a bright setting. As it differs by individuals on what keys they use often and what they don't, it would be easy to determine its condition by looking at how differently worn out the surface of each keys are for keycaps such as PBT.
The second is once again, the condition of the switch. Everyone has the keys they use often and ones that they do not. The greater the difference in pressing the keys in the letter row, number row, arrow row, function row, the longer it has been in use. But the difference in pressing of the switch depending on the installed location may be normal. Because of this, it is sometimes judged by the separation of the slider or the pressure of the spring. I personally judge by the difference between when pressed with the ring and index finger. If the used keyboard was bought to disassemble the switches and take them into use, it would be smart to first distinguish the conditions of switches and consider appropriately replacing the letter keys with number, function, arrow, and editing keys. But as some old used ones might not have consistent pressure of the switches, it might be better to replace them with new springs. If you are not sure of the condition of the switch, it is wise to buy a new keyboard or use a new switch without lead on it. Used switches are fixed, keys are oiled to feel better to press, and stickers are attached to fix the switches sturdily. However, I personally want to recommend using the new keyboard for a few months even if you might not like it. Then you will be able to distinguish new switches from oiled and used ones.
6. Keycap Condition Check
It is easy to spot loose keycaps on used keyboards where keycaps have been repeatedly replaced. Some may like a bit of the looseness, but it may not be stable if it is loose when sliding up with the keycap pressed down with your fingers. It is more like that for Cherry's blue axis or Non-click's white axis. The problem with the cheap keycap is that when removing the keycap with the remover, it may lift up even the switch or slider. In this case, the keycap is too tight on the slider, which can damage the switch when using the remover. So if there isn't a specific reason, it's better not to replace your keycap or use a remover. When loosened, place a small piece of wrap or thin eyebrow tape on the slider, or chamfer the rounded corner of the keycap to plant the keycap deeply.
7. The Switch Story... Again
If the user has arbitrarily replaced the switch, we recommend that you buy also the keyboard with the extracted switch. It's just that not many sell the remaining parts together. The switch is very important in mechanical keyboards.
8. Keyboard Cuffs
The worn-out anti-slip rubbers and silicone and stains can be a good indicator of how long the keyboard has been on the desk.
Personally, I ask when buying used keyboards if they have been disassembled. If they have been disassembled multiple times, the products tend to have gaping spaces. For inexperienced users, it easy for them to break certain parts when disassembling or assembling them. (Ex: When the fixture breaks due to tight screws) Although this kind of checklist exists, it is also necessary for the buyers to respect the price of the sellers if they oiled the keys or replaced the keycaps to new ones for the buyers. I personally recommend people to buy them touch all the keyboards before buying them, but it is not easy to actually do that.
At the first trial, it is diffcult to get a good used keyboard in the market even with this checklist. It needs experiences. Even I pray every night that I can get the keyboard I like in second-hand markets. You will eventually become a professional with hawk-eye as experience is accumulated. :)