How to Kill the Non-Auto and Get the eBay Search Results You Really Want

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By Ryan Cracknell | Hobby Editor

The eBay 1/1 is annoying search clutter that’s hard to avoid when you’re looking for cards of your favorite player. But something that’s even harder to avoid is the dreaded non-auto, a card that is defined by what it isn’t. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to kill these sorts of spammy listings dead in their tracks.

Advanced eBay searches offer all sorts of filter functions. One of them is the ability to have your search ignore certain words. You can do it from the main Advanced Search Page by filling in the appropriate boxes on what to search for and what not to. I don’t do my searches from there very often and I doubt it’s a regular place for a lot of other people. You can, though.

An easier trick exists that can be done from any search bar on any eBay page. And when I say easy, it really is.

Start by typing what you’re looking for. I’ll start with Bryce Harper autographs. I’m already in the baseball card section so I’ll make my search string Bryce Harper (auto,autograph).

Using brackets with commas is a handy trick you might want to take note of as well. Although eBay searches are getting smarter, by using this string I get results for auto and autograph. Both are common in titles so this makes sure you get the biggest possible reach and don’t miss a listing.

It doesn’t take long for the unsigned “non-autos” to start cluttering things up. Two of the first five listings have the dreaded term.

Bryce-Harper-Auto-Search

But don’t fret. To exorcise them simply go up to the search bar and add -non to your search string. This tells eBay to exclude the term from the results.

That’s it. Simple.

Bryce-Harper-Auto-Search-Non

If you encounter other unwanted spam in your searches, simply repeat the exclusion trick to filter things out. For example, if you’re looking for boxes, you might want to add -break to your search. This will get rid of listings for group breaks. Seeing lots of s0-called hot packs for guaranteed hits? Exclude them with -hot or -pack. Seeing lots of things listed as an eBay 1/1 that don’t interest you? Add -eBay and, poof, it’s like they don’t exist.

Sometimes I have to exclude several terms, particularly if I’m looking for something that might have a vague title. It’s no problem. You can have multiple exclusions in a search.

If you buy a lot of autographs on eBay or you get a lot of unwanted listings, using search exclusions is an easy way to narrow things down to what you’re looking for. Pretty soon, you’ll forget that non-autos even exist.

Comments? Questions? Contact Ryan Cracknell on Twitter @tradercracks.

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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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4 comments

  1. David Johnson 16 May, 2016 at 15:42

    I have been doing “-non” for a while, though sometimes I forget but am easily reminded whenever I search for a popular player’s autograph. Overall great advice, as I am sure there are lots of people who never knew about doing this.

  2. Matt 17 May, 2016 at 11:15

    There are a few nuances to the use of parentheses in eBay searches that you should be aware of. First, search terms in parentheses only return exact matches (equivalent to using quotes outside the parentheses), so they can be useful even if you only have one search term; without parentheses, you get whatever results eBay thinks you might want, even if the actual search term is not used in the title. This doesn’t always work with just a single search term for some reason, so you may need to add a dummy search term to get it to work. The downside is that, unlike Google, eBay does not recognize equivalent variants like plurals when searching for exact matches. For autographs, you’ll also need to include autographs and autographed to catch those (signature and signatures can also be useful, though they are sometimes used in product names). Characters like hyphens and apostrophes are treated like spaces, so you do not need to include multiple variants to account for the use of hyphenated terms as separate words (use as a single word will still require a separate instance).

    You can also use quotes or parentheses with exclusions (e.g. -“non-auto” or -(non-auto,ebay 1/1). This can be helpful when fine-tuning complex searches.

    The other issue with parentheses in eBay searches is the non-whitespace character limit. If you string together too many search terms without spaces, you will get an error of some sort (something about expensive search terms). To avoid this, just throw in an occasional space after a comma.

    A while back, eBay cut the total search character limit way back (to help make it easier to find what you are looking for, i.e., force you to use simple terms and let eBay’s search magic give you perfectly terrible results). They quickly switched it back, but the threat of them neutering the search function remains. Improving it, however, will likely never happen. The base functionality hasn’t changed in basically forever, probably because they don’t expect the typical user to ever use it.

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