Let me start with Astromart.com's classifieds. Back in the Summer of 2007, before I purchased my first telescope, I did a lot of research on the web for telescopes and mounts. I quickly came to the conclusion that this astronomy hobby was going to be EXPENSIVE! How could I possibly get top quality equipment when the top quality scopes were very expensive?!?!?
Using Google, Astromart consistently popped up as a resource I should think about. Unbelievably, I was very hesitant to plunk down the $12 lifetime fee to get access to the listings!
Astromart is very smart in some ways. They don't give you access to the prices that the sellers are asking without joining. This proved irresistible to me and so hesitatingly, I signed up and paid my $12 fee.
It has been BY FAR, the best $12 I've ever spent. Astromart (AM) has given me discount prices and access to the top equipment and rock bottom prices. Not only is it a great resource for getting great equipment, it's also a way to "try before you buy." In other words, you can buy something (if you know that the price is good) and try it for a while and if you don't like it, turn it right back around and sell it again at virtually no cost to you if you price it about the same as youas what you paid.
I started off by researching small refractors and decided on an Astrotech AT66ED APO. I waited for a great deal to come along and about 2 weeks in, my dream scope appeared on AM. I was brand new to the hobby so needed everything along with the scope. The package deal I bought included a AT 2" 99% reflectivity dielectric diagonal and a Stellarvue multi-reticle red dot finder for a total of $350 shipped. At that time, the telescope was selling new for $329 alone. The 2" diagonal was listing new for $150 and the SV RDF was selling new for $58. I saved $188 on my first purchase alone!
It has been amazing ever since. I've bought and sold more items then I ever thought possible. I started with no name or big name (Meade, Celestron, Orion) eyepieces and have ended up with almost exclusively Televue eyepieces at this point! They're all Plossls but they're very good Plossls.
My total scope investment is around $1,500, yet I've bought and sold almost $5,000 worth of equipment. With a little bit of skill, I've also been able to make a bit of a profit on some of the items I've bought and have been able to upgrade gradually along the way.
Besides astronomy equipment, I've also purchased camera equipment and tripods from AM as well. I've found that astronomy buffs sell their camera equipment at better prices then camera enthusiasts do! I LOVE Astromart.com!
As for PayPal, PP has made using AM and other sights a total pleasure. After using AM for over a year by paying for things through postal money orders and personal checks, I've switched to an entirely PayPal system without investing an additional penny! I first sold a couple of items on AM to fund the PP coffers. Once I had a bit of money in PP, I then purchased and sold more items using the funds entirely from PP. It has sped up the time it takes to buy and sell equipment by 100 fold. I used to have to make a special trip to the post office after every purchase I made to buy a postal money order and mail it off to the seller. The seller would then wait until they received the postal money order until they shipped the item. This would generally take about a total of 2 weeks from the time I agreed to buy the item to the time that I actually received the item.
Now with PP, I can buy and sell equipment at a lightning pace. If I'm buying an item, I send the user the funds through PayPal, then the seller generally puts the item in the mail the very same or very next day. I receive the items within 2 or 3 days!
If I'm selling, I generally conclude a sale within 24 hours of posting it on AM, have the funds in my account in that timeframe and have the item shipped the next day.
All this without spending any additional personal money except the funds in PP. This happens becuase PP lets you buy and print US Postal Service services directly within PP. All I need to do when I sell something is to head down to the post office with the package and drop it off since it's already packaged and paid for. I know this may be old news to some of you but this is a world changing service that I am now finally enjoying (like just about everyone else in the world!).
Enough about my two favorite web services for now. Off to do more telescoping and photographing!