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Questions such as these are not for a mere mortal such as I.
I know there are some big castle people on here. You may very well get an offer from someone on this forum.
People's definition of a "mint box" can vary quite widely, another reason why I don't advertise or even give the impression of perfect boxes.
If I buy a "new in sealed box", then I read that as mint and expect it... If it isn't perfect, say so. I've bought many sets with shelf-wear or damaged boxes, I don't mind so long as I know about it up front.
Sometimes price is a factor, I've seen auctions where the seller says "if you need a perfect box, please don't buy from me". I'll buy from him if the price is right, but won't complain about minor box damage.
I know if I sold a box with the above description and the buyer expected it to be mint, I would dispute that claim. I inspect my boxes for any major flaws, and if I am selling one that has notable flaws, I list that. But it's unreasonable to list out every tiny minor imperfection that someone might think is warranted.
Maybe you have a more lenient definition of what is considered a mint box. Like I said, I don't believe such a thing even exits, so perhaps that is our only real disagreement and the items that I'm thinking of do in fact meet your definition of mint.
I'm with LFT, if I'm buying from Ebay, I want to know what I'm buying. If somebody using the word 'mint', I'd expect to pick up another set as flawless as I have now. If it arrives with the tinyest of scuffs or small crease for example, it's not mint and possibly not worth the premium I pair for it.
I wish you could see this box mate. It is perfectly square, no light scratches, no scuffs, dings, holes, creases, no lid bulging or sagging under its own weight. It is absolutely flawless. When I last saw it, I did study it and ask myself, "Okay, in anyone's world or definition, to the harshest of critics, (and with box condition that would be me), how could the condition not be perfect or 'mint' in this case - it's like a PSA10. I remember spending hours creating some sort of protective 'shell' for it before it went into storage.
Excellent with minor shelf wear (Maybe a small dimple in an inconspicuous place, or barely noticeable scuffs)
Normal Shelf Wear (Some scuffing, maybe a minor crease that doesn't affect the front/rear box art)
Heavy Shelf Wear (Major creases, significant scuffs that affects the box art)
Someone sat on it
Most of the boxes I sell are in the Excellent category, sometimes I may drop a set from Mint if there's any doubt. I find that buyers sometimes will pay a premium not just for best condition, but will pay a premium for an accurately described "Normal" condition set to avoid the guessing when no condition is listed...
If a box is especially damaged I will make note of it but otherwise they are just "new and sealed" sets. I my experience, "most" people are not buying the sets for the boxes. If a buyer is looking for something exceptional I think they should inquire -- especially when people have different definitions of what "mint" is. Nothing wrong with being picky but I just don't think its right to expect something not advertised.
I only use the terms Mint and MISB if it actually applies. I will go to great detail to denote every little mark on a box and depending upon the visibility (sometimes marks are only really visible at a certain angle of the light and even then are small) will at best call something "near-mint" if it's really, really, really minor. Only pristine sealed boxes will get the label of Mint or MISB from me and I expect that of any seller as well.
If a set is sold as Mint or MISB and it has even the tiniest mark or wear, I will not buy it and will consider it false advertising. I've even reported numerous sellers on eBay for blatant misuse of the term.
Simply put, if there's any mark, scratch, dent or tear on the box, it is no longer mint.
Clearly the set was opened, and the bags themselves were sealed. Could have been said another way, but it did say what it was.
MIMSB defines the 'mint sealed box'
MIB defines an opened box but contents are mint.
some people use NRFB - never removed from box.
what defines mint is another issue....some people think a shiny lego brick is mint, some may expect the piece never to have been clutched, some expect never out of the packet.....very confusing.
The problem with abbreviations is that there isn't a strict guidance attached to them. A user who never uses MIMSB may define a mint boxed product purely as MISB. I would say toy sellers who use abbreviations to define their abbreviations to ensure that the buyer understands your meaning of your abbreviations.
If MISB is used, that tells me the product box is mint. Otherwise, why say anything other than new?
So, though I completely agree with dougts and the assessment that it really ought to be the buyer's burden to request additional details if they are looking for something beyond what is actually being described, I just avoid the problem all together by sticking with "new" and "factory sealed."
From Merriam-Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mint): Minor box wear would disqualify a classification of something as mint. You could say it's new, unused, or unopened but mint has a specific connotation that indicates an absence of any wear, marks or blemishes even if the set arrived directly from the factory in such condition.
However, in this case Si_Dorking_Surrey_UK didn't specify the set was mint and therefore I'd say that expectation of such condition is unwarranted. The letter is very good and explains the facts more than sufficiently. I don't see that the buyer has any legitimate grievance with the purchase as it appears to be a case of a someone buying something on the basis of an unsubstantiated assumption and without complete knowledge regarding typical manufacturer practices. It's like complaining that a motorcycle only came with two wheels.
4. Philately. being in its original, unused condition.
5. unused or appearing to be newly made and never used: a book in mint condition.
in mint condition - (of an object) new or as new: the stamps are packaged to arrive in mint condition
Those are from dictionary.com and the Oxford English Dictionary, respectively. Though Merriam-Webster's mildly conflicting definition is just another great example of why I avoid using the term altogether.
I too never use the term, no do I expect ANY LEGO set I buy to come in a box of pristine condition, unless the ad specifically describes the condition of the box, or I make inquiries as to it's specific condition myself. Assuming a box to be in MY definition of mint condition, would be a mistake on my part as a buyer.
For me, a 'Mint' Lego set is unopened poly bags, and even if I get a box with the tape ends open I will not raise hell. Yes if TLG would start Safe Wrap each box then THAT could be 'Mint'. I took this issue to my elder brother who is a veteran Stamp and Coin collector and asked the true meaning of Mint. So I guess it cannot apply on Lego. Just a thought.
PS. I am seeing the newer sets to have Taped ends now. Maybe we will be saying bye bye to the traditional thumb pressing setup to open the boxes. You never know.
If the sets are in mint condition, by all means, list them as being in mint condition...they will sell faster and for higher prices.
What it may or may not mean to a collector is irrelevant and one of the things about Ebay is that it brings novice sellers in direct association with more expert collecting sellers. So the novice sellers see terms like MISB and have no real understanding of what is actually meant and reuse that term. Is that the novice sellers fault? No, why should they know what is understood by a collector for a particular term if its not actually the same as the English language suggests.
If I sold something on ebay and there was this confusion as a seller I'ld probably try to work around it, but I wouldn't feel obliged if what I stated was accurate particularly if the seller started to get all upperty. I probably wouldn't use that term mind as its not particularly helpful (surely better would be new in factory sealed box, box in excellent condition) - its not like ebay has a limit on word count so condition can be explicitly stated with accompanying photographs and the option of follow up communication.
If the buyer expects a box in excellent condition it is surely up to them to carefully assess the listing or ask for clarification. If they rely on some ambiguous acronym then they should do so at their own risk.
Of course it also depends on context - an auction starting at .99 should be considered diffrently to a buy-it-now at 700.
However it still comes across to me as extremely arrogant for a collector to assume that the seller should anticipate a collectors extreme and unusual requirements on what is a online car boot. Brinklink is different.
It's a much easier and attainable goal to simply ask questions and be sure about your purchase if you care about the box, then it is to expect thousands of various sellers all across the globe to adopt some uniform standard of collectible grading for a product that most of them, and most of their buyers, aren't purchasing as a collectible.
Any seller that throws around terms is subject to the implications of such terms and has no one to blame but themselves if buyers have expectations that are not met because the item for sale does not meet those expectations. Sellers are best served by describing the set for sale without adding any terms which they do not understand or can not verify. The burden lies on those selling the item since they're initiating the sale and are thus in control of expectations that arise from it. If they claim they're selling Lego and it's actually Megablox, they're at fault. If they claim they're selling mint and they're simply selling sealed boxes, they're at fault. If they claim they're selling new products and they're actually selling used products, they're at fault. If they claim they're selling complete sets and they're selling incomplete sets, they're at fault.
Now, if the seller said they were selling a new set and the buyer assumed mint, the buyer is at fault since the seller made no such claim. If the seller said they were selling a complete set and the buyer expected sealed then again it is the latter who are at fault. Assuming an expectation beyond that which is stated would constitute a presumptuous conclusion on the part of the buyer.
As for what's easier, that's why terms like "mint" are coined. It's easier to say "mint" than it is to say "in pristine condition with no marks, scratches, folds, creases, wear or tear of any kind". If mint is used without definition, it ceases to have any purpose. If it ceases to have any purpose, why use it in the first place? However, if it has a definite meaning then it has a purpose: to delineate a specific condition of the object in question.
The seller may certainly be "wrong" in the cases you describe, but it's still in my best interests as a buyer to ask questions and be certain about what I'm buying, rather than assume the seller is right, and upon delivery find out he's wrong. Sure, I can claim the higher ground of being "right", but I still have a product I don't want that I either have to deal with the hassle of returning or negotiating an acceptable partial refund on. I'ts a pretty high price to pay in time, money, and stress to take a stand on principal when I could easily just adjust my buying practices up front.
I guess what I'm saying is that it's a LOT easier to ask a few questions than it is to expect the entire LEGO selling world to all adopt and use specific terminology with strict definitions.
Describing the condition of the box is relevant if it's badly battered of course, but for 95% (if not more) of lego buyers shelf wear is fine.