Successful Navigation of “Bargain Bins”

Looking for a ball on the cheap? Maybe you want to try a different layout, different fitting, have a ball to try different surfaces on, or just don’t want to spend $200+ on a brand new ball. Quite often, however, I have bad news to give to customers who come in grinning from ear to ear saying, “listen to the deal I got on this ball!” about the pristine, first quality, NIB (new in box) ball they thought they “stole” for 50 bucks on ebay. If you’re just wanting a ball to experiment with, chances are you aren’t too concerned about specs or issues, but even if you’re wanting to try a different layout or experiment with surfaces, you’ll still want a ball with first quality specs, or at least specs that fit with the direction you’re wanting to go, to get any kind of usable or applicable information. This is a short simple guide on how to successfully navigate the “bargain bin,” and how to apply your purpose to the purchase.

First of all, we’ll talk about why a ball is discounted in the first place. If a ball can be sold for full price, it will be. Manufacturers don’t just put or allow discounts on first quality regular merchandise, because their eyes are on profit. Balls are discounted for a variety of reasons, but keep in mind that these are balls that they CANNOT sell as first quality balls because of mistakes or issues that are inconsistent with the qualifications that make a ball first quality (discontinued balls excluded). So rather than simply throwing them away, balls that don’t have serious defects are sold for a discounted price, because a use can still be found for them. The only ways you will get a first quality ball for a deeply discounted price are if the ball has been discontinued, if there is a promotional introductory rate when the ball is first released, or if someone is inexplicably willing to take a big loss on the sale of the ball.

Here are some common problems with “factory seconds” or “blems.” The best kind of blem to find is a color blem, meaning something merely went wrong with the colors in the ball, and because it doesn’t look like it’s supposed to, it can’t be sold as a first quality ball. The best part about these is that the ball specs and everything else about the ball could be first quality, it’s just simply the wrong color(s). Other problems you have to be more wary about are ball spec issues. A mismarking of the pin (possible, though very uncommon), cg, and/or mass bias, “long pins,” or “pro pins” meaning that the pin to cg distance is longer than 5 inches, or it may be that the cg is drastically out of line with the pin to mass bias line. Also present, though uncommon, are labeling mistakes. In the past, some blems would be labeled “Bonanza,” however, now most are identified on the ball and box as being “x-outs.”

All of these balls can be used successfully, provided you pick the right blem for you. Most importantly, you’ll want to know what the blemish is specifically. I would generally recommend avoiding mismarked balls, or use them solely for trying hand fittings. Mismarked cgs and mass biases can be properly identified and marked, but you may not be happy with where they actually end up. Long pins, or “pro pins,” can be used for more exotic drillings, however the cg generally ends up being very close to the mass bias in asymmetrical balls and can cause ball weight placement issues (as it relates to making the ball “legal” per USBC standards). Balls with cgs that are a couple inches or more off or outside of the pin to mass bias line can be used with much more aggressive layouts without having to add a weighthole, provided that the cg is off in the right direction (to the left for righties, vice versa for lefties). Again, balls that are simply color blems or have labeling issues are the ones I would suggest overall, given that they can still be first quality balls you can use if you’re just looking for cheap equipment.

Some ball listings don’t take into account the full weight of the ball. To the person who doesn’t know bowling or who is trying to “pull a fast one,” they just post the pound weight of the ball only, not the additional ounces. Have you ever bought a ball that was listed as 15, only for it to show up and be 15 lbs, 13 oz? This is one of the more common mistakes people make, and I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked if I could drill the extra 10 ounces out, and the answer is no. I would also suggest sticking with larger, more well known brands when shopping for cheap/discontinued/blem balls.

I hope this has been a helpful guide for successfully navigating ebay and online retailer deals. Remember to always ask specific questions, and request as many pictures as possible! These simple steps can prevent a 50 dollar deal from turning into a 50 dollar bust.