Given my recent snafu with selling a lens on Amazon Marketplace, I would like to know what practices to employ for documenting my gear. Obviously taking pictures of everything is one thing, but what is the best way to document it all, have it registered and recognized as a fact, so that whatever happens after a sale, robbery, or whatever, you can document that the gear you had was in possession and in a certain state (mint/used/etc.)?
I don't know about verifying condition, but for documenting ownership, I like lenstag. It is free, the owner is responsive, and does one thing and does it well. I have no affiliation with the site, but I do like the service.
I keep invoices from purchase and a listing of serial numbers. If you want further evidence, you could take photos of it with a dated newspaper to show when it was in a given condition, but I have not personally found this to be necessary. I probably would do so before selling anything via mail though.
What I do:
- Keep both a digital and hard copy of the purchase invoice. If the serial number is not included on the invoice, add it yourself. Most online sellers do include the serial number on the invoice for camera bodies and lenses.
- Register the piece of gear with the manufacturer. Most makers of photo gear make this very easy to do online. You may need to mail a registration card to a manufacturer who doesn't, in which case you should keep a photocopy of the completed registration card.
- Document each piece of gear in photos that establish both the physical location of the photo as well as the specific piece of gear. Use closeups for serial numbers and other identifying factors, and a wider shot to establish the items were in a location identifiable as one that you have access to.
- Establish the piece of gear is in good working order by using it to produce images that demonstrate its capability to do what it is supposed to do.
As a complement to the various other suggestions: Send copies of the documents produced via an email system whose primary records are not accessible to the public eg GMail and not your own mail server. If you have a tame website that satisfies the same criteria you could also post them there.
That gives you "proof of life" that may not hold up before a senate inquiry but MAY survive a court of law. Or not.
I've had somewhat similar experiences to you (not buying/selling) where I've regretted not being able to establish certain things related to equipment 'after the event'. I'm thinking of identifying unique characteristics of equipment so that photos I take can be subsequently proven to establish both ID and visible condition.