Just down the road (from you) in gun-city (Nottingham). Like yourself I've been "dabbling" with e-Bay - results so far:
Camera from the channel islands - whacked for VAT
Software from America - whacked for VAT
When posting goods in the USA (to foreign climes) it would appear that a declaration has to be made as to value, etc. This is visible on the item - the only time I've gotten away with VAT is when the sender has "declared" of little vale, present, gift, etc.
Ask the seller (before bidding) if they are willing to declare that the item is a gift, of little value, or some such remark.
All incoming parcels normally "intercepted" by the Post Office if VAT is applicable - you have to collect and fork out the extra.
Hope this has been of some help