The Magical Science of eBay and Christmas

It’s no secret that the holiday season is upon us, and you know what that means… holiday specials, turkey, and Wal-Mart opening earlier on Thanksgiving night every damn year.  As an eBay seller, you should be excited about the prospects – as no matter what frivolous crap you’re wanting to unload, this is the one part of the year that people will actual want to pay for it.

A Santa stackable doll complete with mini-elfs… “What I’ve always wanted!”

AUGUST – NOVEMBER is high season.

This should be blatantly obvious, but with Christmas around the corner, it’s big business, and if you have the merchandise than you certainly have a chance to get your cut in on the action.  There are plenty of potential eBay buyers as not everyone wants to go out in the wind and cold for Expensive Sunday, or whatever the media is calling it these days.

Take good pictures, and on most items, this will give a buyer more than enough information for what they need.  More to come in the future on the importance of pictures; definitely think this is becoming more prevalent.

eBay Sales Momentum is looking up.

In effort to not break off into a full-on economics discussion, when people make money, they are going to spend some of it.  For the last few years, most of the money that’s been spent (in a general sense) has been on living expenses and the like.  What you probably already know, is in good times, people are more willing to branch out and spend money on discretionary type things.  Unless you’ve been in a coma, you’ve probably noticed some of this discretionary type of spending decreasing at a macroeconomic level for the last couple of years, and as a small eBay seller I have definitely felt the effects.

With that said, I would say this holiday season is looking more promising, at least from some of my research so far.  Car sales in the US were at the highest level in September 2012 in over 60 months, and obscure small niche items on eBay are starting to sell and for more than they did at this time the last couple of years.  If you think these two things are completely unrelated, I would say you’re wrong, but what I’m just one guy.

Fact (my opinion) is that, in general, better times at the macroeconomic view of things are going to translate to better times for me as an eBay seller, everything else constant.  Just one myopic example of this is if anyone recalls the TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle) action figures that I bought and resold a couple years ago – now they are only a couple years more “VINTAGE” – that’s eBay lingo for old – and generally worth more than double what I sold them for in 2009.  An extreme example?  Possibly.  But hopefully you get where I am going.

Be ready for the Spring (aka Anti-Spring)

When I think of the word Spring, I think of happy and bouncy.  When I think of Spring-time, especially the January – March timeframe on eBay, I think of cold, windy, and sad.  Think about it, who wants to buy a Super Nintendo or some Legos in January?  They just blew up their bank accounts getting little Johnny a pony for Christmas.  The volume of the market in the Spring cannot come close to rivalling the time leading up the Holidays, especially in toys, video games, board games, books, etc.  Moral of the story?  Just be ready and be careful with pricing in the Spring;  Christmas does come back you know.  Reload, restock, and get ready for one of the most exciting times of the year – spring cleaning, also known as, amazing deals at tons of garage sales.

Maybe it’s not rocket science, but I truly do believe that there is a little bit of an art to eBay and you have to take advantage of the holidays.  You have stuff and people are especially willing to pay for it – NOW!  Push the seasonal items especially, it’s the only time of the year that more than 3 crazy cat ladies are willing to pay 20 bucks for a Santa ornament.

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TWITTER – I’ve arrived.

Stay up to date and follow me on twitter for regular updates.


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Apologize for the extended hiatus…

Well folks, it’s been a busy few months.  Between work, opening an eBay store and an upcoming Wedding and move this summer, something had to take the back burner and unfortunately that was YOU (for now…)  Once things settle down or when I have time, you’ll be the first to know.  At the very least – I will create a twitter over the next couple of days so I can update everyone on good finds and sells quickly and efficiently!
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Portmeiron Pomona Collection – Use Caution w/ Fine China Dishes


Above is a picture of a small part of a Portmeiron Pomona dishes collection that I bought a couple of months ago at a garage sale.  It’s significant because, this was at a garage sale with mostly what I consider “old lady stuff” that I would have never ever even considered good stuff a couple of years ago.  Awww… the power of BROADENING ONE’S HORIZONS.  Seriously, though, many people talk about finding a niche and becoming an expert in one area.  I say, in today’s market, you are paying for it if you aren’t willing to looking at different things.  The internet, smartphones, mobile apps, are all GREAT THINGS – so take advantage.

Enough, I will get off my soap box.  Another reason why this was significant was because I distinctly remember this garage sale.  It was getting towards the end of the morning and it was at a house across the street from the school my mom use to teach at.  I looked at the plates and some other things, walked off towards my car, and actually came back to purchase them – which I’ve only ever done a handful of times.

Coming back definitely paid off as I paid only $15 for the collection, along with an empty bottle of Chambord liquor.  I’ve broken up the collection into mostly individual pieces and actually still have a couple pieces left to sell.

With all of us this said, I will send a caution when looking at dishes, especially fine China.  I was visiting with a lady that owns a successful resale consignment shop in the area and she gave me her take on the current market.  There is an aging population that all considered their China sacred possessions only to be used for very special occasions.  Middle aged children of these older people are coming into the store hoping to sell the family China….

The problem, she says, is that so many younger women no longer feel the need for China.  What use to be tradition and a “necessity”, no longer applies and probably will not for the forseeable future.  This will likely cause a great supply of people wanting to sell family China, yet the demand will keep relatively low.

All I’m saying is, don’t overpay, and that as always: you need to know what you’re looking at.  If you don’t, that’s why you have an iPhone, Android, or whatever looker-upper thing-a-ma-jig.

For now:

Dish Collection Original Cost: $15.00

Sales to Date: $312.21

Net Profit to Date (after Fees): $261.15

Hmm.. glad I walked back to the sale.

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Patience is a virtue… (especially on eBay)

For the first couple years of listing things on eBay it was always a game for me.  I’d list something for sale starting at a low price and have an idea of how much it’d sell for, but no true picture of where it was really going to get bid up to – it was always a guessing game.  Sometimes I’d get way more than I what I considered to be market value for an item; other days I’d get burned and sell something for way less than I expected.  Ultimately, I think these different outcomes had much less to do with auction timing (I.E. – ending all auctions on a Sunday night) and more to do with something called – the volatility of the market.

So what’s the point – what I am trying to get at?  Let’s look at a quick example: Last weekend I had what I would call a mildly successful trip to a couple of thrift stores (damn you rain!).  I got a bunch of stuff – but for the point of this story I am going to focus on one pair of Italian men’s dress shoes that I paid around $6.25 for after tax.  Shoes of this nature on eBay are selling for around $10-$35.  Because of the small size of the eBay market for these shoes this big window presents a bunch of volatility for me & my shoes.  If I list these shoes on weekly auction starting at $6.99, I risk them getting only one bid and selling for $6.99 – Awesome, now I lost money after fees.  Then again, there is the opportunity that the shoes get bid up to $40, especially if two bidders really want my shoes.

What's that Mr. Shoe - what are you trying to tell me?

What if there was a way to eliminate this risk (and yes, opportunity, too).  There is.  Study the market and create a buy it now auction.  Throughout my years on eBay I’ve learned that this can be especially effective on items with small to medium sized markets on eBay.  After studying the market, A $20-$25 buy it now on these previously mentioned shoes would fit perfectly, still below what other eBay sellers are asking.  Different sellers have differing opinions on the best offer option.  I personally think it’s a good idea as it gives buyers the idea that, “Hey, this seller is willing to negotiate a little on their price.”

In my opinion, I think if you want to become a serious eBay seller you need to at least weigh the options of using buy it now auctions as a complement.  Patience is a virtue, however, as it may take multiple weeks for your item to sell.  For regular eBay sellers, at only fifty cents for a 30 day listing this is definitely worth it – you are eliminating the downside of a potential bargain for bidders.  If you list more than 50 fixed price items each month, you need to open up an eBay store to save money.  As an eBay seller, you have to realize everyone has their own motivations for buying things on eBay.  Some are looking for nice stuff at a good price that is cheaper than retail in a timely manner (these are the folks that will click that buy it now button).  Others are willing to wait for the true bargains – that’s great for them, but not so much for you – the seller.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my auction at the top of that list when someone is sorting the completed listings from price:low to high.

Don’t think buy it now auctions are the end all answer for everything, but they are an alternative way to control pricing risk on certain types of niche auctions.  And do realize I will never use these types of buy it now listings for ALL of my items.  I love seeing my regular auctions jump $20 in the last 30 seconds too.  Just remember, when those shoes sell for $6.99, I will tell you I told you so.

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Precious Moments Figurines – Buy ’em Cheap

Precious Moments.  And No I don’t mean those tender moments in life that you wish you could pause time or hang onto forever.  Babies, marriage, kittens – Nope.  I’m talking about these little things…

Care for a dance my lady?

If you’ve never heard of Precious Moments they are made by Enesco and have been around for decades.  Enesco basically is a giftware company that makes porecelain hand-held sized figurines.  The most popular line of these would be – you guessed it, PRECIOUS MOMENTS!   There is a little hole in the bottom of these figurines that I’ve never figured out why it’s there until I remembered that drug traffickers need good hiding spots (#justsayin’).

In all seriousness, I was actually introduced to Precious Moments in a unique way.  A couple years ago I sold nearly $1000 worth of them for a lady that had a VERY large collection.  What did I learn?  These things can get you some money, and that’s why I look for them – if cheap.  What else did I learn, she spent a lot of her money on those things.

Precious Moments much like anything else are damn expensive retail and I think that’s why collectors flock to eBay to bid on these things.  Be careful not to overpay, but for a lot of 20 of them you can easily get $5-$10 each on auction.  There are also some rare Precious Moments sets that will obviously fetch more for the owner:  For the collection lady I sold a set of four “Four Seasons Precious Moments” for over $80.  Another popular find is the clown birthday train collection.  I was lucky enough to come  across an incomplete set that I sold for ~$45.  How much did I pay?  $2.  You want the boxes if you can find them.  This train set had no boxes and one of the pieces had a broken trunk (the elephant of course!).

If you are familiar with Enesco you know that there are tons of other series, if you want to call them that, of little figurines.  I have fallen into the trap of buying numerous of these, but nothing has yielded success like the Precious Moments have.  PM has a nice sized following and though there are many sellers who don’t know the market and want way too much for their little figurine of kids holding hands, there is some money to be made!

Stay tuned for my next article this weekend – I’m going to talk about how I price my things for eBay auction and why my viewpoint has recently changed from what I believed for so many years.

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That one time I spent $600 on TMNT turtles on Craigslist…

So I’m sitting in my mom’s kindergarten classroom a couple summers ago when my phone rings.  Who is it? It’s the guy with the teenage mutant ninja turtle collection; he wants to deal.

Earlier in the day I was perusing through Craigslist (it’s kinda my thing).  One of the most interesting finds of the day was the post about someone’s collection of MOC (mint on card also known as eBay slang for new) TMNT Action Figures from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  What did I know about this stuff before I saw this post?  Nothing.  What did I know after selling this extensive collection?  Way too much!

After a little research I found that these things could actually make me some money.  But not for $900.

Back at the school & the phone is ringing in the kindergarten hallway and I’m jumping with anticipation.  I have an offer in mind: $600, but there’s no way he’ll go that low for this big of a collection.  I offer and he doesn’t even stutter before saying yes.  I’m the type of person that can’t just enjoy the moment of the win;  All I can think about in this moment is how I should have offered less and could’ve still gotten these darn things.

I follow my own advice (from the previous Craigslist post) and roll up to the Wal-Mart parking lot.  Don’t lie and tell me that you don’t have a name for every Wal-Mart where you live.  We’ll just go the politically correct route and call this the affluent and culturally diverse one in town.  I pay the guy his six Benjamins and out of his trunk comes 4 massive Home Depot boxes as tall as your toddler FULL of sealed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures…

Damn I just spent $600 on TMNT Turtles in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

If you want to see what 165 turtles look like sprawled out in a living room go look at the first post on this blog.  In the end, I made plenty of money easily doubling my money and then some after fees.  It took months to clear out the collection, so was it worth it – HELL YES!  They are ninja. frekin. turtles.

Scratch is one of the rarest TMNT figures - this guy can easily get you hundreds of dollars. Good luck finding him!

What a great bar story – tell me a great joke and I will politely laugh.  Then I will follow up with the story of that one time I spent $600 on TMNT turtles on Craigslist.  Surely this has to be the weirdest story of my eBay dealings, right?  hahaha – you really have no idea do you???  Just wait.

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Craigslist it Up

WINTER.  In most places of the country that winter brings upon a dark time.  Cold, snow, wind and most importantly a LACK of garage sales!  How should you combat this?  Craigslist is one choice.  If you don’t know what Craigslist is… 1) pick up the rock that you live underneath and 2) it’s basically an “informal eBay” with no fees where people can barter goods (or services —> eww… ).  Everyone knows of the famous story of the guy that turned a paperclip into a house on Craiglist.  While this may be a little extreme, there are many good ideas to be had with all different types of stuff.  A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Figure Collection, iPods, a trumpet, Fisher Price toys, Nerf guns.  Got ’em all on the Craig, but they are stories for another day.

Here are a couple tips if you are looking to buy and resell using Craigslist:

  1. Be patient. Be diligent. – If you are in a big city the number of posts on Craigslist can be absolutely staggering.  Look around and use keywords like “collection” or “lot”.  This will help narrow down the number of searchable results and it may include items that you might otherwise overlook.
  2. Research.  ALWAYS. – Craigslist gives you a luxury that other sources of inventory like garage sales and flea markets don’t.  You usually know exactly what you’re getting on Craigslist and you’re also sitting in front of a computer with the internet.  Use the internet.  If you are buying something in bulk and don’t know “exactly” what is included make sure to email the seller to see what you’re going to be paying $75 for.  Become an expert on the items through diligent research.  A perfect example is some Fisher Price Imaginext toys that I bought on Craigslist last month for $75.  The guy didn’t have everything that was included listed out, but after meeting with him and seeing what I was getting I knew the values of the toys that I was looking at easily exceeded the $75 I was paying him.
  3. Always meet in public places.  ALWAYS! – Let me be the first to tell you I have not followed my own advice on this in the past, but I’m very serious when I say you need to be careful when dealing with people you don’t know on Craigslist (AKA Stranger Danger).  If you take the neccessary precautions to meet in a busy Walmart parking lot in the light of the day instead of a dark alley at midnight, it will obviously be a benefit to you.  I’ll get off my soapbox, but in all seriousness, you need to be careful and be mindful of your surrondings.  Strangers shouldn’t be coming to your house to look at $5,000 diamond earrings that you posted on Craigslist – that’s just asking for trouble.
  4. If it seems too good to be true than it probably is…

Hopefully you can find something better than this to buy on Craigslist

In summary, Craigslist is a very viable option to buy and resell items just like garage sales.  It gives you an added luxury of being able to research and take fewer chances than at garage sales.  At the same time, buyers on Craigslist are usually more knowledgable about the value of things they have when comparing to some garage sales.  Keeping that in mind – you gotta be careful to NOT OVERPAY!

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Nerf Guns – My Staple

Two Words -> Nerf. Gun.

If you go to enough garage sales you will have that staple item.  That thing you always come back to and see almost every week.  For me, my safe haven has been the Nerf gun.  I’ve sold my old ones.  I’ve bought them at yard sales.  I’ve bought big collections on craigslist.  Big ones.  Small ones.  Green ones.  Purple ones.

Much like Lego – Nerf guns were and are still MASS MADE toys.  They are made by Hasbro and most will read Made in China.  With that said, they are still very popular.  Don’t think you are going to hit the big score with Nerf guns, but they are nice solid buys to resell.  Usually if you can get a Nerf gun for $2 or less you will at the very least triple your money, likely more.  It all depends on the one that you have in your hand. is a great resource to further your research on these classic toys.

The most rare Nerf gun? … The Vintage Nerf Crossbow from the mid 1990’s.  If you are able to find one of these BUY IT!!!  You can easily get over $100 from this Crossbow alone on eBay.  Don’t be fooled though, newer versions of the Crossbow have been made and these are just a regular Nerf gun.  Still looking to come across one of these, hasn’t happened yet.

The Mother of 'Em All.

So buy the Nerf gun and resell it.  What else is there to know?  A lot.  You need to know the market so you can maximize your profits.  I have shipped tons of Nerf guns to the country of Singapore.  If you don’t offer International Shipping – these bidders have no chance to win your auction and that’s a bad thing for you!  Less bidders = lower final price.  Another good example of knowing the market – look at the picture of this nice little Nerfy below.

So it’s a Nerf gun.  Just list it and bam we’re good to go, right? WRONG!  Research.  Will this gun sell better with that Nerf dart clip (the awesome orange & grey attached thing that holds 36 darts) in one auction?  Should you split up the lot?  With this particular picture the seller would probably be served the best by splitting it up.  Selling that dart clip by itself (again, the awesome orange thing) will give you $20 and the two piece Raider CS-6 would give you $5-$6.  Sell everything together and you might only get $10 for it all combined.

So, go.  Be free and Nerf hunt.  Besides, when you walk through target and see a Nerf gun in the store for $39.99 that you bought for $3 you can say, HA!

P.S. – Look for Super Soaker Water Guns too.

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Tom Swift and his Cosmotron Express – Vintage Mystery Books

If you’re like me (and if you were able to find this website this will probably apply to you) then you are a very curious person.  Though, I have bought and sold hundreds of things on eBay over the last 7 years, I got to thinking… Any time I learn how much items are worth it’s just from personal experience.  This led me to a new thought: why not spend a few hours every week actively looking and researching “random” things on eBay and report back to a spreadsheet that I can build up?  Ideally, I would love to be able to jump into a garage sale and know how much every piece of junk out there is worth.  Is that ever going to happen? Well, maybe, but not before DECADES of experience.

There is that researching side of it and there is also the luck side of it.  Luckily, I have gotten lucky more times than I can remember with seemingly small ticket items.

Enter ‘Tom Swift and his Cosmotron Express”…

I actually happened to be up early on this specific Saturday morning and heading home.  I stopped at one garage sale – it was the right one that day 😉

Bought a collection of books paying 25 – 50 cents for each book.  5 Tom Swift books and I think there were some other Twilight and American Diary books – so I paid $3 or so all together.  Rest assured I didn’t know the value of this specific Tom Swift book; I have gotten a few before and these types of vintage children mystery type books usually fetch a decent $3-5 each if in a nice sized lot (think Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, etc.).  For all you youngsters out there, Boxcar Children is not vintage; I’m 22 years old and I read that series.  Besides, if you think that’s old school, you need to come back in a decade or two.  Any book like this is just not as old and hard to find – could be someday, just not yet!

Upon further research, I found that good old Cosmotron Express happens to be one of the 3 rarest Tom Swift books.  I knew the value of this book was $50-60 looking through different sites (and most importantly a couple recent auctions).  With that said, it’s going to be a fairly small niche market of people that are interested in paying that much for 1 Tom Swift book.  This is what convinced me that I needed to start this book at a higher price than usual – in this case $27.99.  That way, if only one person was very interested during the week of the auction I still made a nice amount of money on the book.  My book was the only one of it’s kind to be on auction at the time and a bidding war spiked the price up 26 bucks the last morning.

Bought = $0.50
Sold = $83.00
Gross Profit = $82.50

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