THE BOTTOM LINE ON EBAY BUYING
Here is my secret formula to successful eBay bidding. I locate items to bid on, and do not bid early, as we have already discussed. When I am looking for items, I use at least two browser tabs. One is for the eBay listings I am searching.
I also have a second tab open to check the value of items. For media items, I use Amazon. It is very easy to search for items in the Amazon marketplace and look at the average price listed for items within the lots that you are looking for during your eBay search. AdAll.com is another location to find values for rare collectible books.
If I am searching in collectibles or other eBay categories, I open a second browser tab for searching Completed eBay Listings. I search for the item on the first tab, and then look at the ending prices for similar auctions over the last three months on the second tab.
I generally do not get overly excited about an auction unless I know that there are several individual items that are valuable within the lot. I do not like guessing what items may be hidden in an auction lot. Usually, you can see enough either in the text of the auction’s description or by looking at the photographs provided to tell if the lot is worth your time. Watch out for the sneaky seller who sells a large lot of garbage and then throws in one or two valuable items to attract bids. If you only see one or two photos of nice items, but no pictures of the overall lot, or a detailed description of what’s in there, look out!
If I can verify that several of the items within the lot will pay for the entire cost of the auction, including shipping, I attempt to win the auction. After a while, you get pretty good at getting a feel for which auctions will also have extra hidden goodies in the lot, besides what was listed or photographed.
It’s always fun opening your large boxes of goodies to see what you got. Sometimes, you’ll have over $100 in extra inventory that you didn’t even know about inside your package. Sometimes you only get what was listed in the auction, but, if you did your homework, you should always come out ahead when you re-list the individual items. Plus, you can re-list the remainder of the items that had little value as a lot on eBay, sell it at a garage sale, or donate it to Goodwill for a tax write-off.
GARAGE SALES SHOPPING
Finding stuff to make large profits on at garage sales used to be easy. Now, there are many people re-selling items from garage sales on eBay. Plus, the people holding the garage sales are more aware of the value of many collectible items than they used to be, so items are often priced higher. Still, you can find a lot of great items to sell at sales, often for very cheap prices. You can regularly find $10-20 items for under a dollar. How’s that for profit?
Here are a number of tips to help you find stuff at garage sales to sell. Number one, do your homework ahead of time. Go through the newspaper classifieds and Craigslist to find sales that advertise what you like to sell, or similar items. Write down when the sales start and end, and what they are supposed to have at the sale that you are interested in. Look for sales that advertise large bunches of stuff, ’25 years of accumulation’, or that type of language in the ad.
Make every effort to be at the most attractive sale first when it opens. If you can go to sales on Thursdays and Fridays, you can find much more material to sell than if you wait until the sale has been running for a day or two on Saturday morning. Make yourself a route that hits all of the good sales. This prevents you from wasting time and gas money by going back and forth across the county to get to all of the garage sales. If you can hit a neighborhood or citywide sale, by all means, go there.
Number two, don’t waste time fiddle-farting around at sales. Treat your garage sailing as a business. It is fun to find stuff at sales, but you are there for a reason. Say hello to the homeowner and be polite, but don’t talk for half an hour. If you get to the tables, and there is obviously only junk there, leave immediately and move on to the next one.
If you do find items that you want to buy, ask if you can stack them by the pay table. Get what you are going to get at the sale, pay, and leave. This allows you to hit the most sales possible in the time that you have for that day.
Number three, look at EVERYTHING at the sale. This may seem to contradict rule number two at first glance, but it really does not. When you get more experienced hitting sales, you will understand exactly what I mean. Don’t waste time gabbing, and wandering around, but make sure you look at all the tables at the sale. I have found tons of great items underneath junk on tables, inside other boxes, scattered in amongst books, in boxes of toys, and everywhere else you can think of. The items you are looking for are items that the seller does NOT know the value of. This stuff could be anywhere at the sale.
As a matter of fact, I have found some of my best items in FREE boxes or 5 or 10 cent boxes, thrown in with a bunch of crud. If you see these types of boxes ALWAYS look in them all the way to the bottom of the box. If it’s a free box, you can always grab the whole box to save time, and go through it later. You are doing the homeowner a favor by getting rid of the box of junk for them. Take almost any books, CDs, DVDs, or media items that you see in a free box. I have found multiple $50 books in free boxes at sales.
As a savvy reseller, you also have the advantage of having an Amazon selling account. This puts you ahead of 95% of the re-sellers you are competing with at garage sales, who are only selling on eBay. Look for media items that you can sell for a higher price on Amazon, as well as boxed items with bar codes that you can resell. Make sure you quickly grab anything sealed in shrink wrap that you can sell as ‘New’.
Number four may be the most important rule. Make sure that you can sell the items that you are picking up. Condition of the item is one of the most important things to consider when deciding on whether to buy an item. Is the item operational? Does it have all the parts? Does it need additional cords to be usable?
Plug electronic items in to test them. Almost everybody has outdoor outlets available to test with. If they refuse to let you test an item, don’t buy it. It probably does not work.
Also, keep in mind that some items are valuable without being functional. You just have to remember that you are going to have to spend additional money for parts, plus spend time fixing the item, which cuts into your profit.
For instance, it is quite common to find video game systems without cords. That does not mean that you should not buy them if the price is right. It is very easy to get cords online for any video game system, and they are usually fairly cheap. You can also save the systems for a while and try to find cords at other sales, or at second-hand stores.
Make sure you examine the entire item. Does it have broken corners, re-glued pieces, etc.? If it does, the collectible value is going to be significantly reduced.
Also, keep in mind the shipping cost of heavy items. There are many collectible items that would make nice profits, if it was not for the weight of the item. Figure on all items over one pound to cost over $5 in shipping costs, plus an extra $2+ for every pound after that. A heavy metal item could easy cost your potential winning bidder on eBay an additional $15 in shipping fees on top of their winning bid. Consider the total cost that you think the average collector would pay for an item.
Let’s say you found a really cool retro glass lamp that is priced $5 at a garage sale.
From your prior research, you have seen comparable lamps priced at about $25 at antique stores. Should you buy this lamp, if it appears operational?
The answer is: You probably will not make much profit on this lamp. The antique shop owner may offer you a slight profit over the $5 that you would be paying for it, but by the time you figure your drive time to the antique store, you won’t make much money there. If you planned on selling the lamp online, remember that the lamp weighs over ten pounds and would cost the potential buyer $15-20 in shipping fees over top of their winning bid.
Large items are also a pain to package, and you have to pay for bubble wrap to prevent damage. So, while the lamp looked like a great item at the garage sale, it probably would be a break-even venture for you in the long run.
Number five, keep a magnet in your pocket for identifying valuable scrap metals such as copper, brass, and silver-plate. Remember that non-magnetic metals are usually more valuable than the metal objects that stick to your magnet.