Ten Great Items for Newbies to Sell on eBay
Why I Wrote This Hub
In late September of 2012, a lovely woman from Connecticut, Karen Hellier, issued a Ten Hubs in Ten Days Challenge. Caught in the excitement of the moment and needing a constructive distraction as well as an impetus to take my writing to the next level, I volunteered to take Ms. Hellier up on it. I saw the challenge as a win-win-win in that it: 1) supported and reinforced Karen's presence and impact as an esteemed Hub writer and leader; 2) is a great way to shake off the literary cobwebs we writers sometimes get stuck in and, at best, is a means by which we also determine if we've got what it takes to persevere through the stress of deadlines, writer's block, crippling self-esteem messages, and the like; and 3) might very well result in quality Hubs that have the potential to inspire, influence, and motivate the output of other writers--a kind of mushrooming Hubatomic bomb, if you will.
In addition--perhaps in some measure a result of my comic whining commentary about how agitated and distressed I was over the challenge--chrisinhawaii, a fellow Hubber, responded with a request for me to write a Hub about ten things a new eBay member could sell. Whether Chris was cognizant of it or not, his request was very helpful in spurring me into action.
This Hub, then, is written with the earnest prayer that it can be of some help to the great number of individuals who aspire to become eBay sellers and as a huge Hawaiian Mahalo to Karen and Chris.
Here's a Bit of Our eBay Story
- Vintage Us--The Meaning Behind eBay's Lords of the F...
An entrepreneur of vintage collectible items as well as fly tying hooks on eBay, this writer shares a little bit about his family business, Lords of the Fly. May you find this article interesting, helpful, and inspirational!
The Importance of Doing Your Homework
Before we get to the various niches, or categories, an eBay newbie can sell in, it's important to have the right mindset and preparation. Your success as an eBay seller is immensely dependent on your willingness to mentally as well as entrepreneurially prepare for your exciting new venture.
Mental preparation is everything. I liberally and literally use visualization in everything I do. I assert that you're doing the same thing yourself on a daily basis; the difference is that you may not be aware you're doing it.
The bigger difference is that I am emphasizing the significance of using only positive affirmations in your mental preparation. SEE yourself selling your very first eBay item. BE the very object you are selling--that is, imagine how attractive and appealing you are to the millions of people who potentially have the opportunity of looking at you. FEEL the awesome exuberance of waking up one morning and seeing your item listing price light up in glorious green, a wonderful signal indicating that you have a bid, or bids (if you're using an auction format, that is). Alternatively, if your item was listed as a Buy It Now--that is, at a fixed price--you'll receive a message in your inbox as well as a notification at your eBay site.
Easier said than done because your mind will initially pooh-pooh this new behavior as being ridiculous, silly, and definitely ineffective. You have to fight through that mindset. I would not have the lovely and amazing wife I have today had I succumbed to my negative self-talk. Set your mind firmly on the goal of being successful. It is a definite must !
This next part is optional yet highly recommended. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Browse at will the eBay sites of successful sellers. If they have stores, click on the respective links and immerse yourself in the quality of the digital images and listings. Some of you who are reading this Hub are already wonderful writers. Channel your talents, therefore, into utilizing your unique style and voice to create listings that captivate your audience. Whether you use prose narrative or bulleted short phrases, include all the information you would want to know about if you were the buyer. Empathy for your buyer, therefore, is integral to your selling success.
Go to your local library and see if it has an eBay section. I read everything about eBay that I can get my hands on. Use today's technology to download eBooks or to visit sites that deal with eBay. Become acquainted with the eBay Site Map (found at the bottom of all eBay pages) and check out the interesting information eBay offers. Drop in at the many forums and threads that other sellers have moderated to learn about specific issues. On HubPages, search for Hubs with eBay themes.
Everything I've addressed here is free. That's an added blessing in itself.
Okay, so now that we've talked about the homework assignments, let's move on to the Ten Great Items for Newbies to Sell on eBay.
An Amazing Magazine Icon
- The Girl With the Haunting Green Eyes
In 1985, the lovely face of a young Afghan girl--a refugee in the Soviet-Afghan conflict--graced the cover of the June National Geographic issue. Her haunting green eyes catapulted this magazine cover to worldwide acclaim.
Magazines are an abundant commodity on eBay. You'd think that with the new innovations in technology, magazines would lose their appeal. Just the opposite is true, especially if we're talking about old, or vintage, magazines.
My personal definition of vintage is anything older than 1990. You'll find that the concept of vintage is a slippery slope idea. Every eBayer and his or her uncle has a different version of what it means. Nevertheless, I'm of the mindset that it, as my island peers would say--ain't no beeg ting, bruddah!
Where can one find these magazines? The next time you visit your parent(s) or grandparent(s) or any of a host of relatives from an older generation, ask them if they have any magazines they'd be willing to part with. I always look for win-win scenarios, and in this case, you'd be helping them get rid of clutter while amassing your personal inventory of back issues to sell on eBay.
You can also check out local thrift stores, yard sales, and estate sales. As a newbie, you want to look for free giveaways or pay a low amount. Look for old Life, Saturday Evening Post, Scientific American, National Geographic, Boys Life, and Collier's, for starters.
Also, find old magazines that are specific to your geographical region. Chances are that there'll be less competition selling these. For example, chrisinhawaii would do well to find old Honolulu magazines.
BONUS TIP: Be on the lookout for the June, 1985 issue of National Geographic, the one with the Afghan girl with the haunted/haunting green eyes. I have sold this particular magazine several times over for top dollar. Read the Hub to the upper right to find out more about this unique item.
And if the Magazines Don't Sell, Tear 'Em Up!
- Selling Old Collectible Vintage Art Print Ads on eBa...
A retired baker, looking to expand his eBay business, engages in a new niche--selling vintage magazine ads on eBay. He shares his initial steps of progress as well as positive results.
Vintage Print Ads
Take it from me, I know this niche is a winner!
When I quit my thankless midnight shift bagel baking job a little over a year ago, I concentrated on building my eBay business by adding this particular category. I wrote to several successful eBay vendors of magazine print ads and boldly asked them for pointers. About three of them responded--two of them provided me with some useful tips, and one of them point blank told me that he'd worked too hard over the years to give up any trade secrets. While respecting the position of the latter gentleman, I mentally dictated a note to myself that I definitely would be one to help those who respectfully asked me for help.
I set out to discover for myself how to sell ads efficiently and in such a way that I could have profits to reinvest into my business.
Approximately a year and 230 ad sales later, I am so thankful that I never gave up after first stumbling around.
The nice thing is that this niche complements the first. If the old magazines don't sell, and/or it dawns on you one day that you can produce multiple sales from one magazine by carefully removing and marketing the dozen or more attractive ads in it, you definitely have a convenient backup plan.
BONUS TIP: Along with the ads, vintage magazine photograph clippings, art illustrations, cartoons, and entire articles can be resold. When you're beginning, be sure to experiment with older magazine ephemera. Whenever possible, give gracious acknowledgment to the artist, photographer, and/or writer.
Little Sister's Doing Just Fine
- Makalehua--How I Found My Long Lost Sister on eBay!
It had literally been years since he'd last spoken with, let alone seen, his younger of two sisters. How ironic, then, for this online entrepreneur to finally meet up with her on the gargantuan global marketplace, eBay!
The Shirt Off Your Back
Look in your closet for clothing items that no longer fit you or your present taste in fashion. Again, go visit your parent(s) and/or grandparent(s) and ask them if they still have some clothing from a bygone era that are still in decent condition. Clothing styles have a way of recycling back into the mainstream every couple of decades or so. Shabby chic and hippie chic are great examples of this phenomena.
Experiment with what works best for this genre, the auction or the fixed price format. Play with starting prices. Study the customer traffic patterns.
Aside from finding clothing close to home or family, start going to yard, garage, rummage, and estate sales, as well as frequenting thrift shops like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and similar stores. You'll be amazed at how many expensive name brands you come across in your search.
I've helped my daughter sell a couple of women's apparel items, but, admittedly, I don't have much experience with this particular niche. What I can share with you, however, is that my sister on the Big Island of Hawai'i--who was an eBay newbie just a couple of months ago--has now made over a hundred Hawaiian clothing sales and has earned a 100% feedback rating. You can read about her success in the accompanying two write-ups in the right margin.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...or $4.99!
Did you know that old photographs sell well on eBay? Yes, it's true!
My wife and I were in Hillsboro, Oregon, during a buying trip at a fantastic Goodwill Outlet Center. Instead of selecting items from off of shelves, customers had to line up around huge bins, waiting impatiently until a signal was given. Then, it was Darwinism in action as a wild frenzy ensued that even sharks would admire.
In the midst of this madness, my wife found a discarded album containing family photos. The pictures looked to be from the mid-1990s. Although I didn't know whether they'd be saleable on eBay, I definitely was up to trying.
When we returned home to Washington state, I did my research and discovered that photographs are not only sold on eBay...they are actually sold for surprising amounts. I'm not suggesting that the profits are huge. But when you consider something free selling for, say, $4.99 a print, a large quantity of pictures--listed either individually or as a set--have the potential to turn into a nice windfall for an enterprising eBayer.
Remember...what we purchased in Hillsboro were photos that a family willingly donated to a thrift store. The argument can be made that privacy issues are relinquished at that point and that the photos then become part of the public domain.
Where else can you find old photos? Well, you'll sometimes find a cache of these items in yard or estate sales. I could kick myself for the hundreds of photos I overlooked because I never knew at the time that I could sell them.
You can also put an ad on Craigslist informing people that you are offering to pick up their unwanted items--magazines, photos, postcards, books, etc.--for free!
Since listing about 45 photographs a few months ago, I've sold about a fifth of that amount at $4.99 each plus $2.00 for shipping. If the rest don't sell in the next three months, I'll lump them all together and offer them up as a combined lot of 3 dozen photos for, say, $39.99. At some point in time, someone will buy them.
Like photos, postcards do well on eBay...with one important difference.
They sell even better.
Whether antiquarian or vintage or contemporary, postcards by the thousands are listed and sold on eBay every single day.
The eBay newbie would have an edge by accumulating a collection of postcards peculiar to his or her region. For example, chrisinhawaii could specialize in postcards that depict photographs or illustrations of hula girls. Karen Hellier in Connecticut might think about amassing a collection of postcards commemorating colleges and universities in her state--Yale, Wesleyan, Trinity, and UConn, for example.
Last year, I picked up a handful of contemporary Hawaiian postcards showing various landmarks on my island of origin, Kaua'i. The cards cost me about 35 cents each. I've sold several of them for $4.95 plus $1.95 shipping.
Another time, I walked into WalMart and picked up two Lewis and Clark Expedition postcards that cost me 18 cents each. It wasn't long before I sold one of them.
BONUS TIP: You might be wondering why I charge so much for shipping a light item like a postcard. Top Rated Sellers on eBay are required to upload tracking information in a timely manner. The United States Postal Service does not provide tracking for first class letters unless the contents of the envelope are somewhat rigid or exceed certain dimensions. Compliance with two standards that are not in sync with each other requires creativity. I therefore insert my postcard into a sandwich baggie, folding and taping the excess neatly, and then place the wrapped item between two cardboard pieces, taping the four sides securely. This provides the first class letter with the rigidity it needs to qualify as a first class parcel that can then be given a tracking number. The resulting postage is $1.64 for up to three ounces.
Flying High With My Biplane Disorder
Okay, so far, we've covered the selling of magazines, vintage print ads, clothing, old photographs, and postcards. We're halfway there in looking at the ten great items newbies can sell on eBay.
The next four categories were drawn from an old saying that is familiar to anyone who has ever had anything to do with a bridal party. We'll move at a quicker pace through these categories because they collectively and conveniently serve as a mnemonic device for reminding the eBay newbie what to look for whenever he or she goes picking --i.e., hunting for items to sell on eBay.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.
Whether you're attending a garage, yard, porch, or estate sale on Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday, or frequenting a thrift or consignment store or liquidation center during the week, keep these four categories in mind as you pick through other people's trash for the treasures of tomorrow.
First up, something old.
How can you tell if something's old? Well, sometimes just by looking at it. The usual telltale signs are cobwebs and rust. No, I'm not kidding. Some people are in such a hurry to set their wares up for sale that they place zero to minimal emphasis on proper presentation.
Another way to determine the age of something is to enact the ancient Hawaiian ritual known as okole maluna, or bottoms up. Turn the item upside down. More often than not, you'll find pertinent information such as the brand or company name, where the item was made, and the date it was manufactured, You can then use this information, along with a rough description of the item, to search for exact or like items on eBay.
Okay, so imagine that you're getting out of your car, locking it, and are now walking on a lawn that's filled with tables full of stuff . Do the visualization thing, and say to yourself something silly yet surprisingly powerful like, I am Captain Jack Sparrow. Having just disembarked from my pirate ship with the skull and crossbones proudly displayed, I am on a beach looking for buried treasure. Ah, hello? What's this? as you take off your sunglasses and put on your reading glasses. Just a bit of humor, there, newbie, because that's how I roll these days following cataract surgery on both eyes.
There in front of you, displayed in all of its wonderful glory, is a table filled with old die cast trucks, cars, and airplanes. The woman running the sale is motivated to rid her house of her son's junk , as she refers to these vintage collectibles, and you, Captain Jack Sparrow, have arrived just in time, scoundrel that you are, to rescue the poor damsel from a life of wretched hoarding. 'Cause you bad, Jack, you really bad!
Every weekend in America, barring inclement weather, you will find these treasures waiting for you. And even when the weather is nasty, there'll be indoor estate sales--my favorite kind of treasure hunt because this is where you'll find some expensive things going for really cheap prices or where you can place bids or make verbal offers for a lot --or a set--of items.
BONUS TIP: If you ever come across fancy china that others are passing up because there's a chip or crack in the otherwise beautiful design, don't you dare make the same mistake! Give the owner a lowball offer. Chances are he or she will gladly accept, thinking that they've scored by selling you junk. Take the same broken dishes and sell them as is on eBay. Be very honest about the flaws. You'd be amazed at how many people are looking for broken china in order to cut the items up into small chunks for the purpose of producing beautiful mosaics or even jewelry. Like 60-year-old Hawaiian Odysseus, old is just a temporary state of being; old is just a step away from becoming refurbished beauty.
Man! If Only I'd Saved My Elementary School Lunchboxes!
- Oh, I Believe in Yesterday--on eBay
Arguably, no single decade so shaped global events as dramatically and as memorably as the 1960s. A case in point event? The American musical debut of the charismatic, enigmatic, and mop-headed Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show!
Okay, so now we're into something new.
On one hand, this niche is self-explanatory. Go to enough yard, garage, rummage, and estate sales as well as thrift stores, and you'll sometimes find NIB (new in box), unwrapped, still in its original sealed packaging, and definitely in mint condition items. Examples include records, cassette tapes, DVD's, VHS movies, book sets, figurines, calendars, sports cards, and so forth. More often than not, this will be one of the easier categories for eBay newbies to be successful in.
I have found more of these mint condition items at estate sales where surviving family members of the recently deceased or the ex-spouse in a divorce case are extremely motivated to get rid of the departed party's belongings. Whether you're working on a $5, $20, or $200 budget, if you do your homework and use your God-given wits and talents, you can easily make ten to twenty times your investment (and sometimes, even more).
The concept of something new can also refer to an item that is so unique you just can't let it go. Like that little chickadee you see in the photo in the upper right. I saw that item at an estate sale in Milton-Freewater, OR, and I immediately told my wife, "I got to have that!"
On a whim, I listed it as a Buy It Now on eBay for $34.99 with free shipping. It sold three days later, and even after the dust of expenses cleared, I pocketed $25.46 or over 12.73 times my original investment. Do that several times a month, and you can truly become addicted to eBay.
BONUS TIP: If you're like me, and you follow your gut, you might very well end up in a doughnut shop. Then again, you might just end up with a winner.
Hmm...something borrowed. What in the world could that be? And specifically in regards to a newbie selling on eBay?
Well, after selling some of your own items, you might consider stepping things up a notch and exercise your entrepreneurial muscles by selling other people's stuff. There's good reasons for doing so:
- It's a win-win-win for the three parties involved--the person wanting you to sell his or her item; the happy customer; and you.
- You will have greater access to higher ticket items without having to fork over your own money.
- You develop a clientele base that increases your earnings potential.
- With successful transactions over time, your reputation spreads via word of mouth or free advertising (blog posts, eBay reviews, Hub articles, Craigslist posts, etc.) throughout the community, and you'll have more than enough work to sustain your business.
At first, I was afraid to do this. But I carefully did some research in order to minimize the risks, and soon I was selling a few pieces here and there. Today, after several successes and, thankfully, no botched attempts, I am very confident that I can do this on a greater scale over time.
What kinds of things have I sold for others? Furniture and collectibles, for the most part. My most exciting eBay transaction was the sale of a Beatles lunchbox. My research indicated that I could post this item in an auction format with a starting bid of just 99 cents. My hunch was correct, and the item sold for $555.05. After expenses, my commission was 33%, or $159.68. Not bad for zero investment.
BONUS TIP: Start with family members, neighbors, and/or friends who have expressed an interest in having you sell things for them on eBay. In time, as you build a solid reputation on eBay, you may even consider submitting a formal application to become an eBay trading assistant. I've set that goal as a bucket list item for the coming year.
eBay newbie, your assignment is to make a list of all the thrift stores in your local community--Goodwill, Salvation Army, St. Vincent's de Paul, etc. If, by some quirk of fate or poor city council planning, your community does not have a thrift store, find a WalMart or Ross or some other discount store. If all else fails, drive on over or catch a bus to the next town and do some sightseeing.
The point is, no matter what store you walk into in your treasure picker mode, you'll find something blue.
For the sake of brevity--Ha! That's a joke!--I'm limiting this section to dishes, ceramics, porcelain, and general things of that nature.
I don't understand the psychology of it, but for whatever reason, blue sells.
The upper echelon of something blue is the world-famous design of blue willow. The easiest way to spot a genuine blue willow item is to look for the pair of doves. These symbols of star-crossed Chinese lovers appear on all items utilizing this design. Look for the birds in the top photo in the upper right corner of this section.
Other world-famous brands produce lovely blue and white pieces--manufacturers like Delfft and Baum Brothers, for example.
Even no-name blue and white pieces sell well. There's just something universally appealing about the blue and white color on dinnerware, stoneware, ceramics, porcelains, and pottery that drives sales up in the something blue category.
BONUS TIP: Enhance your marketing of blue and white items--or any items, for that matter--by taking good pictures that show the item in its best light and from different angles. Write great item descriptions that give the customer ample information with which to make an informed decision that will hopefully drive the sale.
Pink Panther? Warm Fuzzy!
I Invite You to Participate in this eBay Poll
Are you thinking about becoming an eBay seller?
This is my favorite category of items for a newbie eBayer seller's consideration.
Free is good! And in a topsy turvy economy, free ranks right up there with Mom, apple pie, and the girl next door!
I don't know what a bank robber feels, but I gotta tell you--the exuberance and power that courses through my veins when something I acquired for free sells on eBay has got to be just as adrenaline-ridden! And the nice thing is that what I do is legal.
So, sporting with my friend, chrisinhawaii, once again, the next time you're walking on the beach, have a basket or a pail with you. Pick up things you've long overlooked--small yet interesting pieces of driftwood, sandworn chunks of old glass, the occasional old bottle (bonus points if there's a message, ship, or genie inside!), rocks with unique and enigmatic shapes, crab shells, fish skeletons, sand dollars, and, yes, who can forget? seashells.
As for you, Karen, perhaps there are old battlegrounds in your area where the occasional musket ball or arrowhead can be found. Or in the designated free area of the yard sales you attend, are there old toys, marbles, books, or magazines that are still in great shape? Or would a Sunday after-church stroll in a nearby meadow provide you with the opportunity to pick wildflowers, weeds, and grasses that could be dried and later made into a field bouquet or scrapbooked between the pages of an old notebook and adorned with your beautiful poetry?
Point being, we need to be challenged on a daily basis to tap into the other 90% of our brains that we chronically neglect to exercise. The way we do this is to challenge ourselves to think outside the box.
Another way I like to refer to this innovative process is to play the fool. To dare to do something different. To challenge yourself to get out of the comfort mode and experience the dense jungle terrain of novelty. To run uninhibited with your imagination as a playmate. To physically languish at a desk at home or at a table in a coffee shop, your fingertips kissing the keys of your laptop, while your mind runs naked and uninhibited in the nth dimension of creative joy.
All of this, and I mean ALL of this, is absolutely free and yours for the asking. You just have to reach out and grasp the possibilities.
Okay, All Pau (Finished)!
So there you have it. We covered ten great items a new seller on eBay could successfully promote:
- Vintage Print Ads
- Pre-Worn Apparel
- Old Photographs
- Something Old
- Something New
- Something Borrowed
- Something Blue
If you're still with me after this marathon of a Hub, I salute and congratulate you for reading every single word.
Chris, you asked for it! Karen, you jumped on the bandwagon! Now all I ask is that you both--and this goes out to bruddah Ka'imi'loa at benisan85745, wetnosedogs, Georgie Lowery, kashmir56, and all the other writers who've expressed a desire to get started selling on eBay--provide me with updates now and then as to your progress in this endeavor. Please also know that my welcome mat is always out for anyone who has any questions about selling on eBay. To help you would be an honor and a great way to express my gratitude for all of those dear souls who so generously assisted me in my writing and entrepreneurial pursuits.
God bless you all!
© 2012 Hawaiian Odysseus