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Selling Old Collectible Vintage Art Print Ads on eBay

Updated on October 8, 2013
1939 Champion Spark Plugs Ad
1939 Champion Spark Plugs Ad
1939 Electric Range Ad
1939 Electric Range Ad
1948 Coca-Cola Ad
1948 Coca-Cola Ad
1953 Life Savers Ad
1953 Life Savers Ad
1956 Johnson's Baby Powder Ad
1956 Johnson's Baby Powder Ad
1957 Rambler Ad
1957 Rambler Ad

Selling Collectible Vintage Ads on eBay

Right smack dab in the middle of my vintage years, that cosmic calendar time half past the summer solstice and hopefully two to three decades before my last snowfall on this big blue marble, I am setting about to forge multiple streams of income...not for my benefit, mind you, but as trickles of liquid personal finance that will hopefully overrun the floodgates for my loving descendants.

Once upon a time, I worked as a baker. While I enjoyed the work and the delightful faces of those who enjoyed my products, the graveyard hours were weighing hard on both my body and psyche. I was therefore motivated to find alternative ways to earn a living.

About a dozen years ago, I discovered eBay. Initially, I sold fishing flies. But that took a toll on my already arthritic neck and back. The return on the labor-intensive investment wasn't good, and so I decided to sell the very fly tying materials and supplies I'd been using to make the flies. That proved to be a wise choice.

The income from such a venture, although steady, was nominal, and so I began to search for new niches on eBay.

About three months ago, I began researching sellers on eBay who were offering up collectible vintage print ads.

Instantly, I was fascinated. The nostalgic pull I experienced as I studied the images and item descriptions reinforced my hunch that this would be something I could really enjoy doing.

Here are the steps I took to get started...

First, I did my homework. I began diligently studying the successful sellers. What kinds of ads were they listing? How did they describe their items? Which sellers appeared to be selling the most? Why were they more successful than others? What prices were various sellers asking for?

I chose about ten sellers and sent each of them a list of questions. Some sellers never responded. Those who did respond graciously gave me a few pointers. One man said he'd worked many years to learn how to do it right, and he believed I would definitely understand why he was jealously guarding his expensive secrets.

I quickly determined that I'd have to just jump in and do it. Still, the effort hadn't been wasted because it pushed me out of my comfort zone and motivated me to reach out to others, a trait that doesn't come easily to middle-aged and senior citizens.

My next step was to procure some inventory. I found four thrift stores in Walla Walla County that sold magazines. (In the early going, I sold old magazines...that is, until I discovered that I could get just as much from one ad as I could from selling the whole magazine.)

My wife and I also went to estate sales. At one estate sale, I took a huge chance and bought 180+ Life, Look, Saturday Evening Post, and McCall's magazines for $90. The following week, the woman who was running the sale called us back and offered me a great deal on Scientific American and National Geographic magazines--for another $17, I picked up another fifty magazines.

Another great find was a couple of boxes of National Geographic issues from the 1920s and 1950s that I purchased from the Country Store in downtown Walla Walla. The initial price was $65, but I lucked out and got them for 50% off due to the booth owner not wanting to renew her lease at that store.

Three months ago, I started this new niche on eBay. I posted a lot of the NG ads at a very inexpensive price. Being a newbie, I figured the best way to attract customers was to substantially undercut everyone else.

I soon learned that this was the bane of eBay entrepreneurship. To offer things at too cheap a price can actually backfire on a vendor. Customers may perceive the seller to be a fly by night or very inexperienced individual who didn't know what he was doing (and--in my case--they'd be absolutely correct!).

So I began experimenting with my prices...three months later, I think I'm comfortable with the general price range I set for my vintage ads.

In the early going, I used a pair of scissors to cut the ads out. But this can be extremely time-consuming as well as a little sloppy. I thus invested in a relatively inexpensive Dahle paper trimmer which saves me a lot of time and more than paid for itself after a relatively short time.

In addition, the vintage ads seller would be wise to purchase--again, on eBay!--plastic sleeves and acid-free backing boards that protect the ad from bending during shipping and add to the longevity of the item as a collectible. Vendors offer up a variety of sizes for both sleeves and backing boards in bulk amounts and at very reasonable prices.

Finally, while there is no set in stone formula for success in selling vintage ads on eBay, one general thing I've learned is that the more successful vendors in this niche have been in this business for several years...even decades...and thus have tons of inventory listed.

As for me, after doing this for about three months, I've managed to sell a little over sixty ads, grossing somewhere between $500-600 and with a net profit in the neighborhood of $300-400. Elementary interpolation would therefore suggest that this little stream of income could bring in about $1500 or more in the first year. I can only get better and more efficient at this as I glean more experience.

In Hub Page articles to follow, I will be sharing interesting vintage ads (such as the ones that adorn this post) and personal anecdotes illustrating my enjoyable odyssey in this fascinating and rewarding eBay business niche.

I heartily invite you to follow along and perhaps even try your hand at this interesting venture. Your comments and questions are welcomed and appreciated.

© 2012 Hawaiian Odysseus


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  • hawaiianodysseus profile image

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you so much for dropping by...all the way over from New Delhi, at that...and sharing in this hub experience, my new friend! For some strange reason, I have not heard from other Indian writers for quite some time, like the prolific and talented Rajan Jolly, so I had assumed that for some reason, my connections with your country had been inexplicably cut off. Hearing from you was reassuring! Again, thanks for your generous and gracious comments. Aloha!


  • Indian Chef profile image

    Indian Chef 4 years ago from New Delhi India

    Hi Hawafianodysseus, Very nicely written hub and even though I have never tried to sell anything on Ebay but I wish you all the best for your goals of 1500$ to be met soon. Voting it up and useful.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state


    You're the first one to address the fact that I'm developing a niche. When I first joined HubPages, I had no clear plan as to what I was going to write about. It's kinda like momentum is built until the greatest exertion is made--that first step. As I wrote about what held my interest, I soon discovered that I could craft a few dozen stories or so around a central theme--eBay. Thank you for your kind and insightful words. Blessings and aloha!

  • Dahlia Flower profile image

    Dahlia Flower 5 years ago from Canada

    This niche you're developing is really interesting. I like your enthusiasm, too.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you, Angela! I'm following you because you have a wonderful, outside the box way of thinking that is reflected not only in your outstanding writing but in the strategies with which you contribute to your community. I'm honored to be on your team!

  • Angela Brummer profile image

    Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

    This is an Amazing article that I am happy to share! This article has been shared on Stumble, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Reddit and my hub following.


    If you can share mine: Margarita pedicure and Corn hole, It would be appreciated. And feel free to contact the others and the list to share article sharing!