What to sell on eBay?
April 17, 2006 1:39 PM   Subscribe

eBayFilter: A friend is considering selling "stuff" part-time on eBay, but doesn't exactly know what he should sell.

He's leaning towards consumer electronics, but I think that's a bit saturated right now. Do you have any suggestions on what he might be able to sell? I've heard toys are a hot commodity on eBay right now... anything else?
posted by bjork24 to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I no longer have the time for eBay but I did have good luck (seling mainly in the US) for a long time with the following obscure categories:

1) Non chart oriented used CDs - eighties dance bands I'd never heard of with shocking pink cover art would sell for $40; obscure hip-hop did well too; acts in the current top ten sold for next to nothing.
2) Stamps with a tiger or year of the tiger theme (I inherited a nice collection of these and sold it in bits and pieces).
3) Books related to Irish history.
4) Anything (badges, books, newspaper articles, and anything else you can think of) related to Irish UN peacekeeping missions.

The latter two I could pick up for nothing any time I was home in Dublin, but ended up with multiple bidders and high prices. Depends how much cash he wants to make, I suppose, I was certainly never a power seller. But I guess what I'm saying is you never know what will sell, and don't be afraid to experiment. Turns out there were collectors for all the above who would search daily for "United Nations" or "Irish history" or what have you.
What can he get access to relatively cheaply, and maintain an interest in?
posted by jamesonandwater at 2:12 PM on April 17, 2006

It depends on a lot of things. Second hand books (rare or not) is a good place to start. There is a huge market for them, they are small and easy to ship, you can learn the basics of identifying what is valuable reasonably quickly, and they can be bought cheaply in bulk at auctions/house clearances. When I did this I would usually spend £80-100 on about 10-12 cardboard boxes full of old books, and I'd be in profit before I was half way through the first box. Researching and listing them is a lot of work though, storage is required, and there will be many that are not saleable and will have to be tossed/sent to a charity shop.

I would advise him to go with whatever he knows first and foremost - don't try and buy into some electric scooter or pog craze, it's not viable. You will make more money getting "into" something, knowing the product, and coming across as knowledgeable and genuinely enthusiastic. People will always collect books for their rarity, will always want out of print information, and will always want curiosities. It is possible to make a living on eBay, finding the right product is the hard part.
posted by fire&wings at 2:27 PM on April 17, 2006

It works better when you have something to sell and you need a place to sell it, rather than the other way around.

The question to ask your friend is "What do you have or know or do that few other people have/know/do?" That's what people people will be willing to pay him for.

If there's something that anybody can sell on eBay (that is, something that I can tell you what it is and you can just go out and get some today) then anybody probably already is -- which means you probably can't make a profit at it (and if you can, it will only last until some other sellers notice your success).
posted by winston at 3:18 PM on April 17, 2006

One way to find out what to sell on Ebay is to see what's actually selling. Take a dictionary and open it to any random page. Close your eyes and and jab your finger at the page. Whatever word you land on , type that in on an Ebay search. When the search comes up, refine it to show highest price items ( use the "sort by" pull down menu at the upper right). Then while still at highest priced items, go to the left hand side of the page and click completed items. (you'll need an Ebay account to access this function).

The results wil be the highest priced items sold within the last two weeks on Ebay (for that item). Pay attention to what items got the most money and the most bids. Ignore the items that got no bids. You're there to get an education on what works.

If you do five words a day, after a couple of weeks you'll have a good handle on what kind of items are selling for good money. I'm sure there are better ways to get an overall feel for what sells but what this method gets you is some knowledge in "unexpected areas".

There's also a site called Ebay Pulse. This shows the items for sale on Ebay that are being watched by the most people. A "watched" item is one that someone has bookmarked within the Ebay system. Once again, user the pulldown menu to refine your search.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 4:14 PM on April 17, 2006

Consider high-end audio. Expensive vacuum tubes can sometimes be found at garage sales (though that's probably less true than ever as the caches have mostly been raided I think). Discontinued specialty headphones like the AKG K1000 and the Grado HP-1 series can also be quite lucrative if you can find them cheap (from garage sales, newspaper classifieds, and the like).
posted by shivohum at 4:30 PM on April 17, 2006

In addition to eBay Pulse, eBay also publishes a list of "hot items." I would agree that you should check these out -- and then avoid any of the products you find there as these are the ones you are least likely to make a profit on (unless it's something that you have access to and most people don't).

For example, eBay will give you a list of the hottest titles in the CD category. And you will find that these are generally the current hit CDs and these sell for about twice as much as most other titles -- let's say about ten dollars where other titles might sell for about five. But where can you buy current CD titles where you can make a profit selling them at ten bucks? (Whereas the five dollar title you might pick up at a garage sale for 25 cents -- which is not to say that even this would be worthwhile). What you really need, to continue with the CD example, is to recognize the titles that you might find at a garage sale for a buck or less that don't get listed on eBay often enough to make it onto any list but do have a demand and will sell for 20 bucks or more. Now the majority of CDs you find at a garage sale probably won't get a bid at all -- having the knowledge (that others don't have) to pick out the gems is what makes you a success.

This isn't supposed to be a downer. Pretty much everyone has some ability (etc.) that's unique enough to turn into an eBay business. The key is to ask "What can I do?" rather than "What are other people doing?"
posted by winston at 4:58 PM on April 17, 2006

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