Open Thread Q&A (plus new call-in number and mugs)

This week we have a couple experiments to announce. First, Ryanne created some mugs with our favorite sayings on them. Thought it'd be funny to have some no bullshit motivation when drinking your coffee as you list. Spreadshirt takes most of the profit from the sale but then we didn't really have to do any work. I'm sure some of you are creative enough to buy some blank mugs at the thrift store and just make your own. We'll be glad to post photos of them on the blog.

Second, we set up a call-in number to take questions for our podcast. We love the Savage Lovecast (NSFW), where you get to hear how the person asks the question. You can now call and leave your question at: (540) 407-8486. Obviously if you call, we may use your voice on the show. As always we respect your anonymity so you don't have to identify yourself. Keep it simple, ask a question, tell a story, have fun. Say hi to everyone! We're excited because now you don't only have to hear us blab. Who will be the first to leave us a question?

We're busy listing as much as we can as holiday season continues. Our sales are good but nothing crazy. I wish we could hire someone to take photos. One of our commenters, Bryan, has really impressed me that hiring a photographer may be a really good idea. Much easier to hire someone to take photos than to list. We'll see. What's going on with you?

Scavenger Life Episode 162: What's Happening In Your eBay Store This Week? iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

We've had a pickup in sales this week, which has been great. Getting some new people with interesting origin stories sharing on the blog comments as well. We enjoyed making and sharing the 'what sold' video, so we'll post another one this week. Ryanne mentions doing research on one of the oldest and most collected items in the world- postage stamps. Check out the most valuable stamp in the world- The British Guiana 1c magenta. It recently sold for about $10 million. Wow! Hope I find one of those at a thrift store. Just kidding, that will never happen, there is only one in the world.

The Weekly Scavenger Numbers

Our Store Week Nov 9-15, 2014

  • Total Items in Store: 3495
  • Items Sold: 45
  • Cost of Items Sold: $125
  • Total Sales: $2,137.44
  • Highest Price Sold: $300 (Vintage curtains)
  • Average Price Sold: $47.48
  • International Sales: 4 (3 GSP)
  • Returns: 2
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $240

VIDEO: What Sold In Our eBay Store This Week Ending Nov 8th iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp4  Download .ogv

We decided to start a series of videos about what sold in our store this week rather than what we bought this week. That way we can show real prices that people paid for interesting and unique items on eBay. It's kind of the opposite of a 'haul video'. We picked out some of the cool things that sold and video-ed them before they got packed and shipped. We hope you enjoy it!

And here's a video we made on how to pack a delicate lamp.
This will show you how we pack artwork framed with glass.

Scavenger Life Episode 161: What's Happening In Your eBay Store This Week? iTunes   YouTube Download .mp3  Download .ogg

This week we talk about our experiment with auctions (spoiler: lots of items sold, but most at opening bed). Jay's excited as winter sets in because it means there's nothing to do but stay inside and list. Now is the time to do it since the holidays are literally just two weeks away.

A listener, Brad, pointed us to this cool story on book arbitrage on the Planet Money podcast.

And Jena, Ryanne's mom, sent us this cool site that helps you identify tartan plaids. If you are nerdy like us, this will excite you.

And we have a question: would anyone come to a Scavenger forum if we built one? We're getting sometimes over 100 comments which can be overwhelming,  and I could imagine a place where it'd be easier to search for past answers so we build a knowledge base. But there's also other community groups to hang out in, and we all should be listing anyway instead of talking online. Anyone care one way or another?

The Weekly Scavenger Numbers

Our Store Week Nov 2-8, 2014

  • Total Items in Store: 3435
  • Items Sold: 74
  • Cost of Items Sold: $1233
  • Total Sales: $4,425.28
  • Highest Price Sold: $299 (Hammered Copper Pot)
  • Average Price Sold: $59.79
  • International Sales: 5 (4 GSP)
  • Returns: 1
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $63

Scavenger Life Episode 160: Interview with Kate about eBay Research Research Research iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

In a world of high energy Pickers, Hustlers, and quick money Flippers, it's nice to meet someone like Kate. She's a mom of three who's been a Scavenger for years. Her focus is on the items that people think are often literally garbage and finds the artistic and design value of them. She shares with us how she does deep research on these items. Then she's able to list these items on eBay for high prices because she can identity it's value to the collector or designer who seeks after these unique items.

Our conversation with Kate is so important for us because we also have been evolving into filling our store with more of these unique objects that bring high dollar sales. Because most people don't have the knowledge of "weird" items, they are often cheap to buy. And because these items are unique, we often have very little competition online. This is how we hope to keep thriving in a world where everyone is fighting to lower their prices on the same exact toy on Amazon. And in this way, selling on eBay can become a treasure hunt, detective case, history lesson, art theory class at the same time.

Our conversation ended abruptly because her phone died, but she did want to share her process with you. She'll also be glad to answer any questions you have in the comments.


I have a few more stories and thoughts about the research process and the importance of research that we didn't get to before my phone died – and I wanted to include some links as well.

Earlier this year I found a set of framed hand painted tiles at the dump, and personally I found them so unattractive that I almost left them behind. But at the last minute, I took them, because they were framed and signed and I figured I could look up the signature and return them to the dump the next day if nothing turned up. When I got them home and looked up the signature, which was J. Lord, I learned that people attribute these tiles to Jack Lord, of Hawaii-Five-O fame, and that they’re sought after by certain collectors.  I ended up selling them for about $250.  Personally, I don’t think they’re by Jack Lord at all, and that’s a piece I’d like to write up for my blog sometime soon.

A few months ago, I found a freezer-size Ziploc bag full of old buttons at a local thrift store for $5. I quickly realized that they were primarily Victorian, and could easily have flipped the whole bag for $125 in a day. Instead, I separated out all the buttons, and have started researching every one, or every type (many are matched sets.) I’ve been listing them slowly, as I research them. I have already made over $200 on the bag and I still have most of the collection in-hand. The other day I listed a button which had proved difficult to research. It’s going auction-style, so I’m hopeful. I started it at $45 and already have a bidder. It’s been so much fun, and somewhat profitable as well. There are button-collecting organizations with websites, and a vast number of books out there, too. Never forget about your local library’s inter-library loan service.

The research process really depends on the piece. For something like a signed or initialed vase, I might start just with eBay or Google searches, or Google image searches, or the like, trying various descriptive words to try and find something relevant.  For something like a signed painting, I use to help decipher the signature, and some of the other art/auction websites as well. Findartinfo includes pricing information in their free search, whereas other art/auction websites tend to share pictures but not prices. The sites can be cross-referenced with good results. Also, I believe the Rago Auctions website, as well as a few others, disclose their selling prices.

Using the “archive grid” website can let you know if any museum or university archive has a file relevant to your artist or piece. I also have a subscription to the New York Times, so sometimes look up things in their online archive, and highly recommend the site to anyone doing any research project about anything. It’s a really idiosyncratic website with a massive archive of scanned online newspapers, and the information you can find there is amazing. The advertisements and everything are searchable, so you can find out all kinds of information – what years a china pattern was sold, maybe, or reviews of an artist’s work, or newspaper articles about anything. It was really invaluable when I was tracking down information about Henry Ives Cobb, Jr. for, what eventually turned into that Wikipedia article.

Research links: (great for deciphering mystery signatures)

And, of course, Google’s image search and newspaper archive search (which I think was recently re-absorbed into Google proper), Google books, etc.

For general browsing and getting a sense of higher-end items' lines, moves, and feelings, I like to spend time reading Elle Decor, and browsing sites like 1stdibs and Wyeth Home, and reading blogs such as midmodmom and alamodern.

My personal website is, where I write about objects I've found and also address some attribution errors. It’s updated irregularly, when I find really interesting pieces or uncover mistakes I’m able to correct. If you have something you haven’t been able to identify, you can contact me through the site and I’ll take a look!

Digital Scavenging: How to travel like a Scavenger (or Here's a new way to make money)

This is where we stayed in Amsterdam for 10 nights. It was great!
We're working on another interview this week. In the meantime, let's talk about traveling. 

We love being at home and are essentially homebodies, but you guys also know that we love to travel. In 2014, we've been on the road for at least twelve weeks, visiting six different places. Because we make our living selling on eBay, we have the luxury of time. We like to spend at least two weeks in a place so we can get to know the pace of an area.

Renting hotels rooms would be ridiculously expensive for these long trips. Plus affordable hotels are often cramped and soulless. This is why we always rent apartments and houses on Airbnb. Many of you probably know how this site works by now: you rent directly from the homeowner so you can stay in neighborhoods instead of in the boring hotel areas. Who wants to hang out with the tourists? We always do some research so we find out where the cool neighborhoods are. Usually there will be cafes, restaurants, and grocery stores within blocks of the place we rent. You can rent a room in someone's house, but we always like to rent an entire place so we have our privacy. We meet the host, get the keys, and then the place is ours.

Here's where we stayed in Amsterdam.
Here's where we stayed in Austin.
Here's where we stayed in Portland.
Each was in walking distance to everything we needed.

Since we stay for long periods of time, we usually negotiate a cheaper price like any scavenger would. (The listed price doesn't have to be the price you pay!) We choose places that have a kitchen so we can cook most of our meals to save money. We make sure there's washer/dryer to wash clothes. And of course, any place we rent must have fast WiFi so we can monitor our eBay store from the road. Sometimes we forget we're on vacation because it feels like we're in our new home. It's so luxurious having a living room, bedroom, full kitchen, and a walkable neighborhood.

Running an eBay store for the past six years has allowed us the flexibility to get up and go. We keep our store turned on, extend our handling time, and ship when we come home. We always make a profit on our vacation even after paying all our traveling expenses. Next time you take a vacation somewhere, check out Airbnb and compare to what you'd pay at a hotel. If you use that link, you get $25 off your first reservation (we get $25 off too). Or just visit their site directly.

It's a fun site to browse to see what's available in your area to get an idea of what people are doing. We'll be using Airbnb this Spring for our vacation rental that we're finishing up.  Sell old shoes, buy a rental, make another stream of income.

Scavenger Life Episode 159: What's Happening In Your eBay Store This Week? iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

After two months of mostly traveling (while keeping our store open), we're back to our day-to-day eBay routine. Wake up, drink coffee, pack any overnight sales, list. Jay learned to list, so we're listing up to 40 items a day. Though it still feels slow, our Oct 2013 sales were almost the exact same as Oct 2014. I think we just forget to be grateful for steady sales instead of being grumpy that things don't grow exponentially. This guy tells a great story of retail arbitrage that shows there's plenty of work hustling to sell Legos. We like our simple life.

The Weekly Scavenger Numbers

Our Store Week October 26-Nov 1, 2014

  • Total Items in Store: 3398
  • Items Sold: 41
  • Cost of Items Sold: $205
  • Total Sales: $1,673.58
  • Highest Price Sold: $220 (leather garment travel bag)
  • Average Price Sold: $40.80
  • International Sales: 8 (6 GSP)
  • Returns: 0
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $98

Watch our dumb faces tonight LIVE

We're pretty shy and don't think people need to see us yap about selling junk online, but Andrew from Picking Profits invited us to a Youtube hangout tonight at 8pm EST. You should be able to see the hangout in the embedded player above, or follow this link at the appropriate time. I assume they'll be some kind of live text chat for the viewers etc. It's like appointment viewing during the old fashioned TV days.

You guys know that Andrew is a big book seller on Amazon FBA, as well as dabbling in eBay. We like Andrew's careful and honest explanations of his process. We're full-on eBay sellers who talk about dabbling in FBA. So I'm sure they'll be things to talk about.

You can hear the interview we did with Andrew several months ago. See you tonight?

Scavenger Life Episode 158: What's Happening In Your eBay Store This Week?

Ryanne gets a fancy LA haircut, we sell a vintage Shalom needlepoint for $80. Mazel Tov! iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

Another week returning home, another shipping frenzy. Ryanne just finished shipping 50+ items. We set goals of double listing all week since we splurged on a second (cheap on ebay make offer) laptop. Jay mentions our 'How to buy and sell Art' episode in this week's questions. Jay also mentions another great post on Online Selling Experiement blog about how Ryan's friend is trying to gross 100k this year on Amazon FBA.

The Weekly Scavenger Numbers

Our Store Week October 19-25, 2014

  • Total Items in Store: 3275
  • Items Sold: 31
  • Cost of Items Sold: $205
  • Total Sales: $1,346.28
  • Highest Price Sold: $255 (10 oz of silver)
  • Average Price Sold: $43.41
  • International Sales: 5 (4 GSP)
  • Returns: 3
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $0