07/01/2019 at 7:41 pm #64363
I posted earlier this year to ask whether anyone here had success with sourcing on Ebay, and got some interesting feedback. After that I decided to try an experiment where I’d invest in buying a few items on Ebay, then try to re-sell them on Ebay.
The items are all in a collectibles category I’d describe as “advanced,” with a well-established body of standards and knowledge among collectors and dealers. Think baseball cards or coins, but not. There are over 2 million items listed in this category now.
I purchased most of the items in April and May 2019. There is also one that I bought way back in 2017 that was in my death pile. I listed them all in mid-June.
Below are the items. The first number is the cost to me, including shipping. The next number is the price I listed them at (with Best Offer)
Brown Widget: $29.40/ $175
Pink Widget: $13.99/ $60
Gray Widget: $28.79/ $155
Yellow Widget: $24.95/ $85
Black Widget: $53.78/ $265
I should say that generally, I try to buy things that I can at least quadruple my money on, and 7x or 10x is better. Yellow Widget fails that standard already, and I think Pink Widget is pushing it. But if I make a clean $40 on each I’ll consider them worth my time, just for the experiment.
My hypothesis is that I can sell all of these items for a total of at least $600, but it will take at least 10 months based on my usual inventory turnover rate, and somewhere over a year is probably more realistic.
I’ll try to remember to update this thread every time I sell one of the Widgets. I am also happy to respond to any curiosities or questions people have. One obvious question is why I would source on Ebay instead of having fun at estate sales or auctions. The answer is that I’m one of those sellers who has a demanding job and a family, so setting aside regular time for sourcing in the wild isn’t a thing for me. I found all these items scrolling through listings during breaks at work, or after my daughter goes to bed at night. Part of this experiment is to see whether sourcing on Ebay is an efficient alternative for me.
My first update is that Brown Widget sold today at full price!
07/02/2019 at 10:55 am #64396InglewoodParticipant
I read an interesting sourcing technique on the weekend. As someone who dabbles in vintage video games, I thought it was brilliant – and it was front page on the local newspaper.
A local video game store (who also has a large ebay store) is now offering to “recycle” your old vintage video games as a free service! Just bring in your old video game systems, cartridges, cables, controllers, etc. and they will make sure that the plastics and other materials don’t damage our environment. Instead of going to a landfill, they will take care of them.
I thought it was brilliant! Just a genius way to source.
07/02/2019 at 12:06 pm #64400IndySalesParticipant
I’ll share my numbers also. Same format – paid/listed/(sold). I sourced all of this in June and all are listed in the same category. Most were listed under parts/repair and required repairs. Repair and diagnostics time is 30 minutes on most.
Item 1: $34 -> $140 (sold)
Item 2: $45 -> $190
Item 3: $40 -> $140
Item 4: $40 -> $100
Item 5: $40 -> $120
Average age of items I sell in this category varies from 30-40 days iirc. #4 was a bad buy. I stopped sourcing these after the 5th purchase because the market slows down in the summer and I’d like to see what the average age of them will be. If these sell within 40 days I’ll probably stop IRL sourcing and go strictly online for a few weeks. If they don’t, I’ll still make my money back, but will probably stop buying them since the $35-$40 on average can be spent elsewhere with quicker payback.
07/02/2019 at 11:21 pm #64430
Hey IndySales, thanks for playing along! Glad you are also getting results already.
Your plan to compare how long it takes to sell Ebay-sourced vs. IRL-sourced items is interesting. I should look at that myself. I track my inventory turnover rate, among lots of other metrics, but have never tracked the average time that items in a certain category sit around.
07/02/2019 at 1:51 pm #64403Retro Treasures WVParticipant
I have in the past done this with arcade parts. I don’t have the time/patience for the testing/repairs anymore, so I moved on. If you have a good rig for testing, there are TONS of “for parts/repair” listings on ebay to purchase and fix.
07/02/2019 at 2:59 pm #64405simplicioParticipant
I’ve dabbled in this as well. US shipping to Canada being generally ridiculous, it’s hard to make any profit. I have one outstanding experiment right now however.
07/02/2019 at 7:07 pm #64421SimonParticipant
- Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Half of the things I sell every week come from eBay purchases. I buy and split lots and sell thing individually. I currently watch for 4 types of lots. I should probably branch out more but I haven’t put the time into it.
07/02/2019 at 11:28 pm #64431
Interesting! I am sometimes tempted by those huge box lots of ephemera, photographs, etc. in the paper collectibles categories, but have never pulled the trigger.
07/02/2019 at 8:29 pm #64427scott2Participant
- Location: Merida, Mexico
Historynerd, sounds like a solid strategy for things you really know about. I have been able to pick up a few things this way too, generally because of people putting items for auction instead of buy it now, most folks WANT it now now and are not willing to wait out an auction. Also some mispricing happens, like someone listing a solid 100 dollar item without knowing with a BIN of 29.99. Another thing that helps is common misspellings in titles.
07/02/2019 at 11:36 pm #64432
Yeah, I think all but one of these items were auctions. The other was a BIN that I caught a few minutes after it was listed.
My general strategy was to scroll through newly listed items whenever I had some spare time, put a watch on things that seemed under the money, and then spend a few minutes of research on each one. If it looked like I could meet my 4x threshhold, I’d put in a snipe bid. If not, I’d unwatch and move on. I would say I ended up bidding on maybe 1 out of 20 things I researched. Then I probably won 2/3 or so of the auctions. There were a couple items I really wanted but ended up selling for more like half of what I thought was “collector price”. Probably went to another seller who’s more comfortable with narrow profit margins than I am.
07/05/2019 at 10:57 pm #64566craig rexParticipant
- Location: south jersey
Buying on eBay and selling on eBay (at higher prices) is how I get 75% of my inventory, maybe more. I sell collectibles, primarily modern trading cards and obscure media (CD’s, DVD’s, books). I sell about 100 items a month and my gross sales are up to about $3,000 a month, $4,000 in a good month.
Here are a few things I’ve learned in the last few years as I’ve increased my profits and sales significantly:
1. The vast majority of my purchases are auction wins. There are so many trading card auctions because there are always new sets being produced, and collectors want to recoup money with the cards they don’t want so they can buy new ones they want. But all these auctions allow for a huge margin for error on the seller’s part. The areas where sellers most frequently make mistakes are: title or description errors, wrong categories and (especially) starting an auction too low. I’ve gotten some great deals even when an item is listed correctly. People like to complain about conspiracy theories but I think the answer’s simple – auctions are fickle.
2. I used to waste a lot of time, hours and hours a week, searching for auctions and I also used a lot of my profits to reinvest into new inventory. My margins are not as good as Jay and Ryanne’s are. But the last year has been a breakthrough for me in terms of growing inventory and profits and refining my approach. Now I stick to a number of saved searches and sellers that work for me, and only spend a few hours a week running searches. Maybe 3-4, but it hardly feels like work. A bid sniper (Gixen is my favorite, the developer is very responsive) has helped a lot with this, too. Set it and forget it.
3. Always be listing. Don’t mess with auctions when you’re selling – just put best offer on everything and wait for the right buyer to find your item. If I am hungry for sales, sometimes I will take a lower offer just to move on to the next item, but I don’t do auctions even if eBay offers a promo. I don’t really do sales anymore either. Occasionally I will cull some dead inventory by lotting it up, but I’ve only done that once this year. Learning to buy smarter has really reduced my need to do that so often.
I don’t know if any of this is groundbreaking. A lot of the things I’ve learned are straight from the podcasts and the trash elf manifesto, but it took a few years of selling $10 items inconsistently for me to figure it out. There are a lot of sellers — especially in the trading card world — who don’t follow any of this advice. I find that really strange, but not everyone looks at their hobbies or purchases like a scavenger does.
07/07/2019 at 11:04 pm #64605
Just wanted to say thanks for posting this, craig rex. Glad this approach is working for you. I will need to refine my search strategies quite a bit if I pursue this further, similar to what you’ve done. I’m experimenting now with some targeted keyword searches and following certain sellers who run a lot of auctions.
09/04/2019 at 7:57 pm #67398dboParticipant
- Location: Colorado
I just want to bump this thread and see if there are any updates. I enjoyed reading the initial data on HistoryNerd’s widgets and IndySales items, but I really enjoy the sneak peak on techniques for this. I also work full time outside the home (right now) and have a family I would like to hang out with, but my current job is a lot of physically being there and only a medium amount of actual work, so this is a great structure for upping my product knowledge in areas I’m interested, but have been scared to venture into! Thanks!!
09/04/2019 at 11:47 pm #67409
Haha…Thank you for asking, but I have sold zero of my widgets since the first one. So all the sellers I bought them from have made their fast nickles, and I’m waiting on my slow dimes. Not surprising – as I pointed out above, if it took 10 months to a year to sell them all, that would be normal turnover for me. I will remember to bump the thread again when I finally sell something.
Maybe IndySales is doing better?
I’ve also started buying box lots of vintage paper goods and parting those out. With the first lot, I made a tidy profit as soon as I started listing stuff. The second lot didn’t have any hidden gems, but I’ll make money sooner or later. I will probably buy another box lot soon. It’s working OK so far, and it’s a very efficient way to source.
dbo, if you have the flexibility at work, you could use some downtime to research the categories you’re interested in. What I did: browse new listings, put a watch on things that catch my eye, and then go back and research each one: Look up sold prices; check active listings to see how many others are listed and what the prices are; and check a couple other non-Ebay resources. Then I’d decide if I thought I could make money. I will say I probably considered over 50 items for each one I actually bought. Researching tons of items was a great way to build knowledge, and I got more efficient as I learned about the market. I still haven’t hit on the right approach to keyword searching for deals – it’s just too huge a category – but I am following some good sellers who do lots of auctions.
09/05/2019 at 12:16 am #67410IndySalesParticipant
All but one of the above unsold items I mentioned sold. 2 sold at full price, while I took offers on the others or sold them during a sale. The last one has been on clearance a few times and fields a few lowball offers now and then with no bites – just a bad buy.
Overall the investment wasn’t worth it. I tied up too much money in each one expecting similar quick payouts in 24/48 hours like I’d seen with my first sale from this lot, which was just a fluke that made me feel overly confident.
On average these items sold in 28 days, and although I said I was happy with a 40 day average above, I take it back – too long for this much money on the line. If I’d got full price I’d think differently, of course.
For now on I’ll only buy this stuff if I can get them for <$20/unit.
09/05/2019 at 7:43 pm #67435
Well, congrats on selling almost all your items, in any case! Like you, I don’t enjoy having so much capital tied up in these items. Thanks for playing along and good luck with your other sourcing strategies.
03/11/2020 at 12:07 am #74994
I’ve been scarce on the forums for the past few months, but I’m making a point of coming back to bump this thread because I finally sold another one of these freaking widgets. Gray Widget sold for $99.99 on an offer to buyer. Decent enough sale for me. The other three are still just sitting there with a few watchers each. On the other hand, I am still doing well with parting out box lots that I also buy on Ebay. I bought a huge lot of hundreds of paper items that I’m organizing into smaller lots by subject/theme. Each lot will end up being listed anywhere between $25 and $200 or so.
03/11/2020 at 9:01 am #75005TemudginParticipant
- Location: Jacksonville FL
Thanks for the update. I was following the thread since I do the same thing you’re doing with your Widgets but in my areas of collecting expertise. I’ve been successful for years in paying up for items I “know” are in demand and will sell quickly, but that demand seems to have come to a screeching halt for me. At the same time, though, the lack of demand for those collectibles corresponded with a precipitous drop in impressions (and sales) since November for all my items. Fortunately I don’t have to rely on the income. I’ve got a move coming up soon so my plan is to regroup after that.
01/02/2021 at 1:05 pm #84821
Bumping this very old thread to say that I sold two more widgets from this experiment. Yellow Widget sold this summer for a few dollars over cost, and Black Widget sold a few days ago at $139. I still have Pink Widget.
Since starting this experiment, I’ve continued sourcing on Ebay occasionally. If I really keep an eye on listings every day I’m able to find items listed for substantially below their value, especially in auction format. But consistent with this experiment, they take forever to sell, and usually not at the price I hope for. As far as sourcing on Ebay vs. “real life,” I’m pretty sure it’s a wash in terms of efficiency and profit. I do get to handle some fun items from Ebay that I would not be able to source in my immediate area. Also, I’m still doing well with buying box lots on Ebay to break out, rather than single items.
Happy New Year, everyone – I’ve been scarce on the forums this year but still listen to the podcast every week.
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