If you’ve been around here for a while, then you’ve heard our conversations with Jena who is a long-time eBay seller (and also Ryanne’s mom!) This time we decided to have a discussion with Jena and her husband, Mark, who is planning to retire from his job soon. How will eBay fit into their “golden years”? Do they need the money or is the scavenger income just bonus? How do they plan to make eBay enjoyable in their retirement? Will it be weird to be working together? Tune in to find out….
It’s been six months since we last heard from Mikey and Wendy who left this podcast to spend more time on their personal projects and become master Ultra Runners. But they’ve continued to make a living scavenging for eBay and share how they’ve developed a system for selling on the road. We miss these guys! You can see Wendy’s book and Mikey’s electronics kits in their store.
Ryanne’s mom, Jena from Jumble & Clutter, sat down with us during the holidays to talk all about fabric. Jena has been making her own clothes since the 60s and has the “expert hand” at feeling out quality fabrics and linens to sell on eBay. We have certainly learned a ton from asking her to help us identify what fabric buyers might be looking for. All in all, we always try to look for all natural materials like wool, silk, linen, cotton and rayon (yes it’s natural, who knew?). Resources mentioned are How to do a burn test, TheBeddingLibrary.com Ralph Lauren pattern site and Tartan Plaid finder.
Jena will hopefully stop by to answer questions in the comments about selling fabric. Thanks Jena!
It’s an open secret that we love doing interviews with other sellers because it gives us a reason to learn things we don’t know. Why else would someone talk to us and answer our every question for over an hour?
This week we talk to Jenny Davis of Haberdashery Resale Clothing Co. in Portland Maine. She has both an eBay store and a brick and mortar store that you can actually visit in person. We wanted to know more about what the difference is between running a store vs just selling online. We especially wanted to hear if she had insights into the ups and downs of the retail cycle throughout the year. Stores that depend on foot traffic know how sales get slow at certain times, while online sellers seem to be surprised when people aren’t buying every second of the day.
Opening up a B&M shop always sounds romantic because you become part of the community, meet people and have a place to call your own. But then we think of the rent, utilities, employees, and hours where you must be in one place all the time. We were surprised by one especially cool trick: Jenny not only sells clothing, she BUYS clothing. So she gets people coming in to sell her all kinds of stuff. Since she can pick and choose, I bet she gets her hands on some upscale fashion. The Scavenging comes to her! We also like how she discussed what she sells in her shop vs what she sells on eBay. That balance is important.
Let us know if you’ve had experience running a B&M store and how it’s better/worse than eBay. You can see more of Jenny’s items on her instagram account. She’ll answer any of your questions in the comments.
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 findartinfo.com 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 fultonhistory.com 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.
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 thatobject.wordpress.com, 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!
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?
We are consistently amazed by all our commenters posted numbers. One such person was really standing out recently and that was Steven Schultz. If you check out that last link to his numbers, you’ll be amazed what he has achieved in one year of full time selling on eBay. Steve is the perfect example of a scavenger who is willing to take risks on higher priced items for a larger payout. He’s also willing to ship crazy sized items if he can fetch the right price. He keeps track of his sales on GoDaddy Bookkeeping and uses the Yard Sale Treasure Map app (iPhone, Android) to find the booty. Thanks for talking to us Steven!
We recently got a comment from a mysterious young person called SkyHigh saying they had paid their way through college selling on eBay. We had been waiting and wondering if someone like this existed- a young person savvy enough to see they could make good money on their own without having to have a boss. And indeed, Frank turned out to be a real (cool) person who agreed to talk to us about his process and history as a seller. Leave any questions for Frank in the comments. He says he’ll be happy to answer the best he can. Thanks Frank!
After first visiting Amsterdam in 2005, we have fallen in love with the city and have returned for many trips, short and long, since. Many people ask ‘Why Amsterdam?’. In an attempt to answer that question for ourselves and others, we recorded a conversation with our friend Mark aka Bicycle Mark aka Citizen Reporter. Mark came to live in Amsterdam as a student back in the early 2000s and never left. As a fellow independent worker, media maker and traveler, we were interested to hear how he came to love this city of canals, bikes, cheese and funky old buildings as well as what the next steps are for him as he moves on from student to “adult” life.