My Early Days Before Ebay, How I Lost 1000’s of Dollars Not Using Ebay!

I started selling and buying on Ebay several years ago. I delayed doing this for, I don’t know, laziness I suppose. One major experience showed me what I was missing, and taught me a major lesson.

I drove out of state with some friends to an estate of an avid camera collector. I ended up with a very nice vintage camera collection. There were early Leicas, and early medium format cameras, and lots of classic gear. I did keep what I thought was the best part of the collection, and took dozens of collectible cameras to a camera “picker number one”. He selected about a dozen cameras, high-grading me, and I made my money back on the collection. I felt pretty smart, after all, I got to keep the good stuff for free, sold a bunch, got my money back, and have more cameras to sell! So then I went to another camera “picker number two” This guy hates picker number one, and was disgusted when he heard the the other picker got some before he did. But, he bought the rest from me. and I made a whole bunch more money! Boy was I smart! On the way out of his home, I noticed on his desk a computer printout from Ebay. It was easy to remember his seller name, so I became curious. about a week later, I notice all of these cameras I had sold him were listed! Cool! I’ll see how much they sell for. To my surprise, and later anguish, the auctions ended, and I saw he made over $700 profit on the cameras I sold him! Now, he got third look, I kept the first group, sold the second group, and he got the rest, and still profited $700! What in earth did I sell to “Camera Picker Number One”. I immediately signed up for Ebay, and started selling, and one of my first sales was for a set of salt and pepper shakers made in Japan, I got $175 for them, you gotta be kidding me!

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Follow Up Occasionally on Old Leads

Do you ever “just have a feeling” you should call one of you old leads? By old leads I mean you got a name and a phone number of someone who “has a bunch of” or a collector or a dealer, or anyone who may be a good contact for items you deal in or collect.

I was in a different city on business, about two hours from home. At the end of the day I was tired and was about to drive back. I remembered a note in my “hot leads” file of a collector in a city half way between where I was working, and home. I called the number, and a woman answered. She asked who I was, and how I knew the man, so I explained. She shocked me when she said he had died. She said, “He died last week, we had his funeral Monday, and we are cleaning out the house right now, so you had better come now!” I went by, still in shock, and ended up filling my car to the top with items I collect and sell. There was no competition, and the prices were very low, and I was a big help to her.

EXPERIMENT: Everyone who is reading this right now, go look through your file and follow up on one or two old leads. Please post back here any interesting experiences.

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Appraisals for Your Treasures

I heard this somewhere, “Asking someone who wants to buy something from you what it is worth, is like asking a barber if you need a haircut”. Never get an appraisal from the guy you plan on selling it to.

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TIP: Antiques and Collectibles Price Guides

Build your own price spotter’s guide. Get a small pocket address book with index tabs. Keep ebay favorite searches going on items you specialize in. Write completed prices realized on the ebay sale in your index ie Brand, Model number, etc $47, $32, $150, etc. This is you price guide you can take with you when hunting for these items. Amazon found prices are also added to your spotter’s guide for your favorite items.

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TIP: Avoid Bright Colors

Bright colors at yard sales is a dead give away. When you are to that point in the day, you’ve already done well at an estate sale or two, and now you are “yard sailing” it back home, you don’t need to stop at every one you see. My opinion only, but I have determined that for good finds on vintage stuff, you can drive right on past any colorful yard sales. It’s usually kids clothing, kids toys, and newer worthless products. Look for darker subdued older displays.

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Bargaining “Chip” for use when Haggling

Cracks, dirt, corrosion, missing pieces, no dust jacket, no manuals, all need to be noted when negotiating. You will have the bargaining chip here. You may have another unit in the garage that “still has the knobs” or you may “have the original manual at home”, etc. (don’t reveal this when bargaining for the price).

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Prices, and the Value of Vintage Stuff

The original price of an item currently made is actually an illusion. Value can be deceptive. The manufacturer has established and created a market for something and they are entitled to get that price based on their design, their marketing, and their work. It’s real value may be entirely different. Collector’s items are collectible based upon similar illusions, “somebody wrote about it in an article” or “this guy I know has one of every type made” or “the price guide says…”. You can remember that price illusions are fleeting when negotiating to obtain something. “Just because some price guide says $$$, I buy them all the time for $$ or even $…”

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Good Amazon Picking Books Day for Me

Books from Today, Box 1

I have been really anxious waiting to get to a good estate sale. Today was a very good one. I was able to get two full boxes of books, and some misc useful and collectible inventory. I did not find any real antique products or furniture this time. I bought the entire lot for $70.00. The best rule of thumb is to get one item in your lot that will pay for everything. When I got home, I looked up most of the books (mainly technical and do-it-yourself titles). The first two books I was curious about sell on Amazon, ended up being worth what I paid for the entire lot. There was a set of technical videos that were $69.95, so I suppose that is close enough. I do not have a scanner to evaluate items on the fly. I usually use my best guess in grabbing items I am interested in, or in my own area of expertise. I think I do well. There was one fellow there that did have a scanner, and was pulling off books, scanning and piling up his load. I worked in and around where he was, and even after he left the area, and still found great items. I actually think he took too long to pull a book off the shelf, scan it, register what he saw, and place it in what ever pile he was working on. I just grabbed and pile them in my box. I high-graded a few out later. In my pile of books, I found prices listed as follows (showing the lowest price on Amazon): 1.84, 19.50, 8.49, 6.93, 8.29, 2.71, 64.59, 9.71, 6.94, 6.95, 7.50, 10.43, 35.00, 32.95, 1.71, 7.48, 49.50, 12.00, 12.00, 3.94, .10, 42.00, 7.85, .93, 89.95, 9.79, 5.99, 7.50, 13.00, 4.73, 6.85, 17.00, 2.00, 4.32, 47.00, 20.86, 10.00, and .01

Books from Today, Box 2

So, this was over $500 in Amazon “value” for the books I checked. About 25% of the books I did not check yet, no ISBN, etc. OH, and I already gave my wife 5 books that I did not even look up. There were also many journals, and manuals,etc which have some good value. There were also a bunch of video and film editing software packages I know nothing about. Plus a new in box stereo mixer, and the pile of collectibles, and useful items. It this pile was I believe a hand-crafted silver, or nickel-silver belt buckle, a small case of fishing flies, some Olympic pins, an old box of early Boy Scouts merit badges, 3 old Palm PDAs, a Radio Shack Breadboard, a Cessna Sky Comp calculator, some GB Instruments electrical testers, some micro tweezers, a DVD on coin tricks, a home-made brass steam engine, and a few other cool toys. Pretty fun day out “pickin”!

Misc Items from Today

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Ebay is a Great Yard Sale Too if You Do It Right

I get cabin fever this time of year. I look online and in the newspaper for promising estate and yard sales. I am looking and trying to find possibilities of where to find antiques and collectibles. Winter is difficult. Garages are too cold. People know that buyers won’t want to wait outside in the cold for a sale to start. (unless you are looking for antiques and estate sales in LA! or Florida). This is actually the best time to sell the stuff online, when you’re not out buying. Ebay and Amazon, and other great venues are good outlets in the winter months for you. It also means that they are good places to FIND good stuff. Yes, it’s possible to spend your days looking for good finds, and buying stuff on Ebay, and turning around and selling it back on Ebay for a good profit! It’s done all the time! Many times, you find the seller did not know what they had, and the title was wrong, or the category was wrong, or the spelling was wrong, or even the photo was bad. Once in a while you’ll see a listing for “A Lot of Old Transistor Radios” and no model numbers, and a crummy photo. Then you look closer, it’s a rare Regency TR1 radio in the mix, or an early SONY, or another classic. You buy the lot for $15, get it, and sell the rare one for hundreds of dollars. I’ve done this, and know people that do it all the time. It’s called “value added”. You are adding value, by knowing more, presenting or describing better, cleaning it up, or just selling better.

So, while it’s snowing outside, and you are getting stir crazy, look for some good buys on the world’s biggest yard sale. It’s always good to have a good long list of Ebay “favorite searches” running. If you are not familiar with this tool, learn how to use it! You can search by a string of misspelled words, for example. If someone messes up, and lists one of the words in your search, you will get an email notification.

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Picking for books is actually called “book scouting” Professional book scouters have wonderful tools to help them find good titles for resale. Many have PDA devices with millions of ISBN numbers and prices loaded in them. They will also have a barcode scanner to quickly read the barcode, and search the database immediately, giving them a yes “buy”, or no “skip” tone. Todays smartphones have barcode reader software in their cameras, giving you a similar tool, and taking you to Amazon, etc. This venue is also called book sweeping. Sometimes at library sales you’ll see dozens of these book sweeps with boxes and cases and carts of books. They have active online bookstores on Amazon and other book selling sites.

While we are on books… READ! Knowledge is power! Find books on your primary inerests. Gather prices. Get catalogs and study them. Find something when you are out picking, but don’t know much about it? Write the type or model number down, do a search, find it’s value, etc. Next time you see one, you’ll know if it is a good find or not, and be able to add to your expertise!

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