The Giant Online Garage Sale
I sometimes think of eBay as one big online garage sale. There is a very important difference with this garage sale though. At this HUGE online garage sale, you can buy something cheap in one section and then turn around and sell it for a lot more in a different corner of the "garage." Seriously, I don't know why people don't take better advantage of this opportunity. People who drive around looking for garage sale signs every weekend completely ignore this online garage sale fill with unique stuff. Just to be clear, I'm not using the word unique lightly. The things I'm talking about really are one of a kind in many instances.
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If you take just a little bit of time to look around, you can find things selling dirt cheap, literally at garage sale prices. Do a search on completed items and many times you will see that the same item went for a LOT more when it was listed either at a different time or in a different category OR in a DIFFERENT WAY on eBay. This online garage sale is filled with treasure if you know how to find it.
There are a lot of people who do take advantage of this technique. Some call it arbitrage. It is basically buying low when the opportunity presents itself and then selling high when the market is right for it. The trick is knowing how to find the cheap stuff at the online garage sale that won't turn out to be garbage and THEN knowing how to get it to sell high. Many people just are not patient enough to get this to work.
I'm about to share something that could be very valuable for you. No, I'm not leading up to an eBook sale. This is a little something I learned by trial and error and it requires a bit of patience.
I've always dealt mainly in one of a kind or hard to find items. I've done pretty well with it, but I've also found that at times, I'd just end up eating a lot of eBay fees when my "hard to find" items just were not searched for that week. I would end up paying for the original item, then paying the eBay fees, and then have to store my unsold item in my garage or game room. The collection started to become overwhelming. To be honest, I've still got WAY too much "inventory" that I'm working on getting listed now.
Looking back, I made a real bonehead move by just throwing a lot of one of a kind stuff away after the above situation occurred and I just gave up on ever getting it sold. I could kick myself now, but I figure that doesn't really do any good.
Since last fall, I've made a very important discovery about the giant online garage sale we call eBay. What I learned is that the place is big enough that eventually someone comes along looking for just about EVERYTHING. It seems obvious in hindsight, but there just aren't that many people on a weekly basis looking for a 1935 yearbook from a high school located in East Nowhere, USA. Sure, you might get lucky during the seven days your auction is running, but most times, your yearbook will just sit there unsold unless some famous celebrity happened to be in that class.
Starting about the time garage sale season dried up last fall, I sort of drifted away from eBay. I started working on building websites and trying to make a bit of income from that. I'll write more about that in another post though. Before I did, I went to Auctiva and looked up a ton of my old saved auctions that had never sold. I spent about an hour re-listing them as store items. I had been paying for the store, but I never really kept much stocked in it. I did mostly weekly auctions. Now, I had a BUNCH of stuff sitting there for sale constantly with a fixed price. I really didn't expect much, so I set the selling prices on the high end of what I thought would be reasonable and left the items to sit (they only cost 3 cents per month as store items). To my surprise, after about a month, I started getting regular sales out of my store at the prices I never would have charged in an auction for fear of scaring people away. I realized that eBay was like the world's longest garage sale as well as the world's largest online garage sale! My "table" could just sit there until the right person came along.
What I learned was that when the person looking for that yearbook I mentioned DOES come along, they usually really want it and may have been searching for it for a while. They realize that it is hard to find, and will pay a decent price to get what they want. My old yearbooks that cost me one or two dollars (and other similar items) started selling for $20 to $40 each! That is definitely a profit I can live with, even after eBay and Paypal take their cuts.
The down side of eBay stores is that eBay does not provide very much natural exposure for the items listed in them. I found a beta program through Google called GoogleBase that allows you to upload fixed price store items in bulk directly to Google. This is very cool because that yearbook I mentioned will now show up on page one of Google if someone types in a Google search for it. Google indexes the GoogleBase items very quickly from what I can see.
Another strategy I found that works pretty well is buying a domain with suitable keywords as a showcase for your eBay store items. Google loves WordPress blogs (like this one), so with the right content and keywords, you can get some nice extra exposure for your items and let people click right to them (or your store) directly from your blog/webpage. Honestly, this domain name would probably be pretty good to use, but I prefer to keep it focused on how to help people make a few bucks online. Once you have hosting set up, the domain only costs around ten bucks for the year. You can say whatever you want on your own domain, so you are not limited by eBay's rather strict rules about listing and linking so long as what you write is on your own site and not in the actual eBay listing.
I can honestly say that the eBay store (15 dollars per month) and the domain (ten bucks per YEAR) easily pay for themselves. I made $57 over the last two days from items that cost me a total of about $4. Add on the fifteen cents or so it cost me to list them, and I still did OK after eBay fees. I hadn't even looked at these items during the past month. I only knew they sold because of the Paypal payment notice I received in my email.
Personally, I have so much stuff around here that I need to get moved along that I'm not really looking to buy on eBay right now. If you are light on inventory though, look for some of these one of a kind items that are listed cheap in auction listings (or buy items in lots and re-list them individually in your store). If you can have a little bit of patience, you can do pretty well buying and selling at this big online garage sale.