Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tag Team Auctions

My dh and I have created what we are calling "Tag Team Auctions". We LOVE to sell on ebay - it's just so much fun to see what you can get for things sitting in your house - and we also LOVE to go to auctions to get deals. It's amazing what you can get at an auction.

So last summer, we decided to combine those two. Buy low at local auctions, sell high(er) on ebay. And we've had some great successes, too! ('Course, we also have gotten some real lead balloons, too - but you take your hits) Our best success: a box of old, small paperback recipe booklets (kind of like the type you get at the supermarket checkout - 100 ways to cook hamburger, etc) - but they were vintage, man. The oldest were from the 1920's, and went through the 1970's. Well, I paid $1 at the local auction for them (I'll try a lot of things for only $1), and I divided them into 13 or 14 different lots to sell on ebay. Altogether, those lots sold for over $100. So - spent $1, made $100. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The problem is...we don't always know what will sell on ebay. This can be serious, especially if you bid high at the local auction and then can't at the very least get your money back (I did that this weekend - a Fiesta ware mini-pitcher I thought for sure would sell, I paid $12.50 at the local auction, and they're selling on ebay for...ta da! Between $8-12. Ah, well. That's what I get for not taking advantage of the Tag Team).

Anyway - this is not a tutorial on how to sell on ebay. There are enough of those out there. BUT - it is kind of a look at what you could do. I try to limit myself to (1) things I KNOW will sell, or (2) things I THINK will sell and are going very cheap ($1-3). This is where the Tag Team comes in.

I go to the local auction, because dh can't stand for long periods of time without being in some extreme pain. Once I get there, I scope things out. Then I call him. He, in the meantime, has set up ebay, logged in, and gone to the "advanced search" capability. Once in there, there is an option to search only completed items (it's a little box that you check). This searches items that have ended in the last month or so.

So, I call him up and tell him what I see. For example, at this last auction this weekend, there was a game there called "Fame and Fortune" by Parker Brothers. 1937, decent condition, and it looked like a Monopoly knockoff/expansion, whatever. I thought it had appeal - but when he put it in, there was nothing - no sales, no links, nobody had had it at all. I didn't take the chance on it, because I wasn't sure.

When you search the completed listings, past auctions show up in red or green. If the price is RED, it didn't sell. If it's GREEN, it sold and you can see how much it went for. That can give you a limit on how much to bid at the local auction.

Then, you need to decide what you want your markup to be. That's one of the hardest things at local auctions, because you get caught up in the patter and the excitement of winning. You need to know WHEN TO STOP at local auctions, or you'll end up spending a LOT more than you really can afford, not to mention what you can resell. My "markup" changes depending on the item. If I can get something for $1 and sell it for $5, I'm really happy. If I get something for $15 and can only sell it for $19, it's not really worth my time. So it's a percentage for me, not a dollar amount.

Always remember:
  • You must take ebay and paypal fees into account when doing Tag Team Auctions.
  • You MUST keep track of what you buy and sell for tax purposes - Uncle Sam gets his share, whether you like it or not. Ebay has publically stated in the past that they will not hesitate to turn your connection info over to the IRS if your sales show that you might be reselling items. It's illegal to resell items not your own without paying taxes on them.
  • Realize your "low limit". I won't sell on ebay for a starting price of under $5. It's just not worth it to me, unless I REALLY just want to get crap out of the house.
  • Look for things that interest you! I've had a lot of luck with a real variety of things - old cookbooks, old craft magazines, statues/figurines, collector's plates, dolls...lots of stuff. But don't limit yourself...sometimes, what you could really do well on are things you wouldn't even think about - like a big ole stinky box of old recipes ($50 profit on one of those).
  • Don't let ebay scare you. Just make sure you determine your policies on shipping, accepting payment, etc, and make it very clear. Always write a lot about your item - and ALWAYS always take pics. Writing more WILL sell more things.

It's a fun pasttime, and all of our ebay sales are used to help pay down our BECC's (Big Evil Credit Card). It's kind of like the Dave Ramsey "sell everything - sell so much the kids think they're next!", except you start with a $25-$50-$75-Whatever amount kitty and keep replenishing it.

And as always - enjoy yourself - don't create more stress in your life with this. Have some fun with it!

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