Jul 172008

We began selling collectibles on eBay in December 2000, as a way to pare down and organize. In July 2003, we began selling antique car parts for restorations as our main source of income. We became Silver level PowerSellers, and soon branched out into sales of other items, such as toys and household goods. We’ve sold items in many categories, including cars, a motorcycle, a snowmobile and trailer, a pool table, musical instruments, china, shoes and clothing. Though we no longer have an eBay “business,” we still use eBay to sell unwanted items. We’re also experienced eBay buyers. We regularly purchase books, music, household items, toys, gifts and clothing.

When we first began selling, eBay was only 5 years old, and there were about 16 million registered users. At that time, it seemed that you really could sell just about anything on eBay for a good profit. Times have changed.

Today, there are 338 million registered users on eBay. It seems that everyone I talk to has aspirations of selling their junk treasures on eBay. However, like any marketplace, eBay operates according to the principle of supply and demand, and understanding this principle is essential for success. Basically, your item will sell at a price that reflects the available supply, as well as the demand at that specific time. On eBay, time is very important, because the supply is constantly changing.

I always research supply before I list an item on eBay. The easiest way to do this is with a completed items search. This search function allows me to see how many items were listed in the last 15 days, how many sold, and what the selling price was. This is very useful information, because it helps me to determine a reasonable starting price for my auction, and gives me an idea of how much profit I can expect. It also helps me weed out items that are not worth selling. For example, if there were 50 widgets listed in the last 15 days, and only one of them sold, there is simply not much demand for that particular item, and maybe I shouldn’t waste my time.

If you’re interested in selling an item on eBay, here’s what you should do first:

1) Register with eBay. It’s easy and free, and you must have an account to do a completed items search.

2) After you register and sign in to your account, you will be directed to the eBay home page. Under the logo, in the yellow search bar, click “advanced search.”

3) Enter the keywords that best describe the item you’re looking for. You should use a variety of keywords, including product, brand, size, condition and style. For example, “King of Queens Season 8 DVD used.” (I’ll be listing this soon 🙂

NOTE: If you get too few search results, or none, a broader search can help. For example, I got no results with the above search terms, but when I eliminated the word “used,” I got 23.

If you want to sell a group of items together, such as books, CDs, or baby sleepers, include the word “lot” as one of your search terms.

4) Make sure the “completed listings only” box is checked and click search. I always use the “sort by” drop-down menu to arrange the items by price + shipping, highest first. This is just my personal preference.

After you have an idea of what your item will sell for, here is a formula for figuring your possible profit:

Average selling price for my DVD, in similar condition – $15.12
Minus eBay fees – ($1.42)
Minus PayPal fees – include your shipping charges when figuring this, because the fee is assessed on the total amount of money received – ($.85)
Minus amount paid for item, if purchased specifically for resale – N/A

Approximate expected profit – $12.85

About eBay Fees

The total cost of selling an item in auction format on Ebay is the Insertion Fee plus the Final Value Fee plus any other optional Listing Upgrade Fees. The insertion fee will be charged to your account whether your item sells or not. The Final Value Fee is a percentage of the final price, so it is not assessed on unsold items.

To have a successful eBay business, you MUST have a PayPal account. Buyers expect to be able to pay quickly and easily through PayPal, because it’s a safer, faster, and more reliable way to make and receive auction payments. When we first began selling on eBay, we accepted only money orders or cashier’s checks. We could never do that today, because in today’s marketplace, eBay and PayPal go hand in hand.

Through PayPal, buyers and sellers can exchange money via e-mail. When you sell an item on eBay, your buyer uses his/her PayPal account to make a payment online through a credit card or bank account. PayPal then deposits the funds into your seller account. Basic usage is free for buyers, but sellers must pay fees based on the amount of money received. For amounts up to $3000, it currently costs 30 cents per transaction plus 2.9 percent of the amount received.

I hope this article helps you determine what items you can successfully sell on eBay. Next week, we’ll talk about some auction writing basics.