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Selling on eBay: Is It worth It in 2018?

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Kanvi

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The auction site eBay became popular way back in the mid-90s. It was an exciting time; the internet was still fresh, and new websites and online businesses were popping up. The infamous dot-com crash was still a few years away, and everyone wanted their slice of the digital pie. But when the market did crash, it took quite a few casualties with it. (Anybody remember pets.com and Webvan?)

Against all odds, eBay and other e-commerce sites like Amazon survived. We all know that Amazon has grown to become an online retail behemoth. (It must be good being Jeff Bezos) But what about eBay? While the auction site is still huge, its earnings the last couple of years have been fluctuating. With the influx of user-friendly e-commerce solutions such as Shopify, Magento, as well as Facebook’s pivot to e-commerce, eBay is no longer the default platform for sellers.

Which leads us to the questions: is eBay still a viable platform for small sellers in 2018?

I also need to qualify what I mean by “small sellers.” A small seller can be someone who occasionally sells stuff they’ve accumulated over the years (think online garage sale), or it could be someone who manages a modest inventory. I like buying and flipping old action figures, so I would fall into the latter category.

Anecdotally, I’ve seen lots of people close down their eBay shops. A close friend of mine used to make a killing selling old vinyl records on eBay. But he has since moved on to other selling platforms (Facebook, mostly) and even selling the old-fashioned way: in swap meets and conventions,

I asked my friend why he moved away from eBay (he still sells on eBay, but he says it’s just to keep his feedback fresh). The reason was simple: the associated costs were too high for him. The site takes a cut off the final selling price, and after PayPal fees (which eBay sellers always shoulders) there isn’t a whole lot of profit left. He considered jacking up his prices, but it’s a buyer’s market. It seems like a seller needs to shoot himself in the foot just to stay competitive.

My own eBay experience

That was my friend’s experience. I mentioned earlier that I am also an eBay seller. I say “am” not “was” because I think it’s still worthwhile selling there. My eBay earnings supplement my regular income, but I wouldn’t consider my eBay earnings disposable. On the contrary, I need those earnings. I roll the money back into my shop. The money is used for gas money going to yard sales, estate sales and, of course, buying stuff for resale. I also spend a lot of time cataloging, photographing, and promoting my inventory.

I’ve poured a lot of money and effort into my eBay store, and I definitely think it’s still worth it. You just have to be extra smart and try to maximize your earnings.

Good news: selling fees on eBay are now lower

The reduced fee is one of the bigger factors that encourages me to hang on to my eBay account. The auction site reduced its fees in 2013, which coincidentally was a year after my record-selling friend quit the eBay game. I’m sure my friend wasn’t the only one who quit. The mass exodus of sellers to places like Facebook and Amazon Marketplace probably forced eBay to evaluate the fees it charges sellers. So in 2013, it lowered fees in a bid to attract sellers and score some goodwill points from the community.

A realistic picture

The auction site is a business, and like any business, there are pros and cons to it. I’ve stuck it out with eBay, but I need to give you a realistic picture. So here’s a list of good and challenging (I don’t want to use the word “bad”) things about eBay; I hope you can use these to manage your own expectations and create a lucrative eBay shop in 2018!

The Good

First, the Good. After all these years, eBay is still totally legit and has a robust set of features, as well as a thriving, supportive community.

No advanced technical skills required

Other e-commerce sites like Shopify are simple to use, but they would still require a bit of coding (or at least Content Management System) skills. Ebay is super-easy to use. There are a lot of features and options to check out, but anyone can have an auction up and running literally minutes after registering.

You’re exposed to a huge market

Ebay used to be the default destination for people looking for a bargain, and it still sort of is. I can vouch that there are still tons of potential buyers on eBay. And tons of potential buyers mean tons of potential sales!

One of the best thing about eBay buyers is that they are comprised of extremely wide demographics. I sell vintage action figures, which is pretty niche. Still, I’ve found buyers who are just as obsessed with them as I am (probably more so). Best of all, they were willing to pay fair market price for the stuff I was selling. And this leads me to the next item…

People are willing to pay top dollar

The misconception about eBay buyers is that they’re all looking for a bargain. While this could be true - who doesn’t want a bargain? - many bidders know the value of what you’re selling. We sometimes forget that this is an auction site. And that means bidders and are willing to duke it out with other bidders.

Of course, you need to sell stuff that’s actually worth bidding for. I doubt anyone will bid on an old, stinky pair of sneakers.

Low-risk and overhead, high-reward

Setting up a business the traditional way can be a daunting, and expensive, task. EBay greatly lowers that barrier of entry. Anyone with a decent inventory and some basic business and customer service skills can set up a thriving shop on eBay.

Also, eBay gets a cut off completed sales and auctions. If you don’t sell anything, you don’t have to pay anything to eBay. That’s a pretty sweet set-up because it gives you room to experiment with different products and see what the market responds to.

The Challenging

That was the Good; time to cover the flipside. (I’ll try to make sure this doesn’t discourage you too much)

Huge market = huge competition

A few years ago, I had this idea to sell vintage action figures on eBay. Superhero movies had gotten big, and geek culture had gone mainstream. It looked like I had the perfect opportunity to cash-in on the interest and nostalgia associated with these properties.

I scoured garage sales and checked the local classifieds. I dug through literally thousands of chaff hoping to find a few valuable toys I could resell. A few months later, I had amassed what I thought was a decent inventory.

So I registered on eBay, confident that I had found my niche… only to learn that hundreds, if not thousands, of other sellers were also selling vintage action figures.

I was disheartened at first, but I thought about it this way: at least I had a good overview of the market. I spent countless hours studying other sellers, what they sell, and how much. Think of it as informal market and competitor research.

With a good overview, I was able to calibrate my selling strategy and build a modest but dedicated, repeat customers.

Find your niche

There’s a big chance that your unique idea isn’t so unique. I’m not trying to discourage you; I’m just trying to keep it real. Take my idea, for example. It turned out many people were thinking the exact same thing.

Here’s a little secret: when you think you found your niche, look at what other people are doing and see how you can improve their formula. The new, improved idea will now be your TRUE niche. Then get out there and kick ass!

Popular items net lower profits

When the first Iron Man movie dropped, I knew there was going to be huge a demand for toys based on the character. While those toys were sure to sell, many other sellers are trying to get in on the action. And since Iron Man was a popular character, I couldn’t sell him as a rare or collectible item.

That meant I had to compete based on price. I lowered my prices as much as I could, sometimes even barely making a profit. The good news is I sold TONS of these. So the profit per unit was low, I got by on the number of units moved.

Sales from these, in turn, supported my more niche auctions. Profit on those are higher, but it could sometimes take months to find the right buyer.

The Verdict: Worth it or Not Worth it?

Worth it!

Just remember that eBay has its good and challenging sides. Play your cards right, find your niche market, and keep hustling! If you've decided to dive into eBay and would like more information about how to find the right products (along with tonnes of other tips on how to make money from eBay), check out this ebook: Auction Arbitrage

eBay Screenshots

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eBay 1.jpg eBay 2.jpg eBay 3.jpg

Your Turn

That was my eBay experience. How about you guys? Have you stuck with it in 2018? I want to hear why you stuck with it, and how you stayed profitable.

Let’s hear your stories!

 

June

Well-known member
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#2
I love eBay ! I first started out on this platform by selling clothes on eBay and was mildly successful at it (I didn’t manage to sell everything but I did have a pretty interesting time seeing how many bids I got for a particular item that I never thought would be much-coveted!).

Speaking of clothes, I am inclined to think that they are some of the best selling items on eBay, based, of course, on my own experience, plus the masses of clothing items being uploaded, auctioned off, and sold there on a daily basis. But lately, I’ve been noticing that, as Kanvi has mentioned, that trends tend to dictate what sells, such as with movie characters and merch associated with them.

I also have to admit being intimidated about how to go about it at first. But now that I’ve done it, I would like to share some stuff I learned about eBay!

Selling on eBay for Beginners (AKA what I learned so far)
  • You can opt to list your items for auction, or get fixed prices for them. I didn’t know this one at first, so I listed all the articles of clothing I had for bidding. That was my first mistake, because I didn’t own designer-everything! Only a few select pieces got several bids so I was able to make money off those, but now I know better to stick to fixed prices if my items aren’t rare or very in-demand.
  • eBay has an affiliate program! This is such great news for those with monetized blogs and who review actual products they use!
  • You can choose to sell locally or globally! I love that eBay offers these options should I choose to expand my current local market to an international one.
  • I can create my own brand. During my eBay selling and buying stints, I have come across so many creative brands and “stores” that help advertise what their merch is all about. From designer bags and shoes to custom items like toys and sculpture, eBay allows creativity and even more reach with logos, mottos, featured products, and even billboards!
The sales commission fees don’t burn a hole in my pocket. As with all online selling platforms, eBay, of course, charges fees to its users. But it’s not something you will lose sleep over, and I think this is the main reason why so many merchants like doing their business there.
 

Fred W

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#3
I’ve been selling on eBay for close to a decade now, and I like the experience overall. And yes, I think it’s still a viable platform for small sellers even in this day and age of proliferating online marketplaces.

As a dad to two kids who outgrow so much stuff in such a short time, I’ve kind of specialized in vintage toys and gadgets that have hardly been used and are still in great condition. I’ve found that eBay is still the best venue for this, even with other social media platforms that have opened up their own selling features (Facebook is one of them, and Instagram has a sort of informal selling practice, as well). As Kanvi has mentioned in his review, eBay has survived seemingly against all odds even without the social media glitz and glamour other e-commerce sites like to use.

At any rate, here’s my experience (and some tips) as a toy seller on eBay thus far:

Nostalgic toys can be best-sellers. By this, I mean that eBay, Amazon, and e-commerce sites have become the best resources for those who want a piece of their childhood since most of these vintage toys have been out of production. We’re talking Teddy Ruxpins, first-gen Transformers, Fisher-Price classics (dollhouses and their furniture and figures are often products of great bidding wars), Care Bears, vintage Barbies, and other action figures. More often than not, buyers are Baby Boomers or Gen X-ers - generations who seem to be particular about holding on to their more carefree past.​
Certain toys can increase in demand, depending on occasion or season. Here, I will let you in on a big secret as an online seller - I rely on search engines and keywords to determine which toys had wildly successful sales in the past year, and which ones are currently trending as far as demands are concerned. A few clever keywords (or hashtags) is all it takes to figure these out, and then I can either look at my inventory of toys or source these ones from sales myself so I can put them up on my eBay shop. It always pays to have some feasibility research before trying to sell something.​
Even incomplete or flawed toys can have a market. See, I always thought that mint-condition, still-in-box toys are the only ones that can sell on eBay, but I discovered that many toy sellers also offer items “as lot” - meaning buyers will pay one price for a number of items being sold as a bundle. This is great for those items you think won’t sell on their own, but can be considered an attractive “bonus” if grouped together with more desirable items.​

Also, let’s say you have a toy car or action figure with missing parts. I was surprised to discover how many collectors are looking in particular for duplicate toys of the same model which they can use as their own spare parts! I find this practice acceptable on eBay, as long as I state clearly what the item’s flaws are in detail.
 

Burt Maklin

Active member
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6
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#4
Fred’s toy-selling game is on point! Selling action figures is a pretty enjoyable hobby – I call it a hobby because sometimes I think I enjoy selling figs more than buying them! Ebay is still the undisputed champion when it comes to places to sell collectible toys. I’ll be sharing tips on how to sell toys, just like Fred did, in the next couple of days.

Today, let’s start with one tip: Wait for new movies to come out

I had a couple of mint Grand Moff Tarkins stashed away. I had no intention of selling them initially. (I’m just a sucker for getting doubles) But when Rogue One came out (which had a pretty prominent CGI Tarkin), I decided to take a peak at eBay to find out how much Tarkin was selling for. I was surprised to find out that he was selling for up to five times the original price!

The hype of the movie carried over to the toys. And since there weren’t a whole lot of Tarkin toys made (I mean, he’s a scary-looking old man… how many kids would want that?), prices spiked. I was able to flip my extra Tarkin for a tidy profit.

And this doesn’t just apply to Star Wars toys and movies. You can try it with Marvel action figures, too. (Although there are way more Marvel toys floating around, so your item really needs to be rare – like those old Toy Biz Marvel Legends figures – to fetch a good price.
 

Burt Maklin

Active member
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#5
Okay, here’s another post about selling action figures or collectible toys on eBay. Fred gave some pretty good tips about doing just that, and I added some additional tips in my post yesterday.

For today’s tip, I want to tell you to always – always – price your figures to sell. Not everything is going to be a super in-demand figure like the Star Wars fig I mentioned yesterday. Toys are being churned out at an insane rate. The market is pretty flooded with toys. That’s the norm. The odd figure that’ll spike in value is the exception to that norm.

So when you’re about to sell your toys, do some research. Check the prices of sold items – make sure you check the completed/sold option. Because the amount people are selling something for isn’t exactly the amount people are will to pay for it. Armed with that intel, you should be able to make a more informed decision.

Normally, your figure won’t be super in-demand. And you know what? That’s okay. You just need to accept that not all toys are collector’s items. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sell ‘em. Just price them to sell! Since you can see how much people are paying for that item, you can make strategic pricing decisions – and by that I mean price lower than everyone else. That usually works for me, and selling stuff at a slight loss is better than having them take up space in my closet.
 

Fred W

Well-known member
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45
0
#6
Okay, here’s another post about selling action figures or collectible toys on eBay. Fred gave some pretty good tips about doing just that, and I added some additional tips in my post yesterday.

For today’s tip, I want to tell you to always – always – price your figures to sell. Not everything is going to be a super in-demand figure like the Star Wars fig I mentioned yesterday. Toys are being churned out at an insane rate. The market is pretty flooded with toys. That’s the norm. The odd figure that’ll spike in value is the exception to that norm.

So when you’re about to sell your toys, do some research. Check the prices of sold items – make sure you check the completed/sold option. Because the amount people are selling something for isn’t exactly the amount people are will to pay for it. Armed with that intel, you should be able to make a more informed decision.

Normally, your figure won’t be super in-demand. And you know what? That’s okay. You just need to accept that not all toys are collector’s items. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sell ‘em. Just price them to sell! Since you can see how much people are paying for that item, you can make strategic pricing decisions – and by that I mean price lower than everyone else. That usually works for me, and selling stuff at a slight loss is better than having them take up space in my closet.
Great tip, Burt! Yes, please, price to sell! You won't believe the ridiculous price tags I've seen on loose figures with so much wear and tear on them that even my cats will turn their nose up at them. Just be honest about the flaws, and don't even think about attaching some magical story to those figures just to get them moving. I once saw a seller trying to move a beat-up He-Man action figure (not the ones with the pre-dented armor, mind), claiming it was bought from some garage sale of some celebrity. If that meant so much to you given its "history", why sell it in the first place, right?
 
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