What I Have Learned So Far - Product Picking Rules

So lets talk a little about what I am looking for when I go to an Estate Sale and look for items to list. Everyone is different and should be, because that is what makes each seller unique. There are a couple things which might be more applicable across sellers and will try to hit on those.

Final Sale Price Should be No Less than Double of Item Cost

This is a good general rule to follow, but adjust the % up as needed depending on what you are selling. Certainly some will get significantly more than that, so this is your floor. With eBay, after shipping fees, promoted listing fees, possibly international shipping fees, and shipping, you will be lucky to keep the overall costs below 50% total. Normally my starting price will be a minimum of double of what I paid and an additional 20% on top of that, then I will do a Buy-it-Now and allow lower offers at roughly 20% lower (sometimes less if I know it will be a hot item). As I study the costs and track them, I will continue to adjust this. Sometimes smaller high dollar items I am willing to take a slightly less margin on because the absolute profit is there and shipping is low. When I buy a large lot at an estate sale, I don’t worry so much about the individual price and profit, but look at the lot as a whole and some items I may just let go at cost and some others may command a higher profit.

Final Sale Price Should be No Less than $20

This isn't necessarily a firm rule, but a good general rule. Often I might get a lower price item because its unique, best represents the brand I am working to build, or maybe I just like it personally and think others will. But in general, if you are selling things for $5 and $10 on eBay now, start moving up a notch and get to $20 or $30 or even $50/$100 average item sale price. Now I am trying to move into the $50 to $100 range but that will take time. Items which you sell for $5 or less make so little money at the end of it all, they are almost not worth selling. I have shown reviewing the numbers that if I buy a book for $1, then list it for less than $4, I will lose money...so I don't (what I actually do is tag the item with a special character in the listing and then during the next garage sale, get all those low-end items and dump them or donate). I see others do this, but honestly don't have a clue as to how they can make money, probably just trying to get sales and make Top Seller Status (or recover it).

Supports the Brand

Sometimes I will just get an item if I know I can at least break even if there is a special item, something that is emotional, more or less rare/unique and truly represents the brand I am trying to build. There is a pair of Stallion Cowboy Boots at a local auction I am bidding on. These things are new in box, great texture feel to them, come with a matching belt...just oozes SecondMoonshot.

Give it Time to Sell

When I was starting out, I desperately kept lowering prices to get things to sell as quickly as possible. That's OK when you are starting out, because you are trying to build your store, get to Top Seller status, and keep some cash flow moving. Now that I have sufficient listings to keep some inventory moving, I am less interested at offering deep discounts on prices, but to put more emphases on competitive pricing and differentiators such as quality or uniqueness. 

Condition is Key

No matter what the item is, condition is key and often will make the deciding factor of your item over someone else, especially in the collectibles space. Condition could mean the item is flawless, in original box with original packaging, fully functional, not falling apart. When I see almost any item in very good or better condition/new with original box...as long as the price is reasonable, I am in - an original box and packing will sometimes close to double an items price! With books, falling apart books unless rare will often not compete with items twice the price or more which are in very good condition, and if it came with a Dust Jacket and its missing...walk away. If its falling apart, walk away. 18th and 19th century leather books seems to always do good in almost any condition, so will usually pick them up blindly if they are a buck or two.

Love Large Things

I love large items for whatever reason. Large framed pictures have generally done pretty well from a selling perspective. Also, other pickers generally will shy away from large pictures/prints because they are difficult to package and ship. I take pride in my packing skills and can very reliably pack a 3' x 4' picture with easy and the discounts on shipping are significant for UPS and FedEx when you ship these kind of items. Sometimes you can get good buys in Online local auctions as well for the same reason - I remember I bought a Steve Steigman Blown Away France framed print at an auction for $60. Had it reframed and matted to a high level and sold it for around $400. Not a huge profit at the end of the day because the framing wasn't cheap, but it was important because it was in excellent condition, got it at a very good price, and it was iconic...super brand representation. And to this day, I think it was one of the highest priced ones sold (and others think they can now sell crappy framed ones for $500). Now, I have most what I need to do my own framing, so could increase the profit even more when next one comes around.

The problem with large things though is that the buyer will see a large shipping cost, so you have to generally lower the selling price to compensate, knowing that some of the profit will be in the shipping. If you know its a good item and will be wanted, best to price it fair and wait.

Wrap Up

I'll add to this as more comes to mind, but think a good start. When I go to an Estate Sale or anywhere I think I might buy, above are the things going through my mind. Not saying we don't violate every rule and get some item which we find has a million listings and wells for $5...but thats the learning part, and over time we do better and better at picking profitable items.

John

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