Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blank Cassette Tapes Are Hot!

I never would have guessed that people would want audio cassette tapes 30+ years after they were replaced by the compact disc.

When I'm at a thrift store I always look for blank audio cassettes that are still sealed in the package.  Even if what I find isn't the hottest type, I still grab them to sell in a lot if the price is low enough.

Last July I was at a church rummage sale and found this box of sealed cassette tapes for .10 each for this box of  9.  I listed my 90-cent investment at fixed price for $69.99 and they sold in a few days!

There are a lot of different cassette tapes. Honestly, I know very little about the types but I will share what information I have found.

Some of the brands to look for are:
  • TDK
  • Maxell
  • Sony
  • JVC
  • BASF
There are other brands also but the above seems to be the most popular.

After the brand name, you'll find the letters that tell you the type of tape:
  • MA - Metal Alloy considered the best by many users
  • AR - Acoustic Response
  • D- Dynamic
  • DX - ?
  • HD - High Density
  • SF- Super Fidelity
There are lots of other types; each brand has uses different letters and descriptions. Even some of the tape experts don't know all of the meanings!

The Bias:
  • Type I - Normal Bias
  • Type II - Chrome High Bias
  • Type IV - Metal
  • Type III is obsolete

I've heard that the best tapes are the IV or metal tapes. However, it really depends on the needs of the user and the equipment that they are using for recordings. 

Some tapes do very well like the TDK MA series where you can get up to $100 for a single cassette. Others types like the TDK D60 don't go for very much even in large lots.

Your best bet is too review the eBay completed items to see what is selling or use your smart phone to check out what you've found.

Lastly don't walk past that table of electronic at the flea markets. The Sony Walkman cassette players from the 1980s can sell upward of $150.  I had this  Sony Walkman when I was a teenage. If you read the description it sold for $79.95 and doesn't even power on!

So get your 80's groove on and look for those cassette tapes and players!

Happy Selling,


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best Offer Options ~ Are They Worth The Trouble?

Several years ago eBay introduced the "best offer" option allowing buyers to negotiate the price on certain items. Seller can decide to use the best offer option right from the start, or add it to the listing later on.

The first few times that I used the best offer option, I ended up getting a bunch $1 offer on things that were priced over $20.  Give me a break; you're lucky if you can find something for $1 at a yard sale these days!

Then I started using it on new listings that were priced on the higher side. For instance, I sold a St. John Knit outfit that I listed at fixed price for $139.99 and including the best offer option.  I immediately started getting offers.  Some were very low but then one came in for $110 so I accepted it.  That was 6 days after I listed it.  Great right? Or was it?  If I didn't have the best offer option on this outfit, maybe it would have sold for full price.

Here is the outfit:

On a side note, if you're not familiar with the St. John brand (not St. Johns Bay), it's a high end line of knit clothing that is very expensive. Keep your eyes open for it; I paid $7.99 for this outfit at a Thrift Store.

Back to the best offer option; after trial and error, I do use the best offer option on some of my listings.  Here is my protocol:
  • I never put best offer on any fixed price listing during the first 30 days.
  • I review my store monthly and add the best offer option to items that have not sold after 3 months.
This month I added the best offer option to many of my listings with the hopes of increasing my revenue.  It has been very successful! Although I get my fair share of low offers, I just decline them and move on. Best offer has allowed me to move out some older inventory and make more profits this month then expected.

Here is a recent best offer that I was happy to accept! I had this 1970 P&G car listed for over a year. I paid $1 for it, had it listed for $17.99 and got a best offer for $14. Sold!

You have the option to have the system automatically accept or deny offers that you receive. I never use these features. Why? For the auto deny, a buyer can write in their own terms in the comments section and expect that you reviewed them before accepting the offer. The could say that they will pay $xx but only if it's with free shipping.  Although eBay clearly states that the offer cannot include stipulations in the comments sections, it doesn't stop buyers from doing it.  It just makes for a bad transaction all the way around.

As for automatic accept of offers, buyer may submit up to 3 offers, and often times they will use all 3 to see what the magic number is that you will accept. Personally I like to review each offer individually especially to see what type of feedback they leave for other sellers.

Recently I read that our hard economic times have made haggling or making offers a very popular way to purchase items. Buyers are no longer interested in waiting to see if they "win" an auction, they want to buy it now and if possible, negotiate the price.  This current situation means that using eBay's best offer option can bring more dollars to your bottom line.

I'd love to hear your opinion on the best offer option. Comments and discussions are encouraged!

Happy Selling,

Monday, January 24, 2011

Men Like Hot Shaving Cream!

Be on the lookout for hot lather machines! Apparently some men must have their shaving cream warmed and they are willing to pay big bucks to get it! 

Several months ago I bought a Conair Hot Lather Machine in chrome at a thrift store. It was brand new, still in the original package and priced at $3.97. When I got home I searched both eBay and Amazon and found a pretty big price difference. On eBay they were selling for about $40, but on Amazon I listed it for $79.99 and it sold!

It's model number HML11 in Chrome if you find it! Here's a photo:

Last week I found a vintage Schick Hot Lather Machine Kit with the shaving cream. It was also unused in the original box.  It just sold tonight for $34.99 but I only paid $2 for it.  I only had it listed for 3 days!

Here's the kit, not sure if the buyer is going to use it or if it's for a collection.

Last year Ollies Bargain Outlet (a discount store in PA) has some Conair Hot Lather Machines on sale for $9.99.  I bought a few and but realized that they weren't the HML11 (as pictured in chrome above) and I never took them back.  I ended up listing them on eBay for $22.99 and they all sold very quickly, mainly going to Canada.  It wasn't a huge profit, but they were a quick flip and easy to ship.  Most of all I didn't have to return my "mistake" purchase!

So keep an eye out for hot later machines. Recent completed sales on eBay show even used ones selling for up to $27.

Happy Selling,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

International Shipping Pros, Cons & Tips

When selling on eBay, you have the choice of shipping your items within the US only, worldwide, or you can select the areas outside of the US to which you want to offer your items for sale. Most of my packages are shipping with the US Postal Service (USPS) so that is the shipping service I will be talking about today.

Currently I ship almost all of my items worldwide, but I did not always offer this service. When I started with eBay, shipping outside of the US seemed very scary and risky.  As I became more experienced, I would occasionally offer to sell a highly collectible or unique item outside of the states. What I found was that on those items I was able to obtain a higher price at auctions, or sell my item much faster when I was willing to ship it internationally.

I also learned the importance of knowing the right and wrong way to ship internationally. Packages shipped internationally take longer then domestic shipments. Buyers that are unfamiliar with this can become impatient and want to track the package. 

Just like packages shipped within the US, Paypal requires proof of delivery for packages going outside the US. However on domestic packages you can ship via the United States Postal Service (USPS) First Class Mail and still purchase delivery conformation so you will have proof of delivery.  On international shipments, USPS First Class International (FCI) does not offer tracking or proof of delivery. You can get delivery conformation with USPS Priority Mail International (PMI) or USPS Global Express Mail only.  Both the latter options are much more costly then First Class International, so often times buyer will request "the cheapest shipping" or FCI by name.

Some seller will only offer Priority Mail International when shipping outside the US.  While this does follow Paypal's Seller Protection Program, it can deter buyers who are not willing to pay the higher shipping cost, especially for lower valued items.  If you don't ship via PMI then you are at risk of having all money returned to the buyer and losing the item that you shipped if the buyer opens an "item not received" claim with Paypal.

So what do you do? You have to decide for yourself if you are willing to risk shipping your items via FCI. 

I do a combination of PMI and FCI.  For me, I've had many successful shipments via FCI.  With that in mind, I decided that I would ship anything that sold for $25 or less via FCI. If it doesn't arrive, it's not a huge loss, plus there is a great chance that it will arrive and all will be well.

If it's an item over $25 then I ship it PMI. It gives me proof of delivery and some insurance protection. If it's over $100 I will only ship it via Global Express.  Why? Global Express is guaranteed.  Priority Mail will provide conformation that the item was delivered, provided it gets delivered.  If it doesn't then you're still on the losing end of a Paypal claim.  So if I'm shipping something of value, I insist on Global Express; if it doesn't arrive then the post office should reimburse you.

Some other things to keep in mind if you are shipping First Class International:

  • You can send packages up to 4 pounds, unlike domestic first class which has a 13 ounce limit
  • You can purchase insurance on the package; it still won't give you tracking but may allow you to obtain a refund for a lost package
  • First Class International packages cannot be more then 36" total when adding together the length, width and height of the package
  • You will need the small green customs form for all FCI shipments (PS Form 2976)
Here is the guide to measuring your package:

An interesting note about Priority Mail International Flat Rate options; the small flat rate box and the flat rate envelope do not offer delivery conformation. These options are cheaper then the regular PMI, but don't be fooled into thinking that you will have the delivery information needed to win a Paypal Claim.  Your item will probably arrive faster then FCI, but it will cost more to ship and still won't provide you with delivery conformation. These packages require the smaller customs form PS Form 2976.

All Priority Mail International packages (except the small flat rate and flat rate envelope as mentioned above) require the multi-page larger customs form PS Form 2976-A. One of the downsides to shipping via First Class International is that you can't print your shipping label at home if you use Paypal to print your labels.  You can only print Priority, Express or Global International labels from Paypal.  Personally, I avoid going to the Post Office at all costs, so this was a big deterrent for me until I discovered Endicia.  This is a service in which I pay a monthly fee and can print all my packages, including First Class International. I also use it to print my Amazon shipping labels even though Amazon has added the option to print labels from their site.

Endicia offers free Delivery Conformation on domestic Priority Mail packages, reduced cost insurance and, most importantly, the ability to print you First Class International labels so you can then just use Carrier Pick- Up and save a trip to the Post Office! For me, Endicia's low monthly cost is worth every penny.

The reason I'm writing this post is to hopefully save someone from making a big mistake like I did several years ago.  I auctioned off an antique doll and it sold to someone in the UK for $150.  The buyer ask that I ship it the "cheapest way", which was First Class International.  I did so without the knowledge that the package couldn't be confirmed as delivered.  A week after I shipped the doll, the buyer opened a Paypal "item not received" claim. Of course I lost and the $150 plus shipping was returned to the buyer, and I was out the money and the valuable doll, however I did learn an important lesson; never ship anything via First Class International that you aren't willing to risk losing both the item and the money!

Here's the Nora Wellington doll that the buyer said that they never received:

If you like dolls, I'll be blogging about vintage dolls soon. Recently I've had some fantastic doll clothing sales that may help you earn more!

One final note on international shipping, buyers will pay to get an item if they really want it! This morning I woke up to this sale for vintage car track.  It was purchased for $39.99 and the buyer paid $68.85 for shipping to Japan!

Here's the track:

Happy Selling,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What to Sell & Where to Find It

I'm often asked where I find items to sell.  The answer to this question is ever changing especially with more and more people selling on eBay.  Competition is tough and it's important to think outside the box when purchasing inventory. Research is key so I'm constantly searching eBay to see what is selling right now.

When I started selling most of my inventory came right out of my house.  If you are new to selling, you should first look around for unwanted clutter to sell rather then spend money on inventory. For beginners, it's better to learn the eBay ropes on stuff that you don't want.  It takes some practice to find out what works for you when selling, so practice your listings and techniques on items that you're not spending additional money to acquire. Doing this also helps you to learn what you do and don't like to sell.

My current popular places to obtain inventory are thrift stores, Craigslist and yard sales. I am fortunate to live in an area that has great thrift stores I can visit in the winter and tons of yard sales in the spring and summer.  However, competition has been getting tougher every year. More people are shopping at yard sales and thrift stores; in addition more people are turning to eBay to sell stuff instead of donating it or having a yard sale!

So what do you do when you don't have great thrift stores or yard sales or they good stuff is gone by the time you arrive?  Well then thinking outside the box is super important.

Check your local stores for out-of-the-ordinary items. Discontinued health and beauty products can bring big money.  Recently Pantene Shampoo discontinued some of their products.  On January 12th a lot of 6 bottles of Silver Expressions sold for $174!
If you see this shampoo, buy all of it!

Several different Pantene shampoos are selling on eBay; they include the Pro V Smooth, Clarifying Shampoo, Anti-Dandruff 2 in 1 and others.  Check your local stores to see if they have any in stock. You can also ask your hair stylist if any professional products are being discontinued.  People get very attached to heath and beauty products that they love and will pay a lot of money for them if they know the product is no longer available in stores.
While we are on the subject, don't over look the health and beauty section of your thrift stores!  Last year I bought a bottle of vintage perfume for $2.97.  I had never heard of it but it looked interesting so I bought it.  I was willing to gamble $3 and it sure paid off.... it sold for $249!   Check out the prices that sellers got for some vintage perfume and cologne.  Remember, as people move into retirement homes or become deceased, family members have the overwhelming job of cleaning out the house.  Many people have no idea that old perfumes have value and they just donate them to a thrift store.

Just note that you can sell used perfume on eBay but not used make-up.  Before buying make-up at a thrift store or yard sale, make sure that it is unused.  It doesn't have to be in the box either.

Did you know that eBay has a Food and Wine category? Well they do and food actually sells on eBay!   Limited Editions of food items such as candy are hot sellers.  Recent sales show that someone paid $39.99 for 8 bags of Candy Cane flavor Hershey Kisses AFTER Christmas. They were on clearance at many stores, so this is a nice profit.  Trader Joe's Candy Cane Green Tea is selling right now too.

Even standard candy bars can sell for a profit. Keep in mind that some foods are not available in all areas. Here in the Philadelphia area, Tastykakes are everywhere but if someone has moved out of state or out of the country, they probably can't get their favorite Kandy Kakes unless they buy them on eBay!

Food and merchandise coupons also sell on eBay. Baby formula checks...well check it out! They can bring close to face value.

Finally, store clearance sales are the key for many successful sellers.  Clothing, holiday items, toys and household goods are just a few of the items that are currently deeply discounted to make room for the spring merchandise that will soon stock the shelves.  You can even find online clearance bargains without leaving your home!

So look around with a keen eye. Before you donate or toss out something, check to see what it might bring on eBay. One of the strangest things that I've sold on eBay was an empty box for $15.

I've said it before; you can sell almost anything on eBay!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Save It For A Rainy Day or Sell It Now?

Part of what I love about eBay is that it enables me to shop all the time. Selling online is my full time job and what a better job then to shop constantly!  However, the problem arises when I shop more then I list.

I call this my Rainy Day Syndrome, however my non-selling friends call it hoarding. You see, I have a tendency to find good items and hold onto them; I consider it my rainy day fund. Sometimes this works but a lot of times it backfires. The selling market can change in an instant, and what is hot now may not be hot when you need to make a quick buck. 

For instance, several years ago my husband's aunt gave me some Marghab linens. I had never heard of them but what I found was unbelievable! They were selling for well over $100 for these small hand towels.  Some were over $200.  I decided to hang onto them for a rainy day when we needed some fast money. Unfortunately my rainy day is now but they are only selling for about $40-$50.  Hmm, I guess the old saying is true, "make hay when the sun shines" aka sell it now while it's hot!

Here are the Marghab linens that I still have to list. I've had photos of them since March of 2007!

My goal is to list them this month regardless of the price that they will bring. I'm also going to list the Medela breast pumps and other items that I've been holding on to for way too long.

Sometimes the gamble of holding onto an item can pay off.  If you know what to collect, then buying it and saving it can make bring big profits!  For instance, in 2007 I was shopping at the Hallmark Store for their after Christmas Clearance.  I bought the "first in series" Beauty of the Birds ornament at half price, which was about $10.  The ornament is a tin red cardinal and although I had no way to know for sure that it would be popular, I knew that birds as Christmas ornaments were popular so I bought it.  I held onto it and would periodically check eBay to see if it was selling.  Every time I checked I would see higher prices.  After holding it for a few years, I decided that last summer it was time to let her fly (sorry for the bad pun) and I listed and sold her for $245!

Here she is, if you see her at a thrift store or yard sale, grab her!

So the moral of this story is to hold only what your are certain will increase in value. Once you see the value increase, sell it so you don't risk the bottom falling out.  Take ivory for instance; many years ago it was very valuable. Today it's illegal to sell on eBay and is governed that you cannot import or export it.  It is harder to sell and not worth the prices it once brought.  And, of course, we all remember the Beanie Babies craze.  Items relating to popular culture can be priceless one day and worthless the next as they are subject to the fickle trends that created them in the first place.  If you decide to jump on the bandwagon when the next crazy hits, remember to sell right away!  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The First Thing That I Sold On eBay

I am often asked how I got started selling on eBay. Growing up in a thrifty family, we'd spend many Saturday mornings going to yard sales looking for bargains. We also attended live auctions and found some really great buys.  As a teenager, I'd find stuff for $.25 or $1.00 and would dream about ways to sell them for more.  Since my options were limited to re-selling at a flea market or opening a brick and mortar store (which was out of the question), I'd just pass it by or if it was just too good, I'd buy it and store it away.

Fast forward to 1999 when I discovered eBay! Wow, a way to make money on stuff that I had lying around the house!

My first sale was a small square antique pillowcase with a Southern Belle embroidered on it. I purchased a big pile of linens for $1 at an auction a few years earlier, and this pillowcase was part of that lot.  I thought it was cute but not something that I would use.  I put if at auction starting at $.99 and it ended up selling for over $50!  I was hooked!

After that I started looking around the house for other things to sell, and you could pretty much buy anything.  Which got me thinking...

My first purchase on eBay was not a small one. I found an antique oak buffet from the Arts & Crafts era.  I fell in love with it and had to have it.  After placing the winning bid of just under $1000 it was mine! Except I didn't think too much about shipping and the buffet was in Canada.  So it was flown in via Air Canada for the low price of $300 (ouch) and we had to pick it up at our major airport,which wasn't very convenient. It all turned out fine, and the buffet still sits in our dining room and is one of my favorite pieces of furniture.

My beloved buffet

The best thing about the purchase is that it taught me that you could truly sell just about anything on eBay. The sky was the limit! Since that time I've sold anything from a tiny doll the size of an eraser head for about $65, an antique desk for about $600 to a single Boy Scout patch for $450.

This patch sold for $450 with a terrible photo no less!

Although the eBay of today doesn't bring the prices on some thing that it used to, the truth still holds that you can sell just about anything on the site.  If you are just getting started, take a look around your house and see what you could try to sell. You may be shocked at how much you can get for your 1980's toys and stuff animals or your kids clothing from last year.

 My Buddy doll from the 1980's sold
for $90 just minutes after listing him.

Check back for more stories of what's sold and what you can sell for big profits!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Record Keeping: Do You Know How Much You Are Making on eBay?

If you sell on eBay, either as a hobby or a business,  then it's very important to know how much profit you are really making.  If you are just looking at your sales and not considering all of the fees, then you are doing yourself a big disservice. I know, I did this myself for several years.

After realizing my mistake, I tried to create a spreadsheet to calculate my actual profit. Well that was a joke, after hours of trying to create macros and calculations, it just wasn't working.

The next step was purchasing a Spreadsheet off of eBay. It worked but it was very cumbersome, I had to input everything, including the item titles.  The only thing that it really did was calculate the eBay fees, which I could have just copied off of my invoice since I had to copy everything else. There had to be a better way!

Then I discovered Easy Auction Tracker. It is unbelievable!  It is fully automated; I didn't have to copy anything, everything is imported directly from eBay! The only thing that I have to input is my cost that I paid for the item and the actually shipping that I paid to send the item.

No more copying and pasting of item numbers, titles, dates, shipping info and more. This does all of that for me and saves me hours and hours worth of work! In addition, it has a tab for expenses and for mileage so it makes doing my taxes a lot easier. I'm able to keep all my records together is one neat spreadsheet!

Not only is Easy Auction Tracker certified by eBay, but they have superior customer service. I am not a tech whiz, I'm lucky I can figure out how to turn the darn computer on and off.  Easy Auction Tracker has a fantastic video tutorial right on their site, and step by step instructions.  It is very easy to use and if you have any questions, they are very quick to respond and are very helpful.

Using Easy Auction Tracker is even more imperative in 2011. If you're a serious seller, the IRS is requiring eBay and Paypal to file a 1099-K for anyone with more than 200 transactions or $20,000 USD in sales per year.

It's important to be able to calculate your actual sales and fees so that you know that you're making a large enough profit to justify the time you spend selling on eBay.  Just "guessing" is simply not going to show you the true picture and you may find out that it's costing you money to sell on eBay!  I highly recommend purchasing Easy Auction Tracker and you will know that what you are selling is actually making you money and it will make tax time much easier.