What started out as an internet experiment wound up a huge business. Somewhere around 1995, the first online auction occurred. eBay had not yet come into being. Pierre Omidyar wrote the code for the first online auction on a site called AuctionWeb, listing a single, broken laser pointer for sale. This was meant only to be a test, so when the pointer received numerous bids eventually topping out at $14.83 US, Omidyar was surprised to say the least.
Since then, folks have sold their virginity, a piece of toast in the likeness of Christ, and even a liver, to the highest bidder. While I don’t advocate selling anything similar to the items above, I can attest to the world’s appetite for junk.
“I got some new underwear the other day. Well, new to me.”
Emo Phillips knew the laws of eBay better than most, although I doubt he ever actually used the website. One of the first things I learned when selling items online is that value is fairly arbitrary. You can research, find out comparable sales, and still not sell your item. The auctioneer pays a nominal fee so there is no such thing as “no harm, no foul” if the item does not sell. There’s a few things that, had I listened to Mr. Carlin in advance, I would not have had to learn the hard way.
“Apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.”
It’s fair to say that George Carlin might not have been the best eBay vendor. Make sure your descriptions are accurate and complete. Too many times I’ve received items that were worn well beyond what the photos in the description portrayed. The purchaser has some recourse throughout the eBay ratings system. If this is more than a one shot deal, then you’re going to want to establish a high feedback score.
“I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof.”
Respond to bidder’s questions promptly.
Become familiar with a particular niche that you can be known for. Buy a few things on eBay before you attempt to sell. Are you a collector of refrigerator magnets, Victrola record players, or vintage analog televisions? Ever try to find a missing knob for one of those? Whatever your hobby is, its probably more marketable then you think. Start developing a relationship with that eBay community by purchasing a few items first and, once you’ve become familiar with the lay of the land, try to sell something. Remember, practice makes perfect.
In my case, it was vinyl LPs. After buying a few vinyl LPs and 45′s, I decided to clear out my closet of some old ones I thought might have value. I had a reputation built up over a year’s time strictly through eBay purchases. It tried to sell a couple of items before I made any really money but I would eventually hit “pay dirt”. eBayers always remember their first success story and I’m no different. The name of the LP was The Clovis Roblain Story. I understood this record to be rare but I wasn’t quite sure how rare, nor what I could expect to get for it. $300 US later I was a pretty happy camper.
“If you hit a midget on the head with a stick, he turns into 40 gold coins.”
Patton Oswalt’s methods may be a bit suspect. I would suggest opening a PayPal account instead. There are numerous ways to accept payment, but many overseas bidders do not want to be bothered with paying via money order and will instead simply avoid bidding on items where PayPal is not accepted. Opening an account is fast and easy. When I sold the item mentioned above, I accepted only money orders. It was made quite clear to me after the sale how a PayPal account would have helped me.
Shortly after closing the auction a French bidder advised me that he would have bid as much as $400 had I made the payment process easier.
Now get out there and start bidding. As Mel Brooks once said…
“He who hesitates is poor.”
A children’s book illustrator, humor author, and collector of rare music, Richard Rossi can be found at his blog, Carolina Orange, where he rambles on about music and sports. Stop by and say ‘hello”.