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eBay: Succeed In Life Without Really Trying.
Matt - 1/22/01

A lot of people who have read this site for a long time ask me about eBay. If you'll remember, there's some articles way back in the archives that fully explain the complete and total gullibility of the general eBay audience. I firmly believe that there isn't a thing on this planet that can't be sold there, a theory clearly backed up by my past experiences in selling backyard dirt and little rubber figures with stories to tell.

I've been a big peddler of eBay to my friends and family as a source of extra income. At one point I was doing it full-time, and still know plenty of people who do, but it'll take a lot of junk knowledge and experience to make the big bucks. Doesn't mean you can't support your crack habits just by selling old crap, though. Today, I teach you how.

As unfortunate as it sounds, not everyone has rooms dedicated solely to holding boxes and boxes of old useless crap to throw up on eBay like I do. But I guarantee you -- most of you have at least a few hundred dollars worth of stuff that you'd otherwise just throw away. Hence, the cardinal rule of eBay: trash = money. Unless its a ripped up issue of Entertainment Weekly that you've taken a piss on, you could probably hock it for something. Some of you might question the cost/time effectiveness of this...what's the point in going through all this trouble just to make a measly ten bucks? Well, figure it this way. Maybe going through all the trouble to sell one ten dollar item isn't worth having to be polite and succinct in an e-mail and taking a trip to the post office -- but what if you sold ten or twenty 10 dollar items? Not everyone I know is climbing the corporate ladder so fast that money doesn't matter -- most people could probably cope with an extra few hundred a week pretty well. For the few hours it takes, its definitely worth it.

So where do you go if you want to sell on eBay but don't have any stupid crap of your own worth putting up?


I'm giving you a real life lesson here, so pay attention. Pay attention like you never have before! I've got a friend who quit his full-time job at a Fortune 500 company because he was making so much on eBay. And I don't think it takes years of training or any sort of special degree to do it...just the know-how. Thrift stores and consignment shops are basically the cleaner, gentler way of raiding someone's trash for goods. Sure, you have to pay a nominal fee, but you won't get as covered in dirt as you usually would.

In most thrift stores, there aren't any prices listed. Usually its up to the desk clerk or whatever old lady they've swindled into their good cause to make up prices as they go. The point? Don't walk in and announce your intentions to resell the old crap for a profit. That'll automatically double the price. Also, if you're the type who likes to go buy other people's old Atari games and books about Russian war threats wearing Versace suits, you may want to rethink your strategy. Traditionally, the people working at these stores aren't the most cynical bunch. Hell, they're usually downright feeble. But believe it or not, a lot of people are doing the tricks I'm telling you about today, so they'd be able to recognize the difference between a customer and a customer with evil intentions. You don't have to make yourself look like a bum, but don't wear plastic gloves when checking out the assorted wares.

Sometimes, it also takes a strong stomach. The particular thrift I visited today wasn't exactly clean. In fact, I'm pretty sure all those basement scenes from The House On Haunted Hill were filmed here. An endless basement filled with rooms that are leaking what I hope was water, all stockpiled with bags and boxes of crap not seen by the human eye in 20-30 years. And dead bodies. Tons of dead bodies. Suck it up, remind yourself that you can shower when you get home, and dig in.

Beware of any type of thrift/consignment shop that thinks its dealing antiques. 'Antique' is a clever way of the store saying 'junk that costs more money.' You're not looking for junk that costs more're looking for flat out junk. When you get home and list it on eBay, then you can call it an antique.

Also, there's a bit of bargaining that goes on in these thrifts, since they usually don't have prices listed. Here's a trick: whatever you want to pay, have that exact amount in your hand, and ask the 900 year old Jedi master sitting in a beat up chair by the entrance if that's good enough. Chances are, the poor woman will be too weathered to explain why it isn't, so she'll just say 'yes'. You can usually confuse them by getting a bunch of stuff and doing the math yourself quickly. The people who work at these places might be the type to fight over the cost of three lemons at the grocery store, but with all the asbestos hanging around the thrifts, they're more concerned with keeping their heart pumping than making sure your copy of Communion gets the full 30 cents it deserves.

First, I hit the bookroom. Or as they call it, The Room of Books. Either way, its a dank closet with broken walls filled with what appears to be every book ever written before 1980. Books can sometimes be a good find -- in the past, I've found books that've sold for over 100 bucks in this very room. Today, however, the stock wasn't so great. Even with such classics as Women: Business Needs You!, and Software: 3 1/4" Diskettes Book I, I couldn't find much that'd be worth hauling home. But here's what to keep an eye out for: book collectors usually go for first editions. I really don't know why, but they'll pay double or triple the usual cost for the same book if it has a different date stamped on the inside cover. So, you're looking for books that only have one date listed -- that's a first edition. If you find any by an author you even vaguely recognize, pick it up. Chances are good that these books will cost you a dime or a even if it doesn't sell, its not like you lost any real money.

More crap. My sister, who does eBay religiously in-between drinking margaritas and drinking flat grain alcohol, has had a lot of luck in the board game department. Collectors from this genre are insane. She once found, in a place similar to this, a first-edition Risk game for a quarter. She sold it for 225 bucks. Another week, she found a box of old war games for around seven dollars, and turned it around for a 700 dollar profit in a week. Do a spot check to make sure it looks somewhat complete, and as a rule of thumb, the older the better. These are a bitch to box up, so you probably will only want to pick up the ones that you feel are really going to be worth something. I'll get to how you can get a feel for the pricing in just a bit.

On the right, Atari games. I actually did buy these, for an all-time high price of 50 cents. But since the lot includes Tank-Plus, I'm keeping these for myself. Once in a while, you will come across some old video games worth picking up. Last year I nailed Final Fantasy for the NES for a buck. Since it had the box and all the manuals, it sold for 50. Starting to see how this works? You find 4-5 good things a week, which is almost too easy, and you've got a steady second income for as long as eBay remains unmoderated and untaxed.

Garage sales are also a goldmine for this kind of stuff -- but that takes a little more dedication, since you're going to have to get up early in the morning on Saturday or Sunday before all the other sellers finish scavenging the goods. Garage sales and estate sales are actually an even better source, since the people usually don't give a fuck what the stuff sells for. Basically, you can't be picky and choosy. If you're a guy, you can't avoid buying jewelry just because some old woman with a dead cat in her lap will look at you funny. Remember, this is business! If you do it right, you can go out and buy yourself a PSX 2 without sacrificing food for two weeks.

And here's today's winning piece -- an old Buddha-ish ceramic tumbler. I guarantee you I could get 8-15 bucks for this piece of shit. Since my offsite passion is collecting religious statues to deface, I'll probably hold on to this one. But we'll use it for an example. The mug cost me 50 cents -- so let's figure this sells for 8.00. I could have easily found ten more things in this shop that'd sell in the same for a total of around 5 bucks, I'd get 80-100. And that's with an hour out of my house, an hour or two writing the descriptions and loading the pictures in between playing that infernal Shock the Monkey game, and about 45 minutes boxing up all the crap and sending it out a week later when I get the money. When all's said and done, and you've done this time and time again, you're really making some pretty decent side cash. Now, there's really no point in doing this if you're extremely financially stable and throw around money like water, but say you're a college student who can't afford to be at work every night of the week for a few bucks an hour...then its perfect.

So, here's what you do.

Go to the completed search utility on eBay's site. ( If you don't know much about your item, this place will work as the friggin' most in-depth encyclopedia on the planet, since almost nothing hasn't been sold on eBay. This'll show you how much things have previously gone for, and help you gage what's important to point out so you can make more money.

Now, since I really didn't buy the stupid Buddha mug to sell, its probably not the best example. But since I don't feel like digging through the stockpile of shit downstairs, we'll work with this. I noticed that the mug was marked 'Benihana' on the back, so that's what I searched for.

And there it is! Sure, it only sold for 4.50, but I'm just trying to get the point across that everything's been sold on eBay, so this is also a great reference site. If I didn't do this step, I really wouldn't know what to say about this mug other than the fact that its old and it smells kinda funny. Because I did the completed search, I can tell the potentials that its a Geisha Exotic Drink Container From Benihana!!!

If you're curious about all this eBay stuff, my suggestion is to gather a bunch of crap you've got laying around the house, and match it up with the completed search results on eBay. You might be surprised how much that junk in your closet is actually worth.

Next up - listing it. eBay charges a 25 cent fee on all auctions listed below a 10.00 minimum bid -- never go above a 10.00 bid. It'll cost more, and its pointless anyway. The more bids your item has, the more attractive it looks to the buyers. So if it has 8 bids by the time it reaches 7 bucks, people are far more likely to bid on that rather than the same mug for the same price at no bids. I really don't know how to explain the psychological phenomenon of that, but trust me, it works. Also, you'll notice that eBay lets you choose the amount of days your auction should run - 3, 5, 7, or 14. In my view, three is a little too short. If eBay has a site outage, or there's a nice weekend, the suckers might miss your auction. On the flipside, 14 days is just overkill. Go for the 5 or 7 day.

Here's the catch. You don't need a picture with your listings, but its not a smart idea to list stuff without one. When I was first starting, none of my auctions had pictures, and I usually made less than half what I could've. There's a sneaky trick you could use -- that being stealing the picture from someone else's past auction. Now be very careful with this -- if your customer gets the item and realizes its not the same one in the picture, they're gonna be pissed, and probably going to ask for a refund. No, you won't go to jail. But its really not worth the hassle, so either make sure your item looks exactly like the picture, or just mention in your description that the picture isn't the exact item they'll be receiving.

Of course, getting a digital camera is the way to go. They're a lot cheaper than they used to be, and can be used for a lot more than eBay anyway.

Onto the description: remember, a lot of the people buying stuff on eBay are either bidding on impulse, or just extremely gullible. And while you shouldn't lie about what you're selling, taking a few liberties with the adjectives could be worth a few bucks. So for our Buddha mug friend, here's an example of a bad description, and a good description.

Bad Description: 'benihana' mug - looks like buddha. pretty big. has hole in the belly, i think for straw using. good luck!

Good Description: Wow! If you were ever looking for a piece of glassware than could double as a great conversational piece, this is it! This famous and hard-to-find Benihana of Tokyo ceramic cocktail mug stands about 8" all, and is in fantastic shape! At this price, how can you resist?! I've been collecting these for a few years, and honestly, I've never come across one like this! Bid now - I pack my items carefully, so don't worry about the post office mishandling it. Check out my other auctions too -- and good luck!

The extra five seconds between the two descriptions will go a long way. Remember who your customers are. If there's anything the people who buy things from eBay aren't, its untrustworthy. In fact, they want to believe everything you tell them. I could say this thing is alive and probably sell it based on that. A lot of times, the description is more important than the actual item.

If you're looking to make some extra cash without giving up any gameshow time, this is the way to go. Can everyone do it? does take some patience when getting started, and you probably won't get too far if you can't spell. But give it a shot, and when you make some cash, e-mail me and I'll tell you how to go on a Caribbean cruise for 300 bucks. I'm telling you, the Internet is an absolute goldmine.

What Else You Should Know:

* Yes, the buyer pays for shipping. Via priority mail, you can send items up to two pounds for 3.20. So charge 3.50. If you think its a little above 2 pounds, charge 4.50. Don't overcharge too much on shipping - the USPS and UPS websites list prices.

* In your description, add the following terms: 'Buyer to pay by check or money order within 7 days of auction close.' After you get the payment, and the check cashes, you should send out the item within seven days.

Have fun making easy cash!

- Matt
Proof is in the proverbial pudding, my friends. Check out the eBay scam that started it all!!!!!!

I don't know what the fuck that is. But I'm pretty sure I must have it.