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Making Millions on eBay
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July 2011     top of How to Win at eBay     Index of detail pages

 

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eBay is just another market in which products are bought and sold.

Making money on eBay is the same as making money in any other online or retail market. It's tough, because you have to be at least as good as everyone else, or you fail.

If you set off with the intention of making money, you are by IRS definition, a business. You must pay taxes on what you make.

As a business in the USA, you're involved in a great deal of competition. If you don't win, you lose.

eBay is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out how to run a business, insure your business, get all the right permits and registrations, and then figure out how to get people to want to buy from you instead of the other 38,597,562 sellers on eBay, or anywhere else on Earth, like the corner store.

Before setting off with a genius plan to make a million dollars on eBay, contact SCORE and ask them for business advice. SCORE is a fantastic organization, and they'll get you all the help you need.

If you can make money selling items at the local flea market or swap meet, if you can make money running a retail or online store, if you can make money doing sales at any level, you have what it takes to succeed on eBay.

If you lack these critical business and people skills, eBay isn't going to make it any easier. eBay is just another market. If you aren't able to bring products to market elsewhere, you probably won't do well on eBay.

If you have the business skill, go right ahead! Be sure to work with your local chapter of SCORE to sort out the business aspects and get some great advice on how to be successful.

That's the important part. Once you've got that down, here are my tips on some of the details related only to the eBay aspects.

 

Selling on eBay

No one makes money buying on eBay. The only way to make money is to buy elsewhere, and sell on eBay.

No one makes money with eBay arbitrage. Arbitrage ("flipping") is buying and reselling the same thing quickly, but at a higher price, just to make a fast buck.

There are very few deals on eBay. Anyone selling you a system to buy low and sell high on eBay is dreaming.

Forget trying to buy items on eBay to resell on eBay. Even if you manage a scheme to have the original seller reship to your buyer instead of you having to pay for shipping twice, PayPal will choke.

The people who make money on eBay are people who know where to buy items cheaply elsewhere, and only then sell them on eBay.

eBay usually gets the highest prices for anything, so you're not likely to make a killing thinking you're any smarter than anyone else at finding bargains on eBay.

So where do pro sellers find bargains? Here are some:

 

Garage Sales in Rich Old Peoples Neighborhoods

Have a lot of rich old people dying around you? You're in luck!

When their kids run the garage sale, they don't want any of this stuff.

Show up Saturday morning, and I know guys who pick up Nikon F100's for $100 and D1X' for $75 a piece. Rich people don't care; they just want this crap out of grandma's house. They'll probably pay you to haul away the Leica film gear.

 

Estates

This is the biggest one: there are people who make it their livings liquidating the life-long possessions of dead people.

An estate liquidator goes in and buys everything, trash and treasures, all at once. They cart away the rubbish, and the juiciest items go up on eBay.

They make their money by offering the service of being a one-stop, one check solution to get rid of everything. By offering the service of taking it all, they hope that the good stuff makes more money than what it costs them to haul away the junk.

If you think you can show up and just cherry-pick the good stuff, guess again.

This is a living unto itself. It's not the eBay part that makes them rich, it's their abilities to research the obituaries, grease the coroner's office and the guy who runs the incinerator at the local hospital, and most importantly, deal cordially and professionally with grieving relatives.

 

Municipal Public Auctions

Deals are found where other people aren't looking.

Everyone is looking on eBay, so the deals aren't there.

Governments have no idea how to promote themselves. When a government runs an auction, it's usually in the most remote location, at the most ridiculous time, with the weirdest requirements. This isn't on purpose, it's simply because governments tend to operate to make things easy for themselves, not run to get the most money for their items to help us, the taxpayers.

Because they have no idea how to run an auction or promote it, if you're one of the few people who can figure when and where they happen, bring a truck and a lot of cash, and you're in.

I'd love to go to these auctions (you know what a cheapskate I am), but since governments are governments, and not businesses, they have no idea how to promote these things. Since they don't mail out postcards every six months to everyone in town (as they'll do to promote every other waste-of-time city project), no one knows when or where they are.

I think the best way to find them is to contact your local police or sheriffs' department and find out when they auction off the recovered stolen property. Try to contact your city and county governments to learn where they auction off the crashed cop cars and old typewriters. I have no idea when you find the federal auctions for expired munitions and presidential limousines. (No kidding: Camp Pendleton here in San Diego has had a heck of a time trying to get rid of a huge stockpile of expired napalm.)

Beware of well promoted auctions for idiots. The auctions you see promoted as ART LIQUIDATION or ESTATE SALE are run by pros, and therefore well promoted. These guys usually rent a vacant luxury home for a weekend just to run an "Estate Art Sale." Sometimes you can get a deal, but probably not enough of a deal to make it worth your while to resell. The good stuff that will fetch a better price on eBay is usually held back by the auction company, and sold themselves over eBay!

 

Storage Unit Auctions

Some people rent storage units to hold their unused furniture. When they realize that the cost of the storage is more than the value of their old clothes and furniture, they stop paying the rent.

Storage units then auction off the contents. These are auctioned off only letting you see from the door; you don't get to pick through it until after you've bought it.

When you win, you sort it out, and the good stuff goes up on eBay.

 

You're done! Return to top of How to Win at eBay.

 

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Thanks for reading!

 

 

Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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