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Product Sourcing Part 2 – Used Goods and Collectibles

Selling collectibles online is not only potentially very profitable, it can also be great fun, especially if you specialise in one or more niches that are of particular interest to you. You will be much more enthusiastic if you are working with items that you enjoy, and it is likely that you will already have a good knowledge of the products, which will enable you to write more compelling auction descriptions and position yourself as an expert.

Specializing also provides the opportunity to build a list of loyal customers who will buy from you again and again. This will make it easier for you to eventually expand outside of eBay and sell from your own website if you wish to do so, thus saving on listing fees and final value fees.

So what do we mean by ‘Collectibles’?

The term ‘collectibles’ may inspire visions of old, rare and often expensive articles such as fine arts and antiques. However, people collect all manner of things, and for the purpose of this article, ‘collectible’ simply means anything that people collect. Many of these items do not actually fall within the category of ‘Collectibles’ on eBay (spelt ‘Collectables’ on eBay UK), they may be listed under many other categories such as books, stamps, music, sports memorabilia etc.

Finding collectibles to sell online

While sellers of new goods can often have problems locating stock at competitive prices, collectibles suitable for resale are readily available from a variety of sources.

Charity shops (or thrift stores) can be found in most towns and cities, and many of them offer their products at rock bottom prices. They sell a huge variety of items including clothes and accessories, books, toys, bric-a-brac, CDs, DVDs, household goods etc. It is worth dropping into those in your local area on a regular basis, and checking out any you may come across when you are out and about.

Some of the larger organisations employ staff to research the value of the items they receive and price them accordingly but many – especially small, local charities – are just happy to get a fast turnover and sell at bargain prices.

I know that some people have a problem with the ethics of making a profit from articles bought from charities, and I understand why they feel that way. However, the items have all been donated to the charity, which benefits from the sale regardless of what the purchaser subsequently does with the item. And if you wanted to, you could always make an extra donation to the charity if you sold the item on for a good profit.

Garage sales, yard sales and estate sales are great places to find potentially profitable products to sell online, although such sales are as yet not very commonplace here in the UK. However, garage sales seem to be increasing in popularity so it is worth keeping an eye open for any taking place in your local area, particularly during the summer months.

Flea markets and car boot sales are my own favourite hunting grounds. I love rummaging around and finding something interesting amongst the huge variety of goods which invariably turn up at these events. Sellers are frequently unaware that the ‘junk’ that they are eager to dispose of could be much sought after by someone else and are therefore happy to sell at a price far below its potential value.

Each of the sources mentioned above are selling to a limited number of customers within the local catchment area so it’s not too difficult to find low cost items which could potentially fetch a much higher price when offered online to a worldwide customer base.

Get There Early….or Turn Up Late?

If you turn up early at events such as estate sales, car boot sales and flea markets you will have the opportunity to purchase the best stock before someone else beats you to it. On the other hand, there are always bargains to be had as the sale draws to a close because many sellers want to dispose of their stock at any price rather than have to pack it all up and take it home again. Either way, it is always a good idea to barter and try to get the goods at a reduced price. Many sellers expect this and initially price their stock higher than the amount they are willing to accept.

Local auction rooms are another potential source of low cost stock but if you are new to this method of buying it is advisable to attend one or two auctions as a spectator to familiarise yourself with the process. If you are intending to buy, always attend the viewing which precedes the auction and check out the condition of any items you may be interested in bidding on. Decide on the maximum price that you are prepared to pay for the lot and stick by your decision. Make sure you are familiar with the rules which vary from one auction house to another. Be aware that a buyer’s premium, typically around 15%, plus VAT (in the UK) will be added to your winning bid and you need to take this into consideration when deciding what your maximum bid will be.

Get Yourself Known

Another way to acquire stock is to get get yourself known in your local area as someone who is looking to buy goods in your specific niche. Let your friends, relatives, neighbours and workmates know what type of products you are looking for. You can get cards printed inviting people to contact you if they have something to sell, and you can advertise in your local press, church magazine, and on notice boards in the local library or supermarket.

When people invite you into their homes to look at something they wish to sell, keep your eyes open for other things you may be interested in and make them an offer for those too. The worst that can happen is that they say ‘no’ and if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Happy hunting :-)

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