Tips for Buying/Selling for Profit on eBay
First, My Story Selling Sports Cards on eBay
When I was little, I LOVED collecting sports cards. I was obsessed with collecting cards of famous athletes, such as Brett Favre, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Aaron Rodgers, and many more. I collected them, traded them with other people I knew who collected them, and treasured them. I was about 10.
Fast forward 13 years, I was graduated from college and noticed a video that Gary Vaynerchuk posted(an entrepreneur I’ve always followed on Youtube) discussing how he thought sports cards were going to go mainstream. This was January 2020. I was thinking, “hey, I know about this! Let me research a few of my favorite players and invest in them”. In an impulsive decision, I bought two LeBron James rookie cards(one of them pictured above). It was scary at the time, but I had no idea the boom in sports cards that was about to happen.
The card values started to go up quickly, and I began to execute my first ‘flips’ for profit. I used the profit to keep buying cards, and shortly after, I opened Matts-Sports-Cards on eBay to buy and sell cards as a side income. It has been moderately successful! I haven’t become a millionaire from it, but it has made me a few thousand dollars of profit per year for the two years I’ve had the account. Not bad for something I do in my free time outside of my full time job. It’s a fun hobby becoming a side hustle. Here are some tips for buying and selling on eBay, regardless of the product you are selling.
Pick a Product You are Knowledgable About
Pick something you know well. For me, I had been involved in trading and buying sports cards from my childhood. I had a huge collection and knew what the popular cards were, how the values changed over time, etc. It wasn’t all that new to me and only took a few weeks of reading to catch up to all the updates in the hobby(such as grading, population reports, eBay tricks, etc). Being a huge sports fan and following the Packers/Bucks closely also helped me to keep up with what or who was popular at the time.
Once, you know which product you can sell, you have to pick a platform to sell on. eBay is among the most popular places to start selling and is my personal favorite. There are many others that can work for you as well.
You should also pick a topic with a large audience. Sports memorabilia is a huge industry and there are plenty of collectors. This may not be the same for other products. Items may not sell as fast with a smaller audience.
Keep a Spreadsheet to Organize Finances
This is huge, especially come tax time. If you don’t keep a detailed spreadsheet of expenses, sales, fees, then how do you even know if you’re making money?It’ll help you visualize what’s working, what doesn’t, how much work you put in, what you own. eBay keeps track of your purchases and sales. You have to keep track of all the other things. Packaging, fees, taxes, traveling costs if you go to shows, are all things you need to keep in mind.
Train Yourself to Spot Deals, and be Disciplined
Deals are everywhere. The hardest part, is recognizing what is actually a good deal. You can do advanced eBay queries to find deals right on eBay. Utilizing the ‘Completed/Sold items’ filter on eBay is my first step. I focus on a few players and cards that I know well, then observe their prices relative to what the prices are on eBay. eBay has two main buying formats(Buy It Now and Auction). From my experience, you can get better deals from auctions than ‘Buy it Now’, but both have benefits and drawbacks.
Lots of times, you can find a good deal outside of eBay and then turn around and list on eBay immediately after. In-Person shows and stores also are known for having good deals on display, since you can build personal connections with sellers and don’t have to pay any eBay transaction fees.
Another place to find good deals, are thrift shops like my favorite, Goodwill. If you’re lucky, you can find a box of cards here that someone gave away for a few dollars. You can also find amazing deals on many other things. A lot of furniture around my house is touched up from Goodwill.
This can be a good(although time consuming) strategy. When done right, this can be very effective.
Don’t be Afraid to Spend money
The phrase ‘You have to spend money to make money’ definitely applies here. Lets say you buy something for $50 on eBay. After shipping and taxes, it’ll be closer to $55. Then, you spend time listing it, and then it ends up going for $65 on eBay. $10 profit! Not so fast. eBay still takes a 12% cut, trimming your final value to $57.2. After all that work(not even factoring the cost of shipping supplies, and your time) you take home $2.20 of profit?
Obviously, the biggest gains come from spending more money. If you are in this type of business to make money, then you can’t be afraid to spend some money. Although there are plenty of low cost items listed on eBay, if you want to take higher risk/higher reward approach, you may need to spend more money.
Become a Better Negotiator
This applies on both eBay and real life. A lot of listings on eBay have a ‘Buy it now’ price with a subtitle saying ‘offers accepted.’ Use this! I’ve found that you can often bring the seller down 15%-20% from the original asking price. If you see the offers accepted option and then don’t use it, you are throwing money away. Sometimes, sending a seller a direct message expressing interest but at a lower price works as well. You never know how low a selling is willing to go from the original asking price.
It’s a little more dynamic in real life. Card shows often have great, once in a lifetime deals. Often times the sellers at the booths are seasoned negotiators who have been in the business for a long time. If you work on this, you can often find great deals at a card show, and then turn around and list on eBay for a nice profit.
Take Your Rating and Your Customers Seriously
You need a near perfect seller rating so that people trust you! Unfortunately there are scammers out there, regardless of the selling platform. Reaching out to customers, being understanding if they want to return the item, and communicating is crucial to keeping good ratings. A good rating gives customers confidence that they can buy from you.
Most Importantly, Don’t Expect to Become Rich
When all is said and done, I have put in lots of hours into my eBay side hustle. Even though my profit from it has been nice, my hourly pay is probably less than $10 an hour. I enjoy it, and am happy with that. There are better ways to make money. If I was only in it to make money, I may have been disappointed with the results. Even though I say that, I do believe it would be possible to make a full time income on eBay with enough time and effort. In the end, eBay has been a fun way of turning a hobby into some side income for me!
This is not financial advice and just reflects my experience on eBay. I’d recommend doing your own research, as buying and selling things on platforms like eBay can be risky.