We’re not talking about stuff like snowblowers and your old living room sofa.
Try craigslist for that type of item.
The lurking treasure that I’m thinking about is more likely to be found in a dresser drawer or among the toys in the attic. Or, even better, among the things in your parents’ or grandparents’ attic.
Separating the trash from treasure requires intuition and experience.
Your grandmother’s collection of Christmas plates? Sorry. They’re probably trash.
But your (or your brother’s) old Hot Wheels cars? The ones with the red lines around the wheels? Treasure!
TIME IS MONEY
When the things you’re selling at an online auction site such as eBay are things you already own, as opposed to items that are bought for the purpose of reselling them, what you’re investing is your time.
It takes time to photograph an item and write a description for the auction posting so you want to avoid investing time in items that either likely won’t sell or won’t sell for much money.
FEEL THE VALUE
To be a successful seller of miscellany and whatnot you need to be able to lay your hands on an item and sense the emotional pull it could have on someone else even if it has no value to you.
This is especially true of family estate items. To you, it may be “Dad’s old junk.” Try to erase your own emotional non-attachment to the piece.
Militaria. Toy cars. Old dolls. College memorabilia. Transportation items, including model cars, aviation and airline items, model railroad items and items from real railroads.
Those are some of the types of items that can fetch decent-to-top prices at an online auction.
I have found value to be a function of condition, age, rarity and emotional (nostalgic) content.
Let’s take another look at those Christmas plates. On any given day, there are dozens of them being offered at eBay for as little as $1 apiece.
But what if Grandma’s plates are really old? Meaning 75 years old or older. Then, they could be worth several hundred dollars each.
How do you determine value? Try going to the “search” function at the top of most eBay pages, click on “advanced”. Type a few keywords in the search field. Check off “completed listings”. Then sort your results by “Price: highest first”.
Red results mean the item did not sell. A green result means the item sold.
A recent search for “Copenhagen Christmas plate” found a “1908 Royal Copenhagen Christmas Plate Madonna & Child” that sold for $3,000.
Made in 1908. You get the drift.
TALKING HOT WHEELS
Hot Wheels cars are a good example of how nostalgia and age of an item converge to affect value.
I admit I’m not a guy but I easily can imagine the fond memories guys must have of the cool toys they had when there were 10. Those memories get fonder when said guys reach the kids-and-a-mortgage age.
Try the “completed listings” search just described and you’ll see that the newer Hot Wheels cars are worth next to nothing.
But the old ones? Mattel introduced Hot Wheels cars in 1968. Cars from that original “Redline” series can fetch astronomical prices.
Example: a “Hot Wheels Redline Olds Cutlass 442 Hot Pink Near Mint” that sold for $1,400.
A 1969 Redline Hot Wheel even if it has banged up paint and a missing wheel can fetch $10. I know because I sold one.
Let’s switch from toy cars to perfume. Empty perfume bottles can be worth next to nothing, or they can be worth hundreds of dollars depending on age, condition and rarity.
Example: A carved wood bottle for Hawaiian plumeria perfume made for Gump’s department store in the 1930s that sold at eBay for $680.
Some Avon bottles from the 1970s can sell for $20 apiece.
Again, check “completed listings” to avoid a waste of your time.
WHAT ABOUT CLOTHING?
Clothing—and by that we mean pieces in great condition with designer labels—is another item you can turn into cash at an online auction.
Vintage clothing also sells well on eBay. But, again, condition is key.
You’ll have to invest time in photography and careful description of measurements but clothing has a great advantage when it comes time to ship.
It’s not breakable.
GOOD LUCK DIGGING!
So, open your desk and dresser drawers, check the closet shelves and look in those boxes in the attic and basement.
Ask yourself: is it old, is it pretty or cool, is it in good condition, does it have nostalgic value? Then go check eBay to see if similar items have sold and for how much.
Have fun digging and good luck.