Relist for Success

Don't worry, just hit 'Relist', sit back, and relax

If there is one thing that season after season of finishing at the bottom of my fantasy baseball league standings has taught me, it is that past performance is no guarantee of future performance. What's true in make-believe sports team management is often true in selling on eBay. Just because something has sold for big bucks in previously completed eBay auctions, that doesn't promise a repeat performance. Fortunately, the opposite is also true.

This was illustrated pretty dramatically when I recently auctioned off pack after pack of unopened, but expired Polaroid 600 instant film. As I've posted about before, Polaroid film frequently fetches $20 per pack, so when I was listing a pack on eBay every week for 6 weeks in a row, I expected to have grossed around $120 bucks when all was said and done.

I started each auction at $9.50, a price I thought would be low enough to get a good deal of 'watchers', but high enough that I would still make a profit if it went for only the opening bid. Week One's auction closed at $22, right on target. But the next week the same pack of film only brought me $13. What gives?

Even more curious, no one bid on the film pack the next week. Not a single bid. Had the market for Polaroid film crashed? Was somebody else offering the same item much cheaper? Was my computer malfunctioning? I couldn't figure it out.

My head really started to spin when, the following week, that same pack that had not garnered one bid the previous week sold for $35! The remaining three packs of film sold for $18, $25, and $22.50 (averaging $22.58 for all six packs). So the prices I was fetching varied by over 20 bucks from week to week.

This statistics-filled tale is an illustration that prices can fluctuate without much reasoning. With that in mind, it is always best to set your listing price at a comfortable level, making sure you are assured the profit you need for that item. It is better to not sell an item than sell it for too little.

Sometimes items will sometimes go from no bids at all to a bidding war after a quick relist.

Similarly, items that don't seem to interest anybody in an auction format can sell like hotcakes with 'Buy It Now' pricing. Certainly there are a great deal of people who want to purchase that item right now and are willing to perhaps surpass a deal for the immediacy of a purchase guarantee. Some folks don't want to wait days to see if they may or may not have won an auction... they literally want to buy it now.

And I won't even begin to launch into the fact that certain items fetch much higher prices in different venues. I know several sellers who purchase vintage things on eBay just to turn around and flip them for profits on Etsy. Remind me to write about that later.

So don't be discouraged if nobody seems interested in your treasure. Click that 'Relist' button and be patient. Try a 'Buy It Now' price. Maybe change a few words in your subject line. Good things come to those who wait, so don't sell your pickings short.

Big Score: Yashica Film Cameras

Now that you're all keyed up from my recent post about how film cameras as prime-time Picking gold for a big-bucks eBay flip, let me share two of my recent 'Big Scores'.

The Yashica T4. This looks like a crappy point-and-shoot camera that can't be worth very much. Well, how does $170 sound? That's right, the T4s (as well as T3s and T5s) fetch huge dollars on eBay. They are easy to spot because they have a viewfinding window on the top. If you see this camera, you get it!

I'm always juiced when I find an inexpensively priced medium format camera. These things are sought after by serious photographers. It isn't very common to find one priced on the low-end, but I was able to pick this Yashica Mat 124G up at a garage sale for $40. When all was said and done, it sold for over $150 in "As-Is" condition. Not bad. 

So, what kinds of big camera scores have you come across?

What to Sell: Film Cameras on eBay

35mm film cameras are dead.

Except, they're not. In fact, 35mm (as well as medium format and Polaroid) cameras are at the perfect place in history for you to make some big-time profits on.

1910 selfie by Harold Cazneau

It's true that the average consumer (and most professionals) have made the complete switch to digital photography. Heck, most folks forego cameras completely and just take pictures with their phones nowadays. But this doesn't mean that there is no market for quality film cameras. Lots of people are still shooting on film. There are whole artistic movements about shooting with film. These people want film and film cameras.

Now, the most folks are looking in their closets, seeing that old film camera that they haven't even considered using for a decade and think "This thing is worthless. Do they even make film anymore?". Oh boy! This is your big chance to exploit the gap between something being unpopular and without value to the average consumer, but still quite valuable in a specialized marketplace. Just like we discussed with Rapidograph pens, remember.

So how do you know which cameras are worth the big bucks? Just look it up on your phone, dummy. A quick eBay search of completed auctions can give you a guideline of average selling prices.

Now, there's somthing you need to contemplate before you start counting your money.
First, test the shutter, focus, glass, and film-advancing mechanisms. Even if those check-out, realize that unless you plan on shooting and processing a test roll of film, you are going to need to sell you cameras "As-Is", which will inevitable net you less dollars.

Alternately (and this is my preference), you can be very generous, understanding, and clear with your return policy, allowing the buyer enough time to shoot and develop their own roll of film. 30 days should be plenty. Sure, you may have to occasionally need to accept a return and eat-it on the shipping costs, but this has been surprisingly rare with me. Even better, the buyers who have purchased cameras that eventually were revealed to have light-leaks or something were so pleased with my full-refund policy that they left positive feedback.

not my photo

And why stop at cameras. I've made some great flips by picking lenses. accessories, and even unexposed (yet expired) film. Old 35mm cameras that are fully functional but no longer being used are all over the place.Go out and get em.

Stay tuned for my next Part Time Picker post where I share a few of my favorite big camera scores.

The Picking Roadtrip

No doubt about it, Picking is popular. Television shows such as Antiques Roadshow, American Pickers, and Storage Locker Idiots have taken the once obscure hobby of 'thrifting' and turned us into a nation of treasure hunters and wanna-be antique flippers.

As someone who has been in the picking game for a decades (admittedly more often for collecting junk than reselling it), I can tell you without a doubt that the big scores are getting harder to find. I live in a pretty large city and most thrift stores are bereft of super deals these days. Throw in the ease and popularity of reselling items on eBay and books and games on Amazon and it can seem like there isn't any good pickings to be had anymore.

It's great that anybody can make money picking and reselling items online. The bad news is that everybody is trying to make money picking and reselling items online. Competition is fierce. Especially in the densely populated, hip cities.

A possible solution, one that has been practiced for a long time by antiques dealers, is the Picking Roadtrip. The idea is simple enough: Head out to the small towns where the bumpkins don't care or know the value of what they've got, buy up all their good stuff, and head home to sell it at a tremendous profit. Sounds simple and fun, but is it a reality?

I know several vintage clothing boutique owners who have sustained successful business for many years using the Picking Roadtrip as their primary means of inventory acquisition, so clearly it can work. I asked them for some roadtrip picking pointers for this post, and here is what they clued me in on:
  • Have a plan and a budget. Randomly wandering the countryside looking for amazing deals is going to get frustrating but fast. The romantic notion of stumbling onto a barn full of affordable and resellable antiques is extremely improbable. Know where you are going to go, how much it will cost you (gas, accommodations, food), and what you are hoping to find.
  • Know what you want and what it's worth. Some folks don't take to kindly to you researching their goods on your fancy computer-phone right in front of them. You need to be prepared to buy items quickly when those deals show up.
  • Know how to haggle. If you are picking from garage sales, flea markets, and swap meets, you darn well need to be able to haggle. The ability to negotiate price can turn an ok deal into a big score.
  • If you are going with a friend, agree beforehand how you will be dividing goods. Roadtripping with a partner is great fun, but it can go sour real fast if one person thinks the other is not being fair. It's also a good idea to plan on how expenses and driving time is going to be divided.
  • Have a shipping plan. You may find more great stuff than you can cram into your car. It's a great problem to have, especially if you have a plan and budget to get those extra items back home.
  • Leave time to explore. Allocate time for those side-trips and wild goose chases. 
  • Have fun. Enjoy the trip and the experience of going to new places. You may very well come up empty handed, so you might as well have a great time.
Now, I, myself, have never taken a roadtrip with the sole intent of picking. However, I often make picking a part of any roadtrip or vacation. I simply love to visit junk stores, flea markets, and garage sales in new places. Some great deals can surprise you in unfamiliar turf, and often the pickings are much better in the smaller towns.

PS - I just learned about the Antique Road Trip video game, so there is that, too.

What to Sell on eBay: Lego MiniFigures

Mini-figures, big bucks.

Back in my day, we didn't have all these fancy Lego figures with expressions and haircuts and major motion picture relevance... we had one guy. He was all yellow and always smiled. He was either an astronaut, knight, pirate, or just a regular dude. But nowadays, there are thousands of different Lego men and women... and aliens, skeletons, monsters, celebrities, and just about any variation you can think of. Lego has become the best selling toy of all time and its popularity has exploded in recent years thanks in no small part to the expansion of those little people, known to collectors as Minifigs.

As of 2010, there were over 3600 different Minifigs, and over 4 billion have been manufactured. I imagine these numbers have risen dramatically in recent years, especially when you consider that these figures are popular enough to have their own major motion picture!

People are nuts for Lego out there, and you can make a tidy sum by picking Lego at local thrift stores and garage sales and reselling. It all sells, be it complete sets, bulk lots of bricks, weapons and accessories, or Minifigures. I know two local toy stores that sell bulk bags of bricks on consignment for over $10 a pound.

If you find Lego on the cheap (and make sure they are authentic Lego), buy it! There is a huge second-hand market for it. Almost every parent has accumulated a big plastic bin of loose Lego bricks for their kids, so once the children are grown and the toys are no longer being played with, they are often sold very cheaply at yard sales.

Your average Lego figure will sell on eBay for $1 - 4. Some specialty themed sets, like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, can go for $5 - $12 each! Some rare figures with their accessories can fetch up to $100 and beyond.

As you know from my previous post on selling in lots, I'm not a big fan of getting only a buck or two on an eBay auction. I like to hoard a big bag of Minifigs to sell in a lot. If I am able to identify figures that go together in a certain set, I'll put them up together. Otherwise, I'll put them up in lots of anywhere from 20 to 60 figures at a time.

Make sure you take a lot of photos to go with your auction, and include the words "Minifig" and "Minifigure" in your title, as people might search for using one term or the other. As always, be honest about the condition of your items, and describe any missing hands or damaged figures. If your figures seem to consist of mismatched parts, no problem, just say so in the description.

I've probably sold several hundred Minifigs since I started picking. They're small and don't take up much storage room. They are also a great example of an item that is not terribly valuable on it's own, but worth a bundle when you can acquire enough to sell in bulk.

So keep an eye out for Lego, my friends. They are the building blocks to picking riches!

Apps for Picking and Reselling Books: iBookSeller

As I have written time and again, the essential ingredient of selecting books to resell on Amazon is using your smartphone to determine what is worth picking. You take the book off the shelf, you scan the barcode on the back, and you then determine if the book is likely to net you enough profit via resale on the Amazon marketplace.

The keystone is this whole interaction is a smartphone app that can quickly and clearly give you the information you need to make an informed purchase. There are several apps available, and in this blog post we will look at iBookSeller, from Shick Web Design, LLC.
First of all, let me be clear that I am in no way being compensated to endorse or review any product or service. Now that we have that cleared up, let's look at the app.

iBookSeller (version 2.2) is one of the most complete iPhone apps for scanning books. Once you scan a barcode (or manually enter the ISBN), it gives you a lot of information on a single page. Some of that more useful than others. The info I'm looking at is the Sales Rank (crucial), the New or Used Price (essential), and the number of copies currently listed for sale New and Used (in parenthesis after the price). I'm not as concerned about EAN and List Price, but those are there as well.

It also gives you an image of the book cover, which is convenient to confirm that you are, indeed, getting the proper info for the right book. I say this is convenient because several times the iBookSeller has given me info for the wrong book.
Let's take a look at a screenshot from my iPhone:

So there we have it. The above book has a decent Sales Rank, but a used copy is selling for only 55 cents, and there are more then 30 available. I would not pick this book. Someone with a tolerance for lower profit margins, who has more patience for this book to eventually sell at a decent price, or a who is a large seller that makes most of their profit from shipping charges might consider this book a buy. To each his own, but the app has given us all the critical info to make the call. Let's scan another:

Now that's more like it. A robust Sales Rank coming in at under 500k and a solid lowest available used price at $12.18. If I can purchase this book for a buck or two, you better believe I'm picking it.

Another useful feature on iBookSeller is a "Good Buy" settings system, where you can adjust the parameters of what you consider a book worth picking (Sales Rank, Price, Total Offers), and it will give you a quick green Thumbs Up or red Thumbs Down icon with every booked scan. This can really help if you need to scan a lot of books... You don't even have to interpret the data, just look for the thumbs up.

The phone's camera will activate your phone's LED light when the image is too dark to scan the barcode. This might be useful for when you are scanning books in a dank basement during an estate sale or something.

And a easily overlooked feature I really like is that a numerical keypad pops up when you are manually entering ISBN numbers. This is much more convenient that hitting the tiny numbers on the alphabetical pad. Although you do have to return to the alphabet keyboard screen to hit the "Go" button to get the data.

Other sometimes useful tidbits are a button to quickly punch-up the book's listing on Amazon's mobile website and a History page that allows you to see the titles you've already scanned. That's a lot of useful stuff coming from one quick scan.

iBookSeller comes with a 4-page eBook titled "Make Money with Marketplace". Not a bad primer on picking and selling books, but there is no information in here that you wouldn't already know before you purchased the app.

And speaking of purchasing the app... you need to purchase the app, because it isn't free. It originally cost me 99 cents, plus an addition $1.99 to use the scanner. However, as of this blog post, is costs $4.99, plus another $1.99 for the scanner. You'll need to buy the scanner, and it's a good scanner, but it is a 'hidden cost'. All said and done, the iBookSeller app will cost you $7! Pretty steep, as far as apps go.

Other than the cost, about the only other shortcoming of this app is the inability to give you a Amazon Trade-In values. The only app I know that does that is the Amazon Student app (which is free).

In summary, iBookSeller isn't perfect, but is probably the best book picking app available at the moment. If you have used this app, or others, let me hear your opinion in the comments.

Going Postal: How to Avoid the Post Office

Sorry for the long silence, now back to the show...

Stories abound about the United States' dysfunctional Postal Service and about how, at the rate they are going, they won't be around much longer. I heard they are stopping Saturday deliveries of everything except packages (a plan now put on hold), and rural branches are getting shuttered all the time. A little research reveals that the problems are much larger than any incidences of rude service, confusing changes in stamp values, and the mail carrier who somehow never gets it right. It has also been suggested that many of the USPS's woes are intentionally being escalated in an attempt to have the organization forced into massive bankruptcy, which would both eliminate current pensions and completely privatize the service. It has come to light that the spouses of US Senators have been given exclusive rights to sell USPS property. Corruption, anyone?

Is it email or ridiculous and unrealistic retirement plans? Or is most of what we are hearing misinformation? Or is it all about real estate? [If you haven't visited a blog in the past decade, when a group of words are underlined, that means they are a link you can click on.]

Now, don't get me wrong. I love the USPS. I think it is an amazing and quite affordable service when you consider just how much they do for you, and have done for you for your entire life. It really is amazing that you can send a letter to anybody, anywhere, no matter how cutty and out of the way they reside, for less than half a buck. Imagine you had to hand delivery all your packages.
Regardless of the reasons behind the troubles at the Postal Service, I sure hope they stick around, because my Part Time Picking business relies on them. Think about it... mail rules!

But visiting the Post Office does not rule. Visiting the local Post Office sucks! Lines are long, most customers are confused and angry, and most USPS representatives are pretty grumpy (the inevitable result of constantly having to ask confused, angry customers if their packages "contain anything fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous").

Well, if you're shipping more than a few items a month, I would recommend considering an online postage service. You can buy shipping direct from Paypal, Amazon, and the USPS these days, although there are some limitations on what services you can use. The last time I checked, you couldn't ship Media Mail rate with USPS online. For myself, after a bit of research and a few particularly frustrating visits to my local post office, I decided to give a try. will cost you about $16 a month for their minimum service, but when you consider the hours saved by not waiting in line at the post office, I think it is worth the cost. You just enter the weight and dimensions of your package (or padded envelope), where its going, and by what service, plus any add-ons (tracking), and print your postage right at home. Apparently you can schedule a pick-up from your postal carrier, but I prefer to just drop off my stack at the local post office.

I trust you already have a computer, so the only other supplies you'll need are a scale and a big stack of labels. I prefer affordable generic 1/2 sheet labels that feed right into my laser printer. It's easy to copy and paste the tracking numbers into Amazon or eBay, and keeps your shipping history if you need to look up info on a late package. One of the only drawbacks is that international shipping, with its customs forms, is still more reliable through actual human transaction.

There are other online postage services services available, and the costs and terms are always changing, so do a little research of your own. You may find that printing shipping at home is worth it just for the envious looks on the faces of those suckers who are still waiting in line at the post office.