What to sell: Magazines

Come to Papa.

There they are: under the coffee table, cluttering the shelves, in the bathroom, on the mantle, in your bag, all over your office... magazines are all over the place. They have a very limited time-frame of usefulness and are basically designed to be read once and tossed.

I'm not going to tell you to hoard magazines. For for love of all things sacred get rid of your old magazines. But before you dump them all in the recycle bin, take an extra moment to see if they can get you a spot of cash on the 2nd-hand market.

And once you notice what magazines are selling on eBay, you can often pick them for next to nothing. After all, magazines are rightfully considered wasteful clutter pretty quickly.

So what magazines have value (other than that National Geographic of the girl with the haunted eyes)? With a bit of research, I've discovered there are lots of mags that can be flipped for bucks. Few magazines will get big dollars on their own, but if you are paying very little (or nothing) for them, you can make a few bucks of profit pretty easily.

  • First, the obvious. Vintage and antique magazines (and catalogs). While an old magazine is not guaranteed to fetch a high price, it is a good place to start. Make sure to take good photos and describe the contents in your listing. Many people are more interested in the images of celebrities or the advertisements in old magazines than the articles.
  • Specialized interest and industry magazines. These can often be very expensive new and not exactly common at the newsstand, so folks will buy them online. Whether the topic is dentistry or fly fishing, there are professionals and hobbyists who need that back issue.
  • Art magazines. Some of the more high-end art magazines have massive retail prices when new, but can later be found for a few coins at a garage sale or library clear-out. I have personally made a killing on several occasions reselling Raw Vision folk art magazines that I bought for only a dollar each.
  • High end Knitting Magazines. My wife loves these things but usually will just photocopy a few pages she likes and then pass them on to me to for online sale. Some of these issues sell for over $20 each!
  • Fashion and design magazines (or any magazines, really) from overseas. Again, these things have a hefty price tag when bought new at the newsstand in the US, but lose their value real quick afterwards.Same with UK music magazines like Mojo
  • Recent issues of magazines. I gleaned the knowledge of reselling recent issues of magazines from the Suzanne A. Wells blog. Sometimes issues from the past year can be resold for decent bucks. The celebrity on the cover is a big selling point for some of these so make sure to put their name in the subject of your listing. If your friends have a subscription, ask them if they will give you their issues when they are done rather than recycling them. 
  • Bulk Lots of magazines. And, of course, the classic. Any regular readers of this blog know that I don't like taking the time to list items that are only going to fetch me a buck or two in the end. That's why I'm a big fan of selling small profit items in lots. While I won't bat an eye at a magazine flip for $4, selling a lot of ten mags for $40 profit will get my blood pumping for sure.
A few other things to remember about picking and selling magazines:
  • Use the old standby of completed items eBay search to do quick research. Realize that you may not get the same results you see, particularly if there is a small sample size of completed listings.
  • Some specific magazine back issues can be sold through Amazon. Particularly for those giant 'book-sized' (and 'book-priced') magazines.
  • Ask your doctor, dentist, or other waiting room having professional if they are recycling their old magazines. If they are, maybe they will let you have them.
  • Magazines without a mailing label (or remnants of adhesive from a label) will get better dollars.
  • Magazines don't qualify as Media Mail (because they have advertisements in them), so set your shipping charges accordingly.
  • Magazines can always be put in the recycling bin later, so if you have a chance to get them for free, go for it. Free magazine issues are basically a no-risk pick. 
So there you have it. Keep you eyes open for possible magazine picks and you'll be padding up the paypal account in no time.

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 Amazon.com 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.