Buying and Selling Collectibles for Profit

Yes, you can make money buying and selling collectibles, even in the state that the economy is in today. The economy has had a negative effect on collectible values, generally speaking, but that also means that a dealer can buy collectibles cheaper than he could a few years ago, mark them up and still make money. The pool of buyers is less than what it was just a few years ago, but quality collectibles always find buyers at the right price.

With collectibles, you will make your money when you buy. If you know the collectible value of what you are buying, you will have a general idea of what you can expect to sell it for. It is true that the most knowledgeable of buyers will make a mistake and take a hit occasionally, but there are also those times when a collectible will soar past what he thought that he could sell it for. Buying and selling collectibles is fun, but if your motive is profit, you have to keep that in mind and not get carried away in the moment.

Those with no or little experience with buying and selling collectibles should pick several areas and get familiar with them. There are just too many collectible categories for any one person to be well enough informed to make consistently profitable buys without specializing. Almost every time that I have made a mistake, it was one of those times when I stepped out of my zone of knowledge. It’s not much fun to have to comb through everything for sale at a particular venue regardless of interest, and it’s even less fun to lose money doing it. It would take hours out of every day just to comb through a few collectible categories on eBay. Searching the entire site would be impossible.

eBay is a good place to learn collectible values. There are also many other websites to study. It is also a good idea to buy hard copy books in your area of interest. It is much easier to look through a book for a value than it is to surf the net. They are also easy to take on the road with you. Leave them in your car though, so the seller doesn’t get the idea that things are worth more than he thinks they are.

The Best Places to Buy Collectibles for Resale

eBay takes a lot of heat, but there is still no better place to buy collectibles. Vintage collectibles from all over the world are pulled from attics, garages, and basements and get listed on eBay. Older people downsize and list things on eBay. Collectors grow bored with their collections and list them on eBay. Dealers close their shops and list their inventory on eBay. All of this can be accessed from your home on your own computer.

The best items in my collections came from eBay, and I got them for a fraction of what I would have most anywhere else. Those items that I didn’t keep for my collections, I listed them on eBay. You might be wondering how I can sell at the same place I buy. That’s easier than it sounds, but it is fairly time-consuming (remember the advice to pick a few collectible categories and specialize?) I look for auctions that are poorly listed. Some people just don’t know what they are selling. I have bought valuable vintage autographs that were listed as magazines. I found those by running an “advanced search,” which picks keywords out of descriptions.

Another way to find undervalued items on eBay is to use “advanced search” and search listings for collectible “lots.” I once bought a vintage Louis Armstrong (with Ella Fitzgerald) signed photo worth $600 that was buried in a “lot” with signed photos of Ike Turner, a young Tony Bennett, and several more performers. I paid $50 for the “lot.”

Some things on eBay are just plain listed wrong. I bought a Cecil B. DeMille signed bank check, custom framed with a photo, for $50. It was listed as a replica, but it was the original check.

Estate sales are also very good for finding vintage collectibles. Most people collect something, and almost everybody holds on to more than they need. When a homeowner moves or dies, quality vintage collectibles are sometimes sold for much less than they are worth. Be careful though. With the advent of eBay, many people think the things they’ve inherited are worth more than they actually are, and often the price reflects that.

I have found that many who price things at estate sales over price things they think are collectible, but really aren’t and they overlook things with true collectible value. I once bought two pairs of Mickey Mantle socks in a plastic package that was disintegrating. I paid $3 for the socks and sold them for over $600 on eBay. To the original sellers it was junk, but to a collector that Mickey Mantle facsimile autograph on the socks was worth a lot of money. Anything vintage Mickey Mantle is valuable and the high bidder at my eBay auction probably didn’t have this item in his collection (or maybe he thought it was underpriced and knew who would pay even more). At the estate sale other things were overpriced. They guessed wrong and I wasn’t guessing about the value of the socks, because it fell into one of those categories that I know.

Other places to find collectibles that you can buy for resale are thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets. If your time is limited on weekends, hit the estate sales first though. Get there early because most everybody else involved with selling collectibles will.

Don’t Lose Money with Modern Limited Editions

Buy vintage collectibles that were at one time mass-produced and marketed without pretense that the general public is excluded or restricted from buying them. Items never meant to be sold, like advertising and promotional products, can also be worth buying.

The majority of limited edition collectibles will eventually be worth less than they were when they first hit the marketplace. The producers look ahead and predict what amount that they can sell, then manufacture enough to fill the projected orders. If they don’t guess right and supply falls short of demand, they will figure out a way to make more, maybe changing something minor. Franklin Mint plates, Precious Moments figurines, and Beanie Babies are limited edition collectibles just to name a few. Sports card and comic book companies almost killed their industries by marketing their products as limited editions. Only buy limited editions if you truly like them, but even then buy them on the after market. You can buy almost all of this stuff at a fraction of its original cost on eBay.

Overhead Can Cost You More Than You Will Ever Make

With collectibles, you should keep your overhead as low as possible. That might sound obvious, but it wasn’t for those who opened collectibles shops to cash in on the latest hot collectible – sports cards and comic books come to mind. Imagine how many comics and cards one has to sell just to cover rent? Then there are utilities and employee wages. Plus, if you open a shop, you have to buy fixtures and keep those shelves and showcases full of collectibles that you hope will sell quickly … to pay all of that fixed overhead that you bought when you signed a lease. If collectibles do not sell, they have to be deep discounted to below cost to raise money for more collectibles that might sell. All it takes is a few months of that to sink a shop too far to recover. Many shop owners eventually have to find a job outside their shop and hire a kid at minimum wage to mind the store. That rarely ends well.

If you can’t cover expenses, you can’t close your doors because you are still on the hook for the lease. It is very common for retailers to keep their doors open and lose money each day because it would cost more to close them and insure a larger loss.

Another disadvantage of opening up a shop is that it will tie you down and hamper your ability to diversify. Selling collectibles for profit should be just one piece of your money-making formula. You can get all kind of ideas at to fill those hours that you aren’t selling collectibles.

Where You Can Sell Collectibles

The most potentially profitable place for selling collectibles is your own website. If you do choose to build a site, don’t think it will be discovered simply by putting it on the web and waiting on traffic. Most websites have no traffic from free search engines like Google. If you don’t plan on extensive marketing outside the web, it is likely that you will fall into that vast majority unless you break away from the pack and learn how to build a site that gets free search engine traffic. My sites get thousands of page views per month and I knew nothing about building websites until I built my first page on my first site in December 2008.

Selling collectibles from your own website has other advantages. You could sell ads to other collectors and dealers or use Adsense (which requires little effort beyond posting code on each page you want it). Sites which are monetized have the possibility of becoming valuable assets, and with enough traffic might make you as much or more as buying and selling collectibles.

eBay is also a good venue for selling collectibles, but many have found that it is best used as place to unload product that is difficult to sell elsewhere. Another good website for selling collectibles, especially handmade and vintage, is Etsy. EBay and Etsy can also be used in conjunction with your own website.

Blogs are not normally good for selling collectibles, but with good keywords and inbound links they are very useful for driving traffic to your eBay auctions and your website.

Since you are specializing in just a few areas, you should build a list of collectors who might buy what you find. Sometimes a phone call will move a collectible that you bought minutes ago. List building is another reason for having a website. Many site owners publish a monthly newsletter, usually sent as an ezine, just for the list making ability of it. A newsletter doesn’t have to be anything extensive. It could be just a page of new inventory or an announcement of new pages.

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