Day: March 22, 2023

Wed. Mar. 22, 2023 – 03222023 – some thoughts on reselling at auction

Cool, but warming.   We are supposed to get warmer through the week, and into the 80s.   National forecast has us clear today and rainy tomorrow.   There were very scattered and light spattering showers yesterday as we were on the edge of a rainy zone.

I spent time with a friend yesterday, and actually went thrifting.   He got some good stuff and so did I.  We had some time to talk too.  Then I spent some time sorting.

Today I’ll do more sorting, a couple of pickups, and I should be able to drop off stuff for one of the local auctions too.

Speaking of which, a commentor asked some questions last night and as I was writing the answers, it grew to post size.  I decided to put it here today.

So, some answers and thoughts about reselling, based on my more recent experiences.

@nick, when you bring items to one of your local auctioneers, do you have any input as to the starting bid? And what percentage of the winning bid do you wind up with if you don’t mind sharing? I have a few bins of ~$20-$30 items that I should be listing on eBay but never quite get a ‘round tuit’.

WRT starting bids at my auctioneer, he doesn’t like them to be too high. Buyers like to start low, even if it ends up high. I can insist on a minimum, but again he doesn’t like it (he has to manually manage the process). It comes down to you have to trust the buyers (and have enough of them.) For my side, it means curating what I bring him to be things I think his buyers will like, and accepting that something might go cheap. On the gripping hand, if no one ever got a bargain, they wouldn’t keep coming back, so the occasional item that goes too cheap is really an investment in the future.

WRT costs, my two favorite auctioneers take between 30 and 40% of the hammer price, plus they get a “buyer’s premium” on top of that paid by the buyer, not me. The actual percentage they take depends on my negotiating skill, and the quality of the stuff I bring them. Their labor is pretty much the same for a $10 item as a $100 item, so they prefer the bigger items. That said, the majority of their items seem to be $10-$40 sale price, with some higher, some lower. I shoot for $20-$50, with the occasional $100 item, and am sometimes surprised, and sometimes disappointed.

The upshot of selling at auction is that you ‘make your money’ when you BUY the item. It has to be REALLY CHEAP relative to the price you expect. That way you are covered if it sells at the low opening bid. If you pay too much, it’ll never sell at auction with a starting bid high enough to cover your breakeven.


There are lots of pricing strategies, lots of different ways to approach profit margin. If you are listing on ebay with a ‘buy it now’ you have more control over the price, but you will never have a surprise hit, like I did with an antique book. I’d have been happy to get $20, but it sold for $400.

I watch youtubers that will pay up to half the expected sale price for inventory. That’s nuts. You lose a third to ebay/paypal, shipping might eat into the profit, and you have time involved in packing and shipping. Plus if the item is a slow mover, because you’ve priced it at the upper end of the range, your money is tied up, you have to store and manage the item, and you might take an offer for lower, just to move the item. It’s easy to end up breaking even on a low cost item, or even losing money just to make the sale. And that is before counting your time, or the income tax.

There are exceptions. If you have a lot of identical items, and they are very easy to ship, you can either list them with a “select a quantity”  and sell singles or multiples over time, or you can lot them in multi-item lots so you have one sale of 4 or 6 and your margin on that one sale is high enough to be worth it.

Listing and Shipping (packing) are the biggest time sinks for me. Taking the stuff to my local guy saves me both of those costs.

Testing/fixing/cleaning can eat up a lot of time too, so I tend to put it off, and then do it in batches.

I plan to restart listing on ebay but only for items that will sell for $50 or more.   I’ll let my kids list the cheap stuff, and fulfill those orders too.  (yeah I’ll still be doing the work, but they’ll be learning the skills and hopefully my involvement will diminish over time.)    I was going to set my personal limit at $100 but decided I’ve got a lot of items with good profit potential at $50 that I might as well sell.   And I’ll only list items that I am sure won’t sell well in one of the local auctions because the pool of buyers is too small, or to geographically dispersed.

I should also mention that I got all the low priced inventory because for a while, people were only buying “smalls” for around $20.  My big stuff wasn’t moving and I needed stuff that was.   My  priorities have changed though, so it makes sense for me to concentrate on moving up the food chain a bit, and to not spend my time ‘grinding’.

Other people will make other choices based on their own calculations, or their emotions, or by reading sheep’s entrails, but I’m going to try it this way for a while.

I’m hoping to reduce my inventory, and increase my stacks…

Because stacking is good, if the stuff is good.


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