For the past five years, we've been serious sellers on the eBay platform, offering our estate sale discoveries in our Cool Vintage Finds Store. We've learned a few things through this experience, that's for sure. If you've ever thought about becoming an online seller or are just curious about the gig, here are some insights into what it's all about.
(Almost) anything will sell eventually.
It's a big world. There's a market for just about everything—it's just a matter of connecting to buyers. We've had items languish in our store for several years, then sell out of the blue. Nowadays, having learned from trial and error what's desirable in today's marketplace, we're a little less likely to list duds. But even duds sell with patience! Condition, price and rarity all factor into the speed of an item's sale. Traffic also matters; we need eyes on our stuff at just the right time to close the deal. For the most part, we "set it and forget it"—until it sells!
Most buyers (and sellers) are honest and kind.
If you hang out in the selling blogs or online seller Facebook groups, you might get the impression the marketplace is loaded with people trying to pull a fast one and get something for nothing. Our experience tells us otherwise. The vast majority of our customers are respectful, cheerful shoppers who are delighted to find something in our store, willing to pay a fair price and grateful when their purchase arrives intact. Like the saying goes, if you want to attract more bees, pour on the honey. We've seen grumpy customers change their tune when we simply acknowledge their concern. Here are two examples of exchanges that could have gone south quickly: twice in the last six months, a customer contacted us to say they didn't receive what they ordered in the box that arrived from us. Instead of sending an irate email suggesting they're trying to scam us, we responded by very nicely asking them to check the packaging again. In one case, the buyer had hurriedly unpacked a box containing two items and missed one of items entirely! In the other instance, because we had used a recycled box, the buyer thought they had received file folders! Both led to happy endings. On the rare occasion of a truly difficult customer, we do our best to please them, but if they persist in being unpleasant, we don't engage in a war of words. Instead, we just move on to the happier campers.
USPS is an excellent partner.
Last year, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) delivered an average of 20.5 million packages per day throughout the year, with deliveries spiking to more than 28 million daily package deliveries during the two weeks prior to the Christmas holiday. That's a gargantuan load of mail to manage! Lost packages and other delivery errors are extremely rare. We've never had a lost package, though a few times a box was misdirected and took a little longer than expected to arrive at its destination. For that reason, and the fact that we have an amazing postal carrier who works very hard to see that our packages are picked up in a timely manner, we ship most of our orders with USPS. Once in a while, when we have a very heavy or extra large box, we may choose a different carrier, but the vast majority of our packages go by USPS.
Free shipping is unrealistic for small sellers.
Ebay, Amazon and Etsy push sellers to offer free shipping. Buyers may love it, but it's not a sustainable arrangement for the majority of solo entrepreneur online sellers. Either the buyer pays for free shipping through an inflated price, or the cost falls on the backs of small sellers (and these costs are back-breaking). The fact is, it is expensive to ship things. Sellers must acquire or purchase shipping materials (boxes or mailers; bubble wrap, foam or paper; and don't forget tape) and take the time to package with care. These costs apply on top of postage.
About two years ago, we succumbed to pressure from eBay and decided to offer free shipping across the board (domestic only, of course). We were assured our sales would increase to offset whatever costs we would eat shipping items across the U.S. Well, after more than one year of this experiment, we found no improvement in our sales. In fact, shipping costs made a significant gouge in our ability to realize a profit. We've returned to charging a reasonable fee for shipping. For the most part, customers understand that the volume of our business does not permit free shipping and are willing to pay to have the items they desire shipped to their homes.
The eBay Global Shipping Program works well for international shipping.
We are happy to sell to overseas customers, and we have on many occasions. However, we've found that the only viable way for our business to manage the shipping piece is to rely on the eBay Global Shipping Program (GSP). Our store stocks a wide variety of items, with different weights and dimensions. It would be too hard for our two-person shop to pre-package and calculate shipping for myriad countries. Instead, we simply ship to one US address and GSP takes care of the rest, including any customs forms that need to be completed. Customers may pay a little extra for this service, but they also benefit by knowing their purchase is protected in the event it gets lost or arrives damaged. We also have a handful of international customers who purchase through a shipping service that manages OUS shipments.
The market and the rules change all the time.
Since we've been selling online, we've seen drastic swings in the going price of many collectibles. For example, our very first eBay transaction was the sale of a first edition book for over $100. In today's market, that book might fetch $10 at best. Because so many booksellers have put their entire inventories online, only very rare or unique books command a high price in this platform. Similarly, Bing & Grondahl plates, Hummels, Norman Rockwell prints and other items that were desirable and expensive "back in the day" now sell for a small fraction of their original price. Demand for Arts & Crafts era decor is still relatively strong, while interest in Mid Century Modern is waning. A segment of Millennials are driving a growing interest in collectibles from as recent as the 1990s.
What's causing the downward shift in prices? Younger, minimalist globe trotters aren't shopping the same way their parents did. Baby Boomer estate liquidations are starting to glut the marketplace. But there's still opportunity for merchants who curate with care and offer stellar products and service. Even if Americans hit their limit, there's opportunity among international buyers.
Every day, new sellers jump onto the online bandwagon. Sites pop up to compete with the eBay platform. Trends come and go, and tastes change. Certainly the rules (and costs) of selling morph over time. In order to survive, eBayers need to be flexible and adapt to new policies and fluctuating demand.
Share your eBay experience and/or questions!
Let us know what your eBay experience has been like, as a buyer or a seller. We're happy to answer your questions too. Thanks for reading!
If you get as excited as I do when treasure hunting, you need to be extra wary about your selections. It’s easy to get carried away with a “find” and overlook flaws that diminish value. You may feel rushed because there are other eager shoppers on all sides. Slow down and inspect the merchandise!
Here’s a short guide to help you use your five senses to become a savvy reseller:
Odors are a bane to buyers and can be difficult to remove. Take note when you enter a home and be on guard if you detect mildew or smoke—common culprits that can destroy a desirable item. Airing and washing items can sometimes eliminate smells but this involves time and hassle and may not be satisfactory. Cat urine is particularly difficult to remove and noxious to the nostrils (no offense to felines intended). There is also a rather mysterious odor that tends to creep into the homes of the elderly. If something stinks, trust your instincts and rest assured it will smell even worse when you remove the item from its environment, which often masks much of the smell. Pass on moldy or musty items—these odors spread when stored with pristine inventory.
Listen to the chatter at sales. You may be able to pick up on history of items or gain insight into demand. Some sellers will have expertise to share, so it doesn’t hurt to inquire. Another way you can use your ears is when encountering mechanical items. If you hear something rattling around inside when you give it a gentle shake, you may be dealing with a broken thing-a-ma-jig. You can also improve your purchase decisions by listening to what your gut is telling you. If your inner voice says something is overpriced, negotiate or pass it by. If you’re being too sentimental, check your emotions at the door.
I’m using poetic license to invoke this “sense”—my true meaning refers to aesthetics. Is your taste in line with what’s popular? Are you good at uncovering rare and coveted niche items? The best shoppers have a knack for identifying cool stuff that people want right now. You can’t always predict what will sell, but if you keep an eye on the marketplace, you can improve your ability to spot hot items in high demand.
May fortune favor you as you hone your senses in the exciting field of treasure hunting. Good luck!
No more vanilla Christmas presents—give cool vintage finds instead!
There's a better way to get your Christmas shopping done this year, and it doesn't require fighting for a parking space or wandering the malls. Relax in the comfort of your own home and peruse the pages of the Cool Vintage Finds Store! You'll avoid a vanilla experience and instead find one-of-a-kind treasures for your family, friends and even yourself.
Keep reading for ideas to help you have a more rewarding gift-giving experience!
Something special for your sweetie.
Something thoughtful for mom.
More mom-friendly ideas ...
Something special for dad.
Maybe Dad would enjoy a book with historical significance, a magazine with a personal connection, art that for his office or den or clothing to round out his wardrobe. Keep looking, you'll find just the right thing!
Something cool for a sibling.
Maybe it's a t-shirt from your favorite band growing up or a long-lost toy. Or a poster from the movie you both were crazy about. Our Cool Vintage Finds Store on eBay is an ever-changing repository of cool stuff any bro or sis will appreciate, especially coming from you!
Something awesome for your friends.
You know what your friends like! No probs acquiring nifty gifties for all your best buds, right here.
Something you've always wanted.
Don't neglect yourself while you do your Christmas shopping! Pick out a gift you've been craving so there's at least one package under the tree you know you really want.
Shop now for quick shipping and happier holidays!
When you shop the Cool Vintage Finds Store on eBay, your purchases will be shipped promptly and with care! If you're buying a gift that you'd like shipped to an address other than your own, be sure to add the alternate address to PayPal before buying. Happy shopping!
Creepy modern day Halloween collectibles
So a while back we came across one of these vinyl squeezable creatures that makes a blood curdling sound when you squeeze its belly. It was strange enough to pique my curiosity and prompt me to assume someone out there is probably collecting these dudes. Turns out they have a variety of names—Halloween Screamers, Cacklers, Monsters, Screechers, among others—and shape shift from season to season, with different manufacturers and varieties filling the market.
I did some research, determined the going price and listed our discovery in our Cool Vintage Finds Store on eBay. Sure enough, it sold pretty quickly. So naturally we've been on the hunt for more screamers to satisfy the collectors who want to fill their pockets (and shelves) with these fascinating monsters.
This past summer, we came across a handful of pocket screamers dating back a few years. Again, these early screamers flew off our shelves. In the process, we had a conversation with Hugo, a customer and collector with his finger on the pulse of the pocket screamer craze.
"They use to come out like crazy in the beginning. over the years they have trickled down to only a few stores now. Use to be Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Jewels grocery stores, oh, and Party City was good for some classic ones. The ones with hair are the older ones and considered classics."
Vintage and antique blocks look great just as they are, displayed on a shelf in a nursery, kitchen or den. Some collectors like to complete the alphabet or spell out words. If you're the crafty type, check out Etsy to get ideas for upcycling old blocks into new and fun home accents. Whatever you do, don't pass up that box of blocks when you encounter them at a sale or thrift store down the road.
Here are a few ways to turn your vintage finds into contemporary masterpieces:
Skeleton key wall art. Buy old skeleton keys online or round up a few at your local antique shop. With a piece of old board and some strong glue, you can create a skeleton key wall plaque. These plaques are easy to make and will add a cool twist to your decor.
Lace brooch. Repurpose grandma’s cotton crochet lace (crochet doilies also work) and her extra-large earrings that no longer have a match into a handcrafted brooch. Each lace brooch only takes a few minutes to make and requires little more than a needle, thread, piece of lace, and adornments. Positively Splendid lays out the full instructions here.
Vintage button ornaments. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, Christmas crafts are always fun to make. Grab a jar full of vintage wooden buttons, a spool or two of ribbon, and clear filament (fishing line works nicely), and you have everything you need to put together some cute and colorful ornaments. Get inspired with how-to steps in this DIY Network tutorial.
Creepy doll head lamp. If your older kids have a twisted sense of humor, there are tons of ways to reuse an old doll head to create spooky Halloween decorations. A vintage candle holder, doll head, and battery-powered LED lights provide exactly the right creep factor for your All Hallow’s Eve shindig. Get inspired by the I Like That Lamp blog.
No matter what types of crafts you and your kids enjoy together, you’ll need storage options for crafting necessities. If closet space is not an option, rescue a chest of drawers, bookcase or filing cabinet to keep supplies out of sight when not in use.
Collect old baskets to organize paper, fabric, ribbon and more. From small to large, there's a basket to hold your stuff.
It all began with St. Nick
Santa Claus, the secular hero of Christmas for generations, dates back to the fourth century and the region of Asia Minor. A young man named Nicholas (also spelled “Nicolas” or Nikolas”) was orphaned and left a wealthy young man. His generous deeds led to his sainthood. The gift-giving traditions centered around St. Nicholas were later co-opted by the early Christian church, to compel pagans to worship the Christ child.
Father Christmas for Grown Ups
Along came Belsnickel
Belsnickel (also referred to as Belsnickle, Belznickel and Belschnickel) is a figure originating in German lore. Generally portrayed as a more serious figure than the jovial Santa Claus beloved by Americans, Belsnickel represents both the dark and the light sides of the Christmas holiday. He’s often depicted with a dour (or at least neutral) expression on his face and is known to wear simple, drab robes. He carries a branch or “switch” in one hand, which he uses to swat naughty children. He may also carry treats of candies, cakes, nuts and fruits, which he gives to well-behaved children, however, some reserve this more friendly role for Kirshkinkle (KrisKringle). His arrival comes several weeks in advance of December 25. The Belsnickel mythology was brought to the United States by the Pennsylvania Dutch, for whom the name translates to variations on Pelznickel.
Santa Claus, the jovial elf
Woodland Santa is magical, too
Which Santa do you believe in?
Get in touch
Learn about our recent discoveries and what captures our imagination in this blog, then peruse the treasures in our Cool Vintage Finds Store on eBay.
Brought to you by...
... Susan Buie, writer by day, vintage curator and co-proprietor of the Cool Vintage Finds Store on eBay in all the moments in between.
Guest bloggers welcome. Do you have special expertise you’d like to share? Guest bloggers receive full attribution and a link back to their web site, blog or store. For consideration, submitted blogs must meet our criteria, are subject to editing, are not compensated and cannot be published elsewhere.
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