Selling Used or Collectibles with Online Auctions

by on September 28th, 2010
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Online auctions are a convenient way of earning extra money. It could be a few things taking up space in the house. You might be considering online auctions as a part-time or even full-time way of earning income. If you’ve been thinking about selling used or collectible merchandise in an online auction then this article is for you.

There are several auction web sites out there. The most popular by far is eBay but these guidelines apply to any online auction site. There aren’t any step-by-step instructions on how to post an item. That’s the easy part. These are just basic guidelines when preparing and managing your auction. So whether you have a few rare baseball cards, a valuable antique vase or an old stereo receiver to sell, here are some things to consider.

Most of your time will be spent before and after an online auction. First prepare the ad. Then post the ad. Answer questions and give out postal quotes during the auction. Contact the buyer when it’s sold. Get paid. Pack and ship it out. Hope the customer is satisfied when they receive it. All of this takes time. This time and effort is unavoidable. And if the customer is not satisfied it only adds more time and effort to see that they are.

This is what most people new to web auctions often overlook. Online auctions are not like selling something at the flea market – when the customer walks away and never sees you again. With an online auction you are in it for the long haul – until the customer is satisfied, one way or another.

You can avoid a good portion of potential pitfalls by preparing the ad before posting it. Preparing ahead of time will also help you streamline the process of creating each auction ad and keeping track of it if when it’s sold. You could use notepad, a word processor or spread sheet. Whatever you’re comfortable with. The important thing is to write down the pertinent information about your merchandise; manufacturer, model, year, etc. The important details a customer wants to know. Now you have a list of your merchandise. This makes it handy to print out and write down the buyer’s information next to it if an item is sold.

I use text documents rather than spread sheets or data bases to keep track of things. The reason is because it’s easier to get the information into a web document. Creating HTML pages allows you to customize how your ad looks. Most auction sites provide simple online tools to customize your ad. Just keep in mind you’ll be doing it online for each ad you post. Learning a few basic HTML codes is easy and goes a long way. You might consider this to help make your ad more visually appealing. It may add more time, but the benefits of creating an appealing ad could be the difference between selling your merchandise or not.

Your main goal is to get the highest price for your used or collectible merchandise. Now that you have a list, you might consider describing your item in detail. Selling used merchandise is different than selling new items where you can just copy the manufacturer’s info and pictures into your auction ad. In most cases you’ll probably have to come up with it yourself. You don’t have to, but describing your merchandise avoids extra time spent later on during the auction. Look at it from the customer’s side. Let’s say you’re online searching auctions for collectibles and see this ad.

RARE 1950’s RCA R136 Radio

1950’s RCA Radio, Model #R136 – Good condition. WORKS!

Minimum Bid: $75.00

If you were the person looking to fork over seventy-five dollars for an old radio, what would you do? Ask a lot of questions. Are there any scratches? Is it tube or solid state? How big is it? How much does it weigh? How much will it cost to ship it to New Jersey? A typical auction lasts seven days. If you get even two people interested, that’s a lot of questions you’ll be spending time to answer. You can avoid most of this by inserting these details into your ad, even the shipping and return information.

Why the shipping info? You already entered that information when you posted the ad. This advice is from experience. Some customers may not take the time to click for that information. You have a better chance of them actually reading your shipping and return policies when it is detailed in your ad. You’ll still get requests for shipping quotes to certain locations. That’s just part of it. This is another reason I use text docs. It’s easy to copy and paste the same info into multiple ads. The point is that detailing your merchandise in the ad cuts down on a lot of wasted time answering the same question to several customers during the auction.

The potential of selling your used or collectible item increases if it’s presented in the best possible light. Think of it as window dressing. Collectible or not your item is used, which makes it unique, good or bad. So describe the condition of your item. Describe every scratch, any defect however minor. Beware of using ‘like new’. It’s a lazy term and open to debate (questions). Most used things – even gently used – are not like new unless they are in their original unopened package. If you do use the term, you’d better be darn sure it is like new. Customers can be very particular. Any minor defect could wind up adding extra time engaging in a refund, not to mention profit loss.

Finally, decide what you’re willing to accept as a rock bottom price. This will be your auction’s minimum bid, or ‘purchase now’ price. You can determine this price by doing some web research. You need to know what top dollar is for your item in similar condition. What are web retailers asking? Retail web shops have overhead and often ask the highest price. Just remember they’re more willing to sit on their merchandise until they get what they’re asking. You don’t have that luxury unless you want to keep holding auctions until it finally sells for what you want.

Search for your item on the auction site. This will give you a better idea of its current value and demand. At this point it is important to understand the markets of whatever you’re selling. Your item in excellent condition may hold a high price in the retail market, but in an auction environment this may not be the case. Are there a lot of them out there for sale? This affects whether there is a demand for your item. Even if it’s rare, that doesn’t mean you’ll get top dollar for it. In some instances a used or collectible item may receive enough bids to earn top dollar, but most bidders are looking to get a good deal. That’s the reality of any auction, online or otherwise. So you must learn to be realistic about your rock bottom price.

These have been just a few things to consider if you’re planning to sell used or collectibles in an online auction. You should also learn about general auction etiquette and dealing with a variety of customers, which happen to be the subjects of other Yahoo! Contributor articles I’ve written. In any event good luck and may all your auctions be a success!


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