When you think of selling antiques or collectibles, you may assume that you don’t have the start-up cash to get into the business. In fact, my husband and I started a small reselling business on Ebay this summer, with little more than an initial $50 investment. While I won’t share all of our most guarded secrets, I can tell you that some categories sell better than others. Many of them don’t cost much too purchase, either.
The wonderful thing about pottery is that beautiful pieces come up for sale all the time at estate and yard sales. While you may assume that those pieces marked by well-known companies are those you will make the most from, many people will pay big bucks for one-of-a-king pieces from small crafters who really have an eye for unique or trendy looks. If you find a piece that is cheap (less than a few dollars), well-made, in perfect condition, and really grabs you, you can likely get 4-5 times what you paid for it in an online auction.
Pieces with a well-known brand name can fetch a high price. I once bought a Pillsbury Doughboy napkin holder from the 80’s for 25cents at a garage sale and was able to easily get $10 at auction. If you see a commercial appeal to anything you find, go ahead and buy it; someone is likely to be collecting. If you don’t recognize the brand, but it is old and in good condition, this is also a nice find. Many brands have a nostalgic appeal to people who now have cash at their disposal (boomers, for example.) While you may not think much of a sign with an old seed corn brand on it, a retired farmer may be looking for just the thing.
Sites like Etsy are full of small businesses making a killing off of multi-colored Pyrex bowls from the 70’s and daisy-covered casserole dishes like our Moms used. Not only are these still very functional as top-quality kitchen essentials, they have a look that many are clamoring for. Since these are just the items that are being cleaned out of houses when older couples move into their retirement abodes, they can be purchased for less than a dollar in some cases and resold for $10-25 each. Just be careful to watch the market. You don’t want to be selling when there are 20 identical pieces online. You can get the best price when availability is scarce, and you will find more cash when you put matching pieces together and includes lids, covers, etc.
I was stunned to see what items from my youth (the 80’s) were going for online. A Speak-N-Spell with the raised buttons (not the flat ones) were fetching upwards of $100 – $200 on some sites, and it reminded me of how much I loved the one I owned as a child. While many resellers assume that the older a toy is, the more you can charge, this isn’t usually the case. The market for toys is dictated entirely by demand, meaning that the more of us that want an old E.T. Lunchbox, the higher the price will be. Kids from the 70’s and 80’s are ready to buy, so this is a good era to collect from and resell to the highest bidder. Garage sales where the parents are sick of storing their grown-up children’s “junk” (and are unaware of the value) are the best place to find this kind of collectible at a good price.
As our business grows, we become aware of what profit margins we need to make it worth our time. Some items, however, are just really fun to find, making it an exciting hobby – even in the worst case scenario. Do you collect anything that you might resell someday? What kind of collectibles business would you find fascinating to get into?