Just this past month, my husband and I have started a new business selling vintage collectibles on eBay.  While we don’t anticipate getting rich from it, we have seen a nice boost to our income, and the key to keeping it running has been to price our items in the “sweet spot” – or the highest price we can ask that is still within the range of what the average person would be willing to pay.  Whether you are running a garage sale, asking for buyers on Craigslist, or have an online store at Ebay or Amazon, these steps for finding the right price are crucial to ensuring that your items sell.

Written By A True Businessman
Creative Commons License photo credit: chriswatkins

1.  Research to the find the retail price.

This step is so much easier now that the internet is around. Simply Googling what you have for sale (a rare playbill from a live performance from an up-and-coming actor, for example) can get you many ideas on what a storefront would ask for. You will also want to check eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist to see what people are asking.  It can get tricky when you are trying to sell items that are more unique or rare, however, as there may not be many on the market to compare prices for.  In this instance, you would need to search all available resources, such as professional pricing guides (which may cost money), expired online auctions, estate sales, and brick-and-mortar stores (which you can call for information on.)  You may also get your item, if it is particularly valuable, appraised.  This usually costs a minimum of $20 – 50, however, so do this only as a last resort.

2.  Determine if there is a market. 

You may find that your example of a playbill is unique and rare, but there aren’t too many people actively collecting such items.  Or, the actor featured in the performance may have just won an Oscar or was involved in a scandal that put him in the top news spots on all the online sites.  Depending on how “hot” the market is for your item, you may be able to ask for the retail price – or even more, in some cases.  Unfortunately, there are times when the market for an item is cold and dead.  No one may want to own a line of knickknacks that were found to contain high levels of a poisonous substance, for example, no matter how high they are valued by a retailer.

3. Find your break-even point.

While you should ask for as much as you can for an item (based on the value and the market), there will be times when you have paid more for an item initially, and it will require you to quote an asking price in the upper range of the market value. If you actually paid money for the playbill, you will have to be sure that you are able to sell if for at least the price you are out, plus selling fees, shipping, and taxes (if any.)  You may find that the market just isn’t where you need it to be to sell your item for profit and that it’s better to hold on to an item for sentimental reasons.  This is where most resellers quickly learn that you will make your most money from items that you’ve bought for a song.  (A playbill that was acquired for free or for just a few dollars is ideal!)

4.  Start high.

When working from your “break-even” price point, it’s best to price slightly higher than what you would actually want to receive, and be willing to be negotiated down.  Many of the items we sell have the option for “make a best offer”, which lets the buyers feel a little more in control of the pricing process.  By starting a bit higher than what we would like to see for the item (but keeping below that price that will scare everyone away), we can be willing to negotiate for lower prices, and still stay in the profitable range.  We can also offer incentives like free shipping, or discounts for multiple items, just as long as we stay well above that “break even” point.

If you are trying to liquidate your possessions quickly, these pricing tips might not work for you.  They are designed to get you the most money out of your wares, while assuming that a fair market takes time to match the right product with the right buyer. Those that are in financial despair, or need to get rid of their stuff right away, will find that they will have to start lower on their prices, or be prepared to quickly discount items when it becomes apparent that they don’t have time to let the market naturally sell out their inventory.