Over the course of the next few weeks / months, I’ll be writing about how I go about selling valuable consignments. This information was gained through thousands of hours of selling on eBay, as well as a lot of trial and error. I welcome any questions / feedback that you have and hope that people out there will find these articles useful.
Chapter 1 – What is the market for my item?
The first thing I do whenever I have something that I think is valuable is to try to research current sales trends for the item. This means that you want to find out what an identical or similar item has sold for recently (ideally, two years or less), as that can be a good indicator as to what others are willing to pay for the same item.
Please note, this does not mean that you will go straight to Google or eBay and look-up the current listed price for the same item. Oftentimes, items that are currently listed for sale may be vastly overpriced (hence, that is why they are listed for sale and not already sold!)
Here are some different venues that are helpful in researching your items:
eBay – eBay is the largest online marketplace in the world, where you can find everything from Russian meteorites to vintage underwear, (yes, people collect both,) all under one “roof”. It’s also an incredibly valuable and FREE resource that you can use to research almost anything for sale. All it requires are a few small modifications when you use the search feature
The easiest way to research recently sold items on eBay is to click on the “Advanced” button. Next, enter in a few keywords to describe your item. The scroll down a bit and be sure to check “Sold Listings” button, then click search.
To explain what this does, imagine if eBay was a huge store with everything currently for sale being in the front of this store. You can quickly search for most items by using the standard search bar on the eBay homepage. However, by searching the “Sold Listings”, you’re now getting to peak in the back of the store, where they keep records of everything that’s sold in the last 6-8 weeks.
Why is important? Because not only will you be able to see the pricing information for the sold items, you can see how the format in which it was sold (auction vs. fixed price), how the items were photographed and written-up, etc. I usually organize my results by price (highest to lowest), so I can quickly understand which items are selling for the most money (and why). Be sure that the condition of your item matches the condition of the items that you’re looking at (otherwise it may sell for less if it’s in poorer condition, or perhaps more if in better condition).
Terapeak is a subscription service (currently $25 per month) that can be accessed either as an app through eBay or through its standalone website or smartphone app. Terapeak essentially stores a huge amount of sales data from eBay, allowing you to research sales trends back to a year (or more) from eBay. Additionally, you can see the sales price for any item (even those annoying “Best Offer Accepted” items), research “hot” sales trends in many categories, and even get an x-ray view of competitors (which includes their top sale items, total listings, total sales, and sell-through rate!)
Christie’s & Sotheby’s are the two largest and most well-known international auction houses. They tend to have the highest profile art and jewelry sales in the world. Both auction houses provide the ability to search through completed sales as far back as 10+ years, providing pictures and sales descriptions in addition to pre-sale estimates and hammer prices.
Live Auctioneer is an auction website that serves as an online platform for a number of regional auction houses throughout the United States and Europe. In addition to being able to view upcoming auctions, Live Auctioneer maintains a database of previously sold items, ranging from $5 in value to several million dollars. The website is free, but registration is required to search the database.
Heritage Auctions is the third largest auction house by volume in the world and does particularly well selling coins and sports collectibles. They receive an interesting array of consignments and maintain a past sales results database that includes excellent pictures and descriptions of most of the items sold. The website is free, but registration is required.
Worthpoint is a subscription based service that aggregates both eBay sales data as well as data from a number of regional auction houses in the United States. The database goes back as far as 12 years. I find it particularly helpful when researching obscure or hard-to-find items without a lot of information elsewhere.
Ask Art is another subscription-based service that serves as a database for art. Artists can be researched by their last names, with results that provide full names, birth / death information, bios (if available), as well as examples of works sold and their hammer prices.
There many other databases / subscription services available online or in print, but these are the ones that I found myself using most frequently while selling on eBay.
Now that you have an idea of whether or not there’s a market for your item (and assuming that there is), does the item meet your sales expectations? In most instances, the retail price (original purchase price) of the item will be much higher than the resale price that you’ll find online. Additionally, be aware that appraisal values (particularly for jewelry) are often much higher that what may be possible if you resell your item, as most appraisals were conducted for insurance purposes and not for resale purposes.