eBay, The True Value Of Your Items: A Quick Guide

I've been selling items on eBay since 2001, when I visited a friends house and saw it easy it was for his parents to sell custom horse saddles on eBay. I scrambled around looking for items to put on eBay. In 2001, things were easier to sell because the internet was diluted with the same items, and other merchants like Amazon didn't exist.

Trying to decide what to put on eBay can be difficult, some items don't sell, so it's not even worth it to put on eBay. In some cases it's easier to list on craigslist where local buyers can save on shipping and pick it up.

Recently I did a spring cleaning with some of the common hockey cards I had laying around my house. A few months ago I did the mistake of listing some other common cards on eBay for $0.99. Needless to say there wasn't any interest and someone bought the auction at the last minute for $0.99. I look back now and wish I would have just broke the cards up and sold them in player lots.

I still have some common cards left, so a week ago I decided to list player lots. After going through my cards and pulling out all the cards I wanted to keep. I decided which players may have market value to collectors on eBay. Some people don't want lots of a bunch of players, and are detailed collectors on specific teams, items, and players. So most cards do have a market.

One of the first auctions I listed was of former NHL player, Ron Wilson. I had eight total cards, six of which were different. According to Beckett Price Guide, the book value of the Wilson cards were worth about $0.10 each, so the whole lot was worth $0.80. I decided to start the auction at $0.99 and a "Buy It Now" price of $1.99. "Buy It Now" is a feature where you can buy an item without it going to auction if no one has bid on it yet. Also, I included a $2.95 shipping fee on my auction. Normally, it costs $1.50 to ship an item like this, and I usually get tracking for $0.90, plus the cost of bubble mailer it comes out to about $2.95.

Normally, I'd write specific details about the items I list but this item wasn't going to generate much money, so it wasn't worth my time. Instead, I wrote a brief description and took a picture.

Ebay always tries to push things on you with other features you can purchase, and why you should purchase them. Many of them have no bearing on your auctions, and in some cases you can lose money.

At the end of the auction listing you'll have the option of returns on items. I don't allow returns on my items, because in many cases the items I have taken back have been damaged or something was missing.

Also, eBay has pretty much eliminated purchasing or receiving payments with anything other than Paypal (which they own). Previously, you could pay with a cashiers checks and money orders (in some cases cash and personal checks). However, there was many disputes about payments being received, and it turned into a headache with eBay having to deal with the disputes. This also gave eBay another venue to charge fees on your items.

Here's how my auction looked:

After you list your item it's waiting game until the auction either ends or someone uses "Buy It Now" to purchase it.  I was lucky enough to have this auction end with a "Buy It Now" for $1.99. After the person bought it, I sent them an invoice (eBay gives you a feature to send an invoice). The customer paid right away which went right to may to Paypal account.

Prior to going to the Post Office to ship the lot, I need to package it up. I normally put the card in a team poly bag (which can be purchased at a card store), but you don't need to. Then I sandwich the the cards in between two pieces of card board (some people use plastic card top loaders, but card board works just as good and is cheaper) and tape the sides together. I put the package in a bubble mailer (normally $3.98 for a 6 pack at Target), and write the shipping and return address on it (if you are doing many items I suggest printing off shipping labels).

Some sellers on eBay have scales or know the exact weight of each package and can print exact postage from their computer/printer via eBay's website. Usually this will provide a free tracking number. However, you need to figure in the cost of ink, and labels if you are printing multiple labels for items.

As I've stated before, it's important to get tracking number for $0.90. I've had numerous buyers claim they never received an item and I ended up losing money. Ebay will almost always side with the buyer, if an item isn't received and you didn't get tracking, and a dispute is filed. Many dishonest people see you didn't get tracking and take your item, and still file a dispute. If you sell an item for $100.00, is it worth it to lose out on $100.00 by not getting tracking for $0.90?

Once the item is in the mail I normally go on ebay, and send the buyer with a tracking number, and then give them positive feedback. In many cases feedback is just as an important as money.

After your auction has been completed, you'll get a monthly statement of all the eBay fees from your auctions. Did you think eBay was free?

Here's where eBay gets the reputation for being called "fee"bay. It's free to list up to 50 items a month. You are only charged a "Final Value Fee" when your item sells. Normally this is 9% of what the auction sells for. On top to that eBay also takes a 9% fee out for shipping. In the past eBay didn't do this but changed their policy when people were listing items for $1.00 and then charging $50.00 shipping. People would get item at a great deal for $51.00, and the seller would still get their money, however eBay would lost out on commission because they would only be getting paid on the $1.00, bot the $51.00. 

You'll also notice that Paypal takes out a 9% fee when you get paid. Ebay owns Paypal, so they are actually getting more money.

Overall here's the breakdown of the cost involved in selling my auction.

Ron Wilson Cards (no cost because I want to get rid of them) - $0
Sale Price (Buy It Now) $1.99 + $2.95 shipping - $4.94
Shipping costs (shipping, tracking, bubble mailer) - $3.06
Subtotal before eBay fees - $1.88 
eBay Final Value Fee - $0.18
eBay Shipping FVF - $0.27
Paypal Fee - $0.44
Total Profit -  $0.99 

It does seem like a lot of work for only $0.99, but if you get a system down for listing lots like this you can make a significant profit. Ebay does allow you to save a template for multiple auctions, so you don't have to retype all your auctions. 

For me it's worth it to list these auctions, not only because of the money but also to increase my seller rating which can make an impact on bigger items I may sell down the road. Also, it's a way of helping other collectors build their collections as opposed to just throwing them in the trash. 


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