Selling on Ebay


In a little over a decade, eBay has transformed how people buy and sell items across the world.  It is, by far, the easiest and least costly way for individuals and small businesses to reach millions of potential customers.  Thousands of “associates” have become regular vendors on eBay, earning part or all of their incomes.  For the rest of the seller population, eBay is “the world’s yard sale,” generating millions of potential visits by prospective buyers that are far beyond what could be achieved even if one was allowed to set up shop in the middle of Times Square in New York City. 

For these reasons, many people are attracted to selling on eBay.  Whether they are cleaning out their basement, checking the market for a few collectibles, or exploring the market for their own unique products, eBay seems like the right place to test the waters.  And they are right.  For pennies or less, they can post items for sale online, add descriptions and photos, and see what happens.


What these newcomers often lack is a sense of what price to seek for their items.  This confusion is compounded by eBay’s options for setting a firm price for an object or allowing it to be sold at auction to the highest bidder. 

Selecting the right place for a “buy it now” sale or an auction is crucial to the success of the sale.  And the way to do that is to conduct a little research before posting the item for sale.  Use the features built into eBay to research the final selling price of identical or very similar items.  Be careful to read the descriptions of the items to confirm that they are, in fact, the same items and in the same condition (condition is especially important when selling collectibles).  Also, look the the shipping fees that other sellers have charged and consider them accordingly in setting a price. 


If little is known about the item, use eBay and other online sources to conduct research to identify it.  For example, an old metal toy might be extremely rare, or it might be a rusty, dented version of a mass-produced toy.  It probably has a manufacturer’s name on it, so look carefully.  Buyers will want as much information as possible, so the work needs to be done anyway.

With information in-hand about other items, set a selling price that is in the same range.  It’s not realistic to expect to earn much more than than a price in the high end of the range, so don’t set a “buy it now” at the top end.  If you’re seeking the highest possible return, then conduct an auction but also include a “reserve” price below which you will not sell the item.  The buyers cannot see that reserve price, so they will be encouraged to bid.


For the rare occasions when exact items are not available for reference, look for something similar.  As an example, an artist who is selling her original works on eBay would have to judge the price for her work on her reputation, the size and complexity of her works, and other factors.  There is not “right” price for original art, but a general sense will emerge about what people consider to be fair.

eBay ventures can be exciting and profitable.  Starting online sales with some research is a way to make it even more rewarding and enjoyable.