Back in 2012, I attended a "leadership conference" that ended up to be two days of speakers trying to pitch me a bunch of "get rich quick" courses, each costing thousands of dollars. Lured by a big keynote, I was disappointed that the rest of the conference was so scummy, but one of the speakers ended up inspiring me to try ebay flipping, and it turned into a really interesting story.
This is the story of the time I turned a $1 purchase into a $55.50 sale.
Flipping: Sell Crap on Ebay for More Than You Paid For It
Most entreprenuers will be familiar with the concept of Ebay flipping these days, but back in 2013 Gary Vaynerchuk hadn't made a bunch of videos about it, and so the whole idea was relatively new to me.
Sure, I'd sold a few things on there before, but I'd never actually looked at it as a real money-making opportunity. Most of the time I'd just throw stuff out rather than dealing with the hassle of Ebay - and I certainly wasn't trying to find stuff to buy that I could then sell on Ebay for a higher price.
Old, Broken, Out of Date - People Will Buy It!
All of the speakers at this conference had super-polished, highly influential talks (laser-honed to make you run across the room to spend $8000 on a set of DVDs!), but the guy giving the ebay talk had something I thought I could figure out on my own - and he had one main argument that really stuck in my mind
"People will buy really weird things. It doesn't matter why. Don't ask why! Just sell it to them"
Of all the talks I saw over the two days I was there, I guess his stuck most with me as something I could play around with, so the next weekend I went off to find some stuff to flip!
Finding Stuff to Sell - Garage Sales Are Your Wholesaler!
After you've sold all the junk lying around your house, garage sales are by far the best place to find things of value that you can flip online for real money.
Why? Most people just want it out of their house, and can't be bothered trying to sell it for its real value. Sure, sometimes they don't understand the value of the stuff that they have, but sometimes they just think it's too much work to try and sell it.
I use the example of my mom in Canada, who recently took bags and bags of vintage clothes she used to wear in the 70s, to some girl who ran an ebay store, and gave it all to her for like $50, just to be rid of it. I mean, there must have been pairs and pairs of super vintage, well-made, hand-embroidered bell-bottom jeans in there, and my mom basically gave them away. I told her that the stuff was probably super valuable and she was like "Honestly, I just don't have the time and now I'm rid of it!"
So yeah, garage sales, swap meets, sometimes you can even find free stuff on Facebook Marketplace, or Craig's list (Gumtree if you're in Australia!). For garage sales, make sure you show up early, as all the best bargains will go early on!
What Sort of Stuff Should You Sell?
When I started out, I was looking for small, unique or vintage items, that I thought would have a good resale value online. But really, common stuff is just as good, as you can quickly look it up on ebay to see what it's previously sold for (there's a filter for "sold listings only" on both the website and the app), so that you can have a good idea of what you should be paying for it.
For me, the first thing I found was a pair of "jacks" (also known as Knuckle Bones").
As you can see, they were beaten up, scuffed, really crappy looking. They came in a little tattered plastic bag, and the little old lady running the garage sale charged me $1 for them (I tried to talk her down, but she was having none of it!)
Sell It Like It's a Porsche!
If there's one thing I know how to do, it's how to sell... so the first thing I did when I got home was to clean them up a bit and then take a bunch of photos on my kitchen table, trying to find an angle and positioning that made them look as nice as possible, without trying to hide what they were.
Next up, I started writing the ebay copy. With that blue piece triggering 80s flashbacks (why is it all 80s board games had a piece in that exact faded/light blue???), I knew that was the angle I needed to take - and so my listing became "Vintage Jacks / Knuckle Bones". Along with a bit of google'ing about the history of the game, I threw together some absolute bullshit that made up my ebay listing!
Note how "tattered plastic bag" became "plastic bag for storage"? Oh, and included play instructions? I just google'd how to play the game and printed it out, to slip in. I'm all about adding value, after all!
From $1 to $55.50 - An Epic Bidding War!
So by the time I listed it on ebay, my then-girlfriend had been teasing me a bit about this hobby I'd embarked on. After all, I was already earning a really healthy six figure salary, and the idea of selling things on ebay that I bought for $1 at a garage sale just seemed like a laughable waste of time.
And for most of the week I had the item listed, it seemed like it was a watse of time. But, With less than 6 hours to go, things started to get interesting.
First, the item went up to $2.80 - that was almost 300% profit!! My girlfriend still laughed at me
Then it went to $10.50... my girlfriend thought it was funny that someone would pay that much for it.
Then it went to $20.50... my girlfriend stopped laughing at me. After all, if I could spend $1 and turn it into $20 in a week, and scale that, that would be pretty amazing!
By the time it hit $31, even I was a bit surprised.
And then, in the last few minutes of the auction, it skyrocketed to $55.50!!
Needless to say, my girlfriend wasn't laughing at me anymore, and I thought it was just the funniest thing in the world. Niether of us could believe it!
Can you imagine if every $1 you spent could be turned into $55.50 in under a week? That would be amazing!
Sadly, I never again had quite the success on eBay that I did with this product, though to this day I will never under-estimate the money-earning potential of ebay flipping.