Reselling antiques, art, collectibles and other valuables for profit is a multi billion-dollar business in the US alone. And with a wealth of online marketplaces providing tools for anyone to sell coupled with a challenging economy, the hunt for items to resell is highly competitive. Here are a few threshold suggestions to think about if you’re reselling now or beginning your resale career.
Locate good sources of inventory and be aggressive. Once you’ve found the places in your city that are likely to have valuable items available for highly discounted prices, get there early. The early bird gets the worm, AKA you snooze you lose. This is a theme I’ll be repeating in other articles. As I’ve mentioned, estate sales and garage sales are the bread and butter for locating valuable items, but there are also church sales, neighborhood sales, charity sales, auctions, moving sales, swap meets, flea markets, pawn shops and curio shops, just to name a few places.
Use multiple online marketplaces to supplement your existing sales. (ETSY, Craigslist, eBay, 1stDibs, Live Auctioneers, Treasurebee). There are books like eBay for Dummies (which is actually quite advanced), and a variety of online options to help you navigate your marketplace options. Passive marketplaces are the ones where you post images and add a text description, and then attend to other business while awaiting a response from potential buyers. Passive marketplaces have become a regular component of most sellers daily sales activities. Treasurebee’s video features allows “active salesmanship” and provides a vital supplement to every seller’s existing sales sales methodology. And for buyers, speaking to the seller is much more exciting than just looking at pictures and text.
Be aware of license requirements. Make sure you’re in compliance, or at least aware of local laws regarding reselling and operating a business out of your home. Some cities require a permit if you’re having a garage sale or estate sale from your home, and some cities will limit you to two or three per year. The permits can usually be found online or at your local city hall. The cost is minimal.
Keep good records. Office supply stores have pre-printed and numbered receipt books. There are varieties available that will help you in your sales environment, whatever it may be. Many buyers who attend weekend sales are professional dealers. In many instances they will want a receipt from you along with the items they purchase. If you don’t have receipts, some buyers will not make a purchase. Keeping receipts will also help you in your record keeping for tax purposes.
Network, and monitor resale publications. Did you know there is a National Association of Resale Professionals? There are antique and collectible industry magazines, local swap meets, local antique stores, and online forums specific to almost any collectible, for you to network with others and learn as much as you can. Talk to the owner or manager of your local toy store, salvage yard, thrift store or local antique mall. Get to know what sellers at your local flea markets are selling so you can learn “best practices” and apply them to your own reselling business.
If you operate out of your home, make sure your potential female customers are comfortable. When on the phone, I have been asked on several occasions by female customers “how do I know it’s safe to come to your house to pick the item up?” This is a completely reasonable question in light of the negative news stories you occasionally hear about where a crime was committed during a sale from other online marketplaces. I always respond “no problem I understand” letting them know I would meet them at any time that’s convenient for them, on the curb in front of my house. This always helps.
Be pleasant. I know this seems obvious. I have run into so many nasty dealers throughout the years it actually makes me laugh now when I meet one. I have several theories for this anger but I’ll save them for another blog (very quickly: too much inventory, rising storage costs, rising labor and health costs, not enough customers). When someone walks into your store or near your booth, you only have one opportunity to engage him or her. If you miss the opportunity, that potential customer may be gone forever. Even if you’re in a bad mood “act” like you’re in a good mood. Think about Denzel Washington, Robert De Niro, or Meryl Streep. They become the people they’re portraying when they’re acting. If you act like you’re a pleasant person, both verbally and in writing to your customers, it will pay dividends in the “good will” you build. I know this from experience because I can be a bit “cranky” at times! Being pleasant will result in more sales.
Be prepared. Anyone who attends estate sales will have stories of the strange and unusual things encountered in the homes they visit. It means as a reseller, you may want a trailer or vehicle capable of hauling the large or unusual items you discover. This is especially relevant for anyone who is interested in picking up items including machines, motorized vehicles, appliances or industrial machinery, for restoration and resale. If you’re serious and motivated you will need additional manpower to lift and transport larger items, without breaking them. If you collect cars it pays to have an automobile trailer. If you just want to be ready, tow a small trailer during your estate and garage sale hunting. If you miss an opportunity because something may be too big, you can be sure there’s another person behind you that will take advantage of the opportunity. I’ve missed several vintage pinball machines (that were being sold for much less than their market value) because I couldn’t handle them by myself.
Have your packaging and shipping area ready. If you intend on reselling through any of the available online marketplaces, you will have to become your own packing and shipping expert. You will need: boxes in a variety of sizes, tape, bubble wrap, a box cutter and a nice area to wrap and box items. Postage can be accomplished through your local post office, or you can pay for postage through one of the online postage options. USPS provides online postage. Packing and shipping a box seems simple enough but I’m emphasizing it because shipping is directly related to providing good customer service, and if not done expeditiously, bad shipping practices will result in negative ratings for you as a seller. Meticulously packaged items that arrive quickly will get you good ratings, every time. Good ratings result in a seller being able to sell an item for a premium. Bad ratings hurt your sales and your ability to get a premium for the items you are selling.
The giveaway. Here is one of my real secrets to repeat customers, both online and at my bi-yearly garage sales. I’ll say up front some dealers may not agree with me. That’s ok. Here goes. If you have merchandise and you’ve acquired it very inexpensively, and a pleasant customer makes a purchase: throw in something for free, related to the item purchased. I always give things away at garage sales to parents with children (so the kids can play a little giving the parents more time to browse). Having a related item ready, that you’re not charging the customer for, is a great added value and will be pleasantly received. This is all a matter of your own personal economics. If you are the type of dealer that has just too much inventory, this is a way to make your customers happy without causing you too much pain. It’s good karma too.
Treasurebee welcomes collectors, buyers and sellers of all kinds. We hope your membership results in more finds, more fun, more expertise, more connections, more pieces for your collection, more revenue and more value than your typical source or marketplace.