If you’ve read the last few issues of eBay Confidential, you’ll know I make a good part of my own income from buying big bundles of related items at auction – sometimes at flea markets, collectors’ fairs, and so on – and then I resell their components separately on eBay.
In this month’s issue of eBay Confidential, we’ve talked about how this works for stamp albums which can be dismantled and sold as individual country or theme interest stamps; magazines and newspapers that can be torn apart and sold as separate articles and images; and cigarette cards.
Now this idea of buying and dismantling bundles represents a positive goldmine for some people, me included, and it can form the basis of a very profitable business for you.
There are literally thousands of very different items to buy in bundles and sell separately, including bus tickets and playing cards, pens and letters, coins and beer bottle labels.
You really will be shocked by the sheer enormity of items selling in bundles and presenting big profits listed separately on eBay.
Let me give you just a few ideas to you get started making money right away:
1. Buy albums containing stamps from all over the world. Split into country lots and sell to people collecting just single-country stamps. Another idea: buy themed stamp collections, such as all dogs, all trains, all space travel. Some theme collections contain thousands of items. All you do is split contents into same breed of dog, same country trains, all roses, all famous people, and so on. Then you sell in lots of ten to twenty stamps on eBay.
2. Break pre-1900 atlases into separate maps to sell individually. Use maps with plain backs; buyers don’t like double-sided pages. Remove margins and corner damage and mount whatever is left of a damaged map. Old maps can also be used in jewellery and altered art products, as you will see from articles I have planned for the future.
3. Look for collections of multi-country view postcards. Split into countries and sell cards separately to single-country buyers. Or buy single-country collections to split and sell as individual states and counties. Any that don’t sell can be bundled into one-country/county/state lots and auctioned with a low starting price.
4. Visit country and smaller town auction salerooms where bidder numbers are low, expert buyers rare and some profitable lots will go unsold. Use a mobile connection to research resale prices on eBay and make last-minute offers for potentially valuable lots.
5. Look for artist sketch books from Victorian and earlier times when painting was a popular hobby and talented artists were plentiful. Tear out and sell separate pages. Here are some of my own recent listings:
I paid £20 for the album containing ten of those pen and ink drawings that fetched between £32 and £75 each.
6. Buy autograph albums with famous signers. Download copyright-free images of the same people. Places autographs and photographs together in a multi-aperture mount and sell as a display piece. This is the sort of thing you are looking to accomplish:
7. Choose small, lightweight, evenly shaped items. They’re easy to pack and pop into the nearest post box. Large and oddly shaped items need lots of wrapping and a drive to the Post Office.
8. Avoid fragile items. They’re likely to break in transit and from heavy handling at auction.
9. Buy big bundles of beermats dated 1930s or earlier. Auction items separately and expect some to fetch prices like this:
10. Choose bundles containing numerous different collectibles. They sometimes fetch very low prices because most collectors and dealers won’t buy multiple-subject lots when only one or two subjects interest them.
11. Be selective about specialist auctions selling all advertising memorabilia, all books, for example, or all stamps. Do not buy from major salerooms like Christie’s, Phillips and Bonhams. Focus on small auction salerooms without their own website or describing lots poorly in their catalogues, and so attracting a tiny percentage of big auction room bidders.
12. Look for bundles of 78 rpm records dated 1940s or earlier. Most have been discarded and damaged over the decades, so surviving titles can be worth hundreds of pounds each. Like this one:
13. Buy huge bundles of early 19th century letters sent to lawyers when only the rich could afford legal representation. Right now there’s a glut of Victorian and earlier letters being offered in salerooms, mainly from solicitors’ offices cleaning out their attics.
Many people signing and sending those letters remain famous and very collectable today. Letters will cost you about 10p each and fetch prices like this:
Any that don’t sell can be bundled by county or type, such as all property-related letters, all matrimonial, all debts and overdue accounts.
14. Let TV guides and local newspapers keep your buying costs low. Look for popular events such as a televised royal wedding or local air show which keeps auction-goers low.
15. Choose iconic subjects covering lots of different collector categories, such as suffragettes, dogs, Alice in Wonderland, military figures. Such subjects are popular on cigarette cards, postcards, prints, badges, and much more besides, and can result in a bidding war on eBay.
16. Buy goods on eBay from sellers making mistakes in their listings, such as misspelling essential words in their titles or using poor images. Especially look for sellers making the same mistakes over several listings.
17. Use catalogue listings for bundles you’ve just bought as the basis for your eBay titles and descriptions. This way you’ll spend less time researching and more time buying and listing on eBay.
Now go get started on those 17 tips, while I put my thinking cap on to compile another long list of very different ideas for buying and dismantling big bundles for next week’s eletter.