I’m a big fan of flipping…
You don’t make anything. You don’t change anything. You don’t process anything.
You simply buy something at one price and sell it on, as is, at a higher price quickly.
So far so good. But what you need is something to flip. And finding the ideal product isn’t always easy.
Some entrepreneurs flip commodities. Some flip property.
Obviously these aren’t practical for most people. But I think I’ve found a great alternative.
And that is …. COLLECTIBLES!
There are a few good reasons I think collectibles work very well.
By and large they’re small, so no storage problems. They’re cheap to buy. And easy to locate and handle. They’re popular – there’s always a demand for them.
They can sell for high prices, especially if you’re selling something that somebody really wants.
I think flipping is probably going to work best as a part/time sideline opportunity rather than full. The sort of thing you can operate now and then, or as good opportunities arise.
It’s ideal for working from home. You might need a little storage depending on what it is you choose. And a little capital, but again this will depend on what you choose to flip – there are some items that only need a few pounds to buy in with. I suggest you choose a product area, or a handful of areas, to focus on rather than do anything and everything. Preferably something you’re interested in. This way, you’ll be able to get a good feel for what sells and more importantly what buy-sell margins are possible.
- Buy cheap items only to start with. Set a limit you’re comfortable with – say £5. This way, you are highly likely to turn a profit even if the item you buy is not worth a great deal in money terms. Only spend more on a collectable once you have some experience and know what you are buying.
- Buy in a small marketplace or platform… and sell in a bigger one. As with any sales business exposing your products to a wider market usually means you can obtain better prices.
- Buy locally… sell nationally or even internationally. Again, it’s a way of achieving better prices… and there’s a big demand for UK collectables in many countries worldwide.
- Buy in a general ‘non collectors’ marketplace… and sell in a specialised collectables marketplace. This way there’s a chance of picking up a hidden gem no one else has noticed that’s actually worth a lot more.
- If you source something unusual and difficult to value consider flipping it at a specialised auction.
- Look for collections you can split up. This is one of the most exciting, and most profit-generating parts of the whole flipping concept. And here’s why… you will frequently find that you can sell items from a collection for more individually than the total of what you can sell them for as a whole. It’s kind of difficult to understand why a collection would sell for more when split up, but it does. Individual items are often more appealing to buyers, more affordable, attract more interest and so are easier to sell.
- Look for opportunities to make up collections. This is the reverse of the above strategy, and can work in some cases. Particularly if you’re grouping together very low value items and making them up into something that will sell for a decent price.
You can apply all these techniques in all the different collectibles areas we’re going to look at here including the main one, stamps.
Places to source and sell
Here we will look at places to buy, sell and flip your collectibles. You can find lots more suggestions, especially for specialised places to sell, in the individual sections coming up.
You can use as many or as few of these as you like. I’d suggest you start with small, local sources and work out. Make it a part of your day to day routine – keep an eye out for collectibles bargains wherever you happen to be.
- Window cards. Look on local shop/supermarket/church/village hall notice boards for anyone selling off a collection
- Look in local free and paid for newspapers for collections for sale. Tip. You can also place ads. for ‘Collections Wanted’ too.
- Local events. Jumble sales, school fairs, boot sales, garage sales, flea markets, bric a brac stalls
- Charity shops. Ask about buying up ‘culled stock’ cheaply – things that they haven’t been able to sell in the shop.
- Local online classified ad. sites. These have taken over from the small ads. as the best way to find things for sale locally. Get in the habit of doing a regular search for whatever you’re interested.
Sites you can try include: Gumtree at www.gumtree.com. Preloved at www.preloved.co.uk. Craigslist at www.craiglist.com. Vivastreet at www.vivastreet.co.uk. (Remember to set your search to your local area.)
Remember when buying from private sellers you can make an offer for an interesting item and maybe get it for less than the asking price.
- eBay. There are lots of collectables up for sale on eBay and it’s easy to search for whatever you’re interested in. But… you’ll need to focus on things being sold by private sellers rather than traders if you’re to find the best bargains.
- Local household auctions. I think it’s fair to say that this is the very best source of low priced collectables for flipping bar none.
By local household auctions I mean real (non-online) auctions that physical take place in your area. And I mean real down-to-earth household sales. Sales that mostly sell household goods like furniture, electricals, personal effects and bric-a-brac – not fine art and antiques.
There are sales like this in most areas. Do some research to find those in your area.
If you’ve not bought anything from local auction sales you’ll probably find it’s a lot easier than you expected. Usually, there’s will be a preview before the sale (sometimes the day before) so you can go along and see if there is anything interesting. You can even do a bit of research on the lots on the spot (a smartphone or tablet is ideal for this) to see if they could be flipped for more money.
On the day of the sale register and get a bidding number. If something comes up you want to bid on just raise your hand as long as you’re happy to pay that price. If the price goes above what you’re willing to pay stop raising your hand. It’s pretty much impossible to buy something you don’t want by scratching your nose or whatever!
And this is why I think these sales are so good for sourcing. They’re often not that well attended. They don’t attract many really serious, big spending buyers. Very few people realise that anything on sale there could be worth a lot more. So they are an excellent place to pick up a bargain that you could flip.
One more important point. When you buy at these sales there’s usually a buyer’s premium to pay on top of what you bid for the lot. It’s not usually much but be sure to allow for it.
Next I’m going to run through some collectables you could flip… starting with that I think is the very best opportunity… stamps.
Stamps are perhaps the biggest individual collectibles area ever. And unlike some items they really are a worldwide collectible. The potential to flip and sell stamps is massive – there are an estimated 60 million serious collectors worldwide. Although stamp collecting is not quite as popular as it was in the UK it is actually fast growing in other parts of the world – especially China and India.
On top of that stamp collections are easy to find and cheap to buy up here. British stamps are perhaps the most widely collected kind of stamps in the world.
It’s important to be realistic though. You’re probably not going to find any ultra-rare and highly valuable stamps using these methods (though there’s always a small chance!). But here’s the opportunity: Many day-to-day stamps which can be bought for a few pence each as part of a large collection can still sell for a few pounds each to collectors.
Where are the best places to buy?
You can use all the methods I’ve talked about. Local household sales are especially good. Old, unsorted collections, especially from household clearances and deceased estates, sometimes turn up in these places because no one can be bothered to sort through them. Lots can go for as little as £10.
What to buy
British, Commonwealth and colonial stamps are perhaps the most widely collected kind of stamps in the world. As well as British stamps from 1840 to the present day look for stamps from Canada, Australia and New Zealand and lesser known Commonwealth/colonial countries, including those which no longer exist.
Look for big lots, of hundreds of stamps upward. Normally the more you buy the lower the individual cost.
Consider buying kiloware – lots of unsorted stamps sold by weight. (Expect to pay about £5 per 500g which will be several hundred stamps.) In practice this might have been picked over to identify any higher value stamps but selling on individually can still net much more.
Here are a few tips to help with buying and selling stamps:
- When you buy up a collection, sort through it carefully and catalogue it.
- Note not just how many albums/stamps you have, but what dates and/or themes does the collection cover, if any? Sort the stamps loosely based on date, country and theme. Separate out any possibly high value stamps or interesting stamps.
- Many collectors collect topically, so home in on these stamps. That is, mainly stamps on a particular topic/theme. Popular topical themes are animals, dogs, cats, butterflies, birds, flowers, insects, art, sports, the Olympics, maps, scouting, space, ships, British or Americana (topics relating to the US), stamps on stamps, famous people, chess, and even Chinese new year.
- Are the stamps mounted, unmounted, mint or used? Used stamps are usually worth less than unused stamps. A stamp that has never been hinged is worth considerably more than a hinged stamp. Stamps complete with their original gum are also worth more. Rare stamps in mint condition are the top of the tree.
- Commemorative stamps – stamps to commemorate events, anniversaries, etc. on sale for a limited time are usually more sought after than definitive stamps – the common or garden day to day stamps.
- Age is not a great guide to value. There are some very old stamps that aren’t worth much. While there are some 70s and 80s stamps which can be quite valuable.
- Generally newer stamps were printed in smaller quantities as franked mail was introduced. A Penny Black, for example, could be worth as little as £20 up to £30,000 depending on condition! So always research values.
- As with all collectables quality and condition are important. Stamps are graded according to a standard (but fairly vague) international system. Grades run from ‘superb’ where the stamp is considered perfect in all respects and the finest quality through ‘very fine’ and ‘fine’ to ‘poor’, where the design is printed off centre, perforations cut into the design and the stamp may be torn, damaged or creased. Superb and very fine are the ones with the best resale value. Stamps that are just fine may not be that valuable.
- First day covers are generally not that valuable. So only buy for flipping if very cheap.
- There are lots of places where you can get further information and an idea of the value of stamps you have bought and so judge what to ask for them. The Stanley Gibbons catalogues, which cover various parts of the world, are the main ones. More details here: www.stanleygibbons.com – Note: Stanley Gibbons values are best regarded as just a guide to what you can flip for profit. Generally they are top market values and you shouldn’t expect to be able to resell at these prices in most cases.
- Other places that are handy for gauging values and what is sought after by collectors: Stamp Magazine at www.stampmagazine.co.uk. Gibbons Stamp Monthly at www.stanleygibbons.com. Stamp & Coin Mart at www.warnersgroup.co.uk
Where to flip for profit
- eBay is probably one of the easiest ways to flip stamps and in fact most collectables. As well as using eBay.co.uk get your listings visible on foreign eBay sites, particularly in India and the US (which is used by buyers around the world including China). As GB stamps are rarer on those sites they could easily sell for a lot more. You can also sell stamps on the eBay competitor site eBid.net and CQOut.com. Both sites have quite a lot of listings for stamps and other collectables.
- Dedicated stamp sales platforms. In most cases you will obtain a better price by selling your stamps on online platforms that are dedicated to stamps (or stamps and coins). These attract more serious collectors who are prepared to pay a bit more for exactly the stamp they want. On some of them you ask fixed prices, while on others you can auction your stamps. Again, you can try both UK and foreign ones.
Here are a few to try:
- Bidstart – www.bidstart.com
- Stamps2Go – www.stamps2go.com
- EStampAuctions – www.estampauctions.com
- Delcampe – www.delcampe.com
- KMP Auction – www.kmphilately.com
- Stamp fairs and collectors’ fairs. This is a method you could try once you’ve amassed a decent collection of stamps. There are lots of stamp fairs all over the country, and many more collectors’ fairs where stamps are just a part of the fair. You can find these fairs using Stamp Diary at www.stampdiary.com. (It’s a good idea to check with the organisers that the fair is likely to attract buyers for the type of stamps you have.)
- Selling stamps on approval. This is an age-old way of selling stamps that’s still on the go today. With approval sales you send collectors a monthly selection of stamps on topics they’ve expressed an interest in. They buy the stamps they want and return those they don’t. This method is most suitable for lower value stamps. (As you’re trusting the customer to either pay for the stamps or send them back.) You can advertise an approvals service in the main stamp collecting magazines like Stamp Magazine and Stamp & Coin Mart.
- Other methods …. suitable for more unusual or valuable stamps. If you turn up any stamps that your research shows are rare or potentially valuable then you could offer them to an established dealer or send them to a specialised stamp auction. (Dealers will most likely offer you less than full market value but it’s quicker than waiting for a buyer and you won’t have to pay auction fees.)
Here’s a useful directory of stamp dealers and auctions around the country. Collectors Club Of Great Britain: www.collectors-club-of-great-britain.co.uk (There are by the way loads of useful contacts for auctions and dealers of all kinds of collectables on this site.)
Now some quick pointers on a few more areas that offer flipping opportunities ….
Coin collections are rarer finds than stamps. However they have a dedicated following around the world with the added advantage that they’re more durable.
Coins that have been issued for general circulation by national governments are generally more collectable and so ideal for flipping, especially if in mint or proof condition. Specially minted commemoratives from commercial producers are often not worth very much at all.
Silver coins are generally a good buy because they have intrinsic value as well as collectable interest – British silver coins before 1947 and especially before 1920 have a high silver content as do US coins before 1965. Check with coin guides and get to know which types and dates of coins are rarer and so more sought after.
Useful contacts. You can get an idea of the interest in and value of any coins you source by using these guides: Coin News at www.tokenpublishing.com/coins.asp. Numismatic News at www.numismaticnews.net. Coin World at www.coinworld.com/coinvalues
Military medals are awarded for campaign service, long service and acts of heroism. In most cases they do not have any intrinsic value, but are collected for their historical interest and importance. Generally any medal with history will be worth at least £75, with some of the rarer ones being worth hundreds or thousands.
British and Commonwealth medals, US medals and also French medals are popular with collectors around the world. Many collectors focus on a particular period, regiment or medal type. Background information or personal items accompanying the medal can considerably increase its value.
Useful contact. You can get an idea of the value of medals by using The Medal Yearbook: www.tokenpublishing.com. The Orders, Medals and Research Society (OMRS) produces more useful background information: www.omrs.org.uk
Postcards are a good low-value collectible which often turn up at household sales. Values can vary from a few pence to hundreds of pounds. But as a general rule a popular thematic postcard in good condition will be worth at least £1-£3 to sell on eBay, although they can be sourced for a few pence each in bulk.
Good condition is a must as creases, bent corners and stains considerably reduce the appeal. Whether or not the card has passed through the mail does not normally have any impact on its value and remember that the stamp may actually be as or more collectable and valuable than the card.
Try to buy cards on highly collectible themes. Many collectors go for street scenes/views, known as topographical or ‘topo’. Transport-related cards are also popular. Postcards from 1898-1919 when sending postcards was the latest ‘trend’ are often most popular with collectors.
Useful contacts. You can get an idea of values and more information from this site: Postcard Pages at www.postcard.co.uk. Many of the stamp selling platforms can also be used for selling postcards.
Autographs are in some ways a perfect collectable for splitting and flipping because autograph collectors often assemble a large collection – but followers of a particular personality are more interested in a single autograph. You can also look for autographed items, although these are rarer.
The most popular autographs to flip are those of sports stars, musicians, film/TV stars and celebrities, some famous authors and well known or controversial politicians. Tip. Value is generally linked to rarity rather than how well known a person is – if a celebrity signs few autographs it will be rarer and more valuable (and vice versa).
Beware of fake autographs. (Compare the autograph to other autographs of the same person as a quick guide.)
Useful contacts. There are various sites where you can get a good idea of value. Such as Fraser Autographs at www.frasersautographs.com – there is also a good trade for autographs on eBay.co.uk and eBay.com.
Collectable ephemera essentially means anything made of paper that has some collectable or historical interest – there are just a few ideas above. Ephemera often turns up at the sources we’ve looked at. Generally, ephemera doesn’t resell for high prices but because it can be bought for pennies (it’s often dismissed as worthless junk) the margins possible in flipping can be high.
Here are just a few ideas for collectable ephemera: Pictures. Prints. Photos. Artwork. Tickets. Banknotes. Bills. Maps. Sheet Music. Advertising Literature. Cigarette Cards. Letters. Share Certificates. You could either focus on one type of ephemera or go for a popular theme – like topographical, animals, people or royalty.
With ephemera, condition is all important – ripped and yellowed items aren’t really worth anything even if interesting. It can be a good idea to package or even frame individual items for flipping.
Here’s a useful site for more information. The Ephemera Society at www.ephemera-society.org.uk
Books are a very promising product for flipping lots of reasons: Firstly there are collectors who buy for collectible interest. Then there are others who buy simply to read. Books often in large, unsorted lots often come up for sale in various sources, especially household sales, and can be bought for just pennies each.
To maximise value look for interesting, rare or unusual books. Non fiction is usually more valuable than fiction. Well illustrated books can also be popular. Condition is all important with books sold to collectors – even a rare book will have a much reduced value if in poor condition.
You can get a good idea of value of a book currently in print by searching for the book on Amazon.co.uk. (Just see how often cheap books bought in bulk from the sources I’ve looked at sell for more on Amazon.)
Useful contacts. Another good thing about handling books is that there are loads of sites where you can flip them – find them cheaper on one site and sell them for more on another. Take a look at all of these sites:
Old toys are something that frequently turns up at junk sales, sometimes for selling for pennies. It’s not a clear cut area, however, as some old toys are valuable while others are worth little so you need to know your stuff. Generally durable (wood or metal rather than plastic) toys and toys which have attained classic or cult status are the best to flip.
Examples of toys which can have good flipping value include model cars, especially Matchbox and Corgi. Hornby trains. Old dolls. Some soft toys, especially Steiff bears. Some retro toys, such as Pez sweet dispensers, Cabbage Patch, old Star Wars and Dr. Who items, Barbie dolls.
The Annual Toy Collectors Price Guide is a good guide to what toys could be valuable and current values.
Vectis Auctions are collectable toy specialists
Several sports have significant collectable interest and related items sometimes turn up from the sources I’ve already mentioned.
The main and easiest things you can source to flip are programmes. For example any oldish (over 20 years) football programme will usually be worth at least £1-£5 and usually more if an important or memorable game, but can be bough for pennies as part of an old collection. There’s also some collectable interest in old shirts (especially signed), tickets, autographs, autographed items, trophies, commemorative items and even equipment.
These sites are useful for more information and getting an idea of values:
Even more collectibles you can flip
The collectables I’ve looked at here are really just a few ideas to get you started flipping for profit. There are many more things that would probably work and where you could make money by buying low in one place and selling higher in another. Here are some ideas for things that are collected (believe it or not in some cases!) that you could try:
Beer bottle labels
Card cases. Cards
Snuff bottles and boxes
Vintage and retro clothes.
If you decide to try flipping these, or anything else, do a test first …. buy cheaply on one platform, put up for sale on another platform and see what happens. Hopefully you’ll turn a healthy profit but at worst you’ll get your money back. Then just rinse …. and repeat.
Let me know if there are any particular collectables you would like more information on buying and selling.