‘Money for nothing’ eBay auction product ideas

It’s THAT time of year again, when you’ll probably spend more than you want on gifts and seasonal goods and end up dipping into money set aside for business operating costs and stock acquisitions.

In short, a few days from now when the big spend is over, you’ll be keen to get started making money again on eBay, only to find yourself with much less capital than you’d normally need for a quick profit start up.

Who am I kidding?

I ask because you don’t really require a lot of money to run an eBay business, and sometimes you can get all the stock you’re ever likely to need without spending more than a pound or two, or by becoming a product-sourcing private detective.

Today’s eletter is designed to help you do just that.

‘Money for nothing’ eBay auction product ideas

Public domain riches

* Several of the world’s most popular artists entered the public domain in the past few years, amongst them Cecil Aldin, master at illustrating dogs, wonderful at creating hunting and coaching scenes that regularly fetch double-figure – sometimes three, sometimes four-figure – sums on eBay.

However, most people can’t spare that kind of money to decorate their homes and offices but I bet most would buy a reprint of Cecil Aldin’s great works.

So look for Cecil Aldin books on eBay, buy a good original copy, scan the pictures onto your desktop and upload them to eBay.

Good news: Cecil Aldin is just one of hundreds of artists and illustrators of reprints currently fetching high prices on eBay.

Create prints to order on quality 90 gram paper; cover with see-through paper bags, the kind you’ll find in eBay’s Crafts product category. List prints on eBay and wait for plenty of orders to result.

* Study out-of-copyright photographs fetching high prices and multiple bids on eBay. Buy originals if you can and re-list copies, making sure bidders know they are reprints.

The truth is most people buy for picture value, not collecting or rarity value, and most would prefer to pay £10 for a reprint than the £320 fetched on eBay recently for a real photograph of a mob-lynching in America in the middle 1800s, or £280 for a late-1800s photograph of a tiger.

In our next eletter I’ll give you a free copy of my public domain report to show the type of originals to look for.

Auction giveaways

There’s a trick often found working at local auctions, which can repay handsome dividends for you.

Where goods are exposed for all and sundry to view and the auction house is under-staffed or the staff are rushed off their feet, you’ll sometimes find valuable items hidden amongst generally low-value products by unscrupulous visitors.

The idea is to make auction lots look less valuable and attract few or no bids and very low finishing prices. The rogues end up buying lots they have tampered with and making a fortune from the hidden gems.

I have to admit, if I find these things and spot a scam, I always tell the auctioneer, who usually tells me to forget about it and bid anyway.

To illustrate this easy moneymaker, last month I bought a grotty postcard album containing really rubbish postcards. At face value that is, because hidden behind some of those awfully common greetings were cards I knew would fetch double-figure prices on eBay.

I told the auctioneer, he with the ‘don’t bother me’ attitude, then returned to bid next day. I bought the album for £32 plus auctioneer’s fees.

A few days later, my real photographic postcard of the Australian Cricket Team taken in 1902 went for £107 (I sold these items on eBay’s UK site), a view of Walney Lighthouse went for £77, a view of the Miniature Railway in Groundle, Isle of Man, fetched £72. Many others fetched £20 or more.

Those valuable cards were hidden behind dozens of other low-cost specimens by rogue bidders who thought no one would spot their con: the album would go cheap, to them, and they’d never pay more than a few pounds to get their prize.

Other popular treasure-hunting cons at auction include hiding flat items and jewellery under paper liners in drawers or behind dustwrappers on low-value books.

I’ve even seen an album of rare actor and actress autographs concealed beneath a paper liner in a jewellery box filled with tacky baubles.

So if something looks really naff, look more closely and you could find your cloud really does have a silver lining – or a gold one!

Locate missing pieces from popular collectibles

Here’s a great business opportunity where amazing profits are possible for anyone with patience, a keen eye and a few basic research skills.

On an antiques buying and selling television programme a few years back, experts pointed to an 18th century cup being worth £400 and the matching saucer about £200, which if offered together would double in value and be worth about £1,200 – maybe more.

Another example: honey and mustard pots with lids can fetch more than three times their lidless counterparts auctioned separately.

To illustrate, a Clarice Cliff honeypot with lid sold recently in Durham for £900, while at the same auction the identical honeypot without lid fetched just £200, and a few weeks later, at the same auction, the lid went for £10.

The same goes for most items originally sold in pairs, such as: bookends; Staffordshire ornaments; matching necklace and earrings; cigarette cards which were originally collected in sets but parted company over the decades.

Invariably, items without their original partners sell separately for a tiny fraction of their value as part of a complete set.

So it’s no surprise to learn that many eBayers work exclusively at locating individual items to create complete sets, which are usually resold later on eBay at up to four times their combined individual cost.

Let Google find great items for you

Go to www.google.com, click on ‘Images’, key in the partner item you need and you should find lots of buying possibilities, often from firms specialising in replacement bits and pieces.

You can do the search on Google’s normal web search engine, but using the ‘Image’ feature you’ll also get to study items and check colours, patterns, condition, and so on.

For example, I have a set of six dog plates of which one got damaged, so I keyed the broken plate number and description into Google’s ‘Images’ search engine and found plenty to choose from.

These are things I have seen selling individually recently which could be easily partnered.

Bonzo Dog, a cartoon character from the 1920s and 30s, was created in thousands of different products, as individual prints and postcards, as well as in multiple-piece condiments sets, table settings, plates, and more.

On eBay and at flea markets and auctions, you’ll often find solitary salt, pepper and mustard pots. They are not that rare and can be bought individually at about £5 each, including on eBay.

But offer salt and pepper pot together and you’ll easily make £20 and probably a good deal more. Add a mustard pot and expect to make £70.

At auction look out for tea tray lots packed with part and complete sets, such as one I bought recently containing 20 partner-less condiments items, including Bonzo Dog, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and worth about £10 to £100 each. I paid £48 for the lot.

These are some of the most popular, high-price salt and pepper designs: Disney characters, Robertson’s Golly, Clarice Cliff, Avon, Moorcroft, Coalport.

Some subjects depicted on condiments sets are eternally popular and fetch high-prices for their own sake, regardless of age, designer or material. They include dogs, frogs, pigs, owls, famous partners (Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, Laurel and Hardy, Batman and Robin).

Take a look at these recent eBay realisations:

  • Silver Salt and Pepper Set – Owls £411.
  • Robertsons Golly Golliwog Salt and Pepper Shakers – £63.80
  • Moorcroft Acorn Shaped Salt and Pepper Pots – £62.02
  • Coalport Snowman Limited Edition Salt and Pepper Set – £44.99

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading today’s eletter and that it spurs you on to bigger profits in the New Year.

For now, however, I’d like to wish you a very happy festive season and a profitable New Year from me and everyone else at Canonbury Publishing.

This article first appeared on Auction Genie. Read more and comment here