In my last article I suggested some reasons why a collector may want to part with their collections. Once you start selling, you may find it an enjoyable pursuit and hopefully profitable. You look around to find other things to sell from around the house or maybe even visit a tag (rummage) sale or two, or even an auction. You start to roll and the thrill of selling bites. Now what?
Well, let me steer you toward more efficient ways to increase your profits and manage your inventory, while keeping things simple. My suggestions are based on ten years and nearly 20,000 items sold via the Internet and shipped to customers worldwide.
First we stack all like items for sale together, advertising on one shelf, plates, books, magazine, on another. Jewelry and other smaller items in cardboard bins by category. That gives us a handle on stuff that we need to look for and what is already over bought.
When an item is going to be listed, it’s placed in a box that’s numbered and the box number is placed into the description on the selling web site. The items are photographed and a thumb nail print out of the contents of the box is dated, then kept in a folder to quickly help to find sold pieces. This simple method has worked well for us and has eliminated searching all over for lost items.
The photos you shoot are your best selling tool, I suggest making sure your next camera has a great macro capability, one that will clearly take in the detail of a dime and nearly fill the screen. We shoot with a pale blue background using a bed sheet over a counter and hung from the wall to create a plain backdrop. When shooting some jewelry or clear glass, a black felt cloth shows off the products nicely. The distraction of window glare and dishes in a sink is no way to present an action figure or Nippon vase you’re trying to sell. Our shoot room is windowless and flood lamps purchased at a garage sale are ceiling mounted at an angle to minimize glare on shiny surfaces.
Other than the camera, many of our basic needs when we started out came from the same sources as our products, the tag sale. These include lots of basic office supplies needed. Measuring tape, magnifying glass, magnet, paper reams, stapler, tape dispensers, weight scales and so forth. We still pick up such items when hitting yard sales, often getting basics at pennies on the dollar. All of our internal printed paper work, (sold items, photo spread sheets), are saved and reused on the back side. That cuts paper costs by nearly one third. I print our own labels and the insert that’s put into each customer’s package, thanking them for the purchase and asking that our sites get bookmarked for future visits.
The cost of shipping is a big expense for the starting seller, if you use the priority shipping boxes from the post office the cost is set but you may price yourself out of a sale. Many small trinkets can be shipped first class in small boxes that are very inexpensive when purchased in bulk from a wholesaler dealing in packaging supplies. Our choice was a local distributor that handles boxes in a great array of sizes, bubble wrap and bubble envelopes.
But I have another suggestion for when you’re not to that type of volume. Check with some of your local industrial or office parks in your area. Distributors often have excess boxes and packing materials that wind up in the dumpster. We have two sources, one is a friend that delivers medical type equipment to far flung dental offices, and asks the receiving clerks to save the boxes and fillers for him. Once every two weeks he generously drops off the material to me. Another distributor selling plumbing supplies has larger boxes and plenty of odd shaped containers. He is pleased when I load up and relieve him of the duty of cutting them up for the trash bin. We also have several friends saving newspapers for box fillers, and rarely use peanuts. If you’re in a more remote area, a check with the local hardware store, grocer, novelty store or pharmacy may provide a supply of used boxes. I always buy carton sealing tape in case lots from 3M on line but small quantities can be purchased at office supply stores, Watch for sales when every item in a bag is a percentage off. Styrofoam sheet for shipping framed prints comes from a home improvement store, and I have found extra sheets left over from a remodeling project at a yard sale in the free box. WOW!
When you ship certain items, great care needs to go into the packaging. Cast iron items with delicate scrolls are as fragile as porcelain and glassware and must be wrapped separately to protect the goods. Framed pictures with glass, are first covered with cardboard to the top of the frame and then protected by Styrofoam sheets on front and back plus covered in layers of bubble wrap. Heavy items and fragile figurines are often double boxed, wrapped and fitted into one box (usually one that been used and abused in its last transit and placed inside a second with room for filler on all six sides.) Over the years we have had customers instruct us on how to package special expensive collectibles and we follow their instruction, which has taught us lessons on specialty things like wrapping neon beer signs and dish sets.
Paper goods, books, magazines, photos and cloth or leather items, even items in their original boxes are enclosed in plastic bags to protect against moisture in shipment. We purchase on-line in bulk but some antique malls and many flea markets have vendors that split big quantity buys into smaller lots and sell at a reasonable price. When starting to sell, ask for your groceries in plastic, and reuse the shopping bags from department or discount stores where you shop.
Lastly, we tackle record keeping. All receipts should be kept for expenses, including travel. and purchases for resale. If buying at garage sales keep your mileage records in a day book along with the cost of stock. Daily sales should also be recorded in a date book, and like any good retail operation each days, weeks and months totals are compared to the previous year to be sure we’re on an upward trend. And remember my rule in a blog several years ago. It’s not what you sell an item for, its what you paid for it that creates the profit.
And while our normal discussions are on collecting, it’s selling that gives us the thrill and the cash to continue to collect our own obsessions.