When The Going Gets Tough, Go Where The Money Is

Everyone’s business is slow. Unemployment shows no signs of abating. Consumer confidence is down and everyone is being cautious.  Everyone wants to sell the newest, latest hottest product –but that business is cratering. My eBay sales are off over 50% from the same time last year.  We are still making money –just not as much of it.

But there is a bright spot. Used and Vintage Goods.  When tough times hit, people pull back their spending overall, but they still need some things. I have been watching the markets and talking to other sellers, and the sellers of used goods are doing pretty well.  I spoke with one woman who specializes in used children’s toys. Her business has doubled from this time last year. Another lady specializes in used blue jeans –same thing.

The simple truth is that people need and want to save money and they are willing to check their egos and buy used. And its not just online. When I went to the post office the other day, I drove by our local Rotary Club Thrift shop and it was crowded.  Same thing when I drove to our local Costco.  The Costco wasn’t that busy, but the parking lot at the nearby Value Village ( a used clothing store) was packed.

The advantage of selling used goods are many. Products are easy to find. You buy them at flea markets, thrift shops and garage and lawn sales.  The markups are high. The lady who sells used baby toys routinely makes 75% margins on her sales. The lady who sell blue jeans gets most of them at local thrift shops for about a buck a pair and sells them for between $10 and $20 a pair.

The downside to this business is time. I can order a case of new kitchen knives to sell with a simple phone call and they are delivered in about a week. But when I want to find used merchandise, I have to go out and look for it, haul it home, clean and photograph everything and then ship it.  And yes, time is money. But in this case I am making a lot more money.  I found a 1975 vintage stereo system at a church rummage sale a few weeks ago. I bought it for $20 and sold it on eBay for $375.  Now thats the kind of markups I like.

I have even started to work on a new product. It is a book called The Electronic Trader – how to buy, sell and trade on eBay, Amazon and Craigslist.  I have about 3 more chapters to write and hope to have it ready for the next newsletter. In the meantime, you may want to take a look at Ten Little Known, Highly Profitable Niche Markets on eBay.  All of them are about selling used products that are easy to find and even easier to sell. I have just finished updating the book for 2010.


  1. Great post, Skip. I am in the midst of posting over 100 baby gap clothing items my wife bought at a local thrift store for about $1.50 per piece. The margins are great, but as you said, the time involved is much higher than (say) selling books via Amazon.com, or selling the same item again and again by relisting it on eBay.

    Can’t wait for your new book!

  2. I frequently sell used womens jeans, too. However, my local thrift store sells them for $3.50 up to $10 a pair, depending on brand name, etc. As a retiree I often get a 35% discount, but I am very luckyindeed to be able tosell them for as much as $8-$9, so there isn’t much profit. Hence the ‘occasional’ sales. The thrift stores are catching on to the eBay sellers.

    1. Author

      You are correct. Some thrift shops are catching on. The two in my town still sell jeans for $2 or $3, but I know one place in Seattle that charges around $5 to $10 depending on the jeans. But the one they are charging $10 for still get $20 or more on eBay.

  3. I must agree, it is so important to know what to sell on ebay, else it’s going to be a tough competition.

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