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Selling on Ebay Some Tips From 20 year Seller

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Selling on Ebay Some Tips From 20 year Seller

Old 11-21-19, 09:30 AM
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Selling on Ebay Some Tips From 20 year Seller

OK, I've been asked on another thread about eBay, it makes more sense to just put my reply here. If there is no interest, no problem, I will just delete this thread!

Background: I have been selling on eBay for 20 years now. This does not make me an expert, but it does give me a lot of experience. Looking back, I would have done better just buying eBay stock instead! I've sold occasionally while working a full time J O B, and I have sold more actively since I retired (13 years ago!!)


How to approach eBay. It really depends how serious you want to approach selling on ebay.

For simplicity's sake, I will break eBay selling into three levels of activity.


1. Hobby: 25 to 50 active listings, 10 to 20 items sold per month.


2. Serious Hobby: 200 active listings, 50 to 100 items sold per month.


3. Business: 1000 active listings, several hundred sold per month.




I'm at #2 . I have no advice on level 3, other than it WILL be a full time J O B (no thanks), and it will take developing sources of product (buying bulk from China, or whatever). My approach is based on a part time model, finding stuff at thrift stores and garage sales, along with bikes on C/L or FB marketplace. The beauty of the part time model is you can ramp UP and ramp DOWN at any time. Tired of eBay, ramp down. Ready to get serious again, RAMP up! I ramp up and down several times a year.



Number 1 Requirement!!! Develop a THICK SKIN!!! You are going to get returns for no reason, you are going to get STUPID questions (yes, there are stupid questions). You are going to get people that try to scam you. If you can't take it, STOP now! I see this a lot from others, fed up with ebay because of the nonsense. Thats OK, but if you have buying disorder, you either need an outlet for your stuff, or you WILL become a hoarder. EBay should be just one of several outlets you develop. Goofiest return ever was on a bike, the complaint was "it is too fast!" OK.....

As a #2 level seller, you are going to want to be a Top Rated Seller. To become top rated, you WILL have to accept all returns, for any and NO reason for 30 days. Thats the rule. Get over it.

I find the subject of returns is grossly overblown. Yes, I get returns, but it's not that common. My returns on bicycle stuff are quite low, well under 1% to nothing. Returns on non-bike stuff are running 2% or less. I consider returns to just be a part of the deal. If you want ebay type prices for your stuff, then you are going to get returns.

To protect myself on returns, I require buyer pay return shipping on the big stuff, like bikes and frames. I pay the return shipping on the smaller items.


Decide what your minimum sales price is going to be, I call it the hassle factor. Below that price, the hassle exceeds the money received. My minimum is usually $25 selling price. I have one item I sell below this amount, but I have 90 of them. So 90 times a lower price = nice money! But for everything else, under $25 I donate the item.

Free shipping: I rarely to never offer it for one reason. If I offer free shipping, then it has to be built into the price. To build it into the price, I am going to assume the person is in California. So I push the price up quite a bit. Next thing you know, the buyer is in GA or some other nearby state. So the closer buyers get SCREWED if I offer free shipping. My standard answer to people that ask for free shipping is that unfortunately, I have to pay to ship an item. I cannot get free shipping, so I don't offer it. What I do is pack VERY efficiently, to keep postage to a minimum.

At level #2 , you should expect to pay TAXES. So start keeping records. Compiling records later is a major PITA.

Start with stuff that is easy to pack. Don't try to sell grandma's china soup tureen.


Buy it now, immediate payment required (check the box on your listing). Otherwise, you WILL get deadbeats that never pay. For me, that was running from 5 to 10%, and thick skin or not, that was very frustrating. Buyers do get buyers remorse. And unless they pay immediately, they will just ignore you.

Research pricing by looking at items that have SOLD. Ignore the crazy high asking prices, there will always be some out there. Note, the crazy high asking prices can work to your advantage. I sold a cottered crank once. Only one for sale, $180. No completed auctions. So I priced mine for $90. Half price sale! Mine sold, the one for $180 has not sold in over a year now....

What sells in the vintage bicycle market:

#1 . Vintage BMX, vintage BMX, vintage BMX. There is no category that does better! Note some MTB items have BMX appeal such as some of the pedals used on early 1980s MTBs. Example, SunTour XC bear trap pedals.

#2. Anything vintage Campy. Low end Campy, high end Campy, it all sells.

#3 . Unique/odd Japanese parts like the triple jockey wheel Suntour RDs, Swiss BB (yes, Japanese brands did make some Swiss BB).

#4 . Vintage MTB: derailleurs, thumb shifters, cranksets.

#5 . High end road parts that are not Campy: think early Dura Ace, 600 arabesque, tri-color 600, Superbe Pro, Cyclone generation 1. First generation Cinelli stem (sold one for $500), Simplex retrofriction shifters, any bar end shifters, long cage RDs.

#6 Top of the line bikes and frames.


The low end stuff that does not fit into categories 1 through 4? Donate. Or if you have the patience, sell a pile, like a pile of clean but low end Suntour RDs.

Last edited by wrk101; 11-21-19 at 11:31 AM.
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Old 11-21-19, 09:35 AM
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Great post! Thank you.
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Old 11-21-19, 09:42 AM
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Thanks! That is helpful!
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Old 11-21-19, 09:45 AM
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One question, you mention "Buy It Now", is that the only way you sell? Do you ever do you ever list as an auction? Let the buyers run up the price? Thanks!
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Old 11-21-19, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by crandress View Post
One question, you mention "Buy It Now", is that the only way you sell? Do you ever do you ever list as an auction? Let the buyers run up the price? Thanks!
I never, ever sell on auctions. Years ago, I did this, starting every auction at 99 cents. Got burned a couple of times, no more. Sold a $400 leather coat, with free shipping, for 99 cents. Lost my b@tt on that one!

Now I set a price based on what items have been selling for. I am comfortable getting 90% of FMV (FMV =~ the max that others have gotten). I have too much stuff, and I want to move it now. I don't need auction fever to drive up my prices. Just pay me a fair price, and we both win.

Two days ago, I sold an item in FOUR minutes! OK, I priced it too low. But I paid $5 for the item, sold it for $55 plus shipping. So I am happy with the outcome and so is the buyer.


The other problem with auctions is it opens you up to DEADBEATS = no pays. At 5% to 10% no pays, it adds up. Other bidders are very suspicious of second chance offers. I cannot require immediate payment on auctions, its a flaw IMHO in eBay's system. So be it! Buy it Now, immediate payment required (check the box in the listing) and I am done with it.


Note, putting verbiage in your auction like "Immediate Payment is Required" is worthless. You either check the box when you list it, or buyers will pay you whenever they feel like it....

Last edited by wrk101; 11-21-19 at 12:02 PM.
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Old 11-21-19, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by crandress View Post
One question, you mention "Buy It Now", is that the only way you sell? Do you ever do you ever list as an auction? Let the buyers run up the price? Thanks!
Like WRK, I only sell ''Buy Now' with FREE shipping.

Fee and expenses to me are kind of irrelevant. Here's why....

Say I have a Campy Super Record RD in 9/10 condition. I peruse 'completing listings' to see what they're selling for. Looks like its $200+/- $200 before fees and shipping is the market...there's nothing I can do about it. Now its up to me to decide if I'm ok with $200 before fees. What are my other options?

A. Craiglist @$160 No buyer/seller protection
B. BF @$160 No buyer/seller protection
C. Facebook @$160 No buyer/seller protection

At this point in my life and with my work schedule its not worth my time, effort or an extra breath to sell something for less than $50 ($25-35 after fees and shipping)
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Old 11-21-19, 11:28 AM
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Great post. Thanks. What about limiting purchases to a certain target, like buyers with a certain raring or located only in the L48?
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Old 11-21-19, 11:33 AM
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This is a super helpful post... Thank you for sharing your advice!
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Old 11-21-19, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa View Post
Great post. Thanks. What about limiting purchases to a certain target, like buyers with a certain raring or located only in the L48?
Eh. Everyone starts out at a (0) rating and ebay only lets you go down to like a -1 so why bother. I do FREE shipping to Continental U.S. International depends on the item. Sometimes its a pain (Canadians no offense).
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Old 11-21-19, 11:43 AM
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Too many of my sales have gone to buyers with zero feedback. So I don't block them. And FWIW, I was recently scammed by someone with a feedback score of over 2,000. Realize buyers cannot get negative feedback. So they can build up a positive feedback score and still do scams. Ebay covered me on it, so all is good.


If you pack efficiently, I can send a crankset to Alaska or Hawaii for the same cost as sending to Atlanta, GA (flat rate padded envelope). Meanwhile, others charge up to $20 shipping. So I can price my cranksets a little higher than others, buyers still save as they get the shipping for a lot less. Imagine I price my item $5 higher, but the buyer is still $7 ahead. Or I price mine the same, mine sells, the other one doesn't.

Learn to pack efficiently (minimize postage). I just sent a Deore XT triple crankset, with both crank arms, dust caps and bottom bracket. All in a flat rate padded envelope ($8). I also recently sold 16 vintage hot rod car magazines, 7 pounds worth, in a flat rate padded envelope. Otherwise postage would have been over $25. For a $30 item, $8 versus $25 postage is a lot. Side note, buyer pays $8 postage, I pay $7.35. So I get a small bonus to offset a tiny amount of the fees. Better than a poke with a stick....

Half of my stuff goes first class mail. Again, same price to all 50 states. 40% goes in a flat rate padded envelope. The rest goes in some other packaging. I am allowed to send first class up to 16 ounces (typical limit is 13 ounces). I sell a lot of stuff in the 14/15 ounce range. Just sold a 0.833 size handlebar stem. 14 ounces.... I was charged $5.33 postage.

I just sold a spare seat from a 2002 motorcycle. $245. Had I attempted to sell locally, I would have gotten $25 for it, maybe less. Win/win. Buyer was pleased to get a pristine like new motorcycle seat (I took it off on day 1). I got my $245, less fees.

Last edited by wrk101; 11-21-19 at 11:47 AM.
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Old 11-21-19, 11:50 AM
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I'm a hobby level guy. Mostly BIN but do occasionally do auctions for rare/highly sought after items. Hard to find (HTF) Pyrex is extremely hot right now and can do very, very well at auction. I do not always accept returns especially if I feel like I'm being scammed. I have taken on a few disputes and have managed to maintain a top seller rating.

I do not typically ship out of the US without going through Global Shipping

With that said, I think the OPs selling guidelines are spot on
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Old 11-21-19, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by miamijim View Post
Like WRK, I only sell ''Buy Now' with FREE shipping.

Fee and expenses to me are kind of irrelevant. Here's why....

Say I have a Campy Super Record RD in 9/10 condition. I peruse 'completing listings' to see what they're selling for. Looks like its $200+/- $200 before fees and shipping is the market...there's nothing I can do about it. Now its up to me to decide if I'm ok with $200 before fees. What are my other options?

A. Craiglist @$160 No buyer/seller protection
B. BF @$160 No buyer/seller protection
C. Facebook @$160 No buyer/seller protection

At this point in my life and with my work schedule its not worth my time, effort or an extra breath to sell something for less than $50 ($25-35 after fees and shipping)

Similar to Jim, most of my items if I sold locally I would get a small fraction, maybe 10% of my ebay price, if that. So after fees, I am way ahead. Last week I sold a frameset on ebay. I had offered it here for $x. No takers, and by the way, had I sold it here, I would still have the 3% PayPal fee. So I put it on ebay for 75% more than I was asking here. Sold it. So after fees, I was 65% ahead of what I was asking here, and oh yeah, no one here bought it.....

I'm retired, so my threshold is lower ($25). My average selling price this year is $48. And similar to Jim, the MARKET decides what my item is worth. If I paid too much for it, thats the breaks. If I bought it right, then I prosper. Either way, it has to go. No one is going to pay me more because I paid too much for it.

Last edited by wrk101; 11-21-19 at 12:00 PM.
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Old 11-21-19, 11:56 AM
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Great advice and I tried to offer some help to others, in this area, years ago. I no longer sell on Ebay (as a rule but just sold a motorcycle for close to fifteen grand - hope that does not go south.

As for starting an auction, low - I did that, with great success, for a few years. But things changed, and, sadly, I let this Legnano frame set go for $37.00 US. Needless to say, I was bummed. These days, I list for my hope for price and then let the buyers decide. Would you pay $37 bucks for this frame and fork set..?
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Old 11-21-19, 12:12 PM
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Thx for this post. It confirms my experience with vintage MTB stuff, good thumb shifters sell, cranks, especially with intact dust caps sell. I tried to sell a complete suntour accushift group (3000) derailleurs and shifters and could barely give it away.

I totally agree with you on the free shipping. I did a little experiment I priced items at suggested ebay market level with buyer pays shipping....crickets. I adjusted my price upward to cover shipping (flat rate) and re listed with free shipping and SOLD no difference in total price just one said free shipping. I think with Amazon its become and expectation for people.
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Old 11-21-19, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by ryansu View Post
I totally agree with you on the free shipping. I did a little experiment I priced items at suggested ebay market level with buyer pays shipping....crickets. I adjusted my price upward to cover shipping (flat rate) and re listed with free shipping and SOLD no difference in total price just one said free shipping. I think with Amazon its become and expectation for people.
Yep. No one wants to "pay" for shipping. People want to feel like they are getting a deal. As an economics professor once said. If it doesn't sell for .40 cents then change the price to 2 for $1
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Old 11-21-19, 01:17 PM
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Do you give a lot of item details or just let the pics tell the story?

How do you determine condition (fair, good, excellent)?

If using BIN pricing, what is the term length of your listing?
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Old 11-21-19, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa View Post
Do you give a lot of item details or just let the pics tell the story?

How do you determine condition (fair, good, excellent)?

If using BIN pricing, what is the term length of your listing?
I tend to be very critical with my own descriptions and regularly get feedback saying " better than described"

My listings currently remain active until sold or removed by me.
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Old 11-21-19, 01:46 PM
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I use to list with eBay auctions for the popular items, but would watch and cover myself by having a friend bid if I was concerned it was going to go too cheap. Most bidders bid in the last minute anyway.

I use to sell quite a bit, but cut back once they started sending 1099s. Now I mostly just use it to get rid of spare parts, all listed buy it now.
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Old 11-21-19, 01:59 PM
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Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post
I also recently sold 16 vintage hot rod car magazines, 7 pounds worth, in a flat rate padded envelope. Otherwise postage would have been over $25.
Good advice here!

Don't forget, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Videos, Tapes, Recordings, etc. can be sent extremely reasonably using USPS Media Mail. You can send a lot of printed matter for less than the flat rate packs, just takes a little longer to get there, but usually a week seems to be the norm.

Makes printed stuff easier to sell too, I will usually just put 3 bucks with 'Media Mail' selected as the method and it makes it easier to sell because the buyers like that they aren't paying a huge fee to get their stuff...
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Old 11-21-19, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa View Post
Do you give a lot of item details or just let the pics tell the story?

How do you determine condition (fair, good, excellent)?

If using BIN pricing, what is the term length of your listing?
1. "This is a used part, therefore, it is only reasonable to expect wide variety, nicks, scratches and other imperfections. The pictures provided very clearly depict the overall condition.

2. I dont. Its NOT good practice to use specific wording. One persons 'E'/excellent is another persons 'G'/good

3. Depends, Lately, its been 'list until sells'. In general, I don't like longer listings as your item will fall off the first page very quickly. But you need to be carefull, if there're fees associated with your listing your going to pay them over and over and over with a 7 day listing.
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Old 11-21-19, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by katsup View Post
I use to list with eBay auctions for the popular items, but would watch and cover myself by having a friend bid if I was concerned it was going to go too cheap. Most bidders bid in the last minute anyway.

I use to sell quite a bit, but cut back once they started sending 1099s. Now I mostly just use it to get rid of spare parts, all listed buy it now.
Shame on you for shill bidding

Without looking it up, do you know the criteria for getting a 1099? I do, as I've gotten one before. And its NOT eBay your getting it from, your getting it from Paypal or whomever handles your the financial transaction. And the rules are the same regardless of where the item's sold. ebay, cl, FB, on the side.
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Old 11-21-19, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by miamijim View Post
Shame on you for shill bidding

Without looking it up, do you know the criteria for getting a 1099? I do, as I've gotten one before. And its NOT eBay your getting it from, your getting it from Paypal or whomever handles your the financial transaction. And the rules are the same regardless of where the item's sold. ebay, cl, FB, on the side.
Not ashamed of it, this is back when eBay charged extra for setting a reserve (not sure if they still do). In a real auction environment, you or a friend can bid on your item just the same. Plus I only did it a couple of times which didn't matter in the end due to last minute bidders.

$20,000 gross payments triggers a 1099. I have heard of people getting them for less, probably cause they received paypal payments which put them over the limit.
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Old 11-21-19, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by katsup View Post

$20,000 gross payments triggers a 1099. I have heard of people getting them for less, probably cause they received paypal payments which put them over the limit.
It’s 200 transactions and $20,000 through the financial processor regardless of the sales platform. So, 200 transactions, 150 ebay, 20 FB, 10 BF, 20 back alley or wherever and $20,000 in sales. Heck, you can 1 transaction for $25,000 and not get a 1099 or 300 transactions and not get one.

Again, it’s the payment processor, PayPal, Zelle, Square etc and now eBays in on if your a ‘managed payments seller’.
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Old 11-21-19, 02:37 PM
  #24  
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FWIW combined fees all in, assuming free listing/insertion is 13%. Same as it’s always been. So subtract 13% and then your shipping costs from the final sales price and that’s what you walk with.

$200 ‘buy now’ derailleur with FREE shipping.... $200-26-7= $167 take home.
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Old 11-21-19, 03:08 PM
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Great post. I usually sell items as Buy It Now, Pay Now, but I always sell with Free Shipping. I used to buy things on eBay fairly regularly, and I'd get annoyed at all the auctions starting at $0.01, with a shipping cost of something silly like $15 for a trinket. In many instances, I think this was done to avoid selling fees and/or tax, as those things were usually levied against the purchase price only. So I saw it, right or wrong, as a lose-lose -- sellers are mis-representing the price of items and covering it with inflated shipping costs to dodge fees, and I spent too much time trying to discern what my actual cost is, as a buyer. As I recall, in the early days, you had to click through a listing to see shipping, and or put your zip code to see it calculated.

So I became conditioned over time to skip that and look only for Free Shipping items. I understand the price of shipping is built-in to the item price. But I appreciate that the seller has done that; it's a lot easier on me to know my final price before doing any reading on the listing page.

Note: I don't presume that everyone who starts auctions low and charges separate shipping fees is putting the slip to eBay on fees or taxes. That's my perception only from a long history of browsing and buying on eBay (I opened my account in April of 1998!).
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