Last week I ran ten vintage print auctions on eBay.
As you can see I sold nine of the ten prints listed for a total of $604.38! (click on the image to enlarge it)
After allowing for all eBay and PayPal fees and the cost of the prints and mats I banked a very cool profit of just over $400! (not bad for a few hours “work”!)
Now, if you are anything like I was when I first discovered this business on eBay your head will be in a bit of a whirl at the moment!
You are excited at the thought of selling pieces of tattered paper for hundreds of dollars but the questions keep coming:
“WHAT makes this business work?”
“WHY are these pieces of paper so valuable?”
“WHERE can I find them?”
“HOW do I know which ones to buy?”
“HOW do I list them to maximize my return?”
Well, RELAX! this post is all about sharing my knowledge and experience to help you use eBay to supplement your day job or pension or even to grow your own full time business if that is what you want.
First things first, why do I sell vintage prints on eBay and why should you consider doing the same?
On the face of it, making money on eBay is simple, all you need to do is find out what sells well, negotiate a deal with a wholesaler to obtain inventory, list it and collect your money!
Of course it isn’t quite this simple, if it was we’d all be selling high end electronic goods and be making tens of thousands of dollars profit.
The reason why is simple ~ it is because of competition.
Competition drives down the prices of these consumer goods meaning that unless you can negotiate the very best deals with the manufacturers it is impossible to make a profit.
Most of the top selling niches on eBay are dominated by a few big players who make a profit despite selling at rock bottom prices because they leverage their huge buying power to negotiate the best deals directly with the manufacturers.
It is impossible for the little guy to break into this business because even if he could obtain a supply of inventory (which often he cannot) he can’t hope to beat or even match the prices paid by the big players.
So do you join the masses trying to eek out a meager living as your profit margins are squeezed ever thinner or do you go against the herd and focus your efforts where you won’t be wiped out by the competition?
My advice is to focus on vintage collectibles.
Their rarity means that you don’t have the mass competition problem. Although there are hundreds of successful sellers on eBay selling vintage prints, it is extremely unlikely that the exact same print is being sold by more than one seller at any one time.
Since there is no mass competition, profit margins are a lot healthier (I’m talking 200%, 300%, 400% and more!)
Vintage prints are easy to source. You don’t even need to leave home! So no more scavenging amongst piles of worthless rubbish at boot sales and thrift stores.
Once purchased they are easy to store as they take up very little space.
They are simple and cheap to package and ship. No need for bubble wrap and peanuts – all you need is an envelope!
This business is fascinating to do – every print is unique and there are a million different subjects just waiting to be discovered!
This business model is based on arbitrage, which is all about exploiting the price differences of identical items in different markets.
I unearthed a searchable online resource at addall.com where anyone can find and buy the printed work of almost any artist you care to name. There are literally hundreds of thousands of printed works—many long since out of print. You can buy these for a few dollars, get them delivered to your door and have them quickly listed on eBay and selling for ten, twenty, even thirty times your purchase price in a matter of days!
Why does this work?
There are two main factors at work here:
1 eBay’s massive traffic
2 the ability to include high-quality images of the prints in your auction descriptions.
Obviously, eBay has massive traffic and addall.com only receives a tiny fraction of the traffic that eBay receives. Consequently, it is possible to buy an old book full of vintage prints and flip the exact same book on eBay for a profit, although much higher profit margins can be achieved by selling the prints individually.
It is important to include high-quality images in auction descriptions. This is another ‘eBay factor’ that works in the seller’s favor; the ability to include high quality images of their prints in their eBay auction descriptions. It is said that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ and this is certainly true when selling art on eBay.
eBay is THE place online where millions of collectors gather, hoping to find rare and unusual items to add to their collections.
How can YOU cash in on this method?
To research the value of any find, simply run an “advanced search” on eBay and select the “completed listings” option.
This will bring up all recently-closed auctions and fixed price listings.
Search the category “art from dealers and resellers>prints.“
As you peruse this list, you will see many old prints changing hands for incredible prices.
You can further refine your search to zero in on the prints most likely to be taken from old books and most likely to yield a healthy profit.
Having built a list of sought-after print niches in this way, the next step is to find out of print books containing similar items available cheaply online, and this is where addall.com comes in.
It is vital that you do your research BEFORE sourcing prints.
You must establish that a healthy market exists before buying any items for resale (this rule applies to ANY item you buy to resell on eBay).
To help you out with YOUR research, I am putting the finishing touches on a video series that will teach you to successfully research, buy and ultimately sell your own prints at incredible profits!
In my new video series, you can watch over my shoulder and learn the precise techniques I use when researching prints AND successfully sourcing the books they originally came from.
Additionally, I will reveal several very successful eBay sellers who have been selling in this niche successfully for years.
The videos are jammed packed with tips, tricks and techniques that I incorporate daily in my own vintage & antique print selling business!
Keep an eye out for a video preview next week!
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Yes, it is vital you do research first. I have just looked at some completed listings and seen Vanity Fair prints that have all sold for £1.99 – a few years ago we were selling those in our antiques centres for over a hundred pounds each, and even recently (last year) sold one for £40, so it doesn’t always pay to put things on ebay, clearly. Very interesting.
Enjoy the journey.
Lynn@Online Auction Ideas says
This is a niche that has appealed to me for a long time but I still haven’t taken action (and we all know what happens when you don’t take action – nothing!). One of the things that’s held me back is being unsure of the correct way to do the matting – if a buyer were to pay a lot for a matted print I wouldn’t want to be sending them something that looks like a dog’s hind leg!
Will you be covering this and revealing the best materials to use in your videos?
Hey Stuart…………..like what you are saying and sounds. Can’t wait to hear more in the followup videos. Will that be soooooooooooooooon. Hopefully
I’m working on the videos and PDF material now, Eamon I hope to have a preview video out to you this week.
Good to see you’re still selling these prints. I think I’ll have to move into this niche. Look forward to the videos.
Stuart, good luck with your prints mate, hope you do well.
Hi Stuart, was delighted to see you did so well on your series of auctions. You obviously have the knack of picking the right books to sell from. Look forward to the video series.
Good to hear from you, Jayne!
The ‘knack’ comes from the research and I will be sharing all of my research tools and techniques in my upcoming videos.
I am really interested in this idea of finding and selling prints, and look forward to your video series, will this video series relate to the UK market or is it mainly for the US market?
The great thing about this business is it can be done by anyone anywhere. I use eBay.com (US site) to demonstrate my methods in my videos because it is the biggest site and most of my subscribers use it.
I list my own prints on eBay.co.uk and pay the “international site visibility” fee to make the listing visible in the US and Canada (10p/16c).
You will be able to follow my videos and apply the techniques where ever you are in the world.
Thanks Stuart for more great information. I will be looking forward to your vids and am already making lists for future research.
I must say that the information you have is fascinating. I am looking foward to learning more. One question I have is, what exactly is a “plate”. I am a bit confused there.
Thanks for your question, Nicole
A ‘plate’ is simply a picture page in the book as opposed to a page with text on. The plates are usually full page images and printed on better quality paper than the text pages often with nothing printed on the reverse so ideal for removal, matting/mounting and framing.
Ian Tunbull-Stuart says
This is something I have been thinking about for some time but not
too sure of how to go about it. I will wait for your Vids as I know they will be
full of all good info.
George Nieves says
I say bravo to you. I can’t believe you’re willing to share your closely guarded secrets for everyone’s betterment. The fact that you’re taking a chance & creating competition for yourself speaks volumes about you.
I can tell you that I will be first in line for your new video series.
Anyone else who knows of Stuart’s reputation better do the same.
Paul Lines says
What is the situation regarding copyrite
Thanks for your question.
The books I focus on tend to be older books and no longer copyright protected (published before 1923 if in the US or 70 years have elapsed since the author’s death in the UK). In other words they are in the public domain which means that I can sell copies of the plates as well as selling the original plates.
For books that are still copyright protected the “first sale doctrine” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine protects the right to sell books that you own (or the plates from the book) without breaching copyright.
You cannot, of course copy and sell the plates from copyright protected books.
Reg B. says
As an avid reader of your blog,you seem to always come up with incredible and new ideas that I find interesting. But the one thing that a lot of you old timers like Skip Mcgrath and Jim Cockran and others is you say that need to start your auction off at $1 …
And I have done that and have lost money. After cost of item and packaging and shipping cost eBay and pay-pal am in the hole. So how does one know the correct pricing to start an auction?
But I like to thank you for your great information…
I will be covering the subject of pricing in my upcoming tutorials so watch this space!
Dave Everett says
I bought your book some time ago, thought what an excellent idea it was and vowed to follow it through when I had some money available. However…
I have finally just managed to take action. I bought a book at the beginning of this week, extracted the plates and will be ordering mounts etc on Monday, then list on eBay. Fingers crossed!
Will buyers of Prints Make Profits get any sort of special deal on your upcoming video set?