How To — Find Your First Item to Sell on eBay

If you're trying to find a first item to sell, start small. Your goal is to find an item that enables you to accomplish these tasks quickly, to gain momentum:

  • List the item for sale on eBay
  • Generate a sale and receive payment via PayPal
  • Deliver the item successfully to your buyer

Focus on making one sale, rather than on achieving an entire business model or an entire sellable inventory on the first day.

Identifying Good First-Sale Items

Good first sale items tend to have certain characteristics. They are:

  • Easy to identify and describe. Start with an item that can easily be clearly described and uniquely identified in just a few words, to make your first listing easy to create.

  • Easy to photograph. Start with an item that can be easily represented in photos accurately.

  • Relatively small and light. Start with an item that can be packaged and shipped without the need for any unusual measures or extra costs.

  • Limited in value and relatively durable. Start with an item that isn't at risk of being damaged during shipment, isn't likely to wear out or fail within the first weeks following a sale, and isn't so valuable that you'll find it difficult to offer a refund if (for some regrettable reason) a refund becomes necessary.

Here are the most common sources for first-item sales, in order of accessibility.

Your Own Personal Household Goods

There are likely many items around the house that you are no longer using. At least a few of these are likely to fit the criteria outlined above. Good candidates are:

  • Consumer electronics items that still work but are no longer used. Consider phones, tablets, game consoles, laptops, etc.; avoid printers and monitors, which are too large, heavy, fragile, and unreliable.

  • Clothing items that are desirable and valuable. Consider designer jeans, leather jackets, shoes, etc.; avoid store brands, tailored goods, and very common products, which are not valuable or desirable enough to justify your time.

  • Jewelry items. Consider unique necklaces, earrings, wristwatches, etc.; avoid most costume jewelry items or low-end jewelry items unless very unique, which are not valuable or desirable enough to justify your time.

  • Name-brand toys and collectibles. Consider desirable board games, comics or film action figures and sets, electronic games, etc.; avoid puzzles and low-end toys.

  • Baby goods. Consider play sets, bottle warmers, baby monitors, etc.; avoid strollers, baby beds, or car seats, which are too large and difficult to ship and often subject to recalls.

Remember to list used household goods as used-condition items when selling them on eBay.

Goods Acquired at Thrift Stores or Flea Markets

If you're unable to find anything around the house to sell, consider visiting a thrift store or flea market to search for items to sell. You're looking for items that are:

  • Functional, in good condition, and complete with any relevant accessories
  • Priced well below retail and resale value
  • In demand, e.g. recognizably of familiar makes and models and not out of fashion
  • Not likely to be under a safety recall or shipment ban

The last point is important; once again, avoid safety-critical baby goods, weapons of any kind, or other goods that are likely to create difficulties for you after the sale.

Once again, unless the item is clearly brand new, remember to list used household goods as used-condition items when selling them on eBay.

Even when an item appears to be new and you list it as such, for goods acquired this way it is good to include qualifying text such as "appears in every way to be factory new" in your listing, so that it is clear that this is a judgment on your part and not a guarantee.

Locally Produced Craft Goods

If you're unable to locate at-home, thrift store, or flea market items to sell, consider selling a craft item produced by local craftspersons. Locally produced new goods are more likely than other kinds of new goods to prove profitable for you in a first sale situation.

To find locally produced craft goods that might sell on eBay, visit:

  • Local independent specialty stores
  • Craft fairs, street fairs, and farmers' markets
  • Local independent grocery and department stores (ask for local goods)

Avoid perishable goods of all kinds for your first eBay sale, and keep in mind that small-volume craft goods are often more fragile than high-volume factory produced goods and select accordingly.

Use Terapeak to Separate Good Candidates from Poor Candidates

Beyond the guidelines above, use Terapeak to help you to separate good first-sale candidates from bad ones. Log in to Terapeak, then follow these steps to evaluate each item:

  1. Click Research -> Product Research 2.0 to start the Product Research 2.0 tool.

  2. Click on the date range, then on 30 Day to search the last 30 days of sales.

  3. If you are considering selling a used item, select Filters -> Used or Pre-Owned to ensure that the figures Terapeak provides to you match your item's condition.

  4. In the search box, enter a make and model or a two- to three-word item description.

  5. Click Transactions to ensure that the Transactions tab is selected.

  6. Note the figure shown in the Average Price box.

  7. Note the figures shown in the Shipping Average / Free % box.

  8. Note the figure shown in the Number of Sellers and Items Sold box.

A good first-item will have the following characteristics when researched this way using Terapeak:

  • You'll earn an acceptable profit. The item's average sale price, minus the average shipping cost, will be a price that is acceptable to you for the item in question (if a household item), or that offers you a profit based on your own purchase price (if a sourced item).

  • You'll likely generate a sale in a reasonable time frame. The number of items sold should nearly match, match, or exceed the number of sellers (if this is not true, there are many similar unsold items already on eBay). The number of items sold over 30 days should not be in the many thousands (if this is true, you are entering a very crowded area of the market and shoppers may not find your listing at all).

Found Your Item? Now Sell It.

Once you've found an item that meets the criteria outlined in this article, you're ready to sell—no need to stand on ceremony. Your next steps are to:

  • Create eBay and PayPal accounts if you don't have these already
  • List the item for sale on eBay
  • Ship the item to your buyer once a purchase is made

Don't wait to take these steps—remember, you're trying to get started, and momentum is key!

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