What we learned from selling an estate of 400+ books, games, DVDs, and electronics in Australia.
My partner recently inherited a huge collection, including:
- Books: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Wizards of the Coast
- Dungeons & Dragons memorabilia: games, expansions, and magazines
- Games and Consoles: PC, PlayStation, and SEGA
- DVDs and Blu-Rays: TV and Movies
- Collectible cards
Her goal wasn't to make the most money, but get the items into the hands of people who will enjoy it, and out of our garage.
We're not big Dungeons & Dragons or retro-gaming enthusiasts, but we know of communities that really enjoy this stuff.
I thought auctioning the items would be a reasonable way to ensure it goes to someone who appreciates it: as demonstrated by them paying the most for it.
It was a big job, taking months of evenings and weekends. We're not wholesalers, nor online-sales expert. At first, we did things very slowly, but got much faster as we learned.
This is the first post in a series about what we learned: how to sell items, how to list them, how to ship them, if you're in Australia. Next post: Part 2: Listing Items on eBay.
What marketplace to sell in?
You have a few options in Australia: eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Facebook Buy/Sell Groups, Gumtree, opshops/pawnshops, and workplaces. Here's how I think about their tradeoffs:
- Items worth the cost of shipping
- Non-fragile items
- Price discovery with auctions for rare items
- Mostly automating the bidding & payment process
- Nationwide marketplace
- Fees of 13.4% sale price
- Strong buyer protection can mean sometimes
For those fees, eBay runs an auction, handles payment, and puts your items in front of their large audience of buyers, and even helps automate some of the shipping (more on that later).
eBay does let you sell items for pickup, but it seems Facebook Marketplace is far more popular among buyers looking for local pickup. Almost everything on eBay is for shipping.
On eBay, you mostly don't have to talk with the buyers, which saves you time.
Mostly location-oriented: default search is a km-radius within your city.
- Items too cheap to be worth paying shipping (bulky items)
- Fragile items
- No fees; if you know a good price for an item, you can just sell it at that price. Thanks to Zuck, for offering a marketplace as a loss-leader for the rest of the Facebook platform.
- You get a lot of no-shows.
- All price negotiation is done manually in chat messages, there's no auction dynamic.
- Negotiation will take a lot of time if you're selling many items, so you're probably better off combining items into larger lots.
- There's a strong culture of price negotiation and making an offer in the chat; almost everyone makes an offer below the listed price.
Some people say they have trouble with scammers, but I didn't encounter any. There's some built-in trust from seeing that someone has been a facebook user for 10 years.
There's no fees: but you have to do a lot more work. More of a hassle.
Facebook buy/sell groups
Groups of people around a certain interest (e.g. Dungeons and Dragons Australia), or a certain suburb (e.g. Bondi Buy & Swap), who post items they're selling, usually fixed-price.
Buyers comment to accept, then you organise payment yourself when someone accepts.
I've even seen some people run auctions in the comments, with people commenting "$100" to bid that amount. It's a lot more work for the auctioneer than eBay, but it works.
Many interest groups have problems with too many merchants selling stuff, and have rules against it, or only allow merchant-posting on certain days of the week. Respect these rules.
This can be a great way to reach people who enjoy a niche interest (like Dungeons & Dragons), you can search for groups in the Facebook UI and join them. I joined a few, and explained in their 'entry quiz' that I was selling an estate of relevant items, and they let me in. Some of them had 'no selling' rules, and their admins were happy to point me at better groups to try.
I don't think I seriously considered it; I've heard it's mostly full of scammers now? Perhaps there's a market sector that really congregates around Gumtree, but it feels like Facebook Marketplace has really eaten their lunch.
I've heard they can take stuff off your hands for free or for a tiny price, but most are no longer taking DVDs (and I had a lot of DVDs). Perhaps they might work for you.
Work mailing lists
Our office has a few hundred people on the buy/sell mailing list. Low-hassle, cheap prices, pickup from your desk, trustworthy counter-parties, but not a very deep market for niche collectible items.
Other Options To Consider
Pay someone to sell your stuff online
eBay offers eBay Valet, where some gig-economy contractor photos and lists and sells and ships your items.
Or you could directly look up Selling Assistants on Airtasker.
I didn't use this, I was too worried about what if they do a bad job, but in retrospect, it would have saved me so many hours, it probably would have been worth it!
Sell everything as a bulk-lot to an eBay reseller
And let them deal with it.
There's an entire subculture out there of eBay resellers: people who purchase bulk goods and sell them on eBay, making their entire living doing it. YouTube is full of these people.
From what I hear, they are only taking very old or very-new, well-preserved items with wide interest; it's hard for them to reach a nationwide market of enthusiasts. For niche stuff, you're better off selling yourself, I think.
Store the items forever in garage/storage
I added this somewhat as a joke, but I think this is really what a lot of people do. It's expensive and frustrating.
Conclusion: What did we do?
In the end, we mostly sold the shippable (non-fragile) collectible (niche market) stuff on eBay. For some niche items, I joined relevant Facebook groups and shared (advertised) the list of eBay listings on their designated 'merchant-friendly' day of the week.
We mostly sold only fragile, larger items (large electronics, screens) on Facebook Marketplace for local pickup.
I was upset with eBay's fees initially, but after looking at competing platforms, I think eBay mostly earns this fee. Mostly I think I got a higher price for my items than I would elsewhere, and I saved time vs interacting with buyers. If the price of the items was more well-known (a more liquid market) I'd probably get more money on a lower-fee platform, but the price discovery aspect of auctions was very helpful.
Part 2: Listing Items on eBay. Covering stocktake, inventory management, listing items, and responding to buyer questions.
Coming soon: Part 3: Shipping