Selling on eBay: much has been written about it in articles, websites, and even books. Other websites have come along, but it seems that the number 1 online marketplace remains eBay. It can be daunting; many are afraid of high costs or don’t think it’s feasible to sell this way. As someone who has bought quite a bit on eBay–and increased sales for my company though the auction Web site–I have experience with this format. In this article, I will attempt to elucidate the ins-and-outs of what I consider to be something of a “necessary evil”: selling coin and currency on eBay, especially when it comes to the auction format.
It seems that every collector, dealer, or investor has an opinion about the Web site. I hear a lot of negative comments from both buyers and sellers. Some examples are:
“It’s expensive to sell on eBay.”
“I have sold on eBay before but didn’t get what I wanted for (insert item).”
“eBay always sides with the buyer when problems arise.”
And so on. Let’s take a closer look at these three statements and I’ll give you some tips that might help you overcome these reservations. As a disclaimer, please note that I’m not out to promote eBay. If I could abandon eBay, I would do it in a heartbeat. But as I hope will become clear, the site can be useful and even advantageous when handled correctly.
1. “It’s expensive to sell on eBay”
One of the most common arguments is that it is super expensive to sell on eBay. Fees of 10%-15% are claimed on average, according to many quotes. Add to that the fact that most buyers will want to pay with Paypal–which of course also takes it cut–and the costs just seem to be stacking up. But what is the true cost?
eBay’s fee system is reasonably simple: sales cost 10% of the asking price, while sellers with a store subscription pay 6% (these figures are based on the “coin & paper money” category; other categories may incur different fees). The cheapest store subscription costs $15 per month, and the 4% in savings easily adds up if you sell more than a few items. Furthermore, if you sell more than 20 or so items a month, it is relatively easy to become a “powerseller,” which results in a further 20% discount.
Certain requirements need to be met, but if you care about your customers, and follow a few simple rules, the discount is quite easy to get. As such, a seller with regular sales would expect to pay 4.8% in fees. Paypal fees and miscellaneous listing fees add another 3% or so, and a seller on eBay would pay about 8% on each item sold. Now, the coin and currency business is one that generally works on very slim margins, and if you do not factor in this 8% expense it’s hard to make money.
Let’s take a look at options other than eBay when it comes to selling online. Anyone attempting to sell on the internet needs to accept some sort of electronic payment. Credit card fees are generally in the 2.5% to 3% range. Then you would have to have a Web site or other online venue from which to sell. A domain name is easily and cheaply purchased, but Web site design and acquisition are anything but cheap. Any new business can reasonably expect to pay thousands of dollars in startup costs and advertising before selling even a single item. My own site has been active for over a year and while I do get some traffic, the items I have sold can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Despite this, I have put quite a bit of money into design, advertising, and other necessities; when you factor this in, the 4.8% eBay charge doesn’t seem that bad, especially since you don’t pay until you have sold something.
2. “I have sold on eBay before but didn’t get what I wanted for (insert item)”
Now here’s where eBay’s algorithm for displaying search results comes in. Simply stated, eBay favors sellers that have a proven track record of selling items, as that results in money for eBay. If you’re new, with few past sales, it is harder for users to find your items. Also, if you only list a few items, they tend to get lost in the maze, and your results might not be as good as you were expecting. This is particularly true for the auction-style format: I have noticed that my auctions tend to do better when I list at least 20-25 items ending in a relatively short period of one other. Of course, this also depends on other factors (time of day or week; other sellers offering similar items at the same time; your track record on eBay), but as a new seller it’s always good to keep the following in mind:
-When new, it’s best to list cheap, recognizable items (such as <$25 certified coins) first.
-When using the auction-style format, try to list a decent quantity of items with auctions ending around the same time.
There are always weeks when it seems like there is no bidding going on and nobody wants your items. It happens, unfortunately, but my advice is not to give up too easily, and to factor such weeks in with your expectations.
3. “eBay always sides with the buyer in case of problems”
Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to refute this. eBay’s money-back-guarantee program favors buyers and their experience, which often results in sellers complaining that eBay just took their money after someone claimed they didn’t receive an item, received it damaged, or found it to be other than described. Often a simple email with explanations will do, but sometimes you get someone who tries to scam you. This is another thing to factor in when you start selling on eBay: just like in real life, you are going to run into people that you would rather avoid. My only advice for this is to not get too hung up on it. Try to look past it and move on.
These are just a few things I have run into dealing in eBay sales. Every start is difficult, but when it comes to selling coins and currency eBay must be considered, if only as an alternative for moving things you might not want anymore, or as a means of raising cash for other purchases.
There’s one more thing that I’d like to mention. Some of my best customers and friends were people who bought a single item from me on eBay, then paid attention to the business card I put in the package and contacted me directly. This, for me, is one of the true values of eBay — being able to redirect customers to other contact methods, so I can begin to deal with them directly, avoiding many of the costs I have outlined above.
Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments section and I will answer them to the best of my ability.