Finding Items to Sell on eBay at Auctions

Auctions are great places to pick up bargains to resell on eBay. Check out liquidation and estate auctions. You'll find perfectly salable and profitable items, but each type of auction has its idiosyncrasies. And don't forget to check out government auctions and charity auctions.

Before you go to any auction, double-check payment terms and find out if you must bring cash or can pay by credit card. Also, before you bid on anything, find out the hammer fee, or buyer's premium. These fees are a percentage that auction houses add to the winner's bid; the buyer has the responsibility of paying this fee.

Liquidation auctions

When a company gets into serious financial trouble, its creditors obtain a court order to liquidate the company to pay the bills. The liquidated company then sells its stock, fixtures, and even real estate. Items sell for just cents on the dollar, and you can easily resell many of these items on eBay. A special kind of auctioneer handles these auctions. Look in the phone book under Auctioneers: Liquidators and call local auctioneers' offices to get on mailing lists.

Estate auctions

Estate auctions are the higher level of estate garage sales. Here you can find fine art, antiques, ephemera, rare books, and collectibles of all kinds. Aside from the large estate auctions, most auction houses have monthly estate auctions in which they put together groups of merchandise from various small estates. Find out when these auctions are being held and mark them on your calendar.

These auctions are attended mostly by dealers who know the local going prices for the items they bid on. But because they're buying to sell in a retail environment, their high bids will generally be the wholesale price for your area. If a particular item is flooding your market, the high bid may be low. When you're in a room full of local dealers, they're buying what's hot to resell in your city rather than what's going to sell across the country. That entire market will be yours.

Government auctions

You've see the ads: "Make Hundred$ of thou$ands in profits by reselling items from Government Foreclosure auctions!" You send someone money to let you in on the big "secret." Here's the secret: You can find out about many government auctions at these sites:

  • US Treasury auctions: This site gives information on seized Department of the Treasury property auctions held in New Jersey, California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, and other locations. The lists of the lots for sale are posted about a month before the auctions. You can also call the hotline at 703-273-7373 for up-to-date information. They also post the bid results for previous auctions.

  • Internal Revenue Service auctions: Your buddies at the IRS have their own auction site. Here, you can find a wide assortment of real property: patents, livestock, vehicles, planes, boats, business equipment, household goods, and real estate.

  • General Services Administration auctions: This is the General Services Administration's surplus, seized, and forfeited property auctions. These are online auctions that are held daily. You can even find used crash-test vehicles here (good for selling the undamaged parts on eBay).

  • U.S. Postal Service auctions: Ever wonder where all the post office's lost packages go? Check this site for auction locations and times. Also search the web for mail recovery centers.

  • Private company auctions: This is a private company specializing in government liquidation auctions.

For other sites, run a web search for state surplus (results include tons of links to individual state-seized property auctions), seized property, tax sales, confiscated property, and state auction. Remember: If you're asked for payment to get the information, then it's not an official site.

Charity silent auctions

Sometimes a school or an organization will get everyone from major corporations to the local gift shop to donate items. The items are then auctioned off to the highest bidder, usually in a silent format. You can find many a great item at these auctions. Aside from new merchandise, collectors may feel good about donating some collection overflow to a charity.

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