How to Find Items to Resell on eBay - dummies

By Marsha Collier

Check your favorite eBay category and see what the hot-selling item is. Better yet, go to your favorite store and make friends with the manager. After you’re armed with the information you need, search out that item for the lowest price you can, and then give it a shot on eBay.

Keep these shopping locales in mind when you go on the eBay hunt:

  • Upscale department stores, trendy boutiques, outlet stores, or flagship designer stores are good places to do some market research. Check out the newest items and then head to the clearance area or outlet store and scrutinize the bargain racks for brand-name items.

  • Discount club stores such as Sam’s Club and Costco made their mark by selling items in bulk to large families, clubs, and small businesses. In case you haven’t noticed, these stores have upscaled and sell just about anything you could want.

  • Dollar stores in your area. Many of the items these places carry are overruns (too many of something that didn’t sell), small runs (too little of something that the big guys weren’t interested in stocking), or out-of-date fad items that need a good home on eBay.

    It’s not unusual for dollar-store warehouses to sell direct to a retailer (that’s you). Find out where the distribution warehouse is for your local dollar store chain and make contact. The 99¢ Only stores, for example, have a wholesale unit called Bargain Wholesale that runs out of their City of Commerce, California offices. Bargain Wholesale also has a website which is open to anyone with legitimate resale credentials.


  • Thrift stores are packed with used — but often good-quality — items. And you can feel good knowing that the money you spend in a nonprofit thrift shop is going to a good cause. Some branches of Goodwill and the Salvation Army receive merchandise from a central warehouse. Ask the manager when the truck regularly comes in.

    Goodwill Industries is definitely geared up for the 21st century. You can shop at its online auctions and get super values on the best of their merchandise. Don’t forget to check the going prices on eBay before you buy.


  • Garage, tag, moving, and estate sales offer some of the biggest bargains you’ll ever come across. The stuff you find at estate sales is often of a higher quality. Keep an eye out for “moving to a smaller house” sales. These are usually people who have raised children, accumulated a houseful of stuff, and want to shed it so that they can move to a condo in Palm Springs.

  • Liquidation and estate auctions are two types of auctions where you can pick up bargains. Before you go, double-check payment terms and find out whether 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 added to the winner’s bid; the buyer has the responsibility for paying these fees.

    When a company gets into serious financial trouble, its debtors obtain a court order to liquidate the company to pay the bills. The liquidated company then sells its stock, fixtures, and even real estate in a liquidation auction. Items sell for just cents on the dollar, and you can easily resell many of these items on eBay.

    Estate auctions are the higher level of estate garage sales. Here you can find fine art, antiques, paper ephemera, rare books, and collectibles of all kinds. 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.

  • Newspaper auction listings are an excellent source of merchandise for resale, particularly the listings of liquidations and estate auctions and the daily classified section, which often has ads that announce local business liquidations. Liquidation and estate sales are professionally run, usually by licensed liquidators or auctioneers, and involve merchandise that may be new but is always sold in lots.

    If your local newspaper has a website, use its online search to view the classifieds for major liquidations, estate auctions, or other similar deals. To find the paper’s website, run a search on Google.


  • Going-out-of-business sales, some of which run week by week, with bigger discounts as time goes by. Don’t be shy about making an offer on a quantity of items.

    Going-out-of-business sales can be a bonanza, but be careful and don’t be misled. Many states require businesses that are putting on a going-out-of business sale to purchase a special license that identifies the business as really going out of business.

  • Flea markets or swap meets in your area may have some bargains you can take advantage of.

  • Gift shops at museums, monuments, national parks, and theme parks can provide eBay inventory — but think about where to sell the items. Part of your selling success on eBay is access. People who can’t get to Graceland may pay handsomely for an Elvis mini-guitar with the official logo on the box.

  • Freebies are usually samples or promotion pieces that companies give away to introduce a new product, service, or, best of all, a media event. Hang on to these! If you receive handouts from a sporting event, premiere, or historic event — or even a collectible freebie from a fast-food restaurant — they could be your ticket to some eBay sales.

    For example, when Return of the Jedi was re-released in 1997, the first 100 people to enter each theater got a Special Edition Luke Skywalker figure. These figures are still highly prized by collectors and when the next part of the Star Wars saga was released, the prices on this figure went up yet again.