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Is your stuff worth thousands on eBay?

I sold a little plastic baseball guy for a startling sum. Are you sitting on a gold mine?

By Donna_Freedman Mar 1, 2012 3:01PM

Bob Feller funded my Roth IRA. Part of it, anyway. One of the items I got from my divorce's community-property split in 2006 was a Hartland Figurine of the Cleveland Indians legend.

I always meant to put it on eBay. The closest I got was taking the box out of a closet and setting it on the couch to remind myself to sell it. That was probably two years ago.

Last month, I finally put the statuette up for online auction -- and it sold for an amount that frankly startled me.

That little piece of molded plastic earned me $1,200. Yes, I said $1,200.

At left is a picture I snapped of ol' Bob to use with the eBay listing. The statuette is extremely rare. It's estimated that only 25 were produced. A Bob Feller Hartland previously sold for $1,875 on eBay, but that one was in a mint-condition box. The one I had wasn't.

Even so . . . Twelve. Hundred. Dollars. I might have gotten even more, but I self-limited by making $1,200 the "buy it now" price. Rookie error. 


Extra cash comes in handy
Take a minute to look through your own belongings. Have something you've outgrown, no longer collect or can just plain live without? Somebody else might want it.

Toys and collectibles sell well, but just about anything goes on eBay. Skim through current listings and you'll see auctions of everything from bat guano to bronzed baby shoes.

The eBay seller information center will walk you through the basics. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you start:
  • Your stuff may not be as valuable as you think; compare it with current and completed listings on eBay.
  • Factor in the fees you'll pay to eBay and PayPal, as well as your shipping costs.
  • Remember that your item might not sell right away, so decide whether relisting would be worth it.

You probably won't get rich. But the extra cash can be used to pay down debt, build an emergency fund, buy something you need or want, or help pay for a trip.

Selling stuff is also a good way to de-clutter. Not only is one-fifth of this year's Roth IRA now taken care of, I no longer have to share a couch with Bob Feller.

Ever sold on eBay? How did it go? What did you use the money for?

More on MSN Money:

Mar 8, 2012 1:16PM
Let me fix the title: "Is your stuff worth thousands TO eBay?" There is a reason the site is known to many (mostly those that use, or have used it) as GreedBay, FeeBay, and EvilBay just to name a few. If you do try and make THEM some money, be prepared to have PayPal (also owned by eBay) jammed down your throat, funds held back from you for 21 or more days, sellers that can get you thrown off because of the one-sided feedback/DSR system, terrible customer service, being charged fees on what YOU pay the Post Office, and being manipulated by buyers that know how to play the system leaving you the victim.

Before buying or selling anything, do a search and find out they are not the best deal in town; eBay fees (often 15% and more) are added to every cent you are paid. That $1200 dollars mentioned above is more like $1000 and change after you get soaked for listing fees, selling fees, PayPay fees, and shipping fees. Go to their discussion boards, and study what you are up against. Rule of thumb is don't sell anything worth more than what you are willing to loose...

Mar 13, 2012 9:15AM

I used to sell on eBay and made money. Sold two Ping golf balls for $220. I liked them because they were colorful. Their color brought me lots of green.

A $2 box of car books I aquired from an estate auction brought me $1500.

Haven't sold for years and am leery of selling again. You have listing fees, selling fees, forced to deal with Paypal that takes a cut and a payment cut from the shipping fee. The seller can't leave anything other than Positive Feedback so a buyer can use feedback extortion as a lever. You know, "give me a few dollars back or I'll give you negative feedback."

Selling on eBay used to be fun..... no longer.

Mar 13, 2012 11:58AM
No disrespect meant to the author, but I'm very tired of reading this type of article that sings the praises of eBay, rather than exposing what is REALLY going on there. I've been selling on eBay for about 12 years, and in the past I would have recommended eBay as a way to make extra money. But due to changes eBay has made to the site since 2008, I now feel the need to warn people against it.

When you sold your figurine Ms. Freedman, I'm sure you noticed that you essentially must use eBay-owned Paypal as your payment processor to sell on eBay.  But are you aware that a buyer has up to 45 days to file a claim through Paypal claiming that an item is "significantly not as described"? eBay almost always sides with the buyer, forces the seller to refund, and the buyer is supposed to return the item... but there is nothing stopping them from sending back a damaged item, or even a box of rocks or a brick. So the seller is then out both the item and the money, and to top it off, this buyer could also leave a negative comment on the seller's public feedback profile. The feedback and ratings are used by eBay to determine whether a seller receives a discount on fees, where the seller's items will rank in search results, etc. And sellers are no longer allowed to leave negative feedback for buyers, so you wouldn't even be able to warn others that the "buyer" is a scammer.

As someone previously commented, a good rule of thumb is to never sell something on eBay that you cannot afford to lose. But there are a few other things people should know in order to protect themselves. Paypal sometimes holds sellers' money up to 21 days... new sellers are often subjected to this, as well as people selling in what eBay deems a "high risk" category, or for other reasons they come up with seemingly on a whim (Paypal also earns interest on this held money, incidentally).

One other very important thing... always send packages to buyers using USPS delivery confirmation (or whatever tracking is offered by other carriers). On items selling for more than $250, you must require signature confirmation. Otherwise a buyer can file a claim with Paypal saying they didn't receive their item, and get a full refund.

And for anyone that is looking to make some extra cash selling their unwanted items, there are some promising ecommerce websites springing up on the internet. Just do a Google search for "eBay alternatives".

Mar 13, 2012 1:09PM
Before listing a product, make sure you look up the model of the article (if it has one), and look under COMPLETED listings. THIS is where you find out its true value. People can list something for what ever they want, it certainly doesn't mean that is whats its selling for. Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.
Mar 13, 2012 3:18PM
I've been selling on eBay  for over 10 years. Not because I want to, but because I have to, at least for now.  It used to be a pretty good site to sell almost anything. Not only does eBay charge fees to list, they charge a percentage when it sells and now they charge a percentage of what you're charging for shipping.   They think this is a solution for the sellers who charge astronomical numbers for shipping.  It's not working.  And, then let's not forget their backup plan, their cash cow.  PayPal. They also get a cut.  So, you didn't make $1200 on that sale. Add it up, or more accurately, subtract it down.  My monthly fees have DOUBLED in the last 6 months without a rise in sales. Figure that one out.  It's discouraging.

My master plan right now is to list a few things on other sites, just to get a feel for what else is out there. I'm also selling off most of my inventory and moving away from eBay.  Their customer service is a joke.

And, what I've noticed no one talking about.  PayPal finally gave in to the government pressure and is reporting your earnings each year.  Check the info.  You'll be paying taxes on that $1200 next tax season.   Fun yet?

eBay does have the most market presence, but at the rate they're driving the company into the's not got the presence and clout it used to.

If, after all that, you still want to give it a go, make sure to put "worry" on the list hoping your buyer isn't a con artist, or claims 2 weeks from now they never got the item even if the Delivery Confirmation shows it was delivered. 

Good luck with that.
Mar 13, 2012 3:50PM

Everyone i scomplaining about the Ebay fees.  Well, you have to take into the account all the

exposure you get on ebay.  AND...they let you list 50 auction style items for free each month!

If you think you're not makin enough on ebay start the auction with what you want to get for the

item and if it goes up then good for you.  At least you got what you think you deserve for it.  Hey, ebay has to make money...after all they are our avenue to sell.  Take your stuff to a flea market and sell it and see what you practically have to give it away.

Mar 13, 2012 11:07PM
I agree with everyone else here about eBay. It used to be a wonderful site but the cons far outweigh the pros these days. It's just too expensive to be considered a frugal way of making money. I still buy things on eBay occasionally because you can still get great deals on stuff. I know it sucks for sellers though. They are at more risk than the buyers, and I am saying this as a person who sells on Amazon & I've never sold on eBay because by the time I wanted to try to sell off some of my things, eBay had enforced their "PayPal Only" rule. :/
Mar 13, 2012 7:20PM
I've been selling on eBay for 8 years.  I'm a stay at home mom and it's been a great way to supplement our income in my free time, on my terms.  I've sold baby gear, maternity clothes, books, cds, dvds, tons of toys, my kids' outgrown clothing, wedding and Christmas gifts we didn't want, etc.   Some months I list quite a few things, some months nothing at all.   I've made enough money every year to pay for my kids' Christmas and fund a couple of camping trips every summer.  Although I know people who have had problems and huge hassles with eBay,  I am lucky enough to have never had a dud transaction with a buyer, have 100% positive feedback,  and have never had a hassle with PayPal or eBay. 

Although it has changed over the years and is less attractive and fair to small-medium size sellers than it used to be, I think eBay is still a great place to make a little money selling.  That said, I'd like to see some of the eBay alternatives grow and be more like the friendly and fun place to sell eBay used to be.

Mar 12, 2012 4:08PM
@Yamanatic: That wasn't my experience. I'm sorry yours was so difficult. I still think that eBay can help a lot of people make money by putting them in touch with buyers they might never have found otherwise.

Mar 4, 2012 6:31PM

WOW....$1200....I'm very impressed. I have never had such luck on Craigslist. I've never sold on eBay...might have to look into it. I have a Joe Montana figurine with COA that I would take $1200 for...I'd even pay the shipping...LOL. Very interesting article..



Mar 13, 2012 4:39PM

eBay is great for selling collectibles because there's no other easy way to reach the pool of potential buyers, especially for something you have no clue how to find buyers otherwise.


Sure they have their fees, but so do auction houses (try finding one that will take your item on commissions charged by eBay) and then the audience is usually limited to those who go to the sale or find out about it through the much lower traffic website.


There aren't that many bad-apple buyers as other posters here lead you to believe.  In fact I've found the collectibles category to be very clean - buyers usually are bonafide, pay promptly and don't play games with the seller.   I suppose there is a lower batting average in other categories.


The best advice given here is seaching ended auctions to find the market value of your item.  It may very well not be worth your time.  I have a record collection which I have a feeling is not valuable.   I have a few other things that I do believe have more potential.


The biggest thing with selling on eBay is *time*.  It's very time consuming to do sales there.  BTDT.  Most people gravely underestimate it.  I have a whole shelving unit devoted to stuff I'll eBay *someday*.  It's still full!  Many of us may be simply better off giving the stuff away after doing some basic market value research.

Mar 13, 2012 11:13PM
@DebbieA: I would have been paying taxes on the amount anyway, because I would have reported it as income whether or not PayPal sent a 1099.

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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.