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Finding Low-Cost Treasures to Sell

How to find small, everyday bargains that can translate to big profits on eBay.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You've read the success stories, and now you're ready to move from eBay buyer to eBay seller. The challenge is finding products to sell that people will buy, preferably at a premium price.

Start the search under your own roof, scanning your closets, rummaging around in your garage and opening those long-forgotten boxes in the attic.

Once you've exhausted these options, consider your own skills and interests for ideas on finding product. Tim Stallard, 35, and Todd McGohan, 40, made their golf addiction the link to a successful business, (eBay User ID: proshopwarehouse), which had about $10 million in sales last year. They began by selling their own used golf equipment. Satisfied with the response, they turned next to their network of golf enthusiasts for more supply. The first stop was a golf pro shop at a local country club, where a friend sold them $5,000 worth of liquidated equipment. "From there, we started looking for more people we knew in the golf business," Stallard says. The effort stretched from the company's base in Franklin, Ohio, to other areas of the state and beyond.

Product sources are only as limited as your imagination. A friend eager to be rid of a dusty record collection could turn into an eBay windfall. More traditional sources are garage sales, thrift shops, going-out-of-business sales, real estate and storage site auctions, and even junkyards. "You can make an extra $500 to $1,000 a month going to garage sales and thrift shops," says Skip McGrath, eBay PowerSeller and principal of Vision-One Press in Anacortes, Washington, which publishes McGrath's newsletter and books about eBay. "Virtually anything sells."

It helps to be a shopaholic with a knack for finding deals like Margaret Demopoulos, 40, of Durham, New Hampshire (eBay User ID: goatbeard). She haunts local retailers and outlets looking for deeply discounted items, reasoning that the greater discount, the greater the potential profit. One past success was with LeapPads, a children's educational toy, bought for $9 each and sold for $21 each on eBay.

Sun W. Kim, 30, recognized an eBay opportunity in a bucket full of computer cables at a Los Angeles flea market. He paid 50 cents a cable and sold them on eBay for $10 each. Another flea market visit turned up older versions of the popular Crystal Reports business reporting software in unopened packages for $2 each that Kim sold for an average of $350 each. Kim (eBay User ID: tekgems) has since started sourcing straight from manufacturers (check out "Bigger Deals" on page 52). His San Francisco company, TekGems, grossed $300,000 in 2004.

Marsha Collier, author of Starting an eBay Business for Dummies, and her daughter Susan used their knowledge of the fashion world to take advantage of $450 Fendi handbags selling for $200 at Costco. They sold for $350 each on eBay. Says Collier, "Most success stories on eBay are from people who sell what they know."

Find It Online

Where to go to source products online:

Source: Starting an eBay Business for Dummies, Marsha Collier

Julie Monahan is a writer in Seattle whose articles on small business and emerging technology have appeared in numerous consumer and trade magazines.