Making Money on Ephemera

I started selling family ephemera, and revenues fell to half, breaking a revenue growth trend. Needless to say, I was unhappy.  Now, nearly two months into selling off the hoard, and dehoarding, I feel a little better.

Income is climbing up.

How did this happen?  I increased the pace of my listing. It’s explained here, a little. Each new listing might reach people who have saved search terms in your new title.

Why didn’t most of this new stuff sell?

Well, selling off the hoard is like running a consignment shop.  The business model of selling off someone’s inventory is difficult.  The main thing that makes reselling from garage sales, thrift outlets, and other low-cost sources profitable is cherry picking the best items, and leaving the rest. You’re only picking the top few things from a large pile of stuff.

If you obligate yourself to listing a larger fraction of someone’s collection, most of it isn’t going to sell, unless they happened to have a collection where every item is in demand at a high price. That doesn’t often exist, at least not where I am.

Let’s consider a thrift shop outlet like the Goodwill Outlet, or Salvation Army on a sale day.

Just off the top of my head, I think less than 30% of the items at the thrift store outlets is purchased for resale. Of that, any individual is probably taking less than 1% of the total amount of “stuff” being offered.

The biggest purchasers need to have a specific, high-volume business model that is based around selling a lot of items with low profit margins.

Furthermore, these pickers are armed with extensive knowledge about market conditions, and a good sense of what can sell.

Now consider this situation with hoarded ephemera.

There’s almost no knowledge, on my part, about the market conditions.

There’s no way to “cherry pick” a hoard until you know what the contents of the hoard are. While I do know this hoard pretty well, I don’t know how the hoard’s supply intersects with the market’s demands.

Not only that, I don’t know what the seasonality of this hoarded material is. I don’t know how long things take to sell.

What is the ephemera business model?

I just saw a video about selling postcards that explains it.

It’s not exactly the same, but similar. You have a lot of inexpensive items that sell for a high price. You keep the inventory a long time, and wait for a single interested buyer.

The other key to growth is increasing the speed of listing. I’m not where I need to be yet, because it’s still challenging to list more than 30 items in one day.

Anyway, that’s where I am.  I could go on for 2,000 words, but it’s gone long enough.

Author: John

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