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A Guide to Selling Miniatures on Ebay

Based on content from this forum thread.


Dividing up your Miniatures

Divide what you are selling into sensible lots. Individual figures have too much overhead (fees and shipping) to make money on anything not (truly) pro-painted or insanely rare. On the other hand, giant lots will generally go for far less then the sum of the parts because hardly anybody wants everything in a lot. Ideal lots are squads, individual vehicles, etc.

The only exception to this is an army that is currently a "hot build" (like a Godzilla army), well-painted and completely ready to play as-is. Full package, ready-to-play armies like this can definitely earn more than selling the units individually.

Selling painted miniatures can be tricky. You really need to evaluate your painting honestly. Even adequate paint jobs will often sell for less then the original cost of the miniatures. You are really only guaranteed to get good money back if you are actually a good painter. So if your painting isn't good you may just want to strip those miniatures down and sell them like that. I can not stress this point enough as it can really cost you some money. Just because you spent a lot of time and effort to paint your miniatures doesn't mean you are going to see any return on it.

For really old and rare stuff, items so rare that there is not a lot of traffic for them on eBay, prices are very hard to judge. Keep in mind that truly out-of-production (as in, haven't been available in any retail form for at least a few years) will almost always only go a for a few bucks, although depending on the demand they can go for more. Searching Ebay first (as described below) is a definite must when selling rare or out of production items.


Look Before You Leap

Almost nothing will sell for what you think it will. Some things will be higher, some lower, but eBay, even with a seven day auction, is lightning in a bottle. If 3 people each want your item a lot, the price goes really high. If two of those bought a similar item last week, the price for guy three is lower.

So before you consider creating an auction, check the market first. Do a search to see if similar auctions have been completed recently and if so, how much they went for. This can give you a rough estimate of what you can expect from your auction. Although, be warned that no two auctions (even for the same item) are guaranteed to be the same. If three people each want your item a lot, the price will go really high. However, if two of those bought a similar item last week (and therefore aren't willing to bid very high), ultimately the price for guy three is going to be lower.

When doing your search, you may find a very similar collection has sold recently and there are disappointed bidders. I got rid of a bunch of Judge Dredd stuff that way -- I found the just closed auction, contacted the losing bidder and alerted him to my auction. Then I put my figures up for a Buy Now price the same as what he missed the other lot for.

As a general rule, the ranking of sale price, highest to lowest, goes like this: (truly)Pro-painted > New in box (NIB) > Well Painted > Stripped > Primed > Poorly painted. If miniatures are painted to match an existing army paint scheme (like a famous codex space marine chapter such as Ultramarines) they will tend to sell better than minis painted to the same standards but with a random home-brew paint scheme. This is because there are obviously more Ultramarine players out there than there are people who want a squad of marines in some random paint scheme. Something like a greater daemon can be pretty much whatever color it wants and it is fine, but a squad of marines painted up in a day-glo orange color scheme is of no use to most people, or at least not more than primed/bare plastic.


Setting Up Your Auction


Pictures

Always take good pictures and provide complete descriptions/inventories. If a buyer knows exactly what's in there, he'll bid more. If people can't see it they are less likely to buy it (or if they do they will pay less for it).

This is extremely important. Even if you really are an award-winning painter, if you take pictures of your minis on your coffee table under regular house light-bulbs, using default settings on your camera, they will look terrible and you will not sell anything. Take some time to learn how your camera works, buy some good "Daylight" color spectrum bulbs, and place a clean backdrop under and behind your subject. Remember, if you're trying to sell something, you have to use a little presentation and salesmanship!

Auction Timing

Consider the time of the year when selling items on ebay. Ebay gets considerably more traffic and spending towards Christmas time (from August onwards). In January, many people sell their unwanted Christmas presents causing a downward trend in prices. February is traditionally the worst month of the year to sell anything as that is when people's Christmas debts are generally due to be paid. When the weather is warmer (summer and late spring), people tend to not use the Internet as much, causing a reduction in ebay traffic as well.

The time of the month should also be considered. Putting up your items so that they cover the end of the month and the start of the next month will match when most people receive their pay from work, slightly increasing ebay's traffic, and therefore increasing the odds of a good sale for you.

Ebay auctions end the same time of day you start them, so unless you want to pay an extra fee to have your auction start at a particular time (a bad idea) you are going to want to start your auction at a time of day when people are awake and can be near their computers. This is because last second bidding wars are the best way to make more money and the best way to entice a last second bidding war is to have the auction end at a day and time when people are awake and online. Also, the longer your auction is online, the greater chance you have for people to find it and become interested in it, so you should always go for the longest Ebay auction available (seven days).

Since you should always do a seven day auction and the auction ends the same time of day as when you start it, whatever day of the week and time of day you start your auction is the same time it will end a week later. I find that starting/ending my Ebay auctions on a Sunday at around 5pm PST (or 8pm EST) is the best bet. This gives people all week long at their computers at work to find your auction and then has the auction end at a nice reasonable time (in the US) for all timezones to participate. Obviously if your target audience is another country you would have to adjust your timetable sufficiently.


Listing Your Auction

Be honest about what you are selling. Especially the condition or any damage that has been done. It is better to under-price something then to have a starting price that is too high. Remember you want to get bidding started. If the models are still in print, mention the current cost and contrast how cheap yours are. Make sure you include the required model bases.

Be extra careful when typing your title. Ebay thankfully recognizes 40k and 40,000 as the same thing, but "Warhammer" and "Warhamer" are not. I have gotten some dirt cheap minis by virtue of searching for misspellings!


A Note on "Propainted" Miniatures

"Propainted", to me (and MANY other people I know/have talked to), is the first sign to skip that auction. Everybody and their mother thinks their stuff is "propainted" and they list it as such. Generally, I have found that either;

  • The seller is lying. He put "propainted" in the title to garner more hits.
  • The seller is stupid. The models are not very good or table-top standards at best. Either way, I can paint better than most "propainted" auctions I see. I am no where near a "pro."
  • The miniature is actually painted to standard that exceeds most people's skill with a brush. This truly is a professional-looking paintjob.

In all three cases, "propainted" is a death sentence for your auction, in my book. Even in the third case above, the model is likely too expensive to be worth it for me. I prefer to paint my own stuff anyway!


'Cheap' Miniatures

Another thing to avoid: using the word "Cheap!!!!!!" to advertise your auctions. It's an auction, you have no control over the final price, only the initial bid. The only reason to advertise the item as cheap is either: if you're selling multiple lots and want to sell them all, or to increase the final price of a single lot, at which point it hopefully won't be cheap. it's a self defeating prophecy.

It also takes us back to bad old days of eBay, when people would bulk buy Cd-roms full of crappy programs, and list them endlessly on ebay for like, $7. The auction title usually looked like "676 PROGRAMS-GAMES!!!!! CD-ROM!!!! CHEAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Seriously though, don't insult your audience. The people buying OOP GW figs off of eBay know what they're buying and know how to buy on eBay. Tricks and smoke and mirrors won't help you.


Shipping

Once the stuff is sold make sure you pack it nicely and dispatch it quickly. Keep in touch with your buyers -- it helps to build a good reputation.

If shipping from the US, get free priority boxes from USPS, and for smaller items use First Class and ship in Trading card boxes (they cost about 50 cents each in bulk). Shipping to other countries is a great way to make more money and have more bidders, but it does greatly increase the shipping hassle and it increases the risk of fraud. Some shippers do not provide delivery confirmation outside of the US and the more stops a package makes the greater the chance of it getting lost. So ultimately you have to make the decision for yourself whether or not it is worth it to ship outside of the country.

I have started an auction before planning on only shipping to the US (my country), but during the auction I was then contacted by a buyer out of the country who had a great Ebay rep who was interested in my lot. I sent him a message back saying it would be fine for him to bid on the item. He won the auction and everything went well!

When you ship always get delivery confirmation. If you are paid through paypal this is the only way to protect yourself. I passed the additional $.55 off to the customer. Again this was very clear in my adds. Always do registered delivery on big sales and overseas sales. There is no protection from eBay, PayPal or the Post Office if your shipment gets lost, if you do not have the registered delivery. Again, some shippers (like the USPS) do not have delivery confirmation when shipping overseas so you may well want to consider shipping with another carrier who does for any overseas shipping.


Shipping & Handling Fees

This is a touchy subject for some people. There are those who feel it is very important to only charge a very modest shipping and handling fee.

However, I would respectfully disagree. Ebay allows you to add an extra surcharge to your Shipping and Handling fee. Whatever the total shipping cost you decide upon (including the surcharge) is clearly listed in the auction, so any buyer with half a brain can and will see the total $ amount they are going to be paying for shipping on top of the auction price.

The fact is, this charge is for shipping and HANDLING. "Handling" represents the money it costs to purchase a box, including any foam or packing peanuts you use, tape, etc. It also includes the time and effort it takes to do all this, drive to your post office and mail out the package.

When I first started selling stuff on Ebay, my shipping charge was only the cost of the materials was, but I found out very quickly that the time and effort spent along with the fees that Ebay charges you means that I was ending up getting very little actual profit.

To me, the shipping&handling fee is a basic charge that represents the effort that the seller has to go through to get the item to the shipper and this includes all of the effort involved in setting up an online auction and executing it. Adding an extra $5 or $10 to a substantial auction really is not a big deal because that charge is clearly listed to all potential buyers. They are aware of it and are okay buying that item knowing they will be paying that charge.

So my recommendation is to use the extra shipping and handling charge feature to make sure that you're actually making some money off of Ebay. Obviously, the more expensive/big the item your selling, the more appropriate a larger handling fee is. But in the end, no matter what your handling charge, if people are willing to pay that fee, there really isn't anything wrong with it.



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