One of the most common questions I come across from people getting started on eBay is “what should I buy to resell?”
The short answer is “anything and everything” but this just leaves people overwhelmed and confused. It really is true that you can sell just about anything, but each person will have different circumstances that will determine what they can find to resell.
I share what I sell each month and some of my most profitable sales, but this is just what I’ve personally been able to find. You may have opportunities to get items in other categories, so I wanted to cover those in this post.
We’ll get into specific items to sell below, but when it comes down to it, what you sell on eBay will be determined by these factors:
- What items you have access to
- Your knowledge of different categories
- How much time you have to devote to eBay
- How much money you have to spend on inventory
What Items do You Have Access to?
The first and most important factor to consider is what items you have access to for reselling. There are many places to buy things for cheap that you can flip for profit. The choices I have in my area are garage sales, thrift stores, Flea markets, estate sales, auctions, discount stores, Facebook Marketplace, and liquidation businesses.
I personally like to stick to garage sales, thrift stores, flea markets, and estate sales because these places almost always have something that I can resell for a decent profit each time I go to them. I haven’t looked into buying wholesale, but that’s a route you can go if you feel like it.
If you have some good auctions in your area, these can be great sources to buy items for cheap. Lots of resellers get their entire inventory from auctions and you can usually fill up your vehicle in one day with cheap finds. I’m wanting to go to some auctions in my area and see if I can add them to my list of places to buy.
Lately, I’ve even started shopping on eBay for things to sell and it’s harder to find good deals but they’re out there if you look.
So, before you even think about buying things to resell, do some research in your area and see what options you have for places to buy things. The amount of places to find things cheap is really only limited to your imagination.
What Categories do You Have Knowledge in?
A good way to figure out what you’re knowledgeable about is to look at your hobbies and interests. I’d be surprised if there was a hobby that didn’t have a product associated with it that you could sell.
If you’re a musician, look for instruments that you can sell. Like playing video games? There’s a huge market out there for reselling games and consoles!
You can also look for items in categories you want to learn more about. I want to learn more about antiques, so I try to find old stuff that I may not be knowledgeable about but can research and learn.
Even if you weren’t interested in selling on eBay, if you just sold items in a specific category you’re interested in, you can use the profits to fund your interest and you’ll learn more about the subject through your research. Maybe you’re a gamer and could sell video games and use the profits to pay for new games you want to play.
Another thing to consider is the price you can find items for. If I come across an item that I think is worth something and it’s going to cost me less than $5, I’ll probably go ahead and buy it even if I don’t know much about it.
I try to always research items by looking them up in an eBay search and setting the filter to “sold” to see what it’s going for. Sometimes, I’m not able to do this while I’m out shopping but if I’m only paying a couple of dollars for the item I usually do pretty good guessing.
The good news is that each time you buy an item you’re unsure of and it turns out to be worth a good bit, you’ll know to look for that item in the future. The longer you do this, the easier it gets to find good stuff.
Finding good items to sell in itself is like a hobby to me because I love getting out and hunting for things as well as researching items when I get them home. If there’s a gene that causes people to enjoy hunting for things, I’d bet this gene is prominent in resellers.
Once you get that first item for a dollar and end up selling it for $50, you’re going to be hooked from here on out!
Pro tip: if you ever spend any time scrolling on your phone, watch youtube videos where people share what they’ve sold so you can learn about more items. There’s a ton of resellers on Youtube who share their knowledge!
Another thing you can do is look up eBay solds and set the price filter to $50 or whatever you want. Let’s say I want to sell hats. I can do a search for hats, set the filter to sold and price higher than $50 to see what hats are going for more than $50.
How Much Time can You Devote?
eBay is a great way to make money, but it does require you to devote time to it. Unless you’re in a position to hire someone to list for you, you’re going to have to spend time finding items, researching them, listing, and shipping once they sell.
Maybe you only have time during the evenings to shop for items. If this is the case, you might be able to pop into a thrift store or two when you get off work and hunt for stuff.
You might only be able to get out on the weekends and hit the flea markets/yard sales in the early morning hours.
Whatever the case, when you have time to shop will determine where you can shop and what items are available.
If you don’t have much time to learn a new category to sell in, you may have to stick with buying things you’re knowledgeable about until you have more time to research.
Another key factor with time is what kind of profits you can make off the items you sell. If you only have a few hours each week, it won’t make sense to buy things for a dollar that you can only sell for $10. You’ll want to only buy things that you can profit a decent amount from like $20-$100 per item.
I’d like to only sell things I can make a profit of at least $20 on myself, but I have a good bit of time so I don’t mind buying things for a dollar and selling them for $15. It takes me more time to earn a decent profit each month, but I spend very little on my inventory.
Some people are happy listing 50 $10 items a day and if you’re able to do this, more power to you. The beauty of eBay is you get to make it fit whatever works for you.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel if you don’t have much time for eBay. Let’s say you can only list 10 items a week. The items aren’t going to sell instantly, so after a few months, you may have 200 items listed and sell 25 items a month.
Your inventory will slowly grow and eventually, those items you listed a while ago will start to sell. If you just stay consistent, your sales should grow even if you don’t put more time into it.
How Much Money do You Have to Spend on Inventory?
If you’re just starting out, you may not have much money at all to buy things with. The good news is that it’s very easy to buy something really cheap and use the profits to buy more stuff to sell. I even started a challenge to take a free item and turn it into cash to use for reselling.
It’s been a success so far and now I’ve got over $100 I can use to buy things with. $100 is a lot of money when you typically buy things for less than $5 and potentially sell them for $50-$100! If you only use your profits to build your eBay business, you’ll probably have a good cash pile pretty quickly.
Money is really only a factor if you’re just starting out, or your plan is to buy higher-priced items. Depending on the category you sell in, you may look to buy something for $1,000 and sell it for $10,000.
I wouldn’t mind getting into these kinds of sales, but there’s more risk involved when you spend more and I haven’t been able to find a good niche to sell higher-priced things. You also have to worry about dealing with scammers when you sell higher-priced items.
If you want to do wholesale, it will likely take more money up front. You may be able to buy a pallet of stuff for $500 and eventually turn it into $5,000 if the items sell and they’re more valuable. I don’t particularly like the idea of selling 200 spatulas (for example) so I haven’t really looked into buying wholesale commodity items. If you’re just in it for the money, you may think differently than I.
Consider The Item Characteristics Before Buying
Once you’ve got the key factors for reselling figured out, you will also want to consider these things when buying items:
How Heavy is the Item?
The heavier the item, the harder and more expensive it will be to ship it. If possible, it’s best to sell lighter items when you’re starting out so you can learn how to ship with easier items. Because it’s more expensive to ship heavier items, it will also be more expensive if the customer decides they want to do a return (yeah, they do that sometimes).
Is it Fragile?
Another thing you might want to stay away from when you’re starting out is fragile items like glass. I’ve been pretty successful shipping fragile items so far, but a couple of things have broken during delivery. It’s best to pack things more securely than you think is necessary and over time you get better at packing. One good rule of thumb is to make sure the item can’t move around in the packaging.
What is the Condition?
I’ve sold a lot of old electronic items and I can’t always tell if something works or not. On the items I can’t fully test, I always put in the description “this item hasn’t been tested” and list it for parts only. If you try to sell something you don’t know works, you’re taking a gamble and it’s a 50/50 chance the buyer will want to return the item or give you a negative feedback.
Condition should be considered on every item you sell even if it isn’t electronic.
If there are any defects, BE SURE to make them clear in the photos and description.
Even when you clearly state the defects, there’s a chance that the buyer won’t look at the pictures or read the description and you’ll have to contact eBay to tell your side of the story.
What to Sell on eBay
Now that we’ve gone over what to consider before you ever buy something to sell, let’s go over some ideas on what to sell. Again, you can sell almost anything on eBay, so it would be impossible to list every single item in a post.
It’s definitely easier to say what you cannot sell and if you’re curious, you can check that out on eBay.
Keep in mind with the categories I’m about to list, that you can sell items in these categories from any time period. A lot of people shop for items that have sentimental value and eBay may be the only place they can find what they’re looking for.
Books are a good thing to sell on eBay but there may be a lot of competition depending on the book. I’ve had success with old textbooks and antique books. If you come across something interesting, look it up!
Although there are strong competitors to selling clothes on eBay like Poshmark, I still sell a good bit of clothing myself. I’ve had success with vintage and more rare clothing, but have also sold all kinds of stuff including wedding dresses. Vintage sports jerseys usually go for decent money and certain brands of jeans sell for good amounts as well.
Clothing is a good item to sell because you can find so much at thrift stores. Be sure to list measurements in your listings and expect to have higher amounts of returns if you sell a lot of clothes.
I sell a lot of hats and you can find them in abundance at thrift stores. Some hats can be worth hundreds! Keep an eye out for vintage John Deere and farm brand trucker hats as well as Chewing tobacco brands. Hats are just one accessory. You can do well with watches, glasses, and all sorts of other accessories.
I haven’t sold much jewelry, but I plan to start buying more of it. This category may take a little more research than others, but it can really pay off. Here’s a store of a seller who I follow that does pretty well with jewelry!
Video games are an easy category to sell in as long as you look up what the games are going for and price yours accordingly. It’s best to have a console for the type of game you’re selling so you can test the games to make sure they work.
From graphing calculators to laptops, there’s a huge market for all kinds of electronics on eBay. Be sure to test the items, or put “untested” in the title and description if you can’t test whatever you’re selling.
Think those old software discs sitting in your desk from the early 2000s are worthless? Guess again! Some old software still sells for good money, so be sure to look things up and see if you have something. Old software for Macs can sometimes go for more than $50 for example.
eBay is one of the best places to buy vintage and antique items on the internet. This means it’s also one of the best places to sell these kinds of items! If you sell a lot in this category, you may find it worth it to sign up for Worthpoint to research what items sold for in the past.
I love selling embroidered patches! They’re so light and easy to ship and they usually take very little time to research and list.
I don’t know much about art, but if you do, you can do well selling it on eBay. It may take a while to move unique items in this category but sometimes you can sell things for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
I’d say eBay is the best place on the internet to sell collectable items, but there may be a lot of competition depending on how common the item is.
I’ve sold a good bit of vintage military uniform pieces and don’t always get a lot of money, but there are lots of people out there who collect military items. If you can get items from some of the older wars, you can make big bucks.
Old tools, new tools, if you can find good deals, you can make good money selling them.
If an item has parts, chances are you can sell them on eBay! You could literally take a junk car and strip all the parts on it to list on eBay. This can be very lucrative if you can get broken items for free or really cheap and sell the individual parts.
I’ve sold all kinds of old and new household items on eBay. One good item I sold recently was a vintage toaster oven I paid $5 and sold for $80 + shipping. Don’t overlook household stuff when you’re out at thrift stores and yard sales.
Knick knacks are another big market on eBay. Most of the stuff you come across will probably be worthless, but I always keep an eye out for anything that looks interesting/unique. I’ve done really well with Franklin Mint stuff.
Another very broad category that you can do well in if you find good deals.
I don’t think you can sell used cosmetics, but you might find brand new stuff that is worth a good bit.
I don’t have much knowledge in this category, but like anything else, you can make good money on certain items. Just make sure you find out if an item has been recalled or not before you list it.
Antique toys are great sellers but you can even find brand new items in retail stores that are on clearance and sell them for more on eBay if you’re so inclined.
Not only do certain whole board games sell for good money, but you can also sell individual pieces. I made several hundred dollars selling pieces to a collector’s edition Franklin Mint Monopoly game board.
Car accessories new and used can sell for good money.
Some of the items in this category sell for lots of money new, which means people will be looking to buy it cheaper used. Lots of people have stuff in this category just sitting around in their garages that they want to get rid of and you can flip for nice profits.
I recently sold a vintage Christmas advent calendar for $65 and I gave less than $2. People will buy seasonal items at any time during the year so don’t be afraid to list out of season items.
Some Disney stuff goes for lots of money since it’s such a popular brand. You can do particularly well with vintage Disney items that are harder to find.
I've sold several half-used bottles of old perfume/cologne for more than $50. If the fragrance isn’t being made anymore, chances are you can sell it for good money.
The Bottom Line
I could go on for days listing all of the different categories that you can sell in but I wanted to give a broad idea of things you can look out for. You really just have to look up stuff to see what it’s going for and learn more and more as you go. Over time, you will be able to find something good pretty much every time you go shopping.
If you need more tips for selling, check out this post.
You can see what I sell each month in this series.
Have a question? Hop over to the Facebook group and join the conversation.
Have you sold something for good money in a category I didn't list? Share it in the comments!
Nathan has been a personal finance writer since early 2018. He and his wife reached a net worth of one hundred thousand at the age of 25 and are on their way to financial independence. His favorite way to make money is selling things on eBay and has grown his eBay business to earn five figures selling part-time. He loves sharing what he learns about finance and any eBay tips he comes across. If you’re interested in becoming an eBay seller, check out his reseller Facebook group.