Sourcing Undervalued Goods on eBay

Learn to mine for those diamonds in the rough and resell them for profit.

by Dennis L. Prince
- Feb 17, 2011

Surely you've seen items up for sale or bid on eBay that were significantly undervalued. Was there a problem with an item that caused it to be selling so cheaply, or did a seller make a mistake that prevented the product from gaining its rightful price?

Whichever the situation, here's how you can benefit from undervalued goods that are simply begging you to remarket them for your own profit. Included here is an actual situation that illustrates the remarketing method, while outlining what you should do to ensure your goods never go undervalued.

Unearthing the gems

It's true—eBay is still an excellent source of undervalued goods that you can easily resell for tidy profits. Yes, it has long been a vital venue for selling goods to a worldwide market, but it has also been a fertile picking ground for sourcing items that will provide a healthy return on investment—if you know how.

Every day, smart sellers (arguably, resellers) find misrepresented or poorly marketed items that seem to flounder and flail on the virtual auction block, never capturing bidders' attention nor their bids. When this happens, such goods never garner their true value in the online marketplace. To a savvy seller, these are the diamonds in the rough that can be mined, and for rewarding results.

The fact is some less-seasoned or less-motivated sellers continue to offer items for bid or purchase without performing much market research, thereby failing to effectively present their items. In a case study that follows, you'll read of a whimsical little offering on eBay that went virtually unnoticed (except by me), and how it resulted in highly profitable remarketing campaign.

Beyond the misspelling in the listing title, there wasn't an image of the actual item

Case study: The Frito Bandito

There are plenty of examples I could cite of how I mined eBay and uncovered undervalued goods. This particular example is the most simple and direct demonstration of the concept—and it's fun, too.

While mining eBay listings, I stumbled upon a rather silly little item that plucked a nostalgic string within me. It was a listing for a collection of Frito Bandito pencil-top erasers, the sort that kids collected from snack-sized bags of Fritos corn chips during the late 1960s. Although I found several listings for these nifty little pieces of advertising yesteryear (albeit sorely politically incorrect today), most for single erasers, and most selling for about $10 to $15 each, one compelling listing was seemingly going unnoticed by bidders.

I had searched using an intentional misspelling, "bandeeto," and discovered a listing for nine of these erasers, of various colors, all in excellent unused condition. The opening bid was only $19—a remarkable bargain for nine items, considering the aforementioned single-eraser value. Yet, there were no bids!

Beyond the misspelling in the listing title (the seller's first major misstep), there wasn't an image of the actual erasers (second big blunder). After a quick e-mail to the seller, I learned the set consisted of some of the more difficult colors to locate, the sort that impassioned collectors would be eager to own.

To make a long story short, I won the auction at a final price of just $29. One other low-balling bidder discovered the hidden gems, too. From a collector's perspective, this was a great find of an undervalued collectible item—but it became a profitable find, too.

Time to remarket

With the erasers in that lot costing less than $3 each, it would be easy to profit from a remarketed listing. However, using a bit more creative selling, the erasers proved to exceed my profit expectations. To remarket them, here are the steps I took:

  1. Through easy online research, I gathered an image of the Frito Bandito character, plus some history of his short-lived role as Fritos pitchman (and this is what adds to his collectability).
  2. Research also revealed which colors were the more difficult to locate, and which were most common. But rather than list each individually, I chose to bundle them into sets of three erasers, one of a rare color along with two of the common colors.
  3. Using simple HTML, I included an image of the Bandito in the new listing, and provided some of his history. Naturally, I included clear images of the erasers up for bid.
  4. Lastly, knowing the current market value of the erasers, I set the opening bid at the value of just a single eraser ($15) to incite bidding activity.

With that, the Frito Bandito was ready to rustle up some profits. The initial set of three erasers I listed earned a final bid of $89. I guess I made out like a bandit, huh?

Research the market for your goods—not once, but regularly—to ensure you can get the best prices

Tips for avoiding undervalued sales

While the foregoing case study illustrates how you can be successful in remarketing undervalued goods, here are the steps you should take to ensure your goods don't become another seller's diamonds in the rough:

  • Research the market for your goods—not once, but regularly—to ensure you can gain the best prices for what you'll offer.
  • Identify distinguishing characteristics or desirable qualities about your items and make those plainly visible (in text and with images) within your listings.
  • Take care to avoid misspellings in your listings. If, however, you discover common misspellings that occur for such an item, try to include that within your item description to draw in buyers who might be searching with that misspelling.
  • Pace your listings. If you have several desirable items, avoid listing them in rapid succession. Rather, pause for a couple of weeks between listings to help keep the perception of rarity alive in eager buyers' minds.
  • Yes, there's typically profit potential when you discover undervalued items amid the tens of millions of listings on eBay. The next time you see such a listing, ponder whether it would benefit from a better marketing approach. If so, consider snatching up the unpolished diamond in front of you, then practice a bit of profitable remarketing.

    About the Author

    Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.

    Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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