The Thousand-Dollar Principle

Turning your pile of ‘junk’ into big money on eBay

by Dennis L. Prince
- Mar 14, 2008

"Would you take $1,000 for that pile of junk?" Isn't this what we'd all love to experience—someone approaching us and offering big money for a box or bag of our unwanted stuff? Well, while such one-shot windfalls could be few and far between, there is another way to garner handsome returns on items you've likely grown tired of storing and stepping over.

When you understand and apply this technique of "divide and prosper," you'll discover you have an easy thousand dollars (and likely more) readily at hand. And, if ever you lament that you don't have anything good to sell on eBay, apply the principle outlined here to discover you could be knee-deep in a small fortune.

An easy grand—one dead president at a time

This thousand-dollar principle is based upon the same concept as the compounding of monthly living expenses, only in reverse. Just as your personal budget is made up of numerous smaller expenses that inevitably tally up to a sizable sum, so too can you amass a substantial gain when you offer up individual items at low prices within eBay—items you once believed were completely useless. Don't fret that individual goods might only sell for less than $20 each but, rather, project ahead to see what their collective sum can become after just a couple weeks' worth of listings. If you think this sounds so simple, it is!

A true story, caught on video

Much of what you're tempted to throw away can be easily converted into cash with little effort and potentially great reward

To illustrate this principle, consider my previous experience when cleaning out an aging video collection. The usually low-value VHS tapes and now-outdated laserdiscs I had accumulated over the years had lost their usefulness to me, after having upgraded to DVD. These typical garage sale giveaways, when listed on eBay for low starting bids of just 99 cents each, garnered some active bidding to the tune of over $500. This was just the first stop on my clean-up-and-cash-in crusade with plenty more cupboards, closets and storage nooks harboring similar cash-bearing castoffs.

The high value of low-cost items

These days, folks across the nation and around the world are minding their expenses carefully, especially when it concerns discretionary spending. Small indulgences, however, are still sought out, be they for entertainment value, nostalgic appeal, or just as great bargains too good to pass by. When you offer lower-cost goods within eBay, you're better enabled to make a sale to individuals who are shopping on the cheap. Forget about trying to make one big sale to a single buyer and, instead, look to satisfy the desires of several different folks, making your money a few dollars at a time.

A new way to look at your old trash

The real key to this thousand-dollar principle rests with your ability to make good money with what you might consider "bad stuff." As noted, much of what you're tempted to throw away can be easily converted into cash with little effort and potentially great reward. Besides the video example previously mentioned, you'll discover the following unlikely items are also in steady demand:

  • Old books. While not all books you have stuffed away could be collectible gems, you might find that some obscure books (frequently the older paperbacks) are the sort of odd titles for which buyers are enthusiastically searching and bidding upon. Condition matters so, if the books are in "gently used" condition, list them for auction.

  • Old magazines and magazine pages. Collect up those back issues and list them singly with compelling opening prices. If the magazines' spines have deteriorated but the pages themselves still look good, consider auctioning some of the interior content on its own. Vintage ads (from the 1970s and earlier) are regularly sold for $5, $10 and more for each page, grabbed up by collectors who are eager to frame and display such great nostalgic pieces.

  • Old products and product packaging. Did you know that eBay folks are actively bidding handsomely for things like empty milk cartons and TV dinner trays and boxes? Again, vintage products are a top draw and are bringing in big bids.

  • Before you toss grandpa's ancient monkey wrench and wood planes, think about letting the tool collectors at eBay take a look first

  • Bottles and glassware. Aside from antique glassware (which is always in high demand) seemingly simple items like milk bottles, peanut butter jars, and soda pop bottles are big treasures to collectors these days.

  • Vinyl records. You might be surprised to learn that original LPs and 45s are seeing a resurgence of demand these days. Naturally, big names like Elvis, The Beatles and others can command the highest dollars, but even more obscure artists and titles can find eager buyers in the auction place. Condition is everything, so take this into account as you prepare your discs for the bidders.

  • Tools and hardware. Before you toss grandpa's ancient monkey wrench and wood planes, think about letting the tool collectors at eBay take a look first. This, incidentally, is the sort of stuff that gets nabbed for mere pennies at neighborhood garage sales and turned over for fast fortunes by savvy shoppers.

  • Vintage technology. One of the newest collectible categories to arise in our high-tech lifestyle comprises original technology goods such as early video game consoles, LED wristwatches and calculators, and even cell phones. If you have an old PONG machine, an early Armitron LED wristwatch, or even a bulky cell phone from the 1980s, dust those goods off and put them on the auction block.

These are just a few examples of the sorts of things some folks might regard as trash but which savvy eBay sellers recognize as treasure. Of course, don't expect all of your unwanted goods to be the sorts of things the masses are clamoring for, but before you indifferently lug another box of stuff to the curbside, apply this thousand-dollar principle to determine if there are bankable assets at your feet. Research eBay's listings, current and completed, to guide you in your assessment of your items' value. You might be happily surprised to find you've been kicking around $1,000 worth of "junk."

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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