Alison successfully ran an online eBay shop for several years selling ceramics and other items—many of which were found at car boot sales!
Can You Earn Money From Home?
The buying and selling of collectibles is fun for me mainly because it is an interest I share with my husband and one we can enjoy together. It is profitable because we have both learned a lot about the subject over the years and know what sells and where to sell it. We keep an eye on price trends on eBay and in auction catalogs to help ourselves out.
When looking for ways to earn money from home, there are lots of articles written about get-rich-quick schemes and those 'surefire' ways to make a ton of money with almost zero effort!
For me, these schemes have never been of interest! Since retiring, I have pursued two main income streams, both of which are based on my two main hobby interests. The first is from writing, and the second is from buying and selling pottery, porcelain and resin collectible figurines, animals and decorative items.
This Advice Applies to Whatever You Want to Sell
My interest is in the types of collectibles I have already mentioned, but you can apply these tips to just about anything that people like to collect. I have friends who buy and sell Star Wars figurines, old comics, board games, teddy bears—so whatever you are interested in, it is very likely that there will be many other people interested in the same things.
If you think that buying and reselling might be a hobby that you could turn into a small (or even a large) income, here are a few tips to get you started!
- Where to Buy Collectibles
- What to Look for: Finding Collectibles That Will Sell
- How to Choose Quality Pieces in Top Condition
- Examples of What I Buy and Sell
1. Where to Buy Collectibles
- Car Boot Sales or Yard Sales: My number one source of suitable items for selling at a nice profit is still car boot sales here in the UK. In the US, I believe you call them Yard sales.
- Charity Shops: These are also a great source of interesting items. However, I have two reservations. Firstly, prices are much more aligned to actual market value these days, with charities hiring professional advisers or knowledgeable people volunteering their services. Secondly, I would feel bad buying an item from a charity shop that was seriously under-priced—I would want to tell them the actual value of the item so that they could make more money for their cause!
- Auctions: Auction sales are great fun, and if you haven't been before, they are a great way to buy items for resale. Buying job lots can throw up some surprising 'treasure trove', and even if you only choose to sell a couple of items out of a lot, it can be very profitable. You also have the option of selling the rest of the items at car boot sales too—which can be a nice way of bumping up your profit margins.
- Classified Advertisements: The classifieds are also a good source of items if you are looking for specific things to resell. Sometimes whole collections of porcelain or figurines are advertised, and it is a good way to get a nice lot of stock at a reasonable price.
2. What to Look for: Finding Collectibles That Will Sell
For a beginner, eBay is a wonderful way to learn. If you have an eBay account, you can interrogate 'completed' listings to find out what people have been selling and 'sold' listings to find out the prices realised.
eBay is also a great resource for finding out which particular models in a series sell best and achieve the highest values. For example, take a look at the lovely set of Camberwick Green collectible figurines I bought (see photo above). These are by Robert Harrop, a name I know to sell in several different series he has created. I bought this set for £10 (around $16 to $17) and know that I can sell them individually.
Art pottery and studio pottery are very popular but often heavy to post, and this is a big consideration when selling on eBay.
Scandinavian art pottery sometimes goes for exceptional prices and still turns up regularly at car boot sales and auction sales because people simply have not done their homework.
I bought this beautiful Swedish Tilgmans Pottery lamp base (see photo above) at a local auction for £12 ($20) as no one else seemed to want it. I absolutely love it, and this is one collectible that will not be finding its way onto eBay. Of course, this is one of the dangers—you end up wanting to keep the stock!
3. How to Choose Quality Pieces in Top Condition
Whatever you buy, buy quality pieces in perfect or near-perfect condition. On higher value or rare items, collectors may be happy to pay a reasonable price for an item that needs a little restoration as this still offers them a considerable saving on the 'perfect' price. On items that sell for only a few pounds when perfect, it really is not worth considering buying anything less than perfection as you will lose money.
Tips for Checking the Condition of Items
Check every item you buy very carefully.
- Run your finger round the rims of porcelain and pottery.
- Hold items up to the light and inspect for damage.
- 'Ring' vases, cups and other vessels with your fingernail to test for cracks—perfect items ring, damaged items don't!
- Look for repairs; unscrupulous sellers often glue handles back on or heads onto figurines without declaring this at the time of sale—sometimes repairs are hard to spot.
At bar boot sales, I find the best way is that if I cannot find any repair or damage, I ask the seller if it has had any repairs—I look them straight in the eye and ask them right out. Nine times out of ten, if they know about it, they will tell you—people are more honest than you think—most of the time, anyway!
At auctions, beware of listings with AF next to the lot. This means that the item is 'as found' and there are faults or damage. If you cannot find it, ask one of the auction staff at the viewing. They should be willing to point out exactly what is wrong with the item you are interested in.
Collecting Anime Figures
Anime figures are hugely popular and beginning to turn up in the second-hand market. Even second-hand, unboxed ones are commanding good prices on eBay if you do your homework and research the right figurines to buy!
4. Examples of What I Buy and Sell
I thought you might like to see some of the collectible items that I have bought and sold to give you an idea of what to look for.
Cmielow is a Polish manufacturer of quality decorative and functional porcelain.
I love the Cmielow animals, all in a stylish and eye-catching black and white, that were designed in the 1960s by various artists for the company. They are still manufactured today, but the giraffe pictured (below) is just one of a set of five different animals I picked up at a car boot sale recently.
I paid £15 for the set (around $25), and I expect to sell them on eBay for at least £30 EACH (around $50), so they are sitting in my cabinet a while longer, and I will sell them next month in the pre-Christmas period when demand is likely to be higher.
I particularly like the quirky range of Rosenthal Studio Linie vases.
The one I have pictured was picked up at a car boot sale for 50p (less than $1). These tend to be overlooked as they are very plain and can get very dirty.
I knew this was an early one as the base shows the signature of the artist, Tapio Wirkkala. I also that this was a desirable piece as although it is called the Pollo Vase (meaning chicken), it is actually a woman's breast complete with an areola around the nipple (which is the opening of the vase).
I cleaned it up with some 'bar keeper's friend' powder as this is absolutely brilliant for taking stains and marks off porcelain and put it on eBay, where it sold for £41 (about $70).
My husband and I both love collecting Torquay pottery, motto-ware items made for the tourist trade in the early part of the 20th Century. A lot of it has really come down in price, meaning that some items in our collection are now worth considerably less than we paid for them—that is a chance you take if you are a collector!
However, when I came across these two early and quite rare Forster & Hunt cottage ware cups that have both a Torquay Pottery and a Honiton Pottery connection, I had to buy them! I splashed out £1 each for them, and as we didn't want to keep them (we are now only collecting items with cockerels on them, not cottages), I sold them on eBay for £31 (just over $50).
Royal Copenhagen Christmas Plates
I was lucky enough to buy around 30 Royal Copenhagen Christmas plates from an auction about five years ago. I paid around £100 (about $165) for the whole lot of them and ultimately sold them individually for many times that.
Many of them, like the 1990 plate pictured, sell for between £10 and £15, but you need to be very sure that condition is perfect. Lots of these are displayed on the wall and are damaged at the edges because plate hangers have 'bitten into' the edge rim, others have scratches on the surface of the plate, and these will not sell.
One tip, though—look out for the super-rare 1911 6" Christmas plate. Only 120 of these are thought to survive as all the 6" ones were destroyed (or so it was thought) when the decision was made to change to a 7" plate. This 6" 1911 is nicknamed the 'Thief's' plate as it is thought that these may have survived because they were stolen. Anyway, one recently sold on eBay for $7,999 (just over £5,000)—I would certainly like to find one of those!
Are You Ready to Start Selling Collectibles?
As you can see, the collectibles market is vast, but I hope you have enjoyed dipping into my favorite things and learning a little more about how it is perfectly possible to turn someone else's unwanted items into hard cash if you are prepared to put a little time in and learn about the subject.
Once you know what you are looking for, you can often get so good at it that you can spot a 'saleable item' from the other side of the room!
Enjoy collecting and selling—it is great fun as well as profitable, and eBay is still the best and easiest place to sell to a worldwide audience!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2013 Alison Graham
Alison Graham (author) from UK on June 18, 2018:
Thank you Eileen. I must admit that since I wrote this article, buying and selling collectibles for profit has become more difficult here in the UK. My main source of items to sell used to be car boot sales but it is very hard to find anything of real value now as most people have learned that it is easy to sell on eBay - and only take low value or bulky items to the boot sale now.
Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on June 11, 2018:
This is very informaive and helpful thanks
Alison Graham (author) from UK on January 02, 2017:
Thanks, Rafini, I used to sell on eBay all the time, now I only do so when I am de-cluttering or need to raise some extra cash - there are still good buys to be had that you can make some money on!
Rafini from Somewhere I can't get away from on January 01, 2017:
Very interesting read. Lots of good advice.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on November 04, 2016:
Hi Jo, thank you so much for your kind comment. I started selling on eBay back in 2004, so stick at it, it is great fun and a nice way to earn a bit of extra income.
Jo Miller from Tennessee on November 04, 2016:
I share your interest in writing, auctions, and ebay selling. I think, however, you are more successful than I am in both of these pursuits.
Interesting and inspiring article.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on March 14, 2015:
Hi Kristen, many thanks for the vote up, glad you like my treasures too! Here in the UK, it is still definitely possible to make a nice part-time income from home buying from car boot sales and charity shops and reselling on eBay or through local press and facebook groups set up for the purpose.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 14, 2015:
Nice hub, Allison. Very useful. Lovely photos of your treasures. I would love to do this someday. I had a neighbor who did this, when I first moved to Ohio 15 years ago. Voted up!
Alison Graham (author) from UK on January 21, 2014:
Hi Lizam1, you might do better to try to sell this china service via a good, reputable auction house that has internet access to its sales to allow online bidders. That way, you can set a minimum price you would be prepared to sell for and you will not have to pack the china to send to the buyer (as you do on eBay). The alternative is to sell the china as 'replacement china' on eBay, you can often get high prices for individual items, especially teapots, jugs, sugar bowls, toast racks, gravy jugs and tureens. I definitely would not sell a high value china service as one lot on eBay because of the problems with packing, postage and insurance.
Lizam1 on January 20, 2014:
I have a china service that I wanted to sell via ebay. However without a "track record" they limit how much I can sell for. The china is worth over 1,000.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on October 27, 2013:
Thanks Barbara, exciting times, I hope your husband is looking forward to retirement. I must say that my husband and I really enjoy eBay selling it is a great interest for both of us so I hope you and your husband will get as much fun out of it as we do.
Barbara Badder from USA on October 25, 2013:
I did a lot of selling on eBay back around 2001 and 2002. I plan on starting again since my husband is planning on retiring next year. This hub is interesting and gave me some more ideas. I'm voting it up.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on October 24, 2013:
Thank you lesliebyars for the vote up and so glad to hear you enjoyed reading about my hobby of buying and selling collectible pieces of pottery, porcelain and other 'bits and pieces'!
lesliebyars on October 23, 2013:
I enjoyed reading your hub. I voted it up and interesting.