Before leaving the second storage locker we bought, Communications Manager Robert Green and I went through the items we had acquired at that day’s storage unit auction and divided them into three piles: trash, donations and resale items.
We had found a lot of great products at our first auction. Among our finds were 10 high-end vintage hats—many still with their original Macy’s price tags—eight antique Coca-Cola trays, tons of records from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, a wall clock and a watch. We decided we’d sell these on eBay.
In our second locker, we found a few more gems we thought might do well on eBay, but because they were big and fairly commonplace, we decided they would do better on Craigslist. We figured we’d just break even on this locker, which contained three inexpensive fishing poles, two computers, a couple of inexpensive tool boxes that contained an assortment of items and tools, a few algebra textbooks, a desk chair, a workout bench in decent condition, a few pots and pans, a lidless crock pot, a sleeping bag and more.
Right away, we sold a few items from locker No. 1 to a local collector for $300. That covered all but $50 of what we paid for both lockers. Then we really got into the sorting.
Our co-worker, Interactive Media Coordinator Steve Swim, is a novice record collector, so we knew he could tell us a thing or two about the albums we had acquired.
Steve found records like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” several Beatles albums, The Eagles’ “Hotel California,” AC/DC records and lots more. Altogether, he pulled more than 50 records he thought were valuable.
Our next stop, we decided, would be a local record store a few blocks from our campus to see if Steve was right.
Records are a hit
At the music shop, the store owner separated our collection into four piles: a $1 pile, a $2 pile, a $3 pile and a “no thanks” pile. Only four of our records made it into that pile.
“Looks like I chose some good ones,” Steve told us. He had.
After adding up our records, the owner made us an offer of more than $170. We talked it over and decided to sell him most of our records and keep a few that we thought would do well on eBay. Having done little work besides look at records, we left the shop with $150 in cash, and the potential to make even more with the few albums we took back with us.
With the few items we’d sold, we had already paid for our two lockers—and made a $100 profit—and we were just getting started.
Yard sale takes shape
Next, we decided to have a yard sale to get rid of a good chunk of the inventory that was left. We set a date, found a prime location—our co-worker’s lawn, which happens to be just a block from where our local farmers’ market takes place—and started prepping goods. We cleaned everything and asked Auctiva Product analyst Rebecca Miller, an eBay seller of more than 12 years, to help us price our items.
Since we were using our yard sale as a way to liquidate goods, we priced everything to sell and reserved our big-ticket items for eBay. Among those we set aside were the 10 vintage hats, the tin trays we found, the vinyl records we’d kept, a wall clock and a new car stereo. That’s not to say we didn’t offer any big-ticket items at our yard sale, though. We chose to sell the two computers, the workout bench, several Wii controllers and accessories, our fishing poles and several other valuable items at our yard sale.
We posted the sale on Craigslist, along with photos of those high-value items, to get some exposure and entice buyers. We also let bargain hunters know we’d be pricing everything to sell. And to ensure we’d have enough inventory, we let other members of the Communications team add some of their stuff to the yard sale. This would give them chance to clean out any of the clutter lying around in their homes and earn a few bucks, while giving us a little more eye candy for buyers.
On the morning of the yard sale, we had a steady stream of foot traffic, thanks to the farmer’s market down the street. The colorful signs we had placed at two busy intersections also helped, we were told.
Sale proves profitable
We sold a lot of the items from our storage units as well as things our co-workers brought. The interesting thing was what we expected to go quickly—namely, the two computers that were in great condition, according to our IT department—weren’t getting the interest we expected. But items we worried might not garner any attention—for instance that lidless crock pot and a used pan that had definitely seen better days—went very quickly. The prices likely helped, Rebecca told us later: $1 for the crock pot and $3 for the heavy-duty pan.
Pricing items low would attract buyers and might be the incentive they needed to buy something they might end up not using, like a lidless crock pot, she explained.
“It only costs a $1, so they won’t be spending much,” she told us.
Even an old photograph of a concert, a small children’s diary and a fabric patch featuring the United States flag sold. In all, we made about $250 from our yard sale. That brought our total resale to $700.
We decided to donate most of the leftovers to a local charity, but kept a few things, like the fishing poles sell on Craigslist. Those sold for $15.
Then we started listing items on eBay, and that’s where we are today.
Looking to the future
Of the hats we listed on eBay, we sold one lot of five, and one that was listed individually, for a total of $85, plus the cost of shipping. At this point we’re ahead about $450, a modest profit, but we still have plenty to sell.
We’re still working on listing our records. It’s time consuming. The good news is we’ve already found one Beatles collection like ours that sold on eBay for $200.
In all, we expect to make a profit of a several hundred dollars. But I will say this: We’ve worked hard for that.
Between finding the lockers, buying them, clearing them out, cleaning the item in the units, dividing goods, making multiple trips to a donation center, and listing our products, we worked a lot of hours. But we found that storage unit lockers can be profitable—if you find the right gem. We did with the first locker we bought. With Locker No. 2, we about broke even but, luckily, our first unit more than made up for it.
Olga Munoz is assistant editor of The Online Seller, an online publication that covers news and writes feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, eBay policy, online marketing and other topics of interest for online sellers. She also manages The Online Seller’s social media efforts.