Sell That Widget Part 3: What Is It Worth?

The pictured little Hasbro Charlies Angel skateboard (to Jill’s Flying Skateboard set) from the 1970s sold for $11.99, plus shipping. I’ve seen these sell for more, and less, money, but I was quite happy with that price.

Pricing items for sale is an art, not a science. There are some factors you want to keep in mind, though, and not all of them are obvious. They include:

⦁    What have identical widgets sold for in the past?
⦁    What are the same widgets currently listed for?
⦁    Time of year?
⦁    Condition?
⦁    How quickly do you want to sell it?
⦁    How much is it going to cost to keep it listed?
⦁    Will a low price attract problem buyers?
⦁    Are people likely to buy multiple items from you?
⦁    Where are you selling?

You will hear a lot of sellers say to use “sold” listings on eBay to determine price. This is a useful tool, but it doesn’t give the whole story. Sold listings only look backward in time, and future conditions also dictate price. Plus, prices may be artificially low or high in past sales depending on who was selling a particular widget. Reputation, good or bad, does matter.

I also look at what the same widgets are currently listed for. If it is something fairly desirable and it sold ten times for $50, and now there’s only one listed for a fixed price of $100 … I might list my widget for $100 too. I can always lower the price if it doesn’t sell.

Time of year matters, and this is one of those factors that are not always obvious. People assume Christmas is the best time of year and this is not always the case. The deal with Christmas is that everybody thinks that Christmas MUST be the best time of year to sell.  The market may get flooded and prices may drop. This doesn’t happen every year for every widget, but I have observed it many times. (Christmas is also the worst time of year for problem buyers,  and I will discuss problem buyers more  in another post.)

I’ve found that the best time for sales — and corresponding prices — is usually a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, then during a period that goes from immediately after Christmas through April or May. Late winter and spring is the season for tax returns, people sometimes get gift cards to eBay as Christmas gifts, and foul weather means that buyers are cooped up inside and bored. There’s usually a bump in May just before school lets out, most of summer is dead slow , and then it picks up again in the fall.

If I’m listing something in the middle of July, I’m not going to be asking as much for it as I would if I were listing in early February unless I’m willing to wait for a sale.

Condition matters. Note the prices on these two eBay auctions for the two #1 Barbies, with one in much better condition than the otherponytails

This is a really rare doll, but the second one wasn’t nearly as nice as the first. Condition matters. However, condition doesn’t always matter as much as you think it might!  Here’s another example:

rapunzel pony

The second pony, in better condition, sold for hundreds of dollars less than the first. There are many factors that could cause this including the time of year, who is selling it, or a limited pool of collectors willing to spend $900 for a My Little Pony.

In another example, I often get as much for deboxed, played with, Barbies as other sellers get for minty boxed dolls. Why? Because collectors want to play with the dolls but feel guilty about deboxing one. So they’re willing to pay (almost) as much for a loose doll, particularly for dolls with relatively low values boxed.

There are also  things that have surprising value even broken or damaged — boxes of busted up Transformers come to mind, damaged doll clothing, doll heads with no bodies, and parts lots of various mechanical toys. There are various reasons for this, including the genuine need for repair parts and a large number of artists who want damaged dolls and action figures to make original creations.

A final factor has to do with counterfeiting. There are people who, for example, fake a #1 Barbie from a #3. A #1 is worth several thousand dollars more than a #3, and a skilled counterfeiter can repaint the head and modify the body to pass casual scrutiny. Other collectibles, likewise, are modified to look like more expensive versions.

Most fakes, however, look pristine, with perfect paint and (for dolls) perfect hair.

There are some collectors who are less suspicious of collectibles that have some minor wear, original dirt, and, as appropriate, an age-related patina. I’ve seen a #1 Barbie with stains, ground in dirt, damaged facial paint and bedraggled hair sell for close to $4,000 simply because it was very clear that the doll was in original condition and had never been altered. The buyer likely restored it, but knew before coughing up four grand that it was truly  a #1, and not an altered #3.

The bottom line is that minor issues may affect the price — but not as much as you think. Factors to consider include the rarity of the item, the age, and how visible or repairable any flaws are. On the other hand, some flaws really do matter. Use common sense — and do some market research.

If you’re selling with a fixed price on eBay, pay attention to sold  (and current) listings and price according to market. If you’re selling with an auction listing, figure out what the minimum is you’re willing to accept, and likewise, set that based on market conditions.

If you want a quick sale on a fixed price listing, you can set your price lower than market — though don’t price too low, or people may be suspicious (and you’ll attract problem buyers). If I’m in a hurry to sell something I generally price it on the low end of average. If it doesn’t sell right away, consider moving the price upwards, not downwards.

For a real quick sale, an auction is the way to go. However, auctions generally do not go for as high as fixed price listings unless the item is incredibly desirable and rare. (If an item is extremely rare, I do not actually recommend listing it at auction. The issue is that you need to have at least two buyers bidding against each other to get a decent price at auction. If something is rare, people may not be searching  regularly for it, so if only one buyer spots it the listing will go for the minimum price.)

If you’re willing to wait, you can price your widgets with a fixed price on the high side of average, but it may take longer to sell. They will likely still sell, but it can take time. Not all buyers will chose the cheapest listing, since some buyers are motivated by other factors. Those factors include your reputation, proximity to their home (less shipping time), quality of your photos, and sometimes just plain gut feelings.

What I never recommend is bargain-basement pricing. Yes, sometimes it’s tempting to list stuff for super cheap because you have bills to pay or you’re tired of looking at it sitting on the shelf and you just want it gone. Unfortunately, bargain basement prices attract a certain subset of problem buyers who are just never satisfied — they’re not happy about the price (so they look for the cheapest price) and then they’re not happy because the widget has one tiny scratch, or it was a day late in the mail, or the color on their screen doesn’t match the color of the widget that arrived … yeah, those buyers. You don’t want those buyers. They’re just not worth it.

On the flip side, I do set my prices on the low end (but never “bargain basement”) if I have a bunch of related widgets. I sell a lot of doll shoes, and my prices are usually very low — but it’s not unusual for a buyer to purchase a whole bunch of pairs from me. I much prefer to send one box of shoes to one buyer versus ten boxes to ten different buyer. There’s less labor and fewer packaging costs. I find that lower prices encourage multi-item orders.

The final consideration is: Where are you selling?

eBay, as a general rule, has the highest prices second only to Amazon. This is partly because eBay also charges the highest fees and partly because it has the most buyers. Most other forums (other auction sites, Facebook, various selling boards) will have lower prices.

eBay, however, also has the most onerous rules, the absolute worst customer service of any company I’ve ever dealt with when something goes wrong (and things go wrong often), and a culture that pits buyers against sellers. I sell on eBay as a necessary evil.

Even though I generally get less for my widgets , I prefer to sell on Facebook or on various selling boards. I only send things to eBay if I can’t sell them on Facebook, and I often ask much more on eBay.

Facebook buyers expect to get widgets for less. That’s fine with me; Facebook sales are faster, the buyers are friendlier, and I don’t have to pay eBay’s fees.

So, now that I’ve used a lot of words to give you a general overview, let’s get specific. I’m going to use the Littlest Pet Shop puppy as an example.

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A quick survey of identical animals on eBay shows that they’ve sold between $2.25 and $11. The three lowest prices, however, are from a seller who is (potentially) sketchy. Note the three identical photos. I will disregard these prices.

what value

Mine has a tiny scratch to the eye and a few flecks of dirt that I couldn’t clean out of the seams, so he’s got some minor condition issues. I’d estimate his value to be on the lower end — say $5.99 (plus $3 shipping) for a fixed price listing. If he were absolutely perfect I would ask a few dollars more.

But wait! I prefer to sell on Facebook. And I know I need to list him for less on Facebook. So I will price him $5 on Facebook, and for marketing reasons, I charge $2.50 shipping on Facebook. (My actual cost of shipping items from Facebook sales is $2.60 for the postage, and around $.20 for the envelope, plus Paypal fees, the cost of a label, and other minor expenses, and I figure it’s right around $3. But for reasons of keeping up with the competition, I only charge $2.50.)

So now I’ve established a price. This is the same general process I follow for most items, regardless of value. The next step is determining if it’s worth the effort and expense of selling it. I will discuss that in the next post.

Author: LJ Cygnet

Friendly resident editor, owner, and blogger.

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