Finding Products at Estate Auctions

estateLast weekend I attended an estate auction. The estate included older camera supplies; the lots included camera shop supplies from sometime in the mid/late 1980’s. Mostly new in package — let’s call the stuff ‘new old stock.’ The equipment included accessories for film and video cameras and darkroom equipment no longer manufactured. Not old enough to really be collectible but you never know.

To prepare for the auction I previewed the items the day before. During the preview I opened boxes and found many of the optical items had mold because of improper storage. I asked the consigners questions anything they might know about the original owner. I took pages of notes including number of items and contents of box lots to prepare for the auction. I spent a couple of hours sorting through the items I thought would be resellable.

Then I went home with my notes and started plugging the information into terapeak.com. Terapeak gives trending data, including ending prices, best keywords and sell through rates. What I found surprised me. In several cases things that I thought had value were less valuable then items that were buried away in the box lots.

I spent several hours combing through the information and noting final values on eBay. Next to each recorded lot I put the max bid I would place on the box lot — so I knew before I got to the auction exactly how much my max was — no heat of the moment bidding/guessing.

During the auction I outbid my competitors on some of the items that I felt would sell — and got them for less than my written max bid. Other items, the ones that everyone (including me before my research) thought were more valuable — I got outbid on. The box lots of broken and foggy optical items I refrained from bidding, even though the items would be easy to ship and the price tags on the boxes indicated that they had value originally.

I generally try to find items that I can create one listing and sell several items. I found only a few items to match those criteria. However, I did find some products that have dual income potential. There were a few older cameras that were included in the box lots and I will photograph them for ‘stock’ photos. I have accounts on iStock, ShutterStock and Fotolia. If the stock houses accept the photos I can sell one image over and over again for another residual income stream… more about that in another post.

Finally, before listing, I have to sort through the boxes and ruthlessly throw away the junk that was included in the box lots. Not everything has value, and I have to be heartless about getting rid of the stuff that won’t sell — if I don’t I’ll soon run out of storage space and my office will start to smell like Goodwill — which isn’t a smell I especially adore — LOL.

OK, so there is one little vintage desk lamp that will be next to impossible to take to the dumpster… maybe I’ll just keep that one piece…