Where to auction off your stuff

  @Money May 15, 2013: 5:04 PM ET
best price castoffs

The key to making real money is choosing the right venue.

(Money Magazine)

As you finish up your spring cleaning, you'll probably find a few things you'd like to unload, like your old Peaches and Herb LPs or your underused water skis.

Most American homes are stuffed with stuff -- so much so, in fact, that about one in 10 households pays for extra storage space, up 65% since 1998, reports the Self Storage Association.

Still, while it's fun to watch Cash in the Attic from the comfort of the couch, selling your own secondhand stuff can be a first-rate hassle.

How do you make it worth your while?

"You'll save time and make more money if you choose the appropriate marketplace," says Suzanne Wells, eBay power seller and author of What to Buy at Thrift Stores to Sell on eBay.

The following venue guide can help.


Best for: Items with a particularly high resale value, such as art, jewelry, and antiques. Auction houses focus on buyers willing to pay big bucks for big-ticket items.

Seller's cut: Up to 25% of final sale price, plus administrative fees, as well as possible charges for item transport, insurance, and photos.

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Hassle factor: Medium. The process isn't a headache -- simply send photos of the item to auction houses or have them send someone to you -- but it can be lengthy. "They have to wait for the right auction to put your item in," says Rudy Franchi, a former Antiques Roadshow appraiser and the owner of PosterAppraisal.com.


Best for: Objects with a devoted fan base -- think stamps or coins -- that you want to sell in a hurry.

Seller's cut: 40% to 60% of value.

Hassle factor: Low. Take your item to a dealer, who will offer you a price, usually around half of what he plans to sell it for. On the upside, you'll get cash right away. As Franchi says, "It's like having a tooth extracted: painful but quick."


Best for: Like-new, brand-name clothing and jewelry (though some shops specialize in other things, like instruments or sporting goods).

Seller's cut: 25% to 75% of final sale price.

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Hassle factor: Medium. The shop agrees to display your goods for a period and then return those that don't sell. You probably won't get paid for a while -- if you do at all.


Best for: Collectibles, name-brand clothing, electronics, sports equipment, and household goods; not ideal for awkward-to-ship or one-of-a-kind pieces.

Seller's cut: 10% of sale price. Plus, upgrade -- like fancier listing design -- range from 10¢ to $1.50.

Hassle factor: High. Listing takes time, since you'll want to post multiple photos and a detailed description. To appeal to buyers, you'll need to accept PayPal. Also, you may face scammers who threaten you with negative seller feedback, Franchi says.


Best for: Furniture, household goods, and anything that would be challenging to ship and doesn't have a high secondary-market value.

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Seller's cut: None.

Hassle factor: High. The listing process is a lot like that of eBay's, but success depends on local demand. You'll have to navigate around flakes and scammers; plus, you often have to invite buyers to your home to pick up the items.


Best for: Electronics, books, and DVDs -- categories that people shop for on Amazon.com. It's not ideal for items too heavy to ship.

Seller's cut: Referral fee of 8% to 25%, a closing fee of $1.35 for media, plus a per-item fee of 99¢.

Hassle factor: Low. Listing is easy if the item is on Amazon. Just click the "Have one to sell?" link: Amazon provides a description and photos; you provide condition notes.

First, though, you'll want to look at how others price the item to see what you'll reap after fees. You may do better donating the item to charity. After all, you'll get a tax deduction for the full resale value -- and more time to watch Antiques Roadshow. To top of page

Who does better by sellers?
Of the online marketplaces noted here, Amazon got the highest marks in a recent poll of sellers.
eBay Amazon Craigslist
Profitability 5.9 6.4 5.3
Communication 5.5 6.5 4.1
Ease of use 6.4 6.8 6.9
Overall 5.7 6.6 5.1
All scores are average (out of 10, with10 being best). Source: EcommerceBytes 2013 Sellers Choice Survey
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