The Perfect Product: 7 Things to Look For When Sourcing Inventory To Sell on eBay

Learning how to identify products that can be sold for a profit is an important part of becoming a successful online merchant.  When I first started selling on eBay, I had no idea what to buy. 13 years later, I can identify a winner a mile away.

Ask yourself the following questions before spending money on merchandise you plan to resell:

  1. Is the product easy to market? What keywords will you use to advertise the item?  Is it name brand?  Is it a specific color or pattern such as neon green or plaid?  Is it an in-demand or well-known style for which people are searching such as “mid-century modern” ?  Does the item come with a UPC code or ISBN number?  If the product is not easy to market, don’t buy it.
  2. Is the item photogenic and easy to photograph? Pictures are everything.   If a product is not photogenic or is hard to photograph, it may not be worth listing.  Some items look great in person but don’t photograph well.  And merchandise that is hard to photograph due to color, texture, or size will take longer to list or may require the services of a skilled photographer.
  1. Is it easy to store? Unless you have unlimited space or the item you find is extremely valuable, DO NOT buy products that are difficult to store.  We store our items in small, oblong boxes that are stacked on racks.  If an item can’t fit into one of those boxes, we think long and hard before purchasing it.  I enjoy listing high-end kitchen knives because a whole stack of knives fits into one small box.  Remember:  Even small items can be difficult to store if they are an odd size or extremely fragile.
  1. Is it easy to ship? I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again.  If shipping an item requires a special box and an hour of your time, it better be worth a fortune.  When I first started selling on eBay, I loved selling cuckoo clocks.  Fast forward 13 years, I won’t touch a cuckoo clock unless it’s worth $200 or more.  Cuckoo clocks are not heavy, but they must be handled with care and require special packaging.  Most of the items we sell fit in a Priority Mail Legal Flat Rate Envelope wrapped in eBay branded tape and are not fragile.  Because of this, we are able to ship 10 items an hour.  Remember: Time is money.
  1. Is it easy to list? Does the item need to be modeled?  Does it fit in a photo studio?  Does it need extensive cleaning, or is it ready to go?  Unless you’re dealing with an extremely high-profit item, the product needs to be easy to list.
  1. Is it rare or unique? Check the competition.  Do a basic search on eBay to see how many of these items currently exist on the site.   I recently sold a $35 thrift shop bracelet for $575.  It was made by a company that produces handcrafted sterling silver artisan jewelry.  I was one of only a few sellers offering this brand, so it was easy to stand out.
  1. Is it in demand? Before listing a product, do a completed listing search to find out if the item is actually selling and for how much.  This tip sounds pretty basic, but a friend of mine sold on eBay for 10 years before learning how to do a completed listing search.  Sometimes I hear people complaining about slow sales, yet they are listing items nobody wants.

One of my favorite things to sell on eBay is preowned costume jewelry originally purchased from one of the home shopping networks.  It’s easy to market, photograph, store, ship, and list. In addition, it’s often unique and in demand.  The perfect product!


Miriam Otto is an eBay blogger and credentialed teacher with 13 years’ experience selling on the site.  She was a frequent guest on eBay Radio and has participated in eBay seller panels and projects.  Her blog, The eBay Life, is an all-in-one resource for eBay sellers.

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