How The Auction Professor Succeeds by Reselling Small Items Online

white and black cooking pot on brown wooden shelf

Don Heiden, aka The Auction Professor, makes YouTube videos outlining various items you may come across at garage sales, thrift stores, and more that most people walk by and don’t realize are worth money. The Professor also has members-only videos for channel members and also has a Patreon where he offers reselling advice. Considering that him and his wife have been in online reselling since the beginning of eBay and even before, there probably isn’t a more experienced source for this information on YouTube.

In 2022, Don began to post almost daily. Some of them shorts, but even those 60 second or so clips are highly informative. He’s very transparent about how he sources items, his understanding of which items are worth selling online at a profit, and how much he profits by buying in bulk. As of this writing, there’s an endless stream of content on his channel these days.

In late September 2022, the Auction Professor posted a video about how he and his family built their inventory to $3.5 million, yet fit it within a storage room in their own home. The key to victory: selling small items online in collector’s niches!

Among several points in the video, perhaps the most important is that as a reseller, having to rent storage facilities absolutely crushes your bottom line and limits your growth potential. He and his wife used to sell clothing, larger electronics, and household items, but after awhile he not only had trouble sourcing these items for any profit; they began to run out of space quickly.

He also talked about how while he does occasionally find deals at garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores, and antique hunting, more than nine times out of ten it’s not going to be worth the gas money getting there. It’s gotten to the point that him and his wife are either passing by one of these going somewhere else, or stopped at the store for some other unrelated item they were seeking out for personal use.

What Don often does instead of these traditional reseller channels is make local connections who can sell large quantities of small, but potentially valuable items in bulk. In fact, this method of buying certain items in bulk and paying people to help him list is the Auction Professor’s bread and butter. Since Don lists not just on eBay, but also Amazon, Discogs (for CDs and records), HipStamp (for paper items), Etsy (for a strangely wide assortment of things), and even occasionally WhatNot live auctions, he has learned what websites bring the right buyers who will pay the most for any given item.

So, how does Don know which items will sell for ten dollars (plus shipping) each or more? He focuses on items with profitable long tail keywords on Terapeak, the subscription based app which gives you a sales history going back quite a ways. As of 2022, it’s regularly 250 dollars a month, yet eBay in April 2021 made Terapeak entirely free for anyone who uses the Seller Hub on eBay! Previously, only those with Store subscription on eBay got this info for free.

Unlike many online resellers who race to the bottom to sell their items quickly, Don instead finds a handful of items from a lot that he can flip relatively quickly to recoup his investment, making the remainder of the bulk essentially free. He’ll lot off items that won’t sell for 10 dollars or more individually, and most items he sells are over 20 dollars each. The beauty is these entire lots can often fill a small half-size bin on a shelf in his storage room, meaning he can have thousands of dollars of inventory within a single Sterilite Clearview storage box! That’s not too shabby! Considering people would put out such containers for free in my local area, this is especially great for those just starting out with reselling as a side hustle.

The other major advantage of buying in bulk is that you can dominate certain niche categories with quantity of listings. However, with the quantity are also quality, items that are indeed rare enough that he’s sometimes the only listing for that item on major online selling platforms at any given time. Also, unlike many people who make listings with quantity, he only lists a single item at a time. This is because he knows specific collectors will ask if he has a quantity beyond that single listing. That way, all he has to do is sell similar, and let the buyer build up a cart to save on shipping. Don is also entirely unafraid to relist items that aren’t selling for slightly lower prices and taking reasonable offers.

But, Don’s also not going to blow out items from lots which have already made him a profit. Because the vast majority of his items are relatively small, from things as tiny as buttons, to postcards, to other items that fit in a relatively small bubble mailer or flat rate envelope, he can sit on them for years if he has to in order to get the best price. Perhaps the largest items he sells are vinyl records, which he often purchases for extremely low bulk rates, because he has the knowledge to know which are hidden gems.

However, while Don does sell some items that require years of know-how in that particular niche, the vast majority of his videos focus on items you could have laying around in your house right now, or could find from someone in your neighborhood. Expanding your knowledge is the entire point of his channel, after all. I’ve discovered items that were commonly at Salvation Army and AMVETS thrift stores when I was a kid are now actually worth selling for 20, 30, or even 100 dollars individually. Time has a funny way of making certain items strangely rare and desirable, doesn’t it?

As a former reseller of trading cards and video games myself, I’ve long championed the selling of “smalls” for their size to profit ratio. When I expanded into larger items, I found a lot of my inventory not only sitting for three months or more, while I had limited storage space, but ending up in the donation bins at the local thrift store or even the straight-up dumpster.

So, not only do you have to find items that can sell for a good profit margin, you also have to have items that will sell relatively quickly, offsetting the items that will sit for just the right buyer, but are small enough to store without hassle. Still, if I’d had the free access to Terapeak, and a bit more of a long-term vision for selling online, I probably could’ve gone into the online reselling business full-time. As of right now, I don’t need to resell for extra income, but the knowledge is helpful regardless.

Anyway, even if you’re not a regular reseller, and don’t plan on doing reselling at all, if you’re an avid treasure hunter at local sales, it’s worth giving his channel a look. You never know who you might know who around you has some of these items and doesn’t realize what they’re sitting on right now.

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Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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