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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

My Journey to a Successful Reselling Business on ebay: Prime Time Treasure

Welcome to the first Prime Time Treasure blog post, which will introduce you to who I am, what the Prime Time Treasure ebay store is all about, and how I got into reselling. It has been a long and interesting journey. Prime Time Treasure is business that specializes in the sale of comic books, toys, books, pop culture items, clothes, and all things vintage and collectible.

The store is run by myself, Dominic Carone. Although I have a full-time job a clinical neuropsychologist and run two medical websites (MedFriendly.com and the MedFriendly Blog), Prime Time Treasure is my main passion.

As I look back, my first experience in reselling dates back to my teenage years when I used to wake up early on a Saturday morning, pack up my boxes of my personal comic book collection along with a folding table and a chair, and set up at the outdoor Englishtown auction flea market in New Jersey. It was a good early business experience that brought in a few extra dollars but it wasn’t all that lucrative at the time. I also worked at a family-owned convenience store (Penny Pantry in Freehold, NJ) for years and dreamed of owning my own business one day.

Besides collecting comic books, I also collected baseball cards, non-sports cards, sticker books, sticker packs, and some sports memorabilia here and there (e.g., a signed Dave Winfield baseball bat from the New York Yankees). I was always a fan of science fiction, particular Dr. Who and collected every single VHS tape of the entire series and then the DVDs. I had a relatively mild interest in some of the more popular horror movies such as Halloween and Texas Chainsaw massacre.

As cable television came into popularity, I came to enjoy shows such as Antiques Roadshow, Pawn Stars, and American Pickers. These shows started to open my eyes about the value of other collectibles besides what I was interested in as a child.

When attending graduate school at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, almost every weekend was spent going to the famous Swap Shop Flea Market in Lauderhill, Florida. This was in the later 1990s and early 2000s. Ebay had just gotten started in 1995 and was increasing in popularity. I set up an ebay account in 2000 and for the first time, began to purchase items with the intent to resell them.

Back then, there was no such thing as a mobile app and thus there was no way to take a mobile phone to flea markets to look up the value of items. As I look back, that was good and bad. It was bad because I made many purchasing mistakes. It was good because I honed my skills at identifying items with true resale potential.  Most of the ebay sales back then were $15 to $20 to the best that I can recall. However, occasionally an item would sell for much more money such as an early edition of the Catcher in the Rye or a Peanuts orange juice carafe. The feeling of exhilaration from such a great sale was one that I wanted to repeat and so the quest was on week after week for more merchandise.

My time living in Florida also introduced me to another new experience: antique shops.  There is no shortage of antique shops and Florida and I loved looking at the items, making purchases, and imagining how great it must feel to be the store owner who owned all of that stuff. I always enjoyed history in school and so antiques were a natural area of interest for me.  Florida was also the first time that I went to an estate sale although my memory of it is vague. Little did I know how many more estate sales I would be going to in the future. More on that later. 

But at this point in my life, my time on ebay was coming to an end…

Back in ebay’s early days, there was no such thing as Buy It Now or Make a Best Offer. Ebay used to only be an online auction site. Sometimes, a bidding war resulted in a nice profit but other times an item sold for much less than I hoped for or it did not sell at all. This, combined with moving away from Florida to do an internship, start a family, and focus on my neuropsychology career took me away from my reselling business. I moved to a rural area in Oklahoma for a year and no longer had access to a massive city flea market.  Ebay became a place I went to for purchases but not to make sales. In fact, I never had plans to use ebay to sell anything again.

But in 2016, all of that changed. At that time, I had begun to try and rebuild my comic book collection which I sold as a teenager at a now-defunct comic book store in the Freehold Raceway Mall so I could get enough cash to purchase a Sega Genesis console. Although the console was great, I sure wish that I still had those comics. I told my kids that story many times and they were annoyed that I sold the comic collection. As I slowly rebuilt my collection, it was fun to show my kids the books that I used to own and to read them together. I purchased many of the comics on ebay and others at local comic stores.

By that point, I was living in Syracuse, New York (and still do). I had gone to all of the local comic shops, or thought I did, until I found my absolute favorite: Collectibles Galore in North Syracuse. From the moment I walked into the store, I was fascinated to see how many comic books and collectibles the store owner, Mike Tompkins, had amassed. In talking to Mike, I found that we had similar interests in history and in metal detecting. While metal detecting was a fun treasure hunting activity that I took up actively from 2014-2016, the problem was that it was not paying any bills for all of the time that I was investing.

When I initially went to Collectibles Galore, my full intention was to purchase books as a collector and that’s what I did. As I spent time there, I eventually saw the owner purchase large collections of comic books that customers brought in to sell. Thousands of comic books would come in at once, purchased for much less than retail value. After seeing this happen time and time again, I wondered what would happen if I purchased a comic collection of my own, but I was hesitant to actually take the risk without knowing more. So I began to research how much I should spend on a comic collection depending on various factors (e.g., age of the books, condition, titles, etc) and eventually felt that I had a good handle on the topic.

So one day, I was searching on Craigslist and saw that there would be a local garage sale with a comic book collection in it. I did not know much else except that there would be Elfquest graphic novels. I arrived when the sale began at 8:00 am. Sure enough, someone else got there ahead of time and was looking at the comics. Fortunately, he only purchased a couple of the books and left.  I actually began looking to see what books I would want for my own collection and started pulling them out one by one. Each book cost a dollar. I realized that this was going to get pricey. I then asked where the Elfquest graphic novels were and the seller pointed to a box under the table. I pulled them out and to my amazement, they were four limited edition hard covers signed by the book authors which had significant value. In addition to that, there were 403 comics and 1 concert magazine.

At some point, I made the decision to ask the seller how much she would sell the collection for. After a brief negotiation, she accepted $60 for ALL of the comics. What once would have been a dollar a comic ($403 total) came to 14.7 cents per comic, including the graphic novels. Now came the task of sorting and organizing them and protecting those that did not have bags and cardboard backing boards. Once that was done, I listed several on ebay. Initially, I tried selling the comics with the Buy It Now feature but none were selling. So one day, I switched to the “Make Offer” option. Within minutes, the first offer came in which resulted in a counter-offer and a $25 sale for one comic book. That one sale was almost half of what I paid for ALL of the comics. The rest of the comics continued to sell well (individually and in lots), resulting in a great profit and return on investment. 

With that initial success behind me, I knew that the next step was to purchase an even larger collection. That opportunity arrived when I purchased a comic collection containing 4,000 issues for $600 at a local comic convention from a dealer who I had previously established a good relationship with. The deal showed the importance of building relationships in the reselling business and the importance of negotiating the best possible deal. The seller was moving out of state and was thus motivated to sell. Motivated sellers should always equate to better deals for buyers. In this instance, the seller also threw in an entire table worth of toys. So now, instead of only selling comic books, I was now selling toys as well.  This collection took longer to sell due to the sheer size of it but I eventually turned a profit.

One of the things I quickly realized about trying to find comic book collections is that they are generally pretty difficult to randomly find at a garage sale or an estate sale.  In fact, I have never found a comic collection at an estate sale. I needed to find a way to get the sellers to come to me.  So I created a wanted ad on Craigslist specifically for comic collections, toys, and other collectibles.

It did not take long for sellers to contact me, some with good deals and some not. One such deal was for a giant collection of Star Trek collectibles (e.g. toys, posters, books) that the seller originally wanted $200 for but after negotiating, sold it to me for $45. He had found it in a storage unit and just wanted to get rid of it, showing once again that motivated sellers can generate incredible deals for buyers. This collection turned a nice profit as well and it became increasingly obvious that I could broaden my customer base by diversifying the products offered. Soon thereafter, I purchased a large lot of sports collectibles and kept diversifying my product stream.

At the same times that I was sourcing on Craigslist (which included purchasing lots offered for sale there as well), I began routinely going to estate sales, garage sales, church sales, and flea markets every weekend, amassing all types of collectibles such as porcelain signs, old books, model cars, vintage house wares, video games, toys, etc. Searching the completed sold items with the ebay app made it pretty simple to figure out if an item was worth purchasing – much better than my days at the Swap Shop when I had to wing it. Over time, experience sometimes superseded the need to use the ebay app.

While all of this was going on, I began watching some Youtube videos on reselling and found three channels particularly helpful: The Rockstar Flipper (Casey Parris), Raiken Profits (Steve Raiken), and The Bonafide Hustler (Chris Dupuis). I highly recommend checking out their channels for ideas and inspiration. Although I had sold a few clothing items on ebay from around the house before watching these videos, it was by watching these videos (especially the ones by The Rockstar Flipper) that influenced me to begin purchasing clothing for resale and this has become a new, fun, and profitable area of resale for me.

Over the summer, I received an inquiry from a woman who was helping a friend sell off the contents of her mother’s home who passed away at 90 years of age. The family did not want to have an estate sale where over a 100 strangers were walking through the house so they sought individual buyers through Craigslist. I was contacted because the house contained some comic books but when I arrived to the house I quickly realized that there was much more than that. There were lots of old valuable magazines, books, records, trading cards, coins, calendars, housewares, toys, Peanuts collectibles, etc. I filled my car up with merchandise and returned two more times for more purchases.

That purchase was one of the best overall finds I have had and it led me to conclude that I was likely missing out on prospective buyers by only having an ad on Craigslist that featured comic books. So I branched out to make an ad seeking partial estate contents. It was unclear initially if this ad would work but it has yielded many incredible hauls of merchandise. I also created an ad specifically seeking Funko Pop collections and that resulted in one large purchase of these popular collectibles.

With so many items to list, I invested in numerous storage shelf units to hold all of it and keep it neat and organized. As the items listed on ebay increased, it eventually made more sense to invest in an ebay store. I just needed a name and after a few days, Prime Time Treasure was born. The business continues to grow by the day.

In 2018, my goal was to create the Prime Time Treasure Youtube channel to begin making some videos about reselling. I got a jump start a few days early and have made 6 videos at the time of this writing. Please check out the channel and subscribe if you like the videos. Also, please feel free to comment below if you would care to share your experience about what got you started in reselling. Check back here for updated articles that complement the Prime Time treasure Youtube channel. Feel free to contact me at primetimetreasure@gmail.com for inquiries.