One postcard got Craig Clark excited about selling on eBay back in 2008. It was his first find and his first sale – kindling that sparked a fire which would take him from a cubicle job at a big telecommunications firm to part time collectibles and antiques seller to full time new merchandise reseller.
Although Clark had been an eBay buyer since 1999, he didn’t dip a toe in the seller waters until he visited his mother and looked through the post card collection she was planning on throwing away. “Some of them were really cool,” recounted Clark. “I list one that showed rice fields in Hawaii up on eBay and crossed my fingers.” Rice fields had long since been banished from the islands. All the fields were gone by 1960.
That auctioned post card fetched $250, and Clark was hooked. Within 4-5 months, all the post cards sold via eBay. He also found a book of photos from 1897 in his mother’s stash, and one of them depicting Florida sold for $595.
Then Clark got serious. He studied up, researched model sellers, and spent more and more of his evenings and weekends sourcing and listing items.
Tips of the Trade
Early on, Clark focused on antiques and collectibles. “In the beginning I had a rule,” said Clark. “If I found something at an estate sale or garage sale, and it was $5 or less, I’d buy it.” Half of those items would typically sell, but the other half didn't.
Clark learned that while cheap porcelain and cheap modern collectibles didn’t sell well, certain types of dinner sets and glassware did just fine in his auctions.
The more he learned, the more savvy he got with his purchasing. He sold a $5 chartreuse teapot for $150, and a box of ornaments he bought for $20 yielded a 1st year Swarovski snowflake ornament that sold for $1200.
Transitioning to New Items
In 2011, Clark’s job at the telecom company was phased out. Instead of looking for another position within the company, he decided to pursue a full-time eBay seller mission. He realized, however, that he would need to expand beyond antiques and collectibles in order to develop more consistent income. “You don’t want to be stuck in one category in case it goes bad,” said Clark. “And with collectibles, you have to be constantly vigilant with research and manual listings.”
Fortunately, Clark came across a popular hat wholesaler at a New York City gift trade show. “They had this great line of Frank Sinatra reproduction vintage hats,” he said. “I had sold actual vintage hats in the past, so I knew there was a thriving market. I bought twelve hats from this company, and they were gone within 10 days. I knew I was onto something.” Clark now stocks hundreds of different vintage reproduction hats in his Rat Pack Hats eBay store. His collectibles and antiques store is called Perfect Corners Collectibles.
Evolving into a Pure Reseller
With a replenishable supply of hats and a good relationship with the manufacturer, Clark built out a strong reseller business with consistent revenues and profits. “Nowadays 15% of my business is antiques and collectibles, whereas four years ago it was 100%,” said Clark. “I have a much more predictable business with the hats. Antiques can be tough. I haven’t seen another one of those Swarovski ornaments since I found the first one.” Replicating listings with static SKUs also helps Clark run an efficient business.
While Clark sells on both Amazon and eBay, he likes eBay because they don’t compete with his product lines. “Amazon will often identify solid sales trends from their data and then compete directly with the independent sellers. eBay doesn’t do that. Other sellers on eBay may compete with you on price and wear down margins, but at least eBay isn’t looking to sell against you.”
Clark loves his new career and the independence it affords him. “Every day there’s something happening that’s new,” he said. “You’re learning something new, you’re your own boss and you’re responsible for your own success. I’ve been so happy with the switch. I make my own decisions and shape my destiny.”