Editor’s note: In celebration of eBay’s 25th anniversary, we’re spotlighting a seller every week from our global community in our Mini Stories column through 2020.
For seller Nicole DiSanto, there’s a richness of memories tucked inside vintage objects. “I’ve always had an interest in antiques and collectibles since I was very young,” she said. “Something about exploring people’s lives through their possessions and collections spoke to me then as it does now.” That nostalgia grew even sweeter when tied to her grandfather, with whom she spent weekends searching for treasures at yard sales — and that interest eventually blossomed into a successful store on eBay.
“Growing up, it was just the two of us,” she said of the man she calls “dad,” since he raised her after her mother died when she was only a toddler. “Estate and garage saling has always been something we’ve done together, our tradition.” The pair would arrive at local sales in their town of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, at 5 a.m. on Saturdays, being first in line before places opened at 9 a.m. “That’s what taught me that the super important part of getting the best stuff at sales is being the earliest early bird,” she said.
Nicole continued garage saling with her grandfather throughout her childhood. Then, at the age of 20, she saw an advertisement in a local storefront looking for eBay listers. Excited by the opportunity, Nicole joined the team and started selling clearance items ranging from houseware items to toys and games. “It was going so well, they moved me to a larger store in a neighboring town and assigned two aisles full of inventory just for me to list,” she recalled.
A few months into the job, Nicole quickly realized the resale value of the everyday items she was listing and used her growing knowledge to start her own eBay business, flipping items she had collected throughout her childhood. She opened her store, fivestar_auctions, to specialize in yard and estate sale finds, such as antiques, collectibles, video games and vintage clothing.
Nintendo NES consoles and games
1950’s Hermes 3000 Swedish Paillard Typewriter with Case
Working a variety of jobs in her early career, Nicole sold on eBay as a side hustle starting in 2006 with her grandfather until she became a full-time seller 10 years ago. “Selling on eBay means I get to lead the life I want,” Nicole said. “Working for myself and on my own terms is something I knew I always wanted.”
For Nicole, eBay allows her to do what she loves for a living. “I get to enjoy at least something out of every single day,” she said. “Whether it’s hunting down the best finds from yard and estate sales and thrift stores, or researching an item and finding that unexpected diamond in the rough. I realize not many people get to do what they love, and I’m incredibly grateful for it every day.”
Video games have always been a particular passion of Nicole’s, and they also turned out to be something she both buys and sells on eBay — and connects her with other like-minded collectors. “I especially sell a lot for the main game franchise called ‘Fallout,’” she said. Over the years, she’s found items that other fans have been searching for. She singles out one person she’s both bought and sold with for a long time. “We followed each other on eBay, and then came to find out we belonged to the same collector’s group,” she said. “A real friendship began, she and I even plan to meet in person at some point! For sure that’s been a highlight for me.”
eBay has also provided Nicole financial flexibility. When her husband was temporarily laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple joined forces to bolster Nicole’s eBay sales. “It was a really scary time for us,” Nicole said. “We brainstormed ways to make extra money and decided the best route would be to dig into the vintage video games and consoles I had been collecting for more than seven years and storing for a rainy day. Well, that rainy day was now upon us.”
Though that period was tough for the couple financially, Nicole appreciated the chance to spend more time with her husband. “Having him work with me on eBay sales was something I’ll treasure forever,” she said. The couple worked all hours, packing, labeling and shipping boxes, while taking breaks playing old Nintendo games. “We had some great laughs during an otherwise really difficult time,” she said. “Watching my husband test the game ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ was great.”
In only a month’s time, the couple had made over $10,000 in sales from Nicole’s treasured video game collection. “Mind blown doesn’t even begin to describe it!” she said with obvious pride and a big smile.
At the end of their video game selling month, Nicole’s husband was rehired and his company offered a relocation to a town a couple of hours away. In keeping with her love of vintage objects with character, Nicole and her husband bought a quirky, sweet home — with the down payment partially from her recent eBay earnings. “We fell in love with the first house we looked at,” Nicole said. “It was a quaint 1950’s pink house with ornate, iron porch railings and window guards. It had a small front porch and a back patio with incredible views and a beautifully landscaped yard full of flowering bushes and fruit trees. The best part was that we could afford it!”
Based on her recent video game selling experience, Nicole offers advice to herself and other sellers who have been similarly resistant to part with items. “The pandemic and selling those video games I was hoarding in my basement has definitely shown me to think less and sell more,” she said. “Everyone loves to go out and hunt down the bargains and incredible finds, but it can be difficult to hold yourself accountable to listing, because that isn’t the most fun part of the process. But I’ve learned that making money, clearing space from your death piles, can open up opportunities for both new items and in your life in general. The time is now. The stuff will always be there to find — so sell, sell, sell!”
Even as she’s become a full-time eBay seller, Nicole still finds time to visit garage sales with her grandfather. And when asked about her favorite flip, a recent find with him is what she remembered. “He and I were doing our yard sale rounds, and we came across an old painting someone was selling for $50,” she said. “I brought it home, did some research and discovered the painting was done in the 1930’s by a well-known portrait painter. I ended up selling it on eBay for $2,000, which was my most profitable sale ever,” she said.
Nicole with her dad
Nicole's favorite flip was a painting that she originally bought for $50 and later sold for $2,000
And that’s perhaps why Nicole attributes her lifelong love of collecting to the man she calls her father. “He has the mind of an artist, so he buys things that are interesting or unique,” she said. “He likes to buy art and sculptures, but really picks up anything if it’s inexpensive and interesting. I must have gotten my knack for buying unique items from him, and it’s something I will always treasure.”
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