Regardless of how well our eBay auctions end up, we have decided they are an important aspect of our business.
Cashflow is your lifeline
Any business owner will preach that you have to have consistent income. It’s one of the main reasons I wanted to start our subscription box back in 2017. The beauty of auctions is knowing that your item is going to sell. You have a price that you would hope to sell it for, which can be exceeded or fallen short. Most of the time, your item is going to sell and you are going to get money flowing. The more consistent methods you can find to create cashflow, the better.
Our Experience with eBay auctions
I have been intrigued by the $0.99 auction since I got back into the hobby. I would watch many of these auctions on eBay and bid the minimum on a lot of them - losing most of the time. It was exciting seeing the value jump in the closing hours and the snipers were plenty. Occasionally, I would win cards for 99 cents that were worth significantly more. This is great for the buyers and tough for the sellers.
I decided to give my own run at this. "99 auctions for 99 cents". I thought I was a genius. To further entice my customer base, I went with free shipping as well. The cards I was using were probably all in the $1-$10 range (if you haven’t figured it out already, this is not going to end well). My hope was that they would all sell for more than 99 cents. I figured some would win and some would lose, but overall, I would make money. I should have done my research on eBay fees. I definitely lost money with that project. Only about half of the items sold and they pretty much all sold for 99 cents. After fees and shipping, I lost about $2 per card.
I have never been good at quitting, so I learned and decided to try again. No more free shipping (I strongly encourage you to never do free shipping on auctions either). I was also more selective with which cards I put on auction, but everything was still low end. Some auctions were pulls that may have been more valuable than the average card I listed. I also advertised these auctions on my social medias that were just babies at the time, but at least I got more attention than doing nothing. I did this a few times in a span of 6 months or so, having minimal success, but it wasn’t fruitless. We learned that the majority of the cards we were selling were numbered. A cool Peyton Manning insert did not sell but a /99 Tony Romo sold for a few bucks.
We were also learning more about eBay fees. The most frustrating thing about eBay fees is that they change their policies frequently and there is not really anything you can do about it. We had bumped our $0.99 auctions to $1.99 so that we could actually make a dollar on sales. We were gaining a little bit of brand recognition and the cashflow goal was becoming a small piece to the puzzle that is Brothers In Cards. We decided to scale this up and see how it went - and it went well. Instead of listing 99 cards we tried 200, then 300, then 500 - we even got all the way up to 1,000 in a single week (I will disclose this process later in the article).
The main goal of our eBay auctions was coming to fruition. We were making $1000+ per month on cards that we either had from the past, pulled from our rips, or bought from $1 boxes at local card shows. We thought this was the way. We signed up for the second biggest eBay seller subscription available, which allowed us 1,000 free auction listings per month. One month later, eBay changed their policies… Despite the level of your subscription, they locked everyone in at 12.5% and $0.30 per transaction. Our subscription was $300 per month. So if we listed the full 1,000 auctions and a card sold for $1.99, that meant we were only going to pocket $1.14. Any card that we paid $1 for was now just a 14 cent profit. That is NOT cashflow. Our auctions as we had done them were now a complete waste of time.
This is what drove us to change the way we did our auctions and motivated us to make sure it was worth it for our buyers. We upped our price to $4.99 per card and we cap shipping at $5 no matter how many cards you buy. Buy 100 of our cards and pay no more than $5 for shipping. You can also get FREE SHIPPING if you are in our Pack Plus Program. Many of our subscription box customers take advantage of this. Obviously, we upped the quality of the cards we were bringing to auction. All of this was happening in the 3rd quarter of 2020 as the hobby was ramping up. Base rookies from cheap products were selling at $4.99 and up. We were going to card shows, raiding $5 boxes and buying in bulk. Cashflow was back. In the first quarter of 2021 we were listing between 600-1000 cards per months and selling 70%+. This gave us more buying power and allowed us to dive deeper into the singles game as well to compliment our subscription box. I hired my dad to do this full time with me. My brother plays a big role in the auctions as well. (Andy’s role is concentrated on breaks, shows, Pack Plus, and helping me manage our social medias).
((many of these auctions are ending in just a few hours))
Unfortunately, as the hobby has calmed down and base has pretty much died, we have seen less and less traffic on our auctions. We scaled back when we were able to change our eBay seller subscription and are now allowed 500 free auction listings per month, which we always take advantage of. However, we have not hit 30% (cards sold/cards listed) since last September. We are now at about 2,000 followers on our eBay store. Yet our auctions are viewed less than ever before. We have several theories as to why that is, but we won’t dwell on the things we cannot change. What we can do is continue to do things the right way and treat people well.
Even when our auctions don’t do well, they still benefit us.
We are going to fight to get back to that 50%-70% rate on our eBay auctions. But even at the low rate we are at now, our auctions still serve great purpose. We take the pictures for each auction on top of a breaker mat with our logo.
There is a branding aspect in the listings themselves with that logo in the picture and we explain there is free shipping for Pack Plus Program customers, which gives an intro to our subscription box. When an auction does sell, we send a business card along with three flyers - one for our Pack Plus Program, one for our Facebook Group where we run our Box Breaks, and one for our eBay store. All of these flyers have a QR code on the back that takes the customer right where they need to go. Another perk is that we almost always see an uptick in Buy it Now (BIN) sales on our eBay store when we have auctions running. We currently have over 500 cards listed as BIN listings on our eBay store. Getting more eyes on those is definitely a priority. Lastly, limited cashflow is better than no cashflow. I think our last round of auctions contained about 300 cards and we brought in about $800. Nothing crazy, but every bit helps us reach our goals.
One change we have made is that, instead of doing 500 auctions in one week out of the month, we are going to list 200-300 auctions every week, so that auctions are pretty much always running on our eBay store. We list Monday-Thursday so that they end on Monday-Thursday. We send out invoices with shipping discounts on Friday mornings, so if you ever take advantage of those deals, wait to pay until then.
How do you list so many cards in such a small amount of time?
Believe me, it has been quite the refining process. Staying organized is a big part of our process. You can read about how we manage our inventory here. Through that process, we set aside cards we pick up from shows in a designated box for auction. I split them up into boxes for Josh and Pops. Any listings that are complicated or special go into a box for me to list at optimal times and with attention to every detail. This is a crazy time of year for teachers, so I have actually been taking all of the pictures for Josh and air dropping to his phone when I drop the cards off for him to list. We have a Template listing that I put up at the beginning of the week. It has all the settings saved that we want each auction to have (description, price, shipping, etc). They go to this template listing, they click “sell similar item” and apply the picture and title. They then click “save as draft”. Each night between 9-12PM EST, I go through and list those drafts in bunches of 8-15. After all cards are listed, we organize them by team and wait for them to sell! We ship them out as people pay, then we send out invoices on Friday for our Pack Plus customers and anyone else who buys multiple cards (you never pay more than $5 for shipping with our auctions - just wait for the invoice). It’s quite a process, but it works for us! It creates cashflow, and cashflow is your lifeline.