No matter your level of expertise in a particular area, you’re bound to occasionally run across an item you need help identifying in order to get the highest selling price. The Auction Professor shares some tips on how to get help when it happens to you.
If you have sourced and resold items online for any length of time, you will surely have run into some items that you have no clue about what they are. They may look old, well made, and valuable, but after spending hours of your valuable time, you still cannot figure out what the item is.
After being in this business for over 25 years, I still run into items I cannot identify from time to time. Sometimes I will just set those items aside and hope that, in the near future, I will be able to correctly identify them.
Various scarce, or rare, items may only show up for sale on eBay once every year or two, and checking Terapeak or sold listings periodically can reward you with the identity of that elusive item.
Keep in mind that eBay sold or completed listings only shows you the past 90 days of sales, and Terapeak only shows you the last year of sales. So, in some cases, I may have to hold onto an item for a year or two until I can figure out what it is and how much it may be worth.
There is, however, another way to help identify many of these items that can be much quicker and that will not cost you anything, other than a few minutes of your time. Sometimes I have listed some of the unknown items on eBay in the hopes that a fellow eBay member may be nice enough to email me and identify it for me.
In those cases, I have used a very generic title, and placed the listing in the category I feel would best suit the item. I will also place a very high starting price on the item as a Buy It Now option, to ensure that it does not sell below its value.
This works best in most of the collectibles, pottery, and toy categories, but it can also work in numerous others. I have used the option to great effect, probably several hundred times over the years.
Many of the unidentifiable items I find are usually tied to a niche, so, by posting the item, I can take advantage of those collectors with expertise in that niche.
It can take years to gain the knowledge for many of the niches we sell in, so it would be far easier to seek out help from those who already know the niche. Time is also money, so it may not be practical to spend your valuable time researching a single item.
A good example of this happened when I listed an old coffee mug with a dog on it. I had no clue what type of dog was pictured on the mug, so I listed it as a “very Cute Odd Dog Coffee Mug.” It was up for many weeks, and then one day I received an email from an eBay member stating what type of dog was on the mug.
It took me about ten seconds to confirm the type of dog, at that point. I then changed the title of the listing. When I got up the next morning it was already sold and paid for, and the buyer had even sent me a thank you email for offering the “lovely mug.”
Vintage United States uniform buttons is an area I specialize in, but foreign uniform buttons can be very tricky for me. Luckily, once again, overseas collectors have been extremely helpful with identifying them, or at the very least, letting me know a good source to identify them myself, which is always most helpful.
In some cases, I have offered a discount to the person that helped me with identification of an item, while in others I have become somewhat of friends, and routinely now share information back and forth with some eBay members.
As long as you are safe with listing the unknown item with a very high opening bid, there really is not much to lose by giving this a try. The vast majority of the time this has worked effectively, and I was able to correctly identify and then price the elusive item.
I normally would never recommend listing anything you are not sure of the value, but as long as you are safe with your starting price, this option can be a real help to your business.