EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 256 - February 07, 2010 - ISSN 1528-6703     5 of 7

First Item Sold Online: One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure

Email This Story to a Friend

Do you remember the first item you ever sold online? Let us know by sending an email to and we may publish your story. Today we hear from Rich, whose first sale only proves the old adage, "one man's trash is another man's treasure."

Dear Ina:
After joining eBay in 1998 and having fun buying a few items, it was time to try selling. Since this would be my first time through the sales process, I didn't want to risk anything valuable.

So, I went to my closet in search of anything interesting and trivial. On the shelf was a box containing my childhood postcard album, as well as a few loose postcards I'd accumulated since then. One of the newest was a blurry picture of the Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park; the back had a blurb about an upcoming live remote radio broadcast of "A Prairie Home Companion" to commemorate the park's 125th anniversary. In the upper-right corner where the stamp would go was a small, black-and-white portrait of the host, Garrison Keillor.

I recalled finding this postcard in my front yard while mowing the grass sometime during the past year or so, probably after it fell out of a neighbor's recycling bin earlier in the day. A normal person would have tossed it in the trash but, since I'm a hopeless pack rat, it landed in my postcard collection.

Regardless, the unused postcard was in perfect condition and had no value to me whatsoever. So, it seemed like a good way to test the waters. I didn't care if I got a dollar for it; all I wanted was to get acquainted with selling on eBay.

After scanning both sides of the postcard, I uploaded the pictures, added a description and started the 10-day auction at 25 cents.

If I recall correctly, no one bid on it the first couple days and, after five or six days, I was pleased to see the bid as high as $2.00. Then, it got interesting. On the last day, two bidders remained and, when the gavel fell, the piece of trash carried by the wind into my front yard had sold for (I still find it hard to believe) $78 and change.

When I emailed the winning bidder to let him know where to send his check, I half expected to hear there had been some sort of mistake. But, he replied that he was thrilled to have won the auction because he had been in the audience at Yellowstone during the broadcast and was in the process of collecting souvenirs.

Needless to say, my first sale on eBay proved the old adage that one man's trash is another man's treasure. And, sometimes (if rarely) it pays to be a pack rat.
Best wishes,
Rich Rauch
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

You may quote up to 50 words of any article on the condition that you attribute the article to and either link to the original article or to
All other use is prohibited.