One rationalization used for keeping so much stuff is of course the argument of valuability. "What? We can't just toss this in the trash. This is a collector's item! It must be worth a lot!" It's true, you do have to sort through the stuff because it would be stupid to blindly throw away something that could be valuable. And what could be better than getting money for dejunking your home? This invariably leads to the question, "How much can I get for this on eBay?"
About a year ago I managed to get rid of a high volume of stuff on both eBay and Craigslist. And now that I have the time, I'm going to be doing it again. But here are some of the important thigns I learned last time:
- Most of the stuff I've saved that I thought would be valuable, was not.
- On the brighter side, some stuff that I thought might have been worthless, actually sold for a lot.
- Cassette tapes and VHS tapes were among the most difficult things to get rid of. It doesn't matter how rare the recording is, or how insanely cheap you're giving them away for. You mention either of these physical analog media, and people stare and laugh at you as if you showed up with an Edison wax cylinder. For example, I have seen people pay literally hundreds of dollars for the debut CD from Badlands (a short-lived supergroup from the early 90s), yet nobody bids on the cassette version. You would think that if people wanted the recording THAT badly, they'd buy the tape and just burn their own CD from the audio and put up with the potentially worse sound quality, but I guess not.
- Often you have to accept the fact that some things are only going to sell if you sell them for next to nothing, an embarrassing fraction of what you paid for them. BUT, if your top goal is to get rid of volume in your home, not make money, then you should consider it a success.
And here's why I call eBay a double-edged sword:
- eBay is still one of the best places to sell stuff, because lots of people go there.
- The mere existence of eBay has lowered the value of many things.
Anton Szandor LaVey wrote a great essay called "Sleepers, Orphans, and Scarcity" that wound up in the posthumous compilation Satan Speaks!. Yes, that same Anton LaVey who wrote The Satanic Bible some 40 years ago and also established the Church of Satan also wrote some great stuff on a variety of other topics including, well, STUFF. Another similar essay from the same book was "Acquisition". Both essays (and the whole book for that matter) are well worth reading. But here's a quote from "Sleepers, Orphans, and Scarcity":
"Everyone saved National Geographic magzines, with Life a close second. It has been said that the earth has been thrown a few degrees off its axis due to the weight of all the National Geographics that people saved. ... As might be expected, an old Look magazine is scarer and more valuable than Life. The same goes for the Life imitators: Pic, Click, Vue, Parade, Peek, etc. The reason: the imitators were not considered worth saving."
In other words, a lot of things marked as "collector's edition" or "limited edition" or similar do not in fact go up much in value. Why? Because lots of people buy them and stow them away, making sure they're in good condition. Thus, they're not so rare! Jane Doe might want $200 for her JFK memorial issue of Life magazine, but then somebody else digs out his own copy and offers to sell it for $100, while a third person digs out their copy and is willing to sell it to you for $50, and so on.
As if this weren't bad enough, the mere existence and popularity of eBay (and to a much lesser extent, other auction sites) have driven the value down even more. Back in the early to mid 90s, people were paying hundreds to thousands of dollars for Star Wars figures, G.I. Joe vehicles, or vintage comic books (again, even if some of the imitators were worth more due to being much more scarce). But now you can go to eBay and find dozens of original 1977 Darth Vader figures getting zero bids. I tried selling a whole collection of miscellaneous Star Wars stuff I had saved, placing several ads in eBay and Craigslist. No takers. And I wasn't even asking $20 for it all.
Likewise, I thought all of those rare Ozzy and Metallica singles and related doo-dads I had been saving would be bringing in the cash. I certainly got some sales, but not for much. I should have just sold it all back in the 90s for hundreds of dollars, when I could.
Surprisingly though, here's some stuff that DID sell well:
- Rock t-shirts. Yes, ratty old faded rock band shirts from the 80s. Which brings another selling lesson to mind: some items might not sell on their own, but do sell when you package them with something else. For example, when I would sell a t-shirt, I'd also throw in cassette tapes or flair buttons/pins from the same band. More often than not, it worked!
- Legos. I had tons of Lego sets when I was a kid, and for some reason my dad always saved the original boxes. I made a point at saving the original instructions, so that I could build the original piece again if I decided to use the bricks to build my own thing. I have to admit, these were hard for me to give up, because I have never met an engineer who didn't grow up playing with Legos and I felt they were a "part" of me in that sense. It's hard to give something up from childhood when it gives you a warm smile and fond memories. But was it worth keeping three enormous boxes stacked up in my living room? Quite simply, no. So I sold 99% of it, and made a killing.
What will this second round of eBay selling bring me? We'll see.