Word of the Week: Crazing

No, this isn’t the process of an eBay seller going crazy.

Crazing is when the glaze on a ceramic item cracks.

It is important to note that this does not mean the piece is damaged in any way. This is actually quite a common problem, and it does not affect the quality of the piece. In fact, crazing is often a good indication that the piece is old and original, and not a reproduction.

Crazing tends to happen all over the piece, not just in one spot. It forms a network of thin little cracks around the body of the plate, bowl, vase, etc. Sometimes the crazing is extremely easy to notice – dirt will get inside of the tiny lines and really make them stand out. This is especially true if your piece is white. However, sometimes you need to look very closely to notice the crazing. The cracks can be nearly invisible, so you’ll want to make sure that you take the time to look for them.

Note that the unfortunate chunk that was taken out of this saucer has absolutely nothing to do with the crazing that you also see here.

While many people don’t seem to mind crazing as long as it is not discolored, you always want to make sure you mention it in a listing. Be specific as far as how noticeable it may be. You’ll find that most of the time it won’t make or break a sale.

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How to Sell: Dinnerware

What I write below will never begin to compare to the wonderful eBooks that Lynn Dralle has written on this subject. The ones she has written are incredibly informative and extremely in depth. I highly recommend them if you’re serious about making dinnerware one of your main sources of income. However, if you’re just looking for a good overview in simple terms, please continue reading!

Dinnerware is a great investment. It can be bought in huge lots and then pieced out into individual listings for profit. We’ll have a post coming up shortly that details our own success with it.

A. Buy in bulk. This is a rule that we live by, so it’s worth mentioning again. Buying dinnerware in large lots is definitely the way to go. This is especially true if the lot has many specialty pieces – like the sugar and creamer set, the soup tureen, and the tea pot – as they definitely bring in more money. It’s also important to note if it is a complete set or not (as far as the regular pieces go, 8 and 12 piece place settings seem to be fairly common for us to run into).

B. Do your research. Not all dinnerware is created equal. Certain makers and certain patterns do better than others. If you’re going to an auction, do your research ahead of time. If you’re out buying from yard sales, make sure you have a list of pieces that you know will do well. It’s good to take chances, but just remember that there are a lot of duds out there. Unless you know it’s going to do well, try to avoid pieces that don’t have AT LEAST the manufacturer’s name on them. It’s even better if it has the pattern name, too. 😉

Divided vegetable bowl

C. Decide the best way to list your items. This can be tricky, as there are a lot of options out there. You need to find what works best for you. Here are some choices. (We usually prefer option iii, though we sometimes go with option ii if they are good quality pieces. If neither of those work out, after a while we’ll list the remaining pieces as a set just to get rid of them.)

i.            List as a set. Some people want a new dinnerware set and don’t want to track down individual pieces in order to build it. It can be to your benefit to list an entire dinnerware set together in one lot. Just note that this can be more expensive and more dangerous to ship.

ii.            List regular pieces in twos or fours, but sell specialty pieces individually. This is especially helpful to people who are looking for replacement pieces or just need a few more pieces to finish their collection. It allows them to add to what they already have without having to buy more pieces than they need. Realize, though, that you can only list one set at a time on auction. You can always put the other pieces in your store. Selling specialty pieces individually will bring you the most money (note that the sugar and creamer set – and other similar sets – are usually kept together).

iii.            List regular pieces in small sets, but sell specialty pieces individually. This is a mixture of the previous two options, and is probably the easiest one for the seller. If you have a full dinnerware set of 12, you can list all 12 plates as a lot, all 12 bowls as a lot, etc. You don’t have to worry about having some up for auction and some in your store. This is nice for people who need replacement pieces, but also for those who can’t find a full set and want to quickly build their own. Selling specialty pieces individually will bring you the most money (note that the sugar and creamer set – and other similar sets – are usually kept together).

Creamer and sugar set

D. Be willing to negotiate. Finding the exact pieces of a dinnerware set that you’re looking for can be extremely difficult. Imagine that you’re only looking for teacups in Noritake “Rothschild” pattern. That can be quite a quest. Sometimes buyers will message you and ask if you’d be willing to split up the lot and only sell a portion of it to them. Don’t be opposed to doing this! Dinnerware sells well, but sometimes it has to sit a while before it’s snatched up. Don’t miss out on an opportunity when one is presented to you. You can always relist the remaining set and keep trying.

E. Shipping. This is, in my opinion, the worst part about buying and selling dinnerware. Some sets are stronger than others (ironstone vs. bone china), but all of them are fragile and need to be handled with care (something the Post Office apparently doesn’t like doing). When shipping your dinnerware, consider putting it into several different boxes. Not only will this be kinder on the mail man’s back, but it’ll be safer for the dishes, too. Be sure to wrap them in foam if you can, layering the pieces together. Then wrap everything in LOTS of bubble wrap. You can go a little crazy here, for safety’s sake.

Dinnerware can be time consuming between research for patterns and makers, listing it, and finally selling it, but it can bring you a lot of money. People are always looking to add pieces to existing sets or make new ones, so these will always be in demand. If I must leave you with one piece of advice to never forget, it would be: Do your research! Dinnerware is a tricky field to navigate, so knowing what sells and what doesn’t is a valuable piece of knowledge to have.

P.S. If you need help tracking down the maker or pattern name of any of your pieces, you can find us on Fiverr where we will do your research for you – for just $5!

My Weekly Score: Shell Necklace

We sell a lot of jewelry around here (if you haven’t already guessed by our previous posts on it) and we’ve come across some really wonderful pieces. What I truly love, though, is being completely surprised by how a particular piece does on auction. It happened to us just the other day.

Check out the necklace above. Does it look special to you? It didn’t to me! I actually considered throwing it in our junk jewelry pile, but I figured someone would like a necklace with real seashells on it. And they were shiny, which is always a plus for someone looking to spruce up her outfit! I decided to give it a try, just to see if it got a bid. We started it at $19.99, which is typical for our necklaces.

Boy was I surprised.

This got an instant bid, and the number of watchers grew consistently over the next several days. The bidding jumped to around $40 and stayed there until almost the end. My first reaction was to worry – did I make this necklace seem like something more than it was? Had I misled the buyers somehow? But, no – I’m careful with my descriptions, always making sure that I give an honest and specific portrayal of each item.

So, then, what was the big deal?

We didn’t find out until after the listing ended, but it turns out that these are (juvenile) maireener shells. These shells, and the necklaces that sport them, come from a time before the colonization of Tasmania. Yep, they’re that old! (And pretty collectible because of it.) They used to be traded for other items and worn by women of the aboriginal tribes. There’s a whole lot of history that I won’t get into here, but I’ll list some links below if anyone is interested in learning some more information about them.

So, the big question is…what did our necklace sell for? Well, there was a big bidding war raging in the last few hours of the auction, but it finally settled on *drum roll* $148.49! This necklace also went to a collector – who was ecstatic about her new buy – which is always a plus in our book!

This just goes to show you…list everything, even if you don’t think it’ll be worth it. eBay sellers know a lot of stuff, but they can’t know it all. Trust your instincts, but be willing to take risks. It can really pay off – literally!

History:

http://www.answers.com/topic/shell-necklaces

http://collectish.com/Items/470

http://tasmanianshellnecklaceresearch.blogspot.com/

Word of the Week: Melamine/Melmac

There are so many words out there that collectors and niche sellers will use with the expectation that you should already know what it means. It can be a little overwhelming to study the terminology associated with one type of collectible, let alone the hundreds of collectibles that eBay sellers usually encounter.

Well, we’re here to help. 🙂

This series is going to help you build up your vocabulary one word at a time. We’ll post once a week so nothing is too overwhelming, and so you have some time to digest each word or phrase and try it out for yourself. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to sell your products.

First up is “melamine” and “Melmac.”

In a nutshell, both of these words describe a type of plastic dinnerware that was popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

While these words aren’t strictly mutually exclusive, they’ve come to mean practically the same thing. Where melamine was developed into a resin and became a type of plastic, Melmac is a brand name for that plastic. Since initial production, melamine has been sold by various other companies and Melmac soon became a synonym for the plastic. (This is much like saying, “Can I have a Kleenex?” versus, “Can I have a tissue?”)

There are tons of brand names out there for melamine now: Beverley, Spaulding Ware, and even Oneida, just to name a few. These were often in bright colors – teals, reds, yellows, etc. – and usually have a retro shape and design to them.

Not all melamine is bright! Keep your eye out for more subdued patterns, too.

Melamine dinnerware is quite collectible. Some people like the colors, the shapes, or the brand names. You can sell these to all sorts of niches, and they’re even useful today as they are great for camping! Just note that these pieces should never be microwaved, as it could potentially be dangerous.

Also, make sure you check for items that can sell to more than one niche market. This Mickey Mouse plate is also made of melamine!

My favorite things about these pieces are the colors and the shapes – they just scream 1960’s to me, and I love it! What about you guys? Do you have any preferences? Have you had any luck selling these?

How to Sell: Steiff Stuffed Animals

Before we get into exactly how to sell Steiff stuffed animals, be sure to check out our previous post on them: My Weekly Score – Steiff. You can get a little bit of background from that post that I won’t get into here.

A. Learn which shapes people are looking for the most. This fluctuates, so you always want to stay on top of what is popular. The original teddy bears are always going to be a great buy – and a great sell. Since elephants were the first shapes that Steiff made, it’s pretty certain that they’re going to have a huge niche to sell to as well.

B. Buy the animals with the most tags. Tags are very, very important to collectors. There are three original tags to each Steiff: the button in the ear, the Steiff tag that the button holds to the animal, and the name tag that is usually on a string around the neck. If you have all three of these, you’re going to have a great chance of selling your items.

C. Take pictures of everything. Condition is vital to selling your Steiff. Take a picture of all sides of the animal, and close up shots of the tags. If there is any damage, take close and clear pictures of that as well. The lion below was sold even though there were a few small rips, a repaired tail, and a missing ear! So, you just never know.

D. Make sure your descriptions are very specific. Most collectors only want the good stuff, but there are plenty out there who will settle for a little less than perfect. Either way, make sure you describe every tiny tear or missing stitch in your item. It is always better to be honest than to skip over a detail that you might not find important, but the collector will. Be sure to let the buyers know if the eyes are glass or plastic, and what the tag says the materials are. Lastly, measure the animals in inches AND centimeters, as these were originally German products.

E. Don’t price these too high. It’s true that these are great for collectors, but don’t expect a home run on every one unless you’ve got a rare find. Our experience with these is that they sell well, but when they’re more affordable. If you get them at a good price to begin with, you’ll be able to sell them for a good price and all of that will add up.

I can’t reiterate enough how important condition is for these. We saw our Steiff with the tags fly off the shelves (so to speak) in the first few days. The tagless ones are still sitting here, though a few have sold since we listed them. If you can, focus on the ones that still have all three tags, and you won’t have to worry as much about having a possible dud on your hands.

Got any more tips? We’ll never pretend we’re experts on any one subject, so don’t forget to do research on top of what you’ve learned here. If you come across anything new, please share!

My Weekly Score: Steiff Stuffed Animals

Margarate Steiff lived in the late 1800’s in Germany. She was a seamstress who started making pincushions for her friends in the shape of an elephant. Kids started playing with them, so she decided to design different shapes and they turned into popular toys for children. She designed and made most of the prototypes herself, and created her own company in 1880.

Her nephew, Richard, came to work for the company close to the turn of the century. He used to visit the local zoo and draw the animals there, particularly the bears. He designed the first Steiff bear, which was snatched up by an American buyer who brought them to the States. The popularity of the bears and the company skyrocketed.

This company was the first to create and sell (for commercial purposes, on a large scale) stuffed animals. No wonder these things are so popular today. They’re great collector’s items, which means they’re great items for us to sell! Check out a few of them below:

They’re a little stiff, and some of the designs are a little more crude than others, but on the whole these are really adorable toys. You’re particularly lucky to find them with the tags still attached, but even ones that are missing things can still be worth some money.

Just like our Madame Alexander dolls we had to buy these individually, instead of in bulk. Some of the prices got a little high, but we were able to bring home about 16 of them. A few of them were larger than the others, but we were mostly able to snatch up the smaller versions.

Now, this is a good example of hoping for a homerun, but only making it to second base. We may have gotten a little carried away with these and spent just a tad bit more than we meant to. It happens to the best of us. We dropped $345 on these cute things and have so far made $234.95 of that back. So, we’re still in the red on these, but that’s okay! We’ve been able to make a profit off of each one that we’ve sold so far (7), and we still have 9 left. There’s plenty of room to still get over and above what we spent on these.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: persistence. Buy in bulk, buy the good stuff, get it up fast, and then WAIT. eBay is a numbers game and a waiting game. We’ve got something good here – nice condition, collectible item, multiple-niche interests – so I know that we’re going to be able to sell them. We’ve done well so far, and just because we haven’t earned all of our money back and plus some, doesn’t mean that we won’t.

Patience, grasshopper.

How to Sell: Costume Jewelry

Now that we’ve got our feet under us in terms of establishing this blog and our other various social media platforms (Twitter and Facebook), I’d like to start up a new series. This one is called “How to Sell.” I’ll be breaking down the best ways to sell a certain item, and what you should definitely include in your listings if you wish to sell that item. Handy, right?

First up is costume jewelry.

I LOVE selling costume jewelry. It’s cheap to buy – we can easily spend $200 on a flat of jewelry and then double our money when we turn around and sell it. It’s also easy to list. I can put up right around 10 listings in an hour. During an ideal (read: unrealistic) workday, that means I can do about 80 listings. In one week? 400 listings. Wow! But the best part of selling jewelry? It can make you a lot of money. You probably won’t hit that many home runs with it, but all of those little profits of $10 or $20 really add up in the end.

Plus, I’m a girl. It’s fun to look at.

So, here are our tips for you:

A. Buy in bulk. If you’re buying pieces individually, you’re probably not getting the best deal. We usually try to count up the number of pieces and multiply that by $10 – the maximum amount we’ll spend on each piece. If you’re buying a box that contains roughly 200 pieces, people aren’t going to want to bid up to $2,000 for the lot. But if you’re buying it piece by little piece? You’ll quickly find they have no trouble dropping $10 for one of them. People tend to overspend when they buy individually, whereas they will drop out much sooner if they’re trying to purchase a bulk lot.

B. Buy the good stuff. Don’t buy cheap jewelry, no matter how pretty it looks. I’m mostly talking about those plastic bead necklaces and the rings that look like they came out of a gumball machine. Avoid them, because they won’t sell well. Instead, go for the better looking jewelry. It should be bright and shiny, covered in rhinestones, or signed by a maker. (And if you’ve got all three, you’re golden!)

C. Learn your makers. It pays to do research. Some companies are selling better than others. (Trifari, for example, is pretty popular right now.) You don’t want to pigeonhole yourself into buying jewelry from only one company, but you want to be aware of this information. In your listings you want to sound professional and knowledgeable. Would you rather buy from someone who says, “This is a pin signed Trifari,” or from someone who says, “This is a pin signed Trifari. Trifari began making jewelry in 1918, however the copyright symbol indicates this was produced sometime after 1955.” Here’s our favorite reference site. You can also find it (and more!) on the side panel under “Links – Research Database (For Sellers & Collectors).”

D. Take close and clear pictures. This is a good rule to follow in general, but an extremely important one to follow when dealing with this type of merchandise. You want close pictures so your buyer can see every rhinestone – they want to make sure they’re all there. You also want clear pictures for the same reason, but also because you want them to look professional. I would much rather buy from someone who looks like they have a professional setup than from someone who took a picture of a pin on their kitchen table with their cat in the background. (Again, this applies to more than just jewelry.) Be sure to take pictures of both the front and back of a piece, so they can see total condition and what sort of clasp it has. It’s also important to take a close up of the maker’s mark. Different marks from the same company can identify when it was made, and even if you don’t know this information, your buyer might.

E. List in bulk. Get all of your picture taking and formatting done and then sit down with your jewelry and try to get out as many as you can right away. I usually like to spread everything out and put them in groups according to type (necklaces, earrings, brooches, etc.). Then I split them up further into signed/extremely nice pieces and unsigned/lesser pieces. That way I get the better pieces up first.

F. Don’t be afraid to list items with missing rhinestones/tarnish. We’ve had plenty of luck in the past with pieces like this. Some people like to repair them and then either wear or resell them. Just make sure you’re not selling pieces that are beyond repair, or you’ll probably never find a new home for them.

These are an identical pair of pins that were both missing rhinestones, so we sold them together in hopes that one could be used to repair the other. We ended up selling them for $30!

G. Make sure your description is very, very clear. Most people don’t like to buy jewelry that is broken, has been repaired, is missing stones, or is tarnished. If your piece has any of those attributes, make sure you state it clearly. Someone will still want it, and it’s better to be honest than to leave out that information and have to deal with a returned item or negative feedback. You should also include the following information in your listings: type (necklace, pin, etc.), clear description (ie. “This is a pin shaped like a cat. It is silver with black rhinestones on the body, and two green rhinestones for eyes.”), maker’s marks (including any relevant history or dates in reference to the company or the individual piece), measurements (length and width), and condition (BE SPECIFIC). Be sure to mention you’re listing other jewelry or that you have a stash in your store. Provide a link so they can browse your selection.

H. Don’t be afraid to price high. This is especially true of your signed pieces. Do your research if you think you’ve got something really great on your hands, but otherwise find a price you’re happy to start your listings out with. We usually try for around $19.99, but will go lower or higher if we feel that’s necessary. You’d be surprised at how many we can sell at that price. If it doesn’t sell, we throw it in our store at a higher price (around $30) and set the Best Offer option. Sometimes they offer the price we had it up for at auction, and other times it’s a little lower. Either way, if we can sell it for at least $10, we’re guaranteed our money back (and probably profit on top of that).

This is a gorgeous set that we knew would be a home run for us. It was from Trifari and signed with the designer's name - Kunio Matsumoto. We started this much higher than our other pieces (around $100) and it ended up selling for $180! The best part was that this was hidden amongst the rest of the jewelry we bought that day, so we got it really inexpensively!

I. Find an easy way to ship your jewelry. Another reason why we love jewelry so much is because it is EASY to ship. We spend a little extra money here buying Tyvec envelopes and little boxes. It pays off, though. Instead of having to bubble wrap each piece and hope we have a tiny enough box, we just throw it together and get it on its way. It looks nicer, too.

J. Don’t toss the junk jewelry. You’d be surprised how well junk jewelry that’s broken or missing rhinestones will sell for. We’ve sold a small lot (4-5lbs) for about $50. People use it to repair other pieces of jewelry or make their own. They can also use it for all sorts of other crafts, too. Buyers love to get this stuff in bulk, so keep a bag of it handy. When it’s full to the brim, throw it on eBay and see how it does!

There you have it! That’s a sneak peek into how we sell and list costume jewelry. Did it help? I hope so! If you’ve got any questions, tips, or success stories, please feel free to mention them in the comments below.