How to Sell: Flatware

Much like dinnerware, flatware is a great thing to sell on eBay. It can be a little trickier and a little more time consuming, but you can still make a huge profit selling it. Here are our tips:

A. Buy in bulk. I know I hit you guys over the head with this one a lot, but this is one of the single most important rules to buying inventory for eBay. Don’t forget it! Yard sales are a great way to get your hand on a bunch of silverware. People will sell off lots of mismatched pieces thinking that there’s no way they’ll be able to get a good price for it individually. Think again, because that’s exactly what you’re going to do. (More about that below.)

B. Know your manufacturers. There are a lot of manufacturers out there and there are some duds. Two of the biggest names are Rogers and Oneida. Many companies have joined forces over the years and some bigger names have incorporated them into their own circle, so the history can get a little confusing. Just become familiar with the popular names and stick with them.

C. Realize what sells and what doesn’t. There’s a hierarchy in the land of flatware. Sterling silver is the King, silver plate is the prince, and stainless steel is the lowly jester (just kidding…kind of). Sterling silver is always your best bet – it’s good quality and sells well. Silver plate is the next best thing and also does pretty well. Stainless steel is good if you have a complete set or a well sought after pattern. Otherwise, we usually just list it in bulk. (You can learn about that here.)

D. Research, research, research. This is like the “location, location, location” mantra for eBay sellers. Research is always going to be your best friend, but make sure you don’t get caught up in it for too long. There will come a point when you just have to stop and list the item already. With flatware, the manufacturer name will more than likely be on the backside of each utensil. Unfortunately, they often didn’t foresee the need to stamp the pattern name on there as well. (Come on! Didn’t they know eBay was going to be huge a hundred years in the future???) The pattern is going to sell your flatware for you, so be sure you find out what it is. The best online resource for this is Replacements. There are a ton of books out there too, so take a gander and pick a couple to keep close by.

E. Take some time to look at what you have. It’s nice to stock up on a bunch of flatware, but then it can get a little overwhelming. We recently had to go through, oh, TWELVE BOXES of it. The entire living room floor was covered for a couple of days. (And the cats loved laying on it. Go figure.) But this was an excellent opportunity to match up patterns and put together mini-sets. We took the time to take stock of what we had, and it really paid off. In the end, we were able to pair pieces from different boxes and put them out on auction together. Also make sure you look at your regular pieces (ie. forks, knives, and spoons) compared to your specialty pieces (ie. pie servers, ladles, seafood forks, etc.). Specialty pieces should be sold individually, since they are much more covetable.

F.  Know how the buyer thinks. Just like with the dinnerware, you need to think like the buyer. (Actually, this applies to ANY item you want to sell on eBay.) A lot of people are looking to finish a set or replace broken or damaged pieces, and they only want to buy a few at a time. Some want a set that is already complete. It’s up to you to figure out what you have and how you want to sell it to your customers. We usually try to split them up into lots of two or four and try our hand at selling them like that at first. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll sell a set as a single lot and hope it goes that way.

G. To clean or not to clean? Some silverware, depending on what it is made out of, will tarnish. It can be labor intensive to clean an entire set (let alone if you have multiple sets) so you need to decide if this is something you want to invest your time in. We usually try to clean a pair of whatever it is we’re selling, then leave the rest tarnished (stating clearly in the listing that this is what we’re doing). This way, the buyer can see what their pieces can look like and we don’t have to actually polish all of them. The downfall to this is that tarnish can sometimes hide pits in the metal that buyers won’t be too happy about.

H. Now you can take pictures! (It’s smooth sailing from this point on, I promise.) Be sure to take a picture of the piece(s) over all, plus a close up of the pattern on the end of the handle. If you’re planning to put up several listings for pieces in the same pattern, you only have to take this picture once – then you can use it for all of your other listings! Also be sure to snap a picture of the manufacturer’s mark on the back. This is another picture you can use over and over again.

I. Auction or BIN? We tend to list our flatware in a fixed price format because we’ve found that it doesn’t fly off the shelves like some of our other items. But, I’ve also heard of some sellers making a killing listing these on auction. Test it out for yourself and see what works best for you. You’ll probably save money listing it as a BIN, but you may not sell your items as quickly (auctions have a better reach).

J. Shipping.  Shipping is easy-peasy for flatware – find a tiny box or use a flat rate envelope. Make sure there’s some padding so the piece won’t be bent or dented, and then ship it out! You can do most of this at very little cost if you ship them out with First Class mail.

There you have it – the basics of selling flatware on eBay. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll be sure to try to answer them for you. Comments are always appreciated!


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