Feedback - How to get more of it!

So one of the biggest hurtles as a new reseller is feedback. If you are a new seller on eBay, not too many buyers are willing to purchase from 0 feedback account. Most eBay OGs will tell you the best way to up your feedback is to become a buyer first then, after about ten or so positive feedback, your selling will be easier. That’s genuinely good advice, but seller feedback and buyer feedback are different. Once you get that initial feedback, making the switch to primarily a seller account, many get frustrated that their feedback is reduced to a trickle.

There are a few reasons why receiving feedback as a buyer is easier than as a seller. Most large established sellers have feedback set to auto, meaning that as soon as you pay, they auto rate you. This is to save them time, because they are selling a lot of items everyday. In addition, you cannot leave buyers negative feedback, so many sellers just view this as something easily automated, since the them “it doens’t really matter”. As an established seller this mindset makes sense, but if you are new to eBay and trying to grow your resell business, I would actually recommend against this.

Picture of my Thank You card before wrapping and shipping out a Rae Dunn Mug.

Picture of my Thank You card before wrapping and shipping out a Rae Dunn Mug.

My feedback return fluctuates between 42-48%. Since eBay doesn’t release these metrics, I’ll have to go off of a general consensus in the reselling community that typical feedback return is 20-25%. I attribute my higher than average return to consistently doing two things:

I put a Thank You business card in every item.

I wait until the item is delivered to leave the buyer feedback.

To be honest, the business cards are from my other side hustle and I had over 1000 of them, so this was a way to upcycle and show a person is behind the eBay account, and not a big company. I believe this adds a more personal touch that buyers appreciate. By waiting until the item is delivered, giving feedback is a gentle push, while the purchase is fresh in their mind, to return the feedback favor.

As far as my other selling platforms, I have a 89% on Mercari and a 43% on Etsy. On Mercari, in order to receive your funds you have to have the buyer review you. If they haven’t three days after receiving the item, Mercari will auto positive review you, which is how I calculated the 89%. Technically 100%, but I don’t count the auto feedback.

One of my summer seasonal polymailers.

One of my summer seasonal polymailers.

If possible, I would also recommend upping your packaging game. All my clothes are put in a clear plastic polymailer with the Thank You card, and then in a seasonally relevant polymailer for final shipping. Careful packing for breakable items is a must, but instead of just wrapping in a blank paper before putting it in bubble wrap, put one piece of colorful tissue over the blank white for a bit of flare, while not having to worry about the color transferring on the item.

Note: Do not wrap things in newspaper. One, it’s cheap looking, and two, if your package gets wet at all or is transported to a humid area the new print can transfer onto the item, essentially ruining it.

I would recommend not messaging your buyers about leaving you feedback. No one likes a pushy salesperson. If you are selling quality items and take care in your packaging, buyers will leave you feedback. Try some of my recommendations, and let me know if they work for you!

Marlboro Unlimited - BOLO Brand

I want to start off by saying, I am not a smoker; however, my dad is and I’ve had friends that were. The reason I know about Marlboro Unlimited is mainly because of those friends.

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Marlboro is a Cigarette Brand that used to have a rewards program called Marlboro Unlimited (there was also a failed train promo by this name in 1995 that is an interesting read). Every pack of cigarettes had a point system, just like you see now for box tops for education. Smokers could save that part of their pack and after enough points, could redeem them for items, gear, coupons and even trips, just paying for shipping and or taxes if it applied. If you see something tagged Marlboro Unlimited it ONLY came from this rewards program, which was scrapped due to increased regulations by the US Government. That means that these pieces are rare, since so few were redeemed, and most importantly valuable.

Now they do currently have a rewards program that launched this year (2019), but it is not the same as the 90s/00s Marlboro Unlimited Program. You have to verify who you are on their website, and all the rewards you can redeem for are not Marlboro Branded.

I found this set of 4 Marlboro Unlimited Camp Mugs at GW for $4.25 for the set, and immediately put them in my cart. I didn’t need to research them, because I knew exactly what they were and that they were Vintage. I listed them for $39.87 with free shipping. I took a best offer of $36.00 on them and after fees of $5.40, shipping of $9.36, and original purchase price of $4.51 with tax, I made $16.73 profit on a set of coffee cups.

Summer Slowdown - What is it? How do I avoid it?

Recently you may be hearing whispering of the dreaded “Summer Slowdown” from your favorite resellers or within your reselling groups and communities, but are new to reselling and don’t quite understand what it is or may be experiencing a slow down in sales over the past couple of weeks and you want to know why. The “Summer Slowdown” typically takes place after the U.S. Memorial Day (last week in May) to mid-August, and is marked by a significant decrease in sales in the reselling community. Sales slow down, because more people are on vacation, traveling, outside and just are not online as much. New resellers that have never been through a summer season, may get discouraged when their sales suddenly dip in June, but do not worry, there are ways to mitigate the “Summer Slowdown”. Here are ways that I have found that work to help keep sales up during the summer months.

Great 4th of July specific item.

Great 4th of July specific item.

Stock seasonally relevant items. If you are a reseller in the Northern Hemisphere, stock summer items. If you specialize in clothes, pick up sundresses, shorts, bathing suits, sleeveless or short sleeve items. If you do hardgoods, pick up things like picnic baskets, lemonade sets, gardening tools and planters.

Stock items that do not require a season. Electronics, appliances, video games and shoes are all items that are used year round.

Take advantage of sales holidays. In the US that would be Father’s Day and Fourth of July. Buy items that would be considered traditional “gifts for dad”, and American’s love their Red, White and Blue.

Diversify your selling platforms. I sell on Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Mercari. If you are worried about fees, I highly recommend Mercari, as it’s free to list, they have easy to understand shipping, and it’s a flat 10% fee when the item sells; however, you do have to wait for your money until up to three days after delivery.

Do Not Stop Listing! Even if you have items that are not seasonally relevant and you don’t feel comfortable purchasing items that are not in your area of expertise, keep listing. Almost every selling site uses an algorithm that prioritizes active accounts. I’ve sold sweaters, jeans and heavy jackets when it’s 100 degrees out, so you never know if what you have happens to be what someone is looking for that day.

Someone paid to have this plastic Gfuel shaker sent all the way to Australia through the GSP.

Someone paid to have this plastic Gfuel shaker sent all the way to Australia through the GSP.

Take advantage of eBay’s Global Shipping Program. Every time I mention eBay’s GSP, I get flak saying that it’s more expensive than if you figured out shipping yourself, and it excludes some countries. If you are a new US seller on eBay, and don’t feel comfortable trying to figure out international shipping yourself, GSP takes all that guesswork out for you. They handle customs, paperwork, and calculating shipping cost to the buyer, all you have to do is mail it to the facility. To go from no international sales to GSP, will open up your store to millions of potential customers while mitigating a lot of the time and risk.

Sell local. If there are community yard sales, flea markets or craft fairs in your area, give them a try. If you have some heavy items that maybe you don’t want to ship, FB Marketplace, Offer Up and Craigslist are also good options to sell local. If you feel uncomfortable about a stranger being in your home, most localities will allow you to arrange for a meet up at a local police station or courthouse.

These are some of the things I do to keep my sales high year round. If you have any tips I didn’t mention above that you think would be helpful, please comment them below!

It Sold! - Ten Thrifted Things That Sold on ebay in April

I sell on four different platforms, Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Mercari, so this is not all my sales for the month, but this is just a taste of what’s been selling from my thrift finds. The financial breakdown is as follows for the ten items shown in the video:

Gross Profit: $203.71

eBay & PayPal fees: -$30.56

Cost of Good Sold with tax rate of 6%: -$32.86

Shipping: -$45.58

Net Profit: $94.71

For my business my goal is 100%+ ROI for the month, not a set dollar amount. On these ten items my COGS was $32.86, meaning my Net Profit was 288% ROI. I chose ROI vs. a dollar amount, because I also do retail arbitrage, so my higher $ items actually yield a lower ROI. A prime example of that is the Rag & Bone scarf I wrote about two posts ago. I made a Net Profit of $21.08, but COGS was $31.79 making it a 66.3% ROI. When I average in my retail arbitrage and my thrift/yardsale/antique finds, if my ROI is well over 100% I know I’m in a good place financially.

Getting Rid of Musty Smell

Some vintage items come complete with a not so great vintage smell. Linens, clothes and books sometimes have a musty or mildew smell, but they are too amazing to leave behind. If it is something that you can put the laundry, I would first recommend trying to wash the item first; however, some vintage pieces are dry clean only. Unless you have a serious dry clean hook-up, it’s expensive to get something dry cleaned, and will cut into your profit margin, so here is what I recommend to get the smell out of a variety of items.

If the item is clothing or linens and the smell did not go away after washing (not dry-clean only), soak the item in water, wring out the excess, fold and place in a freezer bag. I recommend these 60ct gallon Ziplock bags as they will fit most items, save large linens. For larger linens I’d recommend the 2.5 gallon bags here. If you have a big blanket or quilt you may have to tight camp roll the blanket and tape two of the larger 2.5 gallon bags together. The reason for the freezer bag is to help minimize freezer burn and to protect your item from your freezer’s food stuffs. After you have your damp musty item in the freezer bag, put it in the freezer. Leave it in the freezer for two weeks.

After two weeks are up put the item, still in the bag in your sink to thaw to room temperature. The reason for the thawing to room temperature is that vintage items can be delicate, and may become brittle if there is a quick temperature difference, say for example 31F in your freezer to 100F in the hot humid Virginia sunshine. Leaving it in your sink to thaw will help it slowly adjust, and also depending on the temperature of your house, won’t make a big mess on your counters in case condensation forms on the outside of the bag. Once the items has thawed enough you can unfold it, take it outside and let it hang to dry. While it is recommended to put the item in the sun to dry for the best effect, if the item is too delicate to handle direct sun, or if the outside temperature is too hot, hang it in a shady area outside.

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If you have a dry clean only item of clothing, linens, blanket, or something that should never get wet like a book, do the same thing as above except wet the item before putting it in the freezer bag. Place your dry items into a freezer bag for the same amount of time, and then place in sink after two weeks to thaw. It will take less time to thaw, since the item was not wet prior to freezing, but you should still air it out outside. Never put books in direct sunlight. Not only will it age and yellow the paper, but the heat of the sun can break down the book binding. Make a little teepee like this in a dry elevated shady spot, and let it sit outside for a couple of hours.

Depending on how old the item is and how strong the smell is you may have to do this more than once, but most of the time the mustiness is gone after the first time. This advice will not work if the item has an active visible mold or mildew problem (green or black spots in places where it shouldn’t be). This also works really great if you every put a load of laundry in the wash, forget it and go on a weekend trip, and then comeback to some icky smelling clothes. I hope this was helpful, and thank you for reading!

Rag & Bone - BOLO Brand

BOLO stands for Be On the LookOut, and this month’s BOLO is Rag & Bone.

Rag & Bone is a New York based clothing brand for both men and women that focuses on making high quality, well tailored wearable pieces. The brand itself is not yet vintage, as they were founded in 2002. They make everyday wear, and by everyday, I mean tee shirts, jeans, shorts, skirts, and shoes. Nothing really sets their pieces a part from any basic mall brand at passing glance, but once you see a piece of Rag & Bone clothing up close, feel it and wear it for yourself, you will understand it’s a bit more special. They make their garments from incredible fabrics, and the stitching is impeccable for even the most basic tees.

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What does this mean for reselling? Why is Rag & Bone a BOLO brand?

Money. This brand is expensive. Hype beast, Supreme expensive. A basic graphic tee that has Love is the Answer on it, retails for $125.00. However, unlike Supreme, no one is faking it, and most thrift stores don’t know about it, so you can get it for a steal. Take for example this pair of Rag & Bone men’s plaid shorts. I bought these from a CHKD for $3.98, after squeeing for a solid five minutes, because I found it in my hometown in Gloucester, Virgina while visiting my parents. I sold this pair of shorts for $34.97 on eBay. After fees of $5.25, $3.97 first class shipping, and initial purchase price of $4.22, I made $21.53 off of one pair of plaid shorts.

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Finding this brand in the wild is very rare, not only at thrift stores, but also retail. Sometimes you can find pieces in TJ Maxx or Marshall’s. This dagger scarf I found in Marshall’s for $29.99. Now I know that may seem like a lot for some of you, but it’s new with tags, and if you zoom in to see the original price, $30.00 is a steal. I sold this piece for $65.97, the day after I listed it. After $9.90 fees, $3.20 to ship it, and $31.79 purchase price, I still made $21.08 and it was a quick flip. If I had found it in the black or gray colorway, I would have kept it, because it was probably the nicest, softest piece of fabric I have ever touched in my life.

If you come across a piece of Rag & Bone either thrifting or in the shops, grab it, because it is a BOLO brand.

A Lessoned Learned - Always Open the Box

I live in an area of Virginia called Hampton Roads. In my area, the thrifts stores that carry the highest of prices are the DAV and Salvation Army. When I go to those two stores, I normally only hit the hardgoods, because they have a tendency to retail price their clothing and shoes ($6.99 for used LulaRoe anyone?). As such, I have yet to find a Harley piece (even a t-shirt) priced less than $10.00. So imagine my surprise when I found this Harley Davidson coffee mug new in box at the DAV for less than $10.00 (paid $3.98). Now while I did open the rim and feel the top to make sure there were no chips, I never took it out of the box.

I get it home I clean my items and get everything prepped for listing. I get to the Harley Davidson Mug, thinking I’m going to get $20.00 for it (I offer free shipping), and I’m excited, because it would be my first piece of Harley Davidson for resale. I take all the pictures of it inside the box, and then I take it out.

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It’s upside down. The graphic printed on the mug is upside down. That’s why it was donated. That’s why it was still there new in box at the DAV for $4.

I decided to put it up for auction, with the hope that the novelty of it being a misprint would sell it. I put the starting bid at $14.97, free shipping. Sometimes misprints in products make them more valuable, sadly that was not the case in this instance. While it did sell for $14.97, after fees and shipping, I still ended up losing money on this purchase. Paypal and eBay fees were $2.25, shipping was $10.00 (it was a heavy stoneware piece), and the original purchase price was $4.22 with tax. All in I lost $1.50, and this is the only sale I have every lost money.

Let’s look at the positives of this loss. I learned to always check inside the box, unless it is a sealed item. I learned that auctions are better with calculated not free shipping, and to start the bid with the purchase price with fees. This means I should have started the auction at $6.49 with $10.00 shipping. Another positive is, I made an auctioned listing and a sale, which is activity on my store keeping it healthy and in eBay’s algorithm. The mug also made it out of the DAV where it could have been broken or tossed, and hopefully into the hand of someone who will love it for being different.

Best Offer Can Be Your Best Friend

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I’ve seen a lot of mixed feelings about the Best Offer feature on eBay. It’s no secret that eBay wants you to have it as an option on all your fixed price listings, as it is auto selected in most cases when you draft a new listing. Even if you deselect the option on listing, they will add it for you later, and then send you an email about it. While that may be a little off putting, I actually think the best offer feature is great for your store.

As I stated, eBay wants you to have Best Offer available on your listings, so your listings that do have it enabled will rank higher in their algorithm. Every offer, even low ball offers, count as activity in your store. More activity in your store, the higher your items rank in the algorithm. If someone submits a low offer, you can always counter it. They have up to five counter offers, but each back and forth is, you guessed it, more activity for your store. It’s about 50/50 for me whether or not I will accept a first offer or counter.

I will accept a first offer if it’s only a few dollars off my asking price, because I build that into all my listings. That’s my first tip, to take advantage of Best Offer list your item 20% higher than your base price. If you get it, heck yeah, but that makes it so you have room to negotiate. I’ve also found if you take a Best Offer from someone, they are more likely to leave you positive feedback, because everyone likes feeling like they got a deal. If someone is offering half my asking price, I will counter with something more reasonable. So far I’ve only had one instance where I just outright declined after a few back and forth offers, because they were only upping their counter by a dollar every time.

You can also set a minimum and a maximum offer to save time. You can set Best Offer to auto-decline any offer less than a certain dollar amount, and auto-accept any offer above a set dollar amount. I personally only use the auto-decline feature, because I feel like using the auto-accept could leave money on the table.

My second tip, is to not take it personal. If you receive a low ball offer, don’t take it to heart. All of the items in my store are priced well above what I paid for them, so I keep that in mind when I respond to an offer. I will stick firm to my 20% buffer, and most of the time we reach a fair price for both parties. Try to be kind and professional in your response, and counter them with something more reasonable to you. My go to is, “Thank you for your offer. I would be more than happy to meet you somewhere in the middle, as I do offer free US domestic shipping.” About 75% of the time my counter gets accepted, and the rest of the time, declined. My store gets activity, most of the time a sale, and sometimes positive feedback!

My third tip is to take all reasonable offers. If you use my first tip, please also take my third tip. Accepting reasonable offers, means you are turning over your inventory faster, recouping your initial investment, and building capital to invest in more inventory. People that feel like they got a deal, are more inclined to leave positive feedback, and every offer, counter and sale is activity for your store to appease the algorithm. If you care to look at my feedback, you’ll see the majority of my positive feedback was left on Best Offer buys.

I hope this was helpful, and that you all feel better about taking advantage of this feature in the future. I would love to know your own experiences with Best Offers in the comments below!

Every Sale Matters - a Short Piece

Please forgive my title pun, but though it was important to emphasis the every day sale. Finding that big score is rare, requires a lot of luck, and can’t be depended on for a steady stream of income, if you’re thinking about making reselling a full time revenue source. Quick little sales can help you in more ways then one, and I would recommend being the focus for anyone just starting out reselling. When you are out picking here are some things you should consider:

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Does this brand have a lot of sold comps?

Does this item fit current trends?

Is this item in season?

Cost of Goods?

Let’s take this pair of Caribbean Joe shorts for an example. There is nothing special or remarkable about this pair of shorts. It’s an okay brand and a basic style; however, this brand was a yes in all the above four questions. There are a lot of sold comps for this brand in mens, because this is a warm weather brand and it’s Spring. It’s not a super long short, so it fits current style, and it was only $2.12 including tax. I knew I wouldn’t get a ton for it, but I would more than double my money on it, even if I took a best offer for it.

I put it up for sale on April 10, 2019 for $14.77, and I took a best offer on it of $12.00 after two weeks listed on April 24, 2019. After $1.80 in fees, $2.12 for cost of the item and sales tax, and the surprising $5.38 for shipping, I made $2.70. That may seem like a low number, but it’s still 127% return on investment (ROI). I got my money back for the item, and an additional $2.70 to reinvest in more inventory. I have a sale and activity on eBay, which satisfies their algorithm. Tomorrow I will go into why Best Offer can be your Best Friend on eBay, and some tips on pricing to help take best advantage of it.

Bailey's Yum Collection 1996 Tea Cups

A few years ago I had a meeting in Richmond, VA, and since it was a long distance from where I lived I headed up early in case of traffic. Miraculously there was no traffic, so I arrived at the meeting location with over an hour to spare. Not wanting to sit in my car for a hour, I saw there was a small thrift store across the street. I walked in, and I remember it being set up a lot differently than the big thrift stores for which I was accustomed (GoodWill, DAV, CHKD). I wandered around for a little while, not really seeing anything interesting, when I spotted the most ridiculous pair of tea cups winking at me from the shelf.

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Literally winking at me.

I picked them up and at three dollars for the pair I thought they would be fun pieces to have around the office. I wasn’t reselling at the time, so I purchased them and they sat and were used every now and again in my office break room.

Fast forward a few years to now, where I found this Crazy Lamp Lady on YouTube. I’ve been reselling clothes off and on on eBay for over a decade, but she seemed to be very successful on Etsy with hard goods. I’m a business person, so diversifying revenue streams and branching out on a different platform with a different set of wares appealed to me. Since I specialized in clothes and I wasn’t going to get to the thrift stores again until the weekend, I thought to myself, “how was I going to fill out my new Etsy store?”

Then I remembered the winking cups.

There they were still smiling and winking in my office break room, so for a lark, I started researching them to see if I could find out any more about them. I typed in Bailey’s tea cups into the oracle (Google), and it turns out they are part of a much larger full serving tea set that was a limited edition release in 1996. The full service set had well over twenty pieces, which I didn’t have, so then I looked on eBay to see if a single pair of cups would be worth more than my original $3 price tag.

I saw multiple comps on eBay, so I decided to list them on my new Etsy shop on April 2, 2019. They were my first sale and sold for $24.00 with free shipping the next day on April 3, 2019. After Etsy fees of $2.43, shipping of $11.20 to Washington state, and my original purchase price of $3.18 (with tax), I made $7.19 on my first sale on Etsy!

Don’t worry, my assistants still have plenty of less valuable mugs to drink out of still in the break room.

Reselling is a Marathon Business

I know a lot of new resellers, come into the business after seeing a viral post on Facebook, or watching tv shows like Storage Wars and American Pickers, or by viewing a video from one of the many amazing resellers on YouTube, like Ralliroots or Crazy Lamp Lady. YouTube and TV are edited versions of what is normally a long process. Take the TV shows I mentioned, they only showcase “expected” sales or profits, rarely actual sales. YouTubers are more transparent, with many of them putting up regular sold videos; however, the time from listing to the time an item sells is almost never discussed unless it’s a fast sale. This can give a false impression that reselling can be a way to make quick cash.

With that assumption, new resellers commonly jump into the business and after the first week, will get very discouraged when their items are sitting and not selling. Some of that has to do with being a new seller and not optimizing their listings, some has to do with possibly not picking the best items for resell, but most of the time it’s because reselling is a marathon, not a sprint business. Let me give an example.

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I listed this Affliction thermal shirt on my eBay on February 23, 2019. I listed it for $17.77, thinking at a low price and it still being cold outside it would be a quick sale. I paid $4.23 at the GoodWill with tax. This shirt sat in it’s bin until April 20, 2019, when it finally sold for full price. The fees for the sale were $2.67, ) $3.85 shipping (I offer free shipping), and after original cost of $4.23, I made $7.02. It took nearly two months from listing to shipping. I’ve been reselling on and off for a decade, and my normal break down is 15% sold within a week of listing, 65% sold within 2-8 weeks of listing, and 20% 8+ weeks.

If you are just starting out, don’t get discouraged if you don’t sell anything right away. Start small but keep at it. Do a little research and see how successful resellers list their items and take their pictures. Make some adjustments to titles and photos. It may take awhile, but if you develop your thrift eye, and list regularly, things will start to sell.

Jasco Ceramic Mallard Duck Lint Remover Brush

I am fortunate to have multiple thrift stores not only near where I live, but also near where I work. Where I work happens to have the perfect juxtaposition for resell thrift: affluence, retirement communities, outlet mall, and yuppie/hipster college town. Finding high end brands thrifting here is common,many new with tags. Finding vintage items and antiques is common, because of a loved one doesn’t want to deal with the estate of their passed relative. Best of all, having a glut of mall brands is low, due to the college kids picking them up for their own wardrobe. A perfect reseller storm of conditions. It’s for this reason I make it a point to go thrifting at least twice a week, during lunch or after work, once on Monday, and another time midweek.

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It was on one of these midweek trips I found this little ducky. At first, I thought it was just a well loved ceramic with a sizable felted bottom to protect both the ceramic duck and any surface it rested on from scratching each other. However, once I picked it up and felt the texture of the bottom, I knew that was not the case. It felt almost like a hairbrush. I decided at half off of $2.25 ($1.25 with discount and sales tax), it was worth picking up and doing a little research.

At first I reverse image searched on Google, and that was no help. As pretty as mallard ducks are, live birds were not going to help me identify my ceramic ducky’s purpose. Then I did a reverse image look up on eBay. Lo and behold, I found a ton of similar fuzzy bottomed duckies on eBay. My $1.18 duck, was a vintage Jasco Ceramic Mallard Duck Lint Remover Brush from the 1980s. Given the muted colors, the brush material and the trim on the wood that fit the time frame perfectly. I also saw they went for around $14-$15 with free shipping on eBay.

So that’s what I list it for, but on Etsy.

I listed it on Etsy, because there were so many listings on eBay I thought mine might get lost. Since it was a vintage piece, I could list it on Etsy and did. It was a good choice, as it sold six days after listing it for $14 with free shipping. At $14 sale price, I paid $1.41 in Etsy fees, $4.33 to ship it all the way to Washington state, first class USPS, and my original price of $1.25, I made $7.01 off a $1.25 ducky I found on my lunch break at GoodWill.