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It doesn’t take long within my eBay initiation to learn how great of a equalizing marketplace it is. Price competition is fierce and there’s only so much you can do to differentiate yourself with such things as customer service. Having a key product is absolutely essential so that you can not get overly commoditized and marginalized, especially from all the established companies who operate at a much different scale for generating profit. Even an item with the most shoddy description from an inexperienced seller can kill it if you’re shopping the right wares.

At first glance, the valuable products that jump out at you are the brands, but even more so comes anything that has some provable sort of scarcity to it. The starkness of this reality is just huge, and can be seen 24/7 in the massive community of collectibles traders that exist on eBay. I’ll admit, I had some not so subtle hinting to check out this area by one who I would dub my eBay mentor. This friend makes considerable cash dealing in sports cards, and between scouring outside message boards and weekend hobby shows, it’s definitely expanded beyond the level of a hobby for him. The thing that truly gave me a sense of how big the collector’s market and the sports collectors market was, specifically, was the eBay reaction to the New York Knicks sensation, Jeremy Lin. The craze began back in early February, and through the end of that month you could still find the eBay home page had a massive graphic, front-and-center, to push his related merchandise. Pretty unthinkable for a site where you can buy nearly anything to focus on something so limited, and for such a long time!

So taking the Lin evidence, the memorabilia market rises and falls off the latest news makers probably more than anything else. At the same time though, I’ve started to wonder if the market as a whole has been seeing some noticeable upward trends in the recent future. The huge popularity of Pawn Stars and it’s many spinoffs (Cajun Pawn Stars, American Picker, Storage Wars, Hardcore Pawn, etc.) does a great deal to bring back perceived collectable value into everyone’s consciousness. That coupled with a gradually improving economy, and people having expendable cash, makes for a great recipe for gain potential on the collectables front. After all, once you’ve got all your necessities covered, who wouldn’t want to brag about owning the one-of-a-kind presidential-shaped Chicken McNugget!

The latest Pawn Stars-esque show to appear even focuses completely on sports memorabilia, as told through a small retail operation outside Baltimore called Robbie’s First Base. The show, named “Ball Boys”, first airs during an afternoon slot on March 24th on ABC (probably running alongside NCAA tournament games). The collectables trend on television is at a hot clip, and I’ll be keeping tabs on how things work out for this maybe not so small segment of the eBay world.

(photo credit: “SILLY BANDZ” by Scot Scoop)

rollercoaster before the drop

The MBA Frontier project soldiers on by addressing one of the common concerns about even accredited MBA programs in general: What does any book reading and lecture attending amount to if it isn’t put into practice? As a way of materializing the ideas that I will be reading about I am seeking out side projects and small business opportunities to force exposure to running a business. Time will be spent, and money will be fronted. I’ll resist to call any of this activity an actual small business, since I don’t intend to put the full clout of my efforts into it. Without a doubt it will be nice to know that even if it doesn’t amount to any monetary profits, I’ll at least have an outlet for my experience and my failures to bring me some personal development dividends.

The first outpost I’ve reached as a business side project takes the form of an eBay account. Fantastically late to the game, having never bought or sold anything before on the monumental site, I’m hardly ready to internalize all of the ins and outs of the platform. In this case, that’s really the point. I’m battling my personality and my ingrained standard operating procedures by just jumping in.  My very short history for this venture has already taught me a lot and I’m happy to keep tweaking my approach for the day when these business and marketing maxims will play out in a much greater forum:

  • Auction mechanisms and buyer psychology
  • Properly marketing and cataloging products
  • Serving a paying customer, with an eye toward my feeble initial feedback rating
  • Actually using the snail mail postal service
    AND
  • Understanding that I am thrust into a living marketplace and dueling with plenty of professional sales fronts

There’s loads of material already in print and around the net going into eBay strategy and I’m unlikely to discuss any here. I am expecting to continue to share my thoughts on the overall real-world lessons that this project can bring me. At the same time, I’ll be looking out for a next side project to take on and see if I can escalate my risk/reward factor.

(photo credit- “Get Ready” by hjl)

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