TIM’s EBay Adventure – Part 2 (A Mid Week Musings Special)

… continued from part 1.

—000—

Background

Several months ago I decided I would, after much deliberation, try to sell some models on Ebay.  This is is the continuation of my journey!

Research

The nice thing about researching things in this day and age is you don’t have to do much more than hit the keyboard.  Thanks to Google (other search engines are available) pretty much everything is available at the touch of a button, there is no need to leave your desk let alone your house.

I started my research with eBay.  I’m not naive, there are very few new ideas these days, it’s all about doing things better and cheaper than your competitors, or so it seems to me. Not surprisingly other people paint figures to sell.  The bigger questions were who buys them, what do they buy and how much do they sell for?

I’m no expert but I know that people collect anything and everything so why would figures be an exception?  They are not.  Of course lots of people paint there own but some are collector’s of figures, some simply cannot paint but want a good looking figures on the table, some just don’t have the time.  The thing to do was search eBay and “watch” numerous items to see how they fared.

One of the first things that struck me was the standard of painted figures and the different selling methods people were using.  The standard ranged from professional to, well let’s just say not very good.  Now I’m not knocking the poorly painted stuff, I wish those sellers good luck but in their narrative some like to describe their work as “pro-painted”.  I can only assume that by pro they are using an abbreviation for the word prostitute as I can’t believe for one minute that the work was that of a professional painter.  At the other end of the spectrum the standard is extremely high and clearly the work of skilled painters.  As I would have expected prices tended to correspond with the quality of the work for sale although I couldn’t help but feel one or two sellers were being optimistic.  That said one figure I monitored sold for £142.00!  On average though figures at the top end of the spectrum generally seemed to sell in the region of £50.00/£60.00.  The question now was how to value my own work?

Selling methods were also varied.  As well as the traditional auction method some sellers chose to adopt a fixed price while others were open to offers or a combination.  All have there merits of course but what would work best for me?

Another factor was genre.  There was a market for Old Wild West figures and the SAGA period figures appeared to be popular too.  Some fantasy figures appeared to sell as well but there were fewer up for sale, or so it seemed.  Other categories might have been popular too but with so much scope in those three genres alone I had more than enough options to get started.

Postage was another consideration.  Do I offer free postage as some sellers did or do I seek to recover my costs?  Would I be willing to sell to an overseas buyer?  One thing was for sure, I would need to sit down and do a reasonable costing.  Only then could I determine if the whole exercise was worth it or not.  Before going further I decided this now needed to be my next step.

The Cost of a TIM Figure?

Armed with a pen and paper I jotted down what I considered to be the key costs of painting and posting a figure:

  • Cost of the figure and base
  • Time taken to paint and base the figure/hourly rate
  • Packaging
  • Postage
  • Basing materials
  • Painting materials  – brushes/paints
  • Ebay/PayPal fees

Strictly speaking any product should be properly costed to the “n”th degree but I felt in my position it wasn’t appropriate.  Firstly I decided to ignore the cost of painting materials.  This is my hobby first and foremost and as long as I can continue with it I will buy and replace all consumables.  Simply doing more figures with the aim of selling some wasn’t going to change that and the rate of consumption would, certainly from a starting out perspective, be insignificant.

Secondly, I decided to make some assumptions on painting time and thus the knock on effect of any hourly rate.  I’m in the fortunate position of being retired.  My aim here is to paint and fill my time enjoying what I do.  If I couldn’t sell any figures I would still paint them anyway wouldn’t I?  Was there any need to actually charge for my time?  Another factor when considering this point is the people I am competing against, the professionals.

So who are the professionals?  Well my assumption was this.  Now if I were a sculptor, but then again no.  Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show … whoops, Elton John tangent there, let’s start again.

If I were a sculptor then my aim would be to create figures and sell them direct via my own website.  To help sell them it would look better if the figures were professionally painted.  If I paint them myself they might not look that great but time spent painting could be time spent sculpting and that’s where my strength and the money lies.  Better to commission someone to paint them?

Sticking with this scenario I reckoned that the professional painter would probably get the figures for free, get paid for painting them and possibly get paid too for sending back tip top photos for the sculptor to use.  Of course the actual painted figure could be sent back but that would incur the additional cost of postage and still require the sculptor to have photos taken which is more money and more time.  Under this scenario we have a professional painter who gets his figures free, has been paid to paint them and take photographs and who now has figures that can be sold on eBay for a 100% profit!  Not a bad little system.

Now I can’t be fully certain that the system works that way but I did manage to identify two ebayers who’s work appears on figure sellers websites so at the very least  I felt confident I was thinking along the right lines.  The thing now was what conclusions could I reach from this?

One conclusion I reached was I couldn’t set a starting price for any figures I list higher than the professional guys.  In time I might be able to if my own work improved and if what I was selling was of a different genre perhaps.  For now though I felt I had an indication of the highest price I could set, now I needed to determined the minimum.

To determine the minimum price I needed firstly to ensure that any sales income would at least cover my costs, essentially the sum of the figure plus postage and packing.  It also needed to cover eBay and PayPal expenses.  I then needed to see a profit, a price which to my mind made the whole thing worthwhile.  Anything less would beg the question, why bother?  I settled on an arbitrary amount and decided that would do for starters.

All that now remained was decide how to sell on eBay.  Auction?  Buy Now?  Accept Offers?  Something to ponder while I actually painted some figures for selling!

To be continued …

—000—

TIM

30 thoughts on “TIM’s EBay Adventure – Part 2 (A Mid Week Musings Special)

  1. Nice post! I did a good amount of selling on Ebay a year or so ago. Decided to ‘clean out the closets’. I’m still kind of amazed how much I sold. It sounds like you have it mostly figured out, but if you have any questions feel free to shoot me an email.

    A couple tips. You don’t have to Watch items on Ebay, as there is a search filter for items that sold. Whenever I’m doing my research, that’s what I use now to see what sold recently and for how much. Way easier. Keep a spreadsheet of your expenses and your sales. I don’t know what taxes are like where you’re at, but always good to have records. Lastly, make sure to look at stipulations that other people are using in their posts. There were a few things I always made sure to include, like what payment I accept and when payment is due. I also used Ebay’s global shipping program, and would reference that.

    Good luck curious to hear how much you sell your minis for. If it’s anywhere less than a million dollars, they are getting a deal!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. In reality I’ve been going now for a good few months but thought it might be nice to document the experience via the blog so glad you liked the post. I’ll obviously reveal more as the story unfolds although I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to learn that the experience is a mixed bag. Thanks for the tips. The spreadsheet I have in hand and I think I have payments and postage sorted but the search filter I didn’t know about so many thanks for that as I’m sure what will prove useful.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yea, the search filter is great. Mixed bag was my experience too. I basically had auctions going every week, for almost a year. Some weeks were good, some not so much. Prices fluctuated wildly at times, same with the interactions. Awesome when things go your way, and not so much when they don’t!

        Liked by 3 people

  2. A good post, I would pretty much echo what Faust said. As for the pro painted miniatures on Ebay… I do wonder, however I am a professional (or so it is said) and I paint miniatures therefore my miniatures are professionally painted – QED.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Glad you like the post. Have been going for a good few months now but thought it might be interesting to document the experience, warts and all! I’m doing it more for interest really along with a high degree of curiosity as well. I think some people see it that once they have painted and sold a figure they are professional. Not sure that really falls within my definition but at the end of the day it’s up to people to see the quality on display and for them to decide if they want to buy it or not.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. First of all, good luck with this. Your work really is of an excellent standard so if there’s any justice this will go well for you. 

    Absolutely agree that some of the “pro-painted” stuff you see online is of very variable quality. Some of it you definitely look at and think “ah, this claims to have been painted by a professional. I wonder what profession because it sure as hell isn’t painting!” 

    For me painting is the hobby, owning miniatures is really a by-product of that, so I don’t have much knowledge of this side of things (beyond the aforementioned “good luck!”). However a couple of things that I will throw into the mix. 

    Firstly, a topic dear to my heart, regarding postage. Please, please don’t list things as “will not send to Scottish Highlands”. This is a really common problem, and a source of understandable irritation around here. A lot of people assume it’s the result of either ignorance or bigotry only part of the sellers (i.e. they either assume there’s no postal service up here or they just don’t want to sell to us). It seems to be an exclusively English problem, often I can get the same product with free postage from Germany – god only knows what will happen after March! I had a guy just the other day phone up with a “surprise” £10 extra charge, who told me I should have known it would happen because I “live on an island after all”. I said “yes, mainland Great Britain, same as you”. He didn’t have an answer for that! 

    Anyway, excuse me ranting! I’m told that it’s a problem with the courier companies in England overcharging the sellers but there must be a way around it as some people manage. 

    I think from a promotional point of view the fact that you’re a known quantity will help you stand out a little. My partner works as an illustrator and she finds that an “online presence” and being known as an individual is something that really helps with a small business of this type. Ultimately I think it’s a very human thing, we feel more comfortable buying from a person we feel we know something about, as opposed to a faceless stranger. 

    Regarding sculptors having models professionally painted, based on my limited experience of working with a company selling miniatures (about a decade ago), the company definitely wants them back once they’re painted. That way they can use them in promotional materials, make displays, take them to shows and events etc.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Wow, great reply mate and thanks for taking the trouble. Where to start with a response?

      Postage, totally get your frustration. Without getting on my own soap box I think we get exploited quite a lot with all manner of things. Everything seems geared to one size fits all these days and where it doesn’t fit financially you don’t get it! For you it’s Postage, they can’t be bothered to go somewhere remote without charging a premium. For me when I first moved to a small village in West Devon it was the internet. Too expensive to put the wiring in so basically tough. I did however learn a good lesson on postage which I’ll cover in a future ebay post but don’t worry, if you ever buy a figure I’ll see it gets to you with free P&P! 😉

      Very interesting comment on the sculptors. Hadn’t thought about it along those lines and of course it does make sense what you say. From a curiosity point of view I’m finding the whole process very interesting and a world a part.

      Agree with you regarding “pro” painters as well. A fare bit of poetic licence being used I think but I suspect most buyers look at the quality on display and not the descriptive jargon.

      Like you I like the painting side of the hobby but I do like collecting too. Painting two figures at the same time with the aim of selling one seemed like a nice way of making the hobby self funding. I don’t really need to so but decided to set myself the challenge to see if I could. So far so good but more on that in future posts!

      Liked by 6 people

      1. My pleasure, I don’t know how useful all my rambling thoughts were but if they help in any way I’m glad. I grew up in a small business, and I work for one now, and my partner is a small businesswoman (well, she’s little and she runs her own company so…) so even though I’d probably never want to do it myself I have all the respect in the world for those who’re willing to give it a shot.

        Regarding your internet troubles in we had the exact same situation in the town I grew up in. Too expensive, too remote, of course they’d put it in if they could but it’s physically impossible, they said. Then a BT exec retired and bought a house just north of the town and even though they’re still saying there’s no internet for us they’re also digging up the main street to put the line in for him. Cheeky swines! 😀 We got it in the end though.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’m not sure the aim is to truly establish a small business but I like the idea of making the hobby self funding. Early days have been encouraging but more details for future posts. As for the internet we got there in the end, took a few new houses to pay for it otherwise nobody woild have bought them!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Huh, interesting. So I had an experience on the opposite end… Put an item up with Free Shipping (meaning I would be paying for it). I live on the West Coast of the U.S., and calculated how much shipping would cost to send to the East Coast. Farthest point, right? Well, someone from the West Coast wins the bid, sends me their address….and it ends up being 4x the amount of shipping to the East Coast. I’m thinking “How can this be?!”. Turns out they lived on an island, where I guess it costs more to ship. Kinda crazy, and I ended up losing a lot of money on that deal. So I guess I understand why sellers might be reluctant about being gouged, but also sucks if people are refusing to sell to you based on location.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Ah, that’s no good at all mate, I agree with you – you shouldn’t be punished that way. I’ve lived in a few very remote places and if I’d been charged extra for postage there I would have understood – I might have been hacked off about it, but I’d have understood (used to live in a village with four other houses, 40 miles from the nearest shop. One of the other “houses” was a crumbling hotel and the owner threatened a mate of mine with an axe like something out of the Shining. If the postie wanted to charge a bit of danger money to go there I honestly couldn’t have blamed him!). The trouble we have here is that half of the land area of the country is designated as “remote” and most of it isn’t actually remote at all. I live in a town dammit! 😀

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Ah, case of mistaken identity then. That’s a funny (well, kinda) story about the hotel owner. One of the funniest fights I ever saw, was a guy trying to fight with a Chefs nice. It should have been scary, given the length of the blade, but due to the inebriated state the parties were in, was comical. He got popped in the back of the head, ended up sitting down sprawl legged and the cops came to sort it all out. As for the free shipping to a remote location. It was one of those live and learn things.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad you like the post John. I wasn’t entirely sure how interesting they would be but some interesting comments appear to justify for now. You make a good point as well. One things for sure, the moment it isn’t fun or starts to dominate then I will reassess the whole idea. For now I see it as something to do, a challenge if you will to see what I can make of it. Learning a lot but whether it’s worth it remains to be seen.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Good post mate. Just never sell yourself short. Be proud of what you do and sell it for more than what you think it’s worth. I was in sales (Rep for a building company) and I hardly ever compromised on price because I loved and believed in the products. Someone will always buy it. Promote as much as you can too. Good luck 👍🏼

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Ahhh the age old pro-painted bain of my life. Can’t stand it when everyone adds that. There are genuinely great pieces but others that have blatantly been painted by someone’s arthritic dog and then a whole raft in between. I can tell I’m getting older as I’m more inclined to pm the sellers now, especially if they are stores. It has sometimes resulted in getting the minis cheaper, especially if they have been up for a while.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Yours would be best promotes as pro-painted and of exceptional tabletop quality. It also helps to add the scale and what game they would be good for. So, for example, your medieval figures would be great for Saga, or Lion Rampant. I do believe you sell figs separate from dioramas based on your posts? Also, please remind me of your seller name so I can see your stuff?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mark, My blog posts are a little bit behind the eBay reality so I’ve actually been selling/trying to sell for a few months now. Ups and downs as you can imagine but I’ve sold a few figures similar to those listed and at the prices shown. I’m only selling figures because they are more likely to arrive in one piece! My user name is carrot1808, so if you do take a look I’d be interested to know what you think if you get the chance. I’m no expert so very much open to favourable or adverse comment. It’s all part of the learning experience after all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just saved your seller name – and for now all I see are books but I can see the stuff you’ve sold as far as miniatures go. I think that your prices are reasonable, though with the price of postage to the US your market is clearly the UK. I do think you could get more for your stuff as groups. I would sell the groups as sets, say Kelly’s Heroes, or Gunfight at the OK Corral group. When I look for things, I search for specific things and save those searches.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Odd that you can’t see the figures as I’ve got quite a few up. Try searching 28mm Painted Knuckleduster or 28mm Painted Hasselfree? Good idea about grouping, l like that idea and will give it ago when I have a set done. Thanks for looking, appreciated.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Very interesting post mate ! the feedback is great ,it’s a subject I have been wondering about for some time ,a great can of worms cobber and I look forward to hearing more about your on going research .

    Liked by 1 person

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