… continued from part 1.
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!
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
- 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 …