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eBay, Is It Worth The Effort?

This article was originally written as an eBay Guide.  eBay has decided to remove all guides now, so I am republishing this updated version because I feel it will be of interest to our IMPress readers.


I have been an eBay Most Trusted and Power Seller for many years.  I began to sell on eBay in 1998 when it first really got rolling.  In the first year on eBay I grossed close to $60,000.  I made all of this money selling Vintage movie posters, lobby cards and autographed star photos that I had bought at auction in the early part of 1990. 

A movie memorabilia store was going out of business in New York City and they had an auction which I attended.  I bought a large lot of vintage movie posters used in the movie theaters from the 1930’s to about the mid-1950’s.   I also bought Lobby Cards, personal letters to and from actors in addition to other movie and theater memorabilia.

The posters were the large ones you saw in the movie lobbies and in some cases the 8 sheets, were pasted on the outside of the theater building.  I paid an average of $1.50 for each poster.  I believe everything I bought, cost just about $400.   Most of this material sat in my attic for years because I had no idea how to sell them at that time.  It of course turned out to be a great investment.


In 1997-98 eBay went online and so did I.  Most of the posters and lobby cards sold for $100-$300 each. I had over 150 posters in various sizes and a nice inventory of lobby cards and autographed photos.  My first year on eBay turned out to be my best.    This was my introduction to selling on eBay. 

At that time, postal costs were reasonable, even international mail as well. eBay fees and Pay Pal were acceptable as well and they didn’t charge a 10% commission on postal costs as they do today.   So the cost to sell on eBay was fair and you could sell 70-90% of what you listed. For me these were the golden years of selling on eBay.

Today things have changed at eBay and not necessarily good for the average seller.  Competition is so high today that on any item listed on eBay, other then antiques you will see many multiple listings of those items.  There are also a number of additional fees now that never existed before and probably one of the worst is the continual increase in shipping costs. International mailing costs for a small package starts at $15 now for one to eight ounces.  This is insane and has made it impossible to sell many items to this market.  A loss of at least 80% or more of my sales today.


In order to understand if eBay is the place for you to sell your personal items and or other stuff?  If you think you can make money buying an item at a very low cost and want to now sell on eBay, you need to understand the costs involved. Your total cost of sale is not only the cost of the item you are selling but the eBay, Pay Pal and shipping fees when you finally do sell those items.  With all the new rules and changes on eBay it will require dedication to understand them and abide by them, so be prepared for a challenge.


eBay listing fees are charges you pay just to list your items.  They can run from .25¢ up to many dollars based on the selling price of the item and the type of listing you are placing.  Some ways to sell are Auction, Auction with a Reserve Price,  Buy It Now and others.  So listing fees vary.  If you want to sell a car or truck, there is a set fee plus commission. If you want to sell your house or real estate, yup you can do it on eBay too.  See how much your items will cost to list using eBay’s Fee Calculator.

eBay Fee Calculator

Now to understand your true costs you have to consider that many of your listings will not sell, but you will still have to pay to list them after the free 50 listings per month eBay gives you.  So this is where it becomes tricky.


Today, and from my experience, you may be able to sell 15-20% or less, of what you list.  This could be a realistic figure on many items you might want to sell.  

Unless it is a very hot item, or a limited number of these items being sold by others on eBay, your true cost of sale can be enormous.

A Breakdown Of Actual Costs On Sold Listings

You list 10 inexpensive items on eBay and pay $3.00 to list them all @ .30¢ insertion fee per item. Two of them actually sell and you collect $10 from your buyer for each.

Each item you did  sell, is actually costing you $1.50 per item in listing fees because you paid $3.00 to list 10 items.

Now subtract your eBay and Pay Pal fees on the total dollar amount the buyer has paid (including shipping). 

Your cost to sell this item was $1.50 (listing), $1.30 eBay Commission and finally Pay Pal at 3.5% plus a .35¢ transaction fee or another .80¢. 

Your net on that $10 item you did sell is now $6.40.  Now subtract the cost of your item….How much did you make?  Remember, you may also have a difficult time selling all of your inventory at the $10 price and may have to continue to lower your selling price until you do or continue to list them until you do sell them.

Hidden Costs To Consider

But wait, there are more costs in money and labor….There is a cost for a mailing envelope or box, bubble wrap if necessary and the gas to drive to and from your post office to mail your parcels.  Of course, the effort and time put in to take the photos of the item, list it,  pack securely and mail it, well that doesn’t count, or does it.

So unless you can sell more than 5 out of 10 items you list, the insertion and other fees can eat up any profits if any.

FREE LISTINGS – eBay Promotions

eBay FREE Listings
eBay FREE Listings

eBay will run promotions for their sellers from time to time and offer up to 1,000 free listings either auction or Buy It Now. 

“In 2013 eBay changed their policy on FREE listings.  Now even sellers without an eBay Stores subscription—would receive 50 FREE listings* per month that can be Auction-style or fixed price. You pay a final value fee only when your item sells. Final value fees have been streamlined to just one flat rate of 10%—regardless of how you sell”

Previously this was only offered to those that had an eBay store.

Now I believe that eBay Power Sellers, Most Trusted Sellers and others receive even more FREE listing offers as I do.  Since I have been a Power Seller and a Most Trusted Seller on eBay for years I often wait until these free listing offers are sent to me so now I can put up the bulk of what I might want to sell.

Amazon and eBay Competitors

Amazon Logo
Amazon Logo

With todays competition and the millions of items being listed, selling any item is a challenge.  Of course has also created a problem for eBay sellers with their low prices and free shipping to their Prime Members. 

With shipping costs for an eBay seller going through the roof and at an all time high, a seller has to be far below an Amazon price in order to compete. 

Each month on Individual account, not store owners,  eBay offers you 50 free listings each month, so it is a good idea to take advantage of this offer while watching for free listing days. This is one way to take a shot and not get killed on listing fees.  I do this all the time, especially on items that are more difficult to sell. I continue to relist them and lower the prices until I do sell them or end up donating them to charity.

If you opt to have your own eBay store based on the level you elect you would also earn a number of free listings.

eBay is becoming more like Amazon, small sellers beware of all the new rules going into effect in the coming months.


Garage Sale for Mac
Garage Sale for Mac

Usually around the holidays or slow selling months, I receive more of these promotions. I use a program called Garage Sale for my Mac. Garage Sale offers a great way to prepare all of my items for sale  with loads of pre-made templets, and an easy way to start your listings and organize thousands of them in a clean and understandable way. Frankly, I wouldn’t even bother listing on eBay without it.

Garage Sale for eBay listings
Garage Sale for eBay listings

Now when eBay decides to run a FREE Listing promotion all I have to do is select the items I want to list and click the Send to Ebay button. That way I can prepare hundreds of listings and wait for the promotion, elect all of them from Garage Sale and hit the “Start” button and they will all get uploaded.

If I get a promotion for 50, 100 or even 500 free listings I can start that may in less than and hour or less and save anywhere from $100 to $300 or more on insertion fees alone.


eBay Listing
eBay Listing
eBay Listing
eBay Listing

The only time I will list items knowing I have to pay an insertion fee is if the item is a hot item, or an expensive item I think will sell. I do research before I list an item to see what it is worth on eBay. if I search closed/Sold items first it gives me an idea of what my item has sold for or if it is an item that simply doesn’t sell.

I will also check this item in the completed items selection and I can see how many of that item didn’t sell and why. It is not only the price of the item it is the condition, the look of the ad you run and of course the photos.

I take the time to take a number of photos if necessary to show every angle and side of the items I sell.I do this for a few reasons.  If it is a new item, I want to show the packaging, the item itself, the UPC number on the package and any other details I feel are necessary.

On used items I have to take even more photos to be sure that every angle and view of the item is photographed. This helps to prevent any misunderstandings about the items and its condition.  You don’t want to be asked for a return because there was a small imperfection or damage to the item that was not disclosed. 

Because I am a professional photographer, I have set up a table top set-up with lights to take the photos and then I will edit them in a photo editing program that allows me to make corrections, add my copyright notice and crop the images. I then can save them all in the correct size. The minimum size eBay requires on all uploaded pictures is 500 pixels on the longest side, but 1600 pixels is recommended. This will show your item well, without being too large. Each photo can be 7MB in size, but keep in mind this could impact your upload speed. The larger the photo, the longer it takes to upload.


I ask myself this question all the time.  Is it better today to just list for free on Craig’s List or now on Facebook?  If you are trying to have a steady income from eBay, you need to do your research to see if the items you want to sell are popular, if they sell (check the item and see those that sold) and the fees including fees charged on shipping and handling costs and then decide if selling on eBay makes sense for you. 

Remember one important item, if you bought a close-out in a store at even half price and then tried to sell it on eBay you may not make any money at all.  It depends on the shipping costs, how popular the item is and what other sellers are selling it for.  Now if I caught a deal and bought a popular item at 80% off and shipping wasn’t an issue because it is a small item, then maybe I would buy it to resell it on eBay. 

Secret Price Codes At Costco That Will Save You Money.

I wrote a very popular article that is now the number one article on the internet on saving money at Costco.  It included details on how I made thousands buying Costco mark-downs and reselling them on eBay and Amazon.  I can no longer do what I did when I wrote this article because now everyone knows my secrets and if you check on eBay you will see many Costco items for sale there.

This is a must read for all eBay sellers and now has over 11 million reads.  Secret Price Codes At Costco That Will Save You Money.

There are so any major companies now using the eBay platform and so many sellers from China and Hong Kong now on eBay that you must be very selective if you are going to buy and resell these items on eBay.  eBay is still one of the best platforms to sell your old and unwanted items where you don’t care what you get for them.  So don’t leave your day job as they sell with dreams of being an eBay tycoon, I think that boat sailed a long time ago.  eBay is now a slick and polished platform today and for some the benefits may not be enough to overcome the work involved.

Camera Case on eBay
Vintage Leather Camera Case

If you have things you just want to get rid of, you no longer need them, can’t sell them donate them to charity not the many fake charities out there, like Lupus, Tuesday’s Child, Goodwill and others. Donate to your local house of worship, salvation army and others.  If they are light weight by all means take a shot and list them on eBay.  If they are larger items than try to sell them locally on Craig’s List and Facebook for those items. 

Craig's List Ad
Craig’s List Ad

How I Made $500 On Worm Poop

I just sold Organic Fertilizer I produce from red wiggler worms.  The worms poop is called castings and it the finest organic fertilizer you can use and it will never burn the plants as chemicals can.

On a listing for my castings on both Craig’s List and Facebook I sold over $500 worth of castings and some of my red wiggler worms in less then a week.  People came to my home to pick up the castings or vermiculture set-ups and there was no fees at all to pay and no shipping costs. Could never have sold this on eBay.  Be selective and by all means check the shipping costs and add eBay and Pay Pals fees onto tht cost.


So my advice is to understand the time and effort you put into selling your items.  The real costs to do it on eBay or other online selling services vs. the free options.  Understanding the time and effort, the true costs and the products that will or won’t sell, is vital. 

eBay now wants all sellers to offer a 30 Day Money Back Guarantee so they can compete with  Fine if you are and have to take a loss of 3% on sales.  How would you like to get an item back if you are a small seller 30 days later and take the loss on that return too?

I stopped selling on Amazon because of this return policy when a customer bought a new sealed book from me and two weeks later wanted to return it, really.  That was it for me and I removed my account from

I hope this article will help to demystify eBay and offer you some insight so you can understand if it is worth the cost and effort. 

As I mentioned earlier in this article..if you are just purging stuff in your home that has no value to you at all, by all means eBay, Facebook and Craig’s list is the way to go.

See how I list on eBay using Garage Sale…

See my listings on eBay 

Len Rapoport eBay Seller
Len Rapoport







Special Thanks for the great team at iWasCoding for their continuous support and their great products.

Len Rapoport Administrator
IPA Editor-In-Chief, ID: 1000 • I am an internationally published photographer and the founder of International Press Association. As president and editor-in-chief, my duties at IPA are extensive. For over 50 years I have written articles, had my photos published in millions of publications, record album covers, books, and in the digital media. I was senior marketing and sales executive for major corporations, including my own and as a corporate communications consultant. I have taught photography and formed IPA 20 years ago. I currently work from my home office and continue to actively cover media events in addition to all of my other IPA and IMPress responsibilities.
Len Rapoport Administrator
IPA Editor-In-Chief, ID: 1000 • I am an internationally published photographer and the founder of International Press Association. As president and editor-in-chief, my duties at IPA are extensive. For over 50 years I have written articles, had my photos published in millions of publications, record album covers, books, and in the digital media. I was senior marketing and sales executive for major corporations, including my own and as a corporate communications consultant. I have taught photography and formed IPA 20 years ago. I currently work from my home office and continue to actively cover media events in addition to all of my other IPA and IMPress responsibilities.
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