Reselling Auction Items

Reselling Auction Items



By Leon Carlson Founder of Mister Find IT

We have many of our friends ask how to get stared in reselling, but they are all over the United States, so I thought I’d instruct online.  As I like to teach about reselling auction items, I think it’s important to know how we got stated reselling auction items.   In my opinion, reselling auction items holds the highest possible return among all the other forms of gathering items to resell.

Upon attending a weekend seminar on “how to make money from auctions” I was told: If you’re going to make money reselling auction items, you need to establish some guidelines for yourself”.  Here are few they highlighted, and I live by today. (There is good reasons for these, which I’ll share as I share this series);

1.)  Don’t stand in front of the auctioneer, instead stand on the side.

Reselling Auction Items
Reselling Auction Items

2.) Don’t start the bidding, unless you know it’s the auctioneer’s lowest price.

3.) Don’t bid on anything that you don’t have a buyer for, or that you have knowledge of.  

4.) Be sure you can transport and store (without paying for storage) the item until it is resold.

5.) Don’t make any purchases at your first auction.  Instead go and learn the process, learn who works for the company, learn what times (beginning, middle, and end) are the best deals for resell auction items.  Learn what auctioned prices are VS resell prices.

6.) There is a lot more to learn, but I’m going to focus now on theses basics. 

A few months later I attended a live auction to put these new learned skills to work, (now mind you this was before my days of having a computer, and before the internet took off).   Before the auction, I called a few friends and said “I’m going to an auction on Wednesday is there anything you might be looking for?”  (I’m lining up buyers to resell my auction items).

One said “If you find a microwave I can use a different one”.  Another said “I’m looking for a couch”.   With no other requests I went to the auction.  Now this was a storage auction, in which the auction house brought the contents of about 40 storage units to the auction house to be sold as individual items.  I got there about 4:30 as preview was four hours before the auction started.  Employees were putting the final items on carts and having a quick lunch.   It’s important to develop a good relation with employees, as they can let you know some inside information about auction items you want to resell. If they help you load, be sure to tip them. 

The auction floor and walls were covered with items against the walls, or on rolling carts, all together about 1000 items.  There was about a 10 foot path between the auctioneers stand and the end of the building, which was lined with bleachers about 30’ across.  As you sat in the bleachers (which I did not, I stood to the side, between the auction stand and the bleachers), there were rest rooms, entrance to the building, snack counter, and clerk to the left.   The clerk is who you get your bidding number from (usually just have to present your ID), and who you pay at the end of the auction.  You want to preview items, because once they are on the auction block you will not be able to do close examination.  Once the auctioneer says sold you own it, as is.   When you stand off to the side, you can see the auctioneer, the items being offered, and the other bidders.  This can give you assurance that you are actually bidding against someone, and not the pipes or what is known as a ghost bidder. The auction house was packed with about 300 people.

The auction started at 5 PM with one ring or one auctioneer.  The first item on the block is an antique lamp, worth about $50.  The auctioneer calls out “who’ll give me $30?” no takers – then very quickly says “$2.50?, two people raise their numbers “now $5.? ” the contender did not raise, “I have $5, do I have $7.50?”  “$7.50?”  “SOLD to #264 for $5.00”  One runner takes the lamp to the high bidder and another runner puts the next item on the stand and the auctioneer immediately picks up his next item and begins to sell it.

Just a few side notes: 1.)  If you’re reselling auction items (may be different if buying for yourself),  you want to preset in your mind how much you’re willing to spend, for myself it’s about 25% or less of what you can sell it for.   2.) Remember when I said earlier “Don’t start the bidding”, that’s because every time you bid, you double or triple the price you were originally going to pay. Let others run the price up, and as long as it does not go over your maximum paying price, place your bid in between the auctioneers two last bid offers, in this case it would be between the two $7.50’s.  This may restart the bidding (hold your ground on your maximum), but most people are not paying that much attention, and you just sniped it from the one that thought he  / she was the high bidder. 3.)  Generally the first item on the block goes fast (cheap), because the auctioneer wants you to get your number up, he doesn’t want you to spend a lot of time thinking about buying.  He gets paid a commission on the sale, and wants to sell fast.  4.) Most good auctioneers can sell about 80 items an hour.  And some online auctions can sell three items a minute or 180 items an hour.  This is important to know about the time your items will come up on the block.

Along about 7 PM they started a second ring.  The first auctioneer took about a ten minute break, and then joined the second auctioneer.  Both were about twenty feet apart.  You had to make sure you got the attention of the auctioneer that was selling an item of your interest.  About this time about half the people left the auction house, and about every half hour another large group left.  It was during this time I bought a couch to resell for $15 (which I was hoping to get $100 reselling it), and a counter top microwave for $5 (which I was hoping to resell for $40).

At about 10:30 PM I saw what I felt was the best deal of the evening.  There were only about 15 people left on the bidding side, as most others were out past their bed time.   The fewer people at an auction, equals less completion, therefore the best prices.    Anyway, open trailer about 8’ x 20’ comes out with 300 ceramic molds and a ceramic kiln on it.  You did not get the trailer but you got ALL the molds, and the Kiln for one money.   The auctioneer asked for $1,000?, then $500?, Then $100?  Still no takers.  My mind is spinning if those molds alone sold for $5 a piece that’s $1500, and probably another $300 for the kiln.  The auctioneer continues on “$50? You get ALL the molds and the Kiln – think of the ceramic business you could do – surely you can make your money back”  How about $5?  I couldn’t help myself, my hand went up.  Thinking I’m paying $5 at auction and reselling for $1500, that’s a no brainier.  A couple more bidders threw in bids, and the auctioneer was back at me asking for $20, I hesitated a yes nod, he asked another $25?  My contender also heisted his bid, and back to me $30?  I slowly agreed.  I was starting to envision all the work of moving those molds.  The auctioneer asked $35?  $35?  SOLD for $30.   Now my thoughts were what have I gotten myself into?  How am I going to get them home, I only have a car.   I waited till the end of the auction about 11 PM, paid for my items and agreed to come with a truck the next day to pick up all my treasures.

The next day I rented a 20’ U-haul and took a couple family members to help load and unload these ceramic molds into my single car garage. When all was said and done, my garage floor was covered, and my work bench that ran the length of the garage was covered with ceramic molds.

Ceramic molds covered my garage
Ceramic molds covered my garage

I contacted the person that wanted the couch.  “Oh I’m sorry I don’t want a floral design, I’m looking for a leather one”, was their reply.  As for the microwave I heard “I’m looking for one above the stove not a counter top”.  Lesson learned;


Then I contacted a ceramic shop and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Would like to buy some ceramic molds?

Shop Owner: What do you have?

Me: I have 300 ceramic molds and a kiln.

Shop Owner:  No, I mean do you have pots, planters, animals, what do the molds make?

Me:  (humbling myself) I’ll get back to you after I open them and make a list.


Resell Auction Item Ceramic Kiln
Resell Auction Item Ceramic Kiln


Don't buy auction items you don' know about
Don’t buy auction items you don’t know about

Did I mention that this was before my days of owning a computer (1993)?   With the help of family members, we opened, cleaned up, sorted and made notes of what each and every mold was.  Then I sat at a typewriter and typed a 7 page list of each mold.  Then I wrote down a list of all the ceramic shops within a five state area.  There were 75 of shops.  Writing and mailing (snail mail) each of them a copy of the list, I invited them to a ceramic mold garage sale.  All of 3 people showed up.  They asked how much I wanted for the molds?  I replied $5.00 each.  One said “Oh, that’s too much.  I may give $5 for a large basket or pot, but I’m not interested in the large ones.  I’ll give you .50 cents for this small one, and a dollar for this one”.  I sold all of $5 worth of my ceramic molds.

Six months later, I had disposed of the couch and microwave, and I still had a garage full of ceramic molds.  They were even causing a bow in my work bench.


Resell auction items bow work bench
Resell auction items bow work bench

I had no idea of how I was going to get rid of them.  One friend suggested I use them as boat anchors.  I ended up calling one of the local shops, and I said “I want to cut my loss, will you give me $50 dollars for all of them, and the kiln.  I’ll even help you load, I just want my garage back.”  Done deal.  Now you may say, “well you made $20 reselling auction items”.  No!  $185 for the U-Haul, $150 family help, $125 in mailings, and many hours time lost.

The profit on this deal was the lessons learnedas I got up and went to

another auction and made money.

There are two ways to learn:

1.) From others experience (listen to your mentors) or

2.) Learn from your own experience – the later is more expensive. 

Next time we’ll cover MAKING MONEY from auctions!

Tell us about your first auction – buying and reselling experience. 

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