For the last few months, I’ve been selling Yu-Gi-Oh! cards on eBay in my spare time. Initially, this was from listing cards on behalf of my friends, while more recently I’ve been specifically buying cards to create and sell decks from.
Although it’s not the most profitable endeavour in the world, I’m not losing out, so the idea of investing more in this in the hope of bigger rewards is tempting. However, I’m not sure about that yet, because the main thing I’ve learnt is that eBay is incredibly unpredictable.
Searching through the completed listings for any card or set of cards shows their final price varying dramatically within the same day or week. A card may sell for £4.99 that day but £1.99 the day before, while in-between these may be ones which didn’t sell for no observable reason.
Another lesson is that playing by the rules of what eBay wants to see, and making sure my items are as visible as possible, often takes more time than listing and selling items does. Some of the requirements for eBay’s algorithmic favour are common sense: more photos are better than fewer, quicker delivery is better than slower delivery, and a more expensive item with free postage is better than a cheaper item with paid postage. Beyond that, I’m at the mercy of the Cassini algorithm.
Speaking of postage, I needed to change my initial approach because postage charges made selling common singles or 3-card playsets not worth the time. Selling a playset of cards for £1.49 (typical eBay price for a common card) will result in £1.29 after PayPal and eBay fees. First-class postage is 65p, fully half of the sold value. If those cards were bought by the three of us going in together on a box, that’s <22p per playset- while creating and posting listings doesn’t take too much time, it’s more than 22p worth. Although I could switch down to second-class postage to reduce the cost, I’d then need to offer same-day dispatch to keep my Cassini-friendly “Fast and Free” accolade…which would make eBay take up more time and become stressful rather than unintrusive.
As a result (partly thanks to buying larger amounts of cards), I’ve moved from selling singles and playsets towards building decks. Deckbuilding takes more effort than selling single cards, but I find the research and building aspect fun at the moment so this isn’t yet an issue. Practically, this means I pay comparatively fewer postage costs for the same sale value, and I pay less for individual cards because I can buy them in bigger sets. The downsides are that individual sales can take much longer because building a deck to a good standard cheaply can take time, while setting the right price is also more difficult.
This leads on to the final lesson I’ve learned, which is that eBay-ing can easily become a little obsessive. Unpredictability means there is always something potentially better and more profitable to buy, while large card lots offer the chance of overlooked rarities. The combination can form an intricate Skinner box which takes up far more time and mental space than intended. (As a caveat, I can easily get a bit obsessive with new ideas I discover, especially when they have lots of subsystems and categories like Yu-Gi-Oh! does… so this one might be a me problem.)
Still, it’s been interesting, and being able to pay my car tax with internet trading card money is definitely a perk. So hopefully I’ll figure out how to keep the luck going!