Pickers, Pawn Stars and Storage Warriors – here’s how to make money selling online!

Judging by the popularity of DSTV’s line-up of shows focusing purely on the buying and reselling efforts of pickers, pawns stars and storage warriors, flipping goods for profit is in vogue for professionals and hobbyists alike. But is it really as easy as it looks?

“It depends,” says Claire Cobbledick, of Gumtree South Africa.  “Collectibles are probably harder to pin a value on, because they tend to be worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. We’ve seen plastic Fischer-Price toys from the 80s go up for sale in the same price category as mint condition vintage toys from 1920 simply because the people who played with them originally now have the buying power to pay more for them, coupled with a sense of nostalgia…and it’s hard to put a price on it. Antiques are less sentimental, and more of an investment.”

Knowledge is key when it comes to buying and selling antiques for a profit. “Going out and buying a warehouse full of antiques without knowing anything about it is not a good idea,” says Cobbledick. “There are picks and troughs with antiques and sometimes the market becomes flooded with a  particular style, such as Art Deco, which makes it very difficult to sell them.”

Cobbledick says it’s best to start with smaller items that require less storage and a lower investment, coupled with a few rarities as an investment. “It’s worth learning to restore antiques if you are going that route, because it makes it easier to turn a profit.”

Her advice is to:

  • Look for items with a limited run: “Luxury items that were limited to a select few will always be worth more than mass-produced items.”
  • Buy Breakable items: “Many breakable items were mass-produced, but because they were fragile, complete sets are rare. If you have a complete set or are able to complete someone’s set, you’ve struck gold.”
  • Choose novelty items: “Some people have a fondness for the bizarre – stuffing spoons used for stuffing a turkey or silver pocket spittoons always find a collector!”
  • Take advantage of vintage chic: “Some items are popular today because they look good in the home – vintage typewriters and gumball dispensers are great, as is signage. Have a look through thrift stores for gems that will make great display items.”
  • Avoid items that have been altered: “If the legs and upholstery of an antique chair have been replaced, it’s virtually worthless. The less done to alter the piece, the better. If the item was repaired at any point, make sure the repairs were done professionally.”
  • Consider storage space: “If you don’t have  a large, dry space to store bulky antiques safely, stay away!”

Cobbledick also advises shoppers to acquaint themselves the correct terminology. “Mint condition implies no chips or cracks, or missing pieces and an original finish. Excellent condition tells you there are minor flaws, good condition means minor flaws and repairs, and damaged can imply anything!”

She also states that no one should count on restoration without checking with an expert. “Glass is very hard to repair, but porcelain is often restorable. Some surface scratches, breaks and tears can be repaired by the buyer but for the most part you will have to speak to a professional.”

Knowing where to sell them is another consideration that needs to be made. “Auction houses are great and often draw crowds, but the fees are quite high and you have no guarantees of what the final price will be. Whether or not an item sells often depends on the crowd that shows up that particular day – it can be a gamble. Car boot sales are also great, but you may have trouble to attracting buyers for costlier items, and they are very time-consuming.”


Fortunately, selling online is extremely easy to do. “Usually antique collectors use very specific search phrases, and using an online classifieds site is a great way to get noticed.”


Cobbledick advises using good descriptions and quality photographs. “You don’t have to invest in a professional photographer, but make sure you include pictures of the item in a good light, as well as pictures of the interior and any damage the item may have to avoid disappointment.”


Once active, keep an eye on leads and try to engage your prospective customers. “Antique collectors have a great network and a wide range of interests – ask them what they are interested in, and try sourcing those items. It will go a long way to making money in future!”

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