I wrote to a reader last week, a lady who wanted to know how best to sell a silk head scarf from the 1976 Canadian Olympics. Either sold as a souvenir, or else perhaps given to competitors, the scarf was printed with the Olympic torch and listings of all the events.
Ironically, I came across the scarf, illustrated here, in a sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, also last week. Commemorating the "Olympic Winners of XIV Olympiad, London 1948", it was described as having been designed by Ena Pitfield, devised by Arnold Lever and printed
The price no doubt reflected the excitement of the recent games, coupled with the fact that it was being sold on home ground, so to speak, but I thought it offered something of a yardstick to judge others by. Clearly, however, collectors in Canada were likely to be most interested and, with hindsight somewhat glibly, I suggested she should put the scarf in an online auction such as eBay.
And then, after the letter had been posted, it occurred to me just how glib I’d been. She might not even have a computer, let alone a digital camera, access to the Internet and the time or inclination to jump through the various hoops needed to post an item successfully in an online sale. I know it can be a time-consuming exercise. I’m supposed to know what I’m doing, but in the handful of times I’ve done it, it was hardly worth the effort, save the relief of getting rid of stuff now unloved and unwanted.
That’s where a company cleverly calling itself Stuff U Sell comes in. Founded in 2004 by David Brackin and Fraser Pearce, , two Cambridge maths graduates both aged 38, they handle everything for people wanting to dispose of stuff in an online sale. Sadly, readers of this column live outside the catchment area of their van courier service, but for £10, they’ll collect a box of stuff from anywhere. (Of course you could always drop stuff off at their warehouse in North London).
What it costs
For selling your item, Stuff U Sell charge a commission of a third of the selling price of an item up to £500 and then 10 per cent above that. The buyer pays all the postage charges and eBay and Paypal fees as part of the hammer price.
For example, they sold a valuable 19th century Rudall and Rose flute for £2,053. Their commission was 33 per cent for the first £500, i.e. £165, then 10 per cent on the remaining £1,553, i.e. £155, so their total commission was 16 per cent, i.e. £320, and the seller received £1,733. Traditional bricks and mortar auctioneers charge between 15 and 25 per cent.
Unlike traditional auction houses, there is no charge for storage of unsold lots or higher percentage commissions for larger items.
Contact Stuff U Sell on 0800 046 1100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Either way. hopefully, that’s the last you’ll see of it. Your unwanted kit will be researched, photographed, catalogued and listed on eBay. The sale timing will be managed to your advantaged and the object(s) shipped out to successful purchasers, with a cheque for the proceeds back to you, usually two weeks after payment has been made and cleared. Stuff U Sell currently boasts a 99.6 per cent positive feedback from its customers on an annual turnover of £1.5 million.
David Brackin claims Stuff U Sell prices are typically 25 per cent higher than can be achieved going it alone. Having talked at length with him, I see no reason to doubt his word. By way of illustration, he told me about a pair of secondhand stereo speakers Stuff U Sell had sold for a customer for £91. He subsequently noticed an identical pair, offered by a private individual, which the vendor illustrated on the eBay auction platform using his company’s “borrowed” photograph. They fetched just £48.
It seems strategy and timing is everything, both things that a maths degree is handy for. For example, David has discovered that 5-6pm on a Friday is not a good time to sell. The optimum is on Sundays at around 7pm when eBay is at its busiest. Then there’s the issue of a fixed, buy-it-now price or the make an offer model over a traditional auction or even a Dutch auction, where the price starts high and falls over time until someone bids and buys.
Solid research on the likely value of an object; good digital photographs of it and clear and legally accurate descriptions are also vital to a successful sale. David employs 20 staff, to do all the legwork – IT, admin, photography, packing, despatching and so on – six of whom are cataloguers – he calls them “listers” – while the business operates out of a 16,000 square foot warehouse.
So space is not an issue, which is just as well. In addition to the usual collectables and fashion items, Stuff U Sell will also find eager bidders and a new home for your redundant fitted kitchen, granite worktops and all. In fact, there’s nothing much that David won’t sell, so long as it’s legal and not offensive. But he will sell only genuine objects – eBay rules forbid touting fakes – so no dodgy “Louis Vuitton” handbags or “Tiffany” jewellery thanks. Anything not worthy of auction can be donated to charity or sent for recycling.
“The business was born out of our own need to sell,” David said. “We had both worked in Internet companies before deciding we wanted a business of our own and we started in Fraser’s bedroom. Then we asked around among friends if we could help declutter their lives. In the early days Fraser was driving the van and I was in the passenger seat with the laptop on my knee. Since then it’s grown to be phenomenally popular.” The company is now one of the country’s leading eBay Trading Assistants.
“We exist to help people solve the problem of having too much stuff. The alternative is paying for storage, which starts out as seeming like a good idea but eventually you end up paying more than the objects you’re storing are actually worth. We thoroughly research every item we sell and by checking our various price databases, we know where and how to pitch for the best possible result.
“Unlike the one-day auction which relies on getting the right people in the room at the right time, our auctions on eBay can last six to eight weeks until we find the right buyer and ensure we get the best prices.”
- What are your experiences of selling on eBay? Share them in the comments.