Category Archives: Tutorials

36 Pages Indexed on this Website

I took a peek over at the Google Search Console (aka webmaster tools), and only 36 pages of this website are indexed.

I’m about to lose it.

Continue reading 36 Pages Indexed on this Website

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How to Buy Media Mail Postage Online

You cannot buy it from usps.com, but you can buy it from paypal.com.

Log into PayPal, and then go here https://www.paypal.com/shiplabel/createbulk

That’s also in the navigation as “MultiOrder Shipping“.

The process is multi-step. You create an “order”, then you buy one or more labels for the order, then you print the labels.

It might seem complex, at first, but try to imagine that you’re sending multiple items to multiple sellers, and it’ll make sense: instead of sending one-by-one, you send in batches.  You first define your destinations, and then packages, because there may be more than one package per destination, and then you pay for it all at once.  Then you print each label.

 

Can You Make Money Decluttering by Selling Books on Amazon in 2017?

Can Amazon be used to further your efforts to declutter and dehoard your home or office?  Can it be profitable? Will you get rich off your bookcases?

Short answer: probably not. Keep reading to find out other ways to potentially turn your books into cash, or something valuable. Continue reading Can You Make Money Decluttering by Selling Books on Amazon in 2017?

Ephemera Tip: Unsellable Magazines

I’ve been trying to sell some old magazines on ebay, and it’s tough. It’s not a good venue for magazines sales because you don’t see things organized by date.

Some have sold, but more haven’t, and in frustration, I actually gave away a copy of Coronet magazine that was probably worth around $10.

Another quirk about magazines, even very old ones, like the Coronet, which I think was from 1951 or 1939 (or was it two copies?) don’t move. In fact, as time passes, the value goes up, but the number of buyers seems to plummet as knowledge of the publication basically vanishes.

Have you ever heard of Coronet magazines?

What about Look?

They were hugely popular magazines in their day.

I had, and have, a few “problem” magazines. They are missing covers, or missing pages. Incomplete magazines are worth a fraction of complete ones.  So, if you start at $10, and go down from there, you’re really not looking at very much profit, if any.  I suspect most dealers don’t want damaged or incomplete magazines.

Here’s where you come into the picture.  You’re at an estate sale, and spot damaged magazines.  You might be able to get them for free, or very cheap, like pennies or nickels per copy.

Most of the insides are still good!

For crafting purposes, there are some popular old magazines that I think are great. They have rich inks, photos, and good ads.  Here’s the list of what I know:

  • Fortune – yes, the “business” magazines. It’s more like a cult. It has quality graphic arts, good inks, and very good printing.
  • Life – the classic. You know it.  It’s also plentiful and cheap!  A damaged book is probably worthless.
  • Look – a rival to Life. A large photo magazines.  Rarer, so more expensive, but it’s also becoming unknown.
  • Coronet – similar to Reader’s Digest, except more religious (if that is possible), more church oriented, and it had a photo section that was printed with rich inks.
  • National Geographic – the classic. Lots of ads for their well-heeled readers. Legendary photos.  Also, unfortunately, the older ones tend to have writing, that, today, we’d consider racist. These are generally inexpensive when complete, and cheap when incomplete.
  • McCall’s – women’s magazines with fashion illustrations.  Still well known, and the older magazines are worth of lot of money.

Remember, complete magazines are worth money, incomplete ones are worth less money, or none at all.

I don’t have any incompletes to sell, except this one Coronet that’s for sale.

I may end up posting it and other unsellables on Simbi. It would be only a small price in simbi, but a fairly expensive price for shipping.

Alpine Slimcase by the Brown Bag Company: Sourcing the Wrong Good Products for Ebay

 

This computer bag is nice! It’s got leather that’s been tanned to a matte finish. It just feel like a quality product.  It’s used, and has one small worn area in the corner, so I can’t even hint that it’s as good as new, but even with the flaw, I think it’s worth around $20. People regularly spend more to get less quality.

It’s still for sale on Ebay, and the price is always starting below $10, and sometimes is at a fixed price of around $12.

Doomed from the Start

Looking back, reselling this was going to be difficult. I just didn’t see the factors. With this article, I hope to explain why, and help others avoid these pitfalls.

The product is a laptop bag, and the name is the Alpine Slimcase, and the maker’s brand is The Brown Bag Company.

  1. Quality isn’t Everything – it’s extremely important, but quality is not enough, because online buyers can’t feel or smell the quality. I was bowled over by the quality of the bag, and the low price of around $3. I wasn’t thinking rationally.
  2. Brands Matter – a brand is like a proxy for quality. Online, the brand matters fundamentally, because brands are searchable.  People search for the brand right away. You want a quality brand product. While the Brown Bag Company was known for quality, it was for quality electrician’s gear. They didn’t have an established brand for this kind of luggage.
  3. Market Presence – a vintage item often needs to be a brand that’s still in use. There are many people looking for old Chevy and Ford things, but few looking for Hudson, REO, or Packard. People today don’t know the older brands.
  4. Searchability Matters a Lot – the Brown Bag Company, even if they had a great brand rep, and even some market presence, would have a hard time being found.  A search for “Brown Bag” in the “luggage” category would turn up hundreds of results, and almost none would be for this company.  When you do that search, don’t think of “the market” as all the bags: the search result is your market.
  5. Lousy Product Category – there are two parts to this. Every laptop bag is subject to these problems.
    1. Declining market – fewer people carry around their laptop in a bag. They use their cell phones. They have tablets.
    2. Expensive to ship – laptop bags weigh more than a pound, and maybe more than two pounds.  That means the postage will be calculated by weight and distance. These prices are going to be high. Local delivery will start at $6 and go up to around $9. Halfway across the country, it’ll be $15 or more.So, what looked like a $3 bag to me, is at least a $18 bag to most of the country, and if you add in fees and a profit, it’s well over $20.  That’s a difficult sales pitch.
    3. It’s not Tumi – in this declining market, you can only afford to buy the most high-end bag. Among the likely finds, that brand is Tumi.

Don’t feel bad for me. I’m hardly in a terrible situation.  I own a nice bag. I think I paid $3 for it. That’s not a bad thing.

 

The Ephemera Biz Model

I’ve avoided writing about this a while, because I’m not a pro, but here goes. This only reflects my experience.

The ephemera biz is all about storage and listing quickly. To make money, you need a huge inventory of at least 10,000 items, and a way to list a hundred or more items a day. You also need a website to offload the stuff that won’t sell on ebay. The business model is about hoarding and selling long-tail items. It’s the opposite of a quick flip.

For clothes, conventional wisdom and Ebay say the average store sells 1% of its inventory each day. So, if you want to sell 1 item daily, you need 100 items. To sell 10 items, you need 1,000 items. To sell 30 items, which is enough to live on, you need 3,000 items.

For ephemera, the rate of sales is much lower. My current inventory is floating at around 5% a month. For comparison, an inventory of clothing will sell off at 30% per month. A real pro can sell off 100% of inventory by spending more time picking, and leaving behind slow-selling items.

With an inventory of 10,000 items, you sell 500 items per month, or 16 per day. This is just enough in sales to live in poverty. It’s poverty, but it is way more than “nothing”, and as a long-term supplemental income, it’s a good business. You can “bank” thousands of items over a couple years, and then watch it sell off for three years, bringing in money every day.

Now, these numbers are based on selling off a sloppily “curated” or picked hoard. This wasn’t a collector, but someone who selectively hoarded. So there is some quality there. The storage, however, wasn’t good, so a lot of items are basically rendered nearly worthless from decay.

If you source curated, higher quality items, they will sell faster, and for more money.

Of course, curated stuff is sometimes more expensive.

If you just source things generally, and it’s almost all long-tail, so there aren’t any sales records of identical things being sold, you need to list them to find out if there’s a market willing to buy the item. (Or you can subscribe to an archive of sales listings.)

To do that, you need to be able to list many items quickly. I’ve been using the multiple listings tool, but I suspect the only way to scale up as a solo operation is to use an offline lister. The web-based application is just too slow.

Aside from this listing challenge, ephemera is a lot easier to store than anything else. It’s booklets and sheets of paper, and you can store them in file boxes or file cabinets. The 10,000 items could fit in a row of filing cabinets, and be out of the way. Unlike selling clothes or hard goods, ephemera is small, and you can operate the business out of a few to several filing cabinets.

That’s what I’ve learned, and projected out, so far.  A lot of this knowledge is entirely derivative of John of Popeye’s Postcards, who sells postcards, and does a lot better, because he’s a better picker and sources within a community of collectors.

FujiFilm XF1 Mini Review for Ebay Product Photography

My S100 has been flaky, so I’m selling it, used, for parts.

To replace it, I bought a used FujiFilm XF1. I’m using this almost exclusively for shooting photos for Ebay product listings, and will review it with that in mind.

As always, when moving from one camera to another, it takes a while to get used to the software.  The XF1 has weird, but good software ergonomics. You have two programmable buttons that you use to make “shortcuts” to specific menu items.

I have my top programmable button set to pick the aspect ratio. This saves time on cropping photos. This button is now in my muscle memory.

I have the rear programmable button, which turns the joypad into a four-position shortcut menu, set to pick white balance, iso, focus mode, and shooting modes. I am not really used to using this button at the moment.

I do have a big gripe about the white balance shortcut. It only allows you to select a preset or the calibrated white balance, but doesn’t let you get into the calibration feature to change the calibration.

It does, however, have a white balance mode called “K” that allows you to white balance for a specific color temperature. This might be good enough for some artificial light setups. So, with this programmable “K” mode and the calibrated setting, it might be possible to switch the white balance quickly.  If you have three different shooting areas… “oh well”, you will need to develop muscle memory to get to the WB setting.

Generally speaking, I try to use program or manual modes, but since I’m starting out with this, and in a hurry, I’ve used the auto mode a bit.  My shooting environment is sub-optimal, and I shoot with three light sources: natural light coming through the window, artificial old 60hz fluorescents overhead (avoid if possible), and Cree brand LED bulbs all from one package, at a table.

Auto mode looks fine with sunlight. It focuses well, and picks a good exposure. I have no complaints here.

With the artificial light, the auto white balance goes a little pink.  This can be calibrated away, and was probably my error. Overall, I think the XF1 colors are more accurate than the Canon’s.

The other problem is that it shoots a little bit dark. Upping the exposure works well.

There’s an ergonomic problem with indoor shooting with artificial, which is that a short half-press on the shutter, followed by a full press, can result in a blurry shot.  I’m not sure why this is, but I’ve gotten more blurry shots with the XF1 than the S100. Holding the button at half-press long enough to allow camera to focus seems to help.  I’ll need to experiment with this further.

I’m still getting used to manual mode, but find it easier than the Canon. You set the aperture and shutter speed with the jog dial, pressing it to switch between the two settings.  I haven’t done any experiments to figure out the best combination of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, so I’ll withhold my impressions about manual mode.  I’m really still a novice with this camera.

Right now, I’m a little less happy with the XF1 photos than the S100 photos. I’ve taken a lot more bad photos, but I attribute this more to my lack of skill with this camera than the camera.  (I didn’t take decent photos with the S100 initially, either.)

How I’ve Learned to Operate Cameras Before

I’m not a photographer, and what I know about manual mode, I’ve brought over from when I was teaching myself to shoot on film, from a couple books.  Basically, I’d buy a couple rolls of film, and then expose them in one place using different settings, and record the settings into a notebook. I’d note things like the cloud cover, light, time of day, and so on. Then, when I got the pictures back, I’d write the settings onto the photos.

I’d also plan out the shoot to allow me to take at least three photos of most of the scenes, bracketing the shot with either different shutter speeds, or different apertures. It was kind of expensive.

With a digital camera, I do, pretty much, the same thing, but more extensively.  I shoot all the shutter speeds and all the apertures, until the image goes too white or too black. Then I look at the photos.

I should also mess with the ISO, but I’ve generally set it at 100.With this XF1, though, I suspect I’ll need to use a different ISO. Despite it’s aperture going all the way down to 1.8, it seems to take darker photos than I’m used to with the Canon.

When I get better at using this camera, I’ll write about it again. For now, I’m taking crap photos.

Selling Cigarette Ads

Now that fewer people are smoking, I think some people are developing nostalgia for it. If  you search for “lot cigarette ads” and then check “sold items”, you’ll see something like 50 sales.

I find this strange, but, whatever.

It’s not all cigs, just specific brands. These are “lots” so there’s more than one ad.  The cost per ad is down below a dollar in many sales.