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It seems that nearly every young guy I talk to who wants to sell on eBay is determined to sell electronics.
Of course, flipping video games and laptops for big profits sounds like a dream for many.
But the reality is much less interesting.
Selling electronics on eBay takes much more knowledge and work than simply buying and reselling iPhones or Xboxes. After all, anyone knows that if they can get those things for cheap they can make a profit.
Which begs the question, what are the best-selling used electronics on eBay?
Well, that question is not as easy to answer as it was two years ago. With the increased level of competition on all of the reselling sites, you’re going to have to get clever if you want to sell electronics.
So let’s take a look at what is selling well now and where you’ll want to be looking in the future if you want to maintain a profit!
Best Used Electronics To Sell On eBay
In general, there are two types of electronics that sell well on eBay: current electronics that actually have a market value (such as business phones, games, laptops, etc.) and electronics that have nostalgic or collector’s value (VCR’s, boom-boxes, tube radios, etc.).
Recognizing these two types will help you sort through 90% of the stuff on the used market.
For example, if you shop at thrift stores, the majority of things are not current enough to have value or they are not old enough to have accrued any value or following.
So let’s take a look at a few of the things we’ve had luck selling recently and you can classify them yourself.
1. Portable CD & Tape Players
Unbeknownst to Apple, what they really did by releasing the iPod was to create a huge demand for used cd and tape players! For something that was widely available just 10 years ago, it is amazing the level of markup that we see for both.
We were first introduced to the value of Walkman’s when we were cleaning out a junk box of my Dad’s and, on a whim, I decided to look up a Walkman he had in college. Even though it didn’t work, it was still worth over $30! When we thrift, we throw every name-brand portable player into our cart to look up. Although some do end up being worthless, Walkmans are a very easy way to consistently turn $5 into $30.
Brands To Look For:
- Sony: Sony was the king of the portable media world when these were produced, and it’s not different now. Sony players are the one brand we don’t bother to look up. If they are $5 or under, into the cart they go!
- Panasonic: While they don’t have quite the pull of the Sony units, Panasonic was the #2 brand to have in the glory days of tapes and CDs and nothing has changed. We always look them up however as some of them are not worth the plastic they’re made out of.
- Bose: Bose creates higher-end audio devices which we still find with surprising regularity. They often go for $40-$50 in used condition.
- Technics: Although they were not made in my lifetime, Technics CD players have become one of my favorite finds. They have a very recognizable square shape and often go for $200 or more in good used condition!
Quick Tip: We always pick up cheap cd cases and pairs of headphones we find while thrifting. If we are having trouble selling a player, we’ll take another picture of the player with the headphones and case as “freebies” and raise the price. It usually brings us that “cha-ching” within a couple of days!
Brands we avoid:
Anything Chinese. If the player was made in the last 10 years and we haven’t heard of the brand, odds are it’s worthless. We made the mistake of buying a New In Package no-name player once and it’s still (over a year later) sitting in our eBay store at a price of $12.95 with free shipping.
Since we don’t have a landline, we avoided phones of any sort for the longest time. It wasn’t until we found a half dozen New In Box business phones (that we didn’t have to test), and padded our bank account with over $300 in profit that we rethought our phone avoidance policy.
The phone section at our local thrift stores is always small enough that it only takes us 2 minutes to look it over. 2 minutes that have made us thousands of dollars in the past couple of years!
Despite seeing them in their boxes all the time, we rarely buy cell phones. Phones that are donated are usually broken or out of date. To add to this, they are time-consuming to test and, often, you cannot test them fully without activating them.
So why then did we include them as a BOLO?
Because flipping cell phones have made us thousands of dollars, just not from thrift stores. We purchased used cell phones (typically high-end) from Facebook groups or craigslist and flip them on eBay. If you are aware of current selling prices on eBay, it is easy to scroll through your local classified and find phones that are underpriced by at least $100!
Thrift stores that buy from (or receive donations from) local stores or businesses often get business phones in as a lot! We often find current model phones in lots of at least 3 and are able to flip them for a healthy profit! We have never actually tested phones that we buy and, as of yet, have not had any issues
Vintage rotary phones have the potential to be very good sellers. Unusual in thrift stores, rotary phones are much easier to find at yard and estate sales. We usually pass up on the black or beige ones we usually see but are quick to hop on anything blue, green, or pink. The “cuter” the phone is, the more valuable it seems to be.
- Any caller ID, Large Button, Talk to Text, or other phones which looks like it comes straight from late-night TV
- Household phone sets – They have to be tested and often have burnt-out batteries.
3. Remote Controls
We didn’t consider remote controls to be of any value until we wanted to replace one of ours…
We didn’t want a generic remote (why, I don’t remember) but when I checked the price of our Samsung remote on eBay, I found that they were going for over $40 used!
Kirstie and I immediately headed to our local mom & pop thrift store, grabbed their bin of remotes, and sat on a couch looking each one of them up in turn. The remotes were priced at $0.25 and we ended up buying 6 of them. A $1.50 investment netted us over $140 in profit!
Our best find was a programmable remote which sold within a week for $59.95 (without a base, charger, etc.)
If you are terrified of buying remotes because of the possibility of them not working, know that we have never had an issue with one. There are actually videos on YouTube that will show you how to test a remote with any smartphone!
We wipe off the front and back of the remote, take two pictures, and use the sell similar function. In this way, we can take a remote out of the shopping bag and have it listed and in our inventory in less than 5 minutes!
- Controllers for DVD players and Sound Systems
- Any controller with a screen
- Any new-in-box (or bag) controllers
- Controllers for a specific team or group. For example, we recently found a remote that would have been worth $10, but since it was a special edition Washington Redskins team remote, we were able to sell it for over $50.
The Feel Test:
Our thrifting trips are never about finding everything in the store that is profitable. Rather, we get in, find as many profitable things as fast as we can, and get out. In other words, we simply find the low-hanging fruit. Our free time is valuable to us!
Therefore, we divide remotes into four visual categories:
- Monsters – Very large remotes that were in the first generation. Typically profitable because they are long discontinued and difficult to find.
- Clunkers – The transition period between monster remotes and modern remotes. Think 90’s TV remotes. Hefty and made of all plastic. These make up the majority of the remotes at any thrift store and we never even bother to look them up as the typically sell for $8-$12 with free shipping.
- Sleeks – Sleek remotes are modern. They may be for sound systems, DVD players, TVs, etc. but we always look them up.
- Minis-These remotes are often for small sound systems, AC units, etc. We make a snap judgment about how quality they seem to be and look them up (or don’t) based on that.
There is a remote which shows up more than any other at thrift stores, and which has probably been responsible for more wasted money from resellers than any other. It is….drum roll…..the infamous……Direct TV Remote! They seem to be high quality and we once bought 3 of them on a whim before getting home and finding out that they are absolutely worthless. They can be purchased on eBay for $5 with free shipping. Avoid them!
4. Toner/Printer Ink
We find sealed ink and toner cartridges with amazing regularity at thrift stores. If you have a printer, you know that buying ink is a depressingly costly endeavor (which is why we switched to a thermal printer).
Because of the huge number of cartridge types, there is next to no chance of finding a toner/ink cartridge that will fit your own printer. So what to do? Sell it on eBay of course! Selling printer ink on eBay can be an extremely profitable venture if you simply make sure you do a few things right!
Do be sure however to look up any ink that you find, regardless of size or brand. We have found small printer inks worth $50 each and large drums that wouldn’t sell for $10 if we offered free shipping! We certainly won’t be buying our own ink from the store anymore though!
Selling Expired Ink on eBay
The majority of ink we find is printed with a date on the back or bottom and is expired. Ink is usually good for years after its expiration date and we have never had a problem selling it.
We always put *EXPIRED* in the title and include the expiration date in the listing, as well as a disclaimer that we do not guarantee to ink to be fresh.
Vintage Calculators are some of our favorite sales! Who in the world buys them we’re not actually sure, but we aren’t overly concerned about that.
We typically sell vintage calculators in good condition for significantly more than the flashy new models that I had to shell out a couple of hundred dollars for in college. We can only assume that there are a lot of hipsters out there who don’t need their calculator to do much more than add/subtract.
- Vintage scientific calculators
- Solar calculators
- Vintage calculators still with their cases
- HP Calculators. They were at the top of the heap back in the day and nothing has changed in the vintage market
- Anything newer from Texas Instruments. These sell even in broken condition. We bought one recently, found out it didn’t work, listed it anyway, and it sold to an electronics repair shop for $15 in less than 24 hours.
- Calculator Watches
6. Vintage Boom Boxes & Radios
Even better than portable cd and tape players are their big brothers, Boom Boxes! The larger, more obnoxious version has an incredible following and they are often used for parties, music videos, etc. As with other vintage electronics, the larger and more complex the item, the more it sells for. Just be sure to keep a half dozen C and D batteries around to test them…
- Name Brands: Panasonic, General Electric, JVC, Hitachi, Magnavox, etc.
- The larger the unit the better. Multiple decks and speakers? Put it in your cart before looking it up.
The best way to increase the selling price of these older units is to make sure they are as clean as possible! Condition matters hugely and we have found it well worth it to break out a rag and some q—tips and spend 15-20 minutes making it look as good as possible. Be sure to wipe out the battery tray as well as they are often full of exploded batteries and their ensuing acid.
Other Electronics BOLOs
The above is obviously a very small taste of the types of electronics that sell well on eBay.
The real key is not to recognize the exact brands and types of items but to get adept at recognizing items that are unusual or high quality so you can look them up and find out if they’re worth flipping.
However, here are a few other things that we always look up so you can hit the ground running.
In line with nearly everything else on this list, old laptops are good, new laptops are good, and most are simply out-of-date and therefore worthless.
We look up any laptop we find just to see if it has a cult following and have gotten lucky at times.
Just be aware that you’ll likely need to get a charger and reset it (if it works) or sell it for parts as people often gut them before donating.
Games & Gaming Systems
This should be a no-brainer but flipping or scalping video games and gaming systems is big business for a lot of people.
Look for games for old systems (Gamecube, NES, etc.) or current games. Just avoid all the Madden games that are at every thrift store.
Tube Radios were rampant in the early part of the 20th century through the 50’s. If you have anything electronic of this era, be sure to put it in your car before looking it up! There is a large aftermarket for restored versions of these radios but don’t worry, you don’t have to do the work. Simply sell your dirty or non-working version to the person who will be doing the restoration!
Base model Wi-Fi routers are available en masse in almost any second-hand shop. Because of these, the going rate is $10 or so on eBay. However, if we ever see higher-end models be sure to grab them. This also applies to wifi boosters, wifi net systems, etc.
We normally just go by looks as companies make an effort to make their expensive routers visually distinguishable.
Used Car Radios
Buying used car radios is a gamble and that is probably the reason they are such a deal at almost every thrift store! We routinely pick up car radios for $5 and sell them for $50-$80!
If we are feeling like testing them we save them until we have 5 or so and take them to a local dealership/electronics shop to have them checked out. But honestly, we typically sell them untested as it’s a better return on our time.
Car radios are super easy to look up on eBay as they have a model number on the bottom that will bring up the exact car that they belong to (and then you can use the “sell similar” function.
To our knowledge, there is only one type of person who buys VCRs off of eBay. People whose old machine has finally bit the dust and they want an exact replacement so they don’t have to learn about any of that newfangled gadgetry.
As such, they are very slow to sell but typically have great margins when they do.
New-in-box vintage VCRs are very rare and can be sold at a premium price but used ones (that you test) can sell just as well.
If you can find the remote that goes with them, all the better!
If you have the patience to do some research, watches can be extremely profitable. The majority of watches we’ve found need only a new battery and they’re off to the races! And here’s a secret, any watch that’s valuable in working condition, is worth as much as 70% of that value even in non-working condition. The market for watch repair is so large that people are eager to buy vintage watches even if they have problems.
Electronics We Avoid
While I’m willing to look up anything that looks unusual, there are a few things that I rarely bother with at thrift stores. Part of it is because I don’t like shipping large items but mostly it’s just because these things are so rarely profitable that I just breeze past them.
We often find digital pianos at thrift stores and used to count our lucky stars! We put in our due diligence and looked up each one, found that they sold for over 10x what the thrift store was asking, and threw them in the cart.
Unfortunately, we ended up buying a power cord so we could test it before selling it (luckily it worked) and then totally lost our pants on shipping. The only time it could possibly be worth it is if you find a very rare piano, have the means to test it, all the keys magically happen to work, and then you can charge sufficient shipping.
The problem is, shipping doubles the cost of most pianos, totally it totally impossible to make enough money to compensate you for the massive amount of space they take up, how slow they are to sell, and how much time they take to pack and ship.
Digital cameras fall into the same category as dumbphones for us. Low-profit electronics that have to be tested and then sell slowly for low profit.
If a camera looks nice (or old) we’ll still look it up but the only time we’ll buy a digital point-and-shoot camera is if it comes in the original box with all the accessories.
Nobody likes sharing earwax…and as far as we know, that’s the reason people don’t buy pre-owned headphones on eBay. We’ve never found a quality pair of headphones at a thrift store that doesn’t have a short or other serious problems. These days, we don’t bother looking up any headphones we see.
Desktop Computers and Computer Parts
In the whole time we’ve been selling on eBay, we have successfully sold only a handful of desktops. Most computers at thrift stores have been wiped by their previous owners and are sold without operating systems or hard drives.
What’s more, desktop computers are always outdated enough that you will not have any luck with them. If we find computer parts new in the package we’ll buy them but unless you are a computer wizard, avoid all things computer. Also, be aware that when people buy a replacement part for their computer, they’ll often put the old piece in the new package to donate it…so unless it’s sealed, avoid, avoid!
At the end of the day, selling used electronics on eBay can be super profitable. However, everyone that is thrift store flipping is aware of it and it’s usually the most picked-over section.
However, knowing a few of the best-selling electronics will mean that you’ll rarely leave a thrift store empty-handed. Good luck!