We’ve been selling online for about 15 years. We started with that other big site when they were much more basic. It’s good to be back to that more basic format where buyers and sellers manage the business between themselves. We have always found that to be the most effective forum for our business.
We started selling online as a fairly natural expansion of the mall store we had at the time. A customer mentioned that big online auction site, so we investigated and were interested. Having a forum that reached thousands of additional shoppers helped us to move inventory that had been sitting for ages. It’s also really kind of fun! Putting an item on a shelf with a price tag is fine. Putting it online with a starting price and watching to see what happens over a week is a game as well as a business! Over time, we realized that we were happier with the online sales that the brick-and-mortar arrangement. The huge savings in rent and other expenses has been an enormous benefit for us. It’s also great not to have to be open 12 hours a day, 364 days a year. That’s really tough on folks like us with a family (6 kids from age 11 to 22.)
The most interesting thing we ever sold online was undoubtedly a single coin – what we thought was a simple 1771 colonial half cent. I think we paid about $4 for the coin. We listed the coin on New Year’s Eve, four years ago, with a starting price of $5.99. At about 6 AM on New Year’s Day, we got a phone call from a bidder offering us $500 on the spot. We thanked him but told him we never end auctions early, preferring to let the marketplace set the final price. That way he might get it for $5.99 but we might get more than the $500! He assured us we’d get far more than the $500 and explained that this coin was actually something called a Machin’s Mills Contemporary Counterfeit, variety Vlack 7, there were several of these coins known to exist, and that ours was one of the best. At his suggestion, we relisted the coin with correct information and, a week later, watched that $4 coin sell for $13,899! That kind of quirky event is what makes online auctioning so cool! In little RI, the chances of us finding someone who knew anything about Machin’s Mills coins is minimal. Get out onto the web and you’ve got so many other folks with so much knowledge. What a great way to learn new things while making a living!
Our other hobbies – when we have time! – include for Sharon: knitting, sewing, singing, and working out. For Joel – theatre directing, acting, and just recently doing voice over work on a newly created video game! For Andrea – singing, musical theatre, and watching silly movie reviews online – plus a little school work now and then and, hopefully, looking for a job for when she graduates in May! For Sara – singing, baking, and enjoying the new experiences of a college freshman. We should mention that we have 4 foster children in addition to Andrea and Sara. Joel’s working from home helps to make our family a better place for the kids.
About creating our OLA store, really we’ve just kept listing as much as we can! The more variety, the more new items, the more bidders will come look at what we’ve got. We also have note in our listings that we invoice once a week, encouraging bidders to combine many items into one shipment saving a lot of S&H money so they’ll bid more. And, because we do sell on a couple of other sites, we offer combined invoicing for those who win on more than one site. The simple, flexible S&H line on the OLA invoice makes that super-simple to do. I can take the total from another site and add it to the S&H line giving a single grand total so the buyer only needs to pay one invoice. My buyers seem to love it and I have lots of buyers who bid across all my sites every week.
One other thing I’d like to say is that much of what we’ve learned over the past 14 months has been through experimentation – which we can afford to do because OLA doesn’t charge per item fees – and through the help of other users. We love the community nature of OLA and how even direct competitors are willing to help out their competition so we can all be successful.
Thank you for providing this great selling forum and the recognition as seller of the month. We really appreciate it. You help to make our family work!
Sharon & Joel Hellmann