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Buying and reselling games on Ebay - easy money or not?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The times when internet has evolved into the stage where people can easily buy and sell items overseas in real-time auction houses and pay them easily many may have noticed that if you have basic knowledge of some segment of items and can do basic calculations it's easy to make little profit reselling items in internet and that's what we are wondering about here today at You don't have to be genius to do so. As I'm a gamer who has followed the markets for some time, though I'm not an expert in this issue, I'm about to try and bring up some instructions for other beginners in the game reselling.

Shaking your belief

Little reality check first. Games sells with very low amount of money compared to cars, estates, even furniture. This means you are making very shallow amount of profit per sale (unless you bought at overprice where you take some loss). This means you need to sell tons of stuff every month to gather up nice amount of money. If you really want to make more than hundred dollars a month there are few issues:

  • You need starting budget to buy basic game inventory (of course if you want just to make few bucks at first you can just buy a few games but even for a decent smoothly running sales you'd need hundreds of dollars and that's small business that won't grant you enough profits to make a living out of it)
  • You need to buy loads of games. Lets say that you're good at finding items cheap and know that they sell for much more for example:
    • You buy a game for $15 and then sell it for $30. Sounds like great bargain But you have to remember that:
      • You're most likely paying from $2 to $6 postage at buying stage depending of the item size ("big box" pc games are for example expensive to post) and whether it's delivery within your country or to overseas. 
      • And in addition when selling item in Ebay - PayPal takes roughly 3% +$0,30 of the sale to their pockets which in this case would be about $1,20. This can shrink your $15 profit of the resale to $10 or so. Not that much profit per game sold. Now think if you bought the game with $15 and only managed to sell with $20 you could be break even.
  • As you need to buy loads of games, you also need to find loads of good priced used games to buy! This is time consuming and you may not even find that many great deals a day because market is not big enough and there's competition when the others also recognize your "good deal". Avoid bidding wars and be reasonable what is good maximum amount to pay.
  • All in all you need to have time to find loads of profitable game deals, hope that there's enough of items in sale, have money to buy them, and then have time to auction and ship loads of sold games that may profit you $5-10 per game averagely whereas occasionally you may find a great deal and get much more.
  • Don't expect every item to sell right away and avoid games that makes you doubt that they are desired by the buyers, which may leave them hanging and dusting to your inventory for a long time.

So lets say that you want to make decent $500 extra income per month:

Now simple math. Lets say that you'd make averagely $5 profit per game (cursed PayPal and postage cuts your profits). You want to make nice $500 per month which is really nice extra income and doesn't sound like there would be much work needed to it.  X * 5 = 500 which equals to 500 / 5 = X. So X = 100. That's the amount of deals you would have to find per month, amount of games to buy and then set auctions up and hope that they all sell in this month - all that to make just $500 per month. I don't want to sound like dream breaker but making even decent extra income to your life per month is not easy task. And in addition you need to know what to buy and sell so that you actually make profit. If you scored $10 profit per game, you'r still need to buy and sell 50 games a month to make $500 a month. If we combine both profit examples and say that you make between $5-10 dollars profit a game then you'd sell somewhere between 13 and 25 games a week for a $500 a month! But enough nagging.

Allright so you've probably done your reality check and think that "$5-10 profit a game buying and selling in Ebay.. I know the markets well enough, I can do it" or even "I can do better than this per game". What types of games are roughly those that you should buy and assume that they will sell? Based on my own perceptions on Ebay, Amazon and local online auctions the best games you can go for are: Snes and Nes games. There are plenty of those games which have decent value. Remember to check area codes of items you buy and which language the game is. Usa standard Ntsc format does not play in non-modified German (Pal-B) Nes and other way around. Nobody who can't talk german does not want to buy Shadowgate in german language when the game relies on text heavily. This applies to every gaming system.

Which game console owns most profitable games?

Snes and Nes has lots of appeal because they are considered one of the most classic gaming systems that many people still have in their homes or have recently bought them back. They are good consoles because people still respect them and play them once in a while - and what's most important- like to collect those old Nintendo games. It's my believing that these days Snes for example is much more common console to be owned than Mega Drive / Genesis and there's more collectors also around. Therefore markets for Snes are bigger and there are more decently valuable games available for both Snes and Nes compared to Sega Mega Drive and Sega Master System. Lets remember that it's collectors in the end who determine market prices. The more the demand, the easier job to make lots of sales.

This doesn't mean that you should ignore other consoles all together although you may want to focus on certain small area (like Nes games) alone at first if you're first timer. There's still bunch of valuable games for old Sega consoles as well. One thing that attracts people with the old gaming consoles and their games is the different long lasting media type that are not manufactured anymore. Old gaming carts feel like collectibles and unlike old Ms-Dos PC games which are tough to get to work sometimes even with older PC - the console games work right away when you set the game on.

In addition with Nintendo's Snes, Nes, and Sega's Mega Drive and Master System you may want to keep on eye to some Playstation 1 game cd's. Especially role-playing games seem to sell well on PS1. Their value has raised recently quite a bit. I would probably leave Nintendo 64 games out for now as there's only very few games which you can really make profit with if you're lucky to find them underpriced that is.

With all gaming systems mentioned this far have one thing in common. Their game packages and actual carts / cd's don't take much space which means they are light weight and fit into smaller package, which means.. you guessed it.. smaller postage costs. This bring me to the point why computer games (PC) are more tricky and may not offer as good chances to sell profitably.

Avoid reselling computer (PC) games

First of all for some reason rare people do seriously "collect" computer games. Maybe it's the game format be it floppy disk or CD but this doesn't explain why early PS1 games sell well.. well some of them. But nevertheless it means that even if you know what "should" be the value of certain computer game, it may just hang on there long in sale without anyone buying it since there is not many who desire it with the right price. Lack of collectors plague computer game reselling which also means that rare of them really grow any real value among collectors. There's no many computer games out there that are safe to buy and resell with profit.

Secondly computer games were originally released in "big boxes" or cardboard boxes and later on in early 2000's or so they started to press them in smaller cd cases. For some reason while smaller case releases pay less postage, their price is nowhere near big box releases. In fact it has much to do with the fact that among computer games the only ones holding real value are those rare old games (I'd say from late nineties and before that) that are good, and have formed bit of a cult following and small case releases weren't made back them. Small cases are re-releases. If you're bargaining for a computer game be sure to get original big box release of the game (and calculate strictly that postage doesn't eat all your profit) since they are the ones that might hold value. Problem with them is that they have high postage costs for taking much space and it's bad thing in your profit-making venture.

Third thing is bad compatibility issues that plague also old PC releases. It takes time and patience to set up old Ms-Dos game to run on modern gaming system through DosBox (Ms-Dos emulator). All games don't even work so you never know. You might get the game to work instantly with old pc but then again it may not work directly either. That may lesser demand for PC games in the market. Now that websites like Good Old Games even sell digital downloads for old games which came DosBox pre-customized on them so they work instantly, buying old PC games as physical release makes just bit less sense than before. Some do collect them but numbers are not many.

Consider your options, Ebay is not the only one!

Indeed. Ebay is an easy place to buy and sell overseas but remember that PayPal takes it's share of every transaction and buying overseas always brings higher bill on postage cost. Those two issues combined might take big share of your profits. Since buyer is always the one these days paying postage you may want to consider buying from a local online auction house or a flea market (which may well be best place for your discoveries!).

On the other hand you may want to sell somewhere else than Ebay to avoid PayPal cutting their (small) share. Direct transaction from bank to bank account within the same country doesn't cost anything at least in here Finland. And not every auction house take any profit themselves. In best case you get to keep every penny of that amount you sell the game with.

If you live in somewhere else than for example large countries like United Kingdom, United States or Germany where Ebay is a big thing, compare Ebay prices to your local auction houses selling prices. I for example have noticed that old Nintendo games do sell quite a bit lower price in Ebay than what people pay for them in local online auction house. The difference is even bigger than the extra postage amount I would have to pay to bid on overseas at Ebay compared locally. So it's more profitable to buy from Ebay and then sell on local auction house than sell on Ebay (but smaller markets mean longer time to find buyer on the flipside of the coin). Consider your options!

Don't buy one (unless item is moderately valuable) at a time but many

If we forget Ebay for a while (sure you can do the same there but postage cost will be huge!), one of your best bets at least on the part of those not-so-rare games which you need to sell a ton is to bargain for so called game-lots. You will save money on postage if you find them a short trip away from your home door and meet the seller face-to-face instead of paying big postage cost on huge package at Ebay (it can still be profitable if the lot has few treasures among). Say for example that you find a lot with 40 games for $80. Even if they are quite cheap ones and you should sell them for $2 for each (+ gasoline cost which is not much per game if short distance) - you're pretty sure to make at least dollar or two profit on each game while good amount might still sell $5+ and few treasures if included - much more. Seek for a cheap game-lots with couple of rares!

Examples of games to keep on eye

Buying and selling is not so simple task after all. Going after the most rare and valuable titles may not be the best option since you're wasting loads of time finding the deal and end up with bidding war easily of rare title is going dirt cheap. So you also should keep on eye game titles that may not be rare and may not sell high price but are classics and great games. You know that their demand is high because they kick ass! Games like these will always sell and will be easier to come by. Say that instead of waiting that deal to buy rarity with $100 and selling with $160, you may as well buy several common quality games dirt cheap for $2 a piece and sell them for $5-6. Of course postage takes bigger cut on small transactions.

The next listings include some examples for a games to keep on eye. I'm not going to include the most insanely rare and valuable titles at all since the chances are you never come by them or if you do and are beginner with small budget then you're not going to have funds to buy them anyway. This list is nowhere near complete guide - it's just a part of easy examples you could start with. I'm trying to list ones that I assume would also have decent demand (cheap and valuable equally).

Valuable games (which you have chance to come by)
-Myriad 6 in 1 (pirate)
-Caltron 6 in 1 (pirate)
-Action 52 (pirate)
-Maxi 15 (pirate)
-Little Samson
-Flintstones: Surprise at A Dinosaur Peak
-Bubble Bobble Part 2
-Dragon Warrior IV, III
-Bonk's Adventure
-Snow Brothers
-Mario's Time Machine
-TMNT: Tournament Fighters
-Power Blade 2
-Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers 2
-Contra Force
-Fire 'N Ice
-Mega Man (CIB)
-Duck Tales 2
-Adventures of Lolo 3
-Mighty Final Fight

Other quality titles to consider (buy dirt cheap, sell at moderate price easily)
-Super Mario titles (especially III)
-Mega Man titles
-Bubble Bobble
-Castlevania titles (especially I and III)
-Ninja Gaiden (/Shadow Warriors in EU) titles
-Turtles II and III
-Contra (/Probotector)
-Battletoads titles
-Double Dragon I, II (be vary with III)
-Duck Tales
-Final Fantasy
-The Legend of Zelda (be vary with The Adventure of Link)
-Ghost 'n Goblins
-Dragon Warrior titles

-Actraiser I, II
-Aero Fighters
-Battletoads In Battlemaniacs
-Breath of Fire titles
-Castlevania: Dracula X (very valuable!)
-Contra III (/Super Probotector): Alien Rebels
-Chrono Trigger (one of most valuable Snes games!)
-Donkey Kong Country I, II, III (will surely sell!)
-Dragon View
-Earthbound (one of the rarest and most valuable if not the most)
-E.V.O: Search for Eden
-Final Fight titles
-Final Fantasy III
-Harvest Moon
-Killer Instinct
-Kirby Super Star
-Lufia I, II (part two is valuable)
-Mega Man X titles
-Mega Man 7
-Mortal Kombat I, II, III
-Mystic Quest
-Ogre Battle (rare and expensive!)
-Secret of Evermore
-Secret of Mana
-Street Fighter II (and SFII: Turbo, SFII: Alpha)
-Soul Blazer
-Starwing / Starfox (cheap and should sell)
-Super Bomberman II
-Super Double Dragon
-Super Castlevania
-Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts
-Super Mario Kart
-Super Mario RPG (expensive and rare!)
-Super Mario World
-Super Mario World II: Yoshi's Island
-Super Metroid
-Super R-Type titles
-Super Turrican 1, 2 (high demand, can get good price)
-Turtles IV: Turtles in Time
-TMNT: Tournament Fighters
-Zelda: A Link to The Past, Legend of

Sega Master System:
-Ghouls 'n Ghosts
-Golden Axe titles ("Warrior" is rare and valuable)
-Jamer Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing (rare and valuable)
-Master of Combat
-Ninja Gaiden (if you find very cheap)
-Power Strike I, II
-Sonic titles (not rare but will sell like regular Mario, aim to get CIB cheap if you do)

Sega Mega Drive / Genesis:
-Mega Man: The Wily Wars (compilation of first 3 Mega Man games! valuable with demand!!)
-Nightmare Circus (valuable and rare)
-Eliminate Down (valuable and rare)
-Master of Monsters
-Panorama Cotton (valuable and rare)
-Phantasy Star I, II
-Shining Force I, II
-Snow Bros
-Splatterhouse I, II, III
-Streets of Rage titles
-World Championship Soccer 2

Playstation 1:
-Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena
-Final Fantasy titles (VI-IX)
-Mega Man Legends 2
-Ogre Battle
-Persona I, II
-Suikoden 1, 2
-Tactics Ogre
-Vandal Hearts I, II

Computer (pc):
Only few to mention if you manage to find good deal. Accept ONLY original  "big box" CIB releases!
-Afterlife (rare but demand is questionable)
-Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura
-Bard's Tale (original) I, II
-Dark Sun titles
-Diablo: Hellfire
-Duke Nukem 3D
-Duke Nukem: Nuclear Winter
-Emperor: Battle for Dune
-Fallout I, II
-Final Fantasy VI, VII
-Elder Scrolls: Arena (valuable)
-Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (valuable)
-Grim Fandango
-Leisure Suit Larry Collections
-Heroes of Might & Magic I, II, III  (if dirt cheap)
-Id Anthology (valuable)
-Knights of Xentar
-Might & Magic games up to VIII  (if dirt cheap)
-Monkey Island titles
-Neverhood, The (valuable)
-Planescape Torment (if dirt cheap)
-System Shock (valuable)
-System Shock II
-Ultima titles
-Wing Commander III: The Kilrathi Saga
-Wizardry titles
***Generally any AD&D "Goldbox Game" as complete might be worth something but may be hard to sell..

General tips

  • I would avoid "sealed" games for resale purposes. Too high risk for a scam (not original seal but re-seal) and they cost a lot! Also market fluctuates so much that knowing the real price may be impossible.
  • Avoid buying special editions or imports just because you tought "regular edition doesn't sell much but.. but.. this is limited!". Some special editions are indeed worthy but before you're experienced buy games that you know to hold value for sure (regular edition) and which have high demand.
  • Buy only original releases. Especially on part of Pc games!
  • Buy Cib if possible (complete in box) with game, manual and box - especially with Pc games. Nes carts can still sell ok if you get them cheap.
  • Rare valuable games cheap can be tricky to find but can make big bucks
  • Common great games sell with less profit a piece but are easier to come by dirt cheap and the best titles always have demand no matter what!
  • If you're unsure about a game, skip it! Go for secure bargains.
  • Get a console of which system's games you're selling to test them out and confirm they work.
  • Buy role playing games. They usually hold value well since their emphasize is on timeless things like story which doesn't age.
  • Buy game-lots face to face and pick them up - or in special cases from Ebay if really good bargain that covers high postage cost from big item. 
  • Buy only moderately valuable games piece by piece.
  • Find out postage and tax rules when bidding and selling overseas! They may be very country specific.
  • Can you make a living with buying and reselling games on Ebay? No I doubt it. You'd have to be really a pro with lots of balance to spend, and long working hours per day are guaranteed to even make minimal income matching real profession. Can you make nice extra income out of it? Yes if learn to know your markets and play wisely.
  • This is just a post for beginners. There's plenty of more rare consoles with some valuable games but as a beginner you better start trying with the easier stuff than go for say Neo Geo, C64 or Turbografx which markets are moderately smaller than Nes and even Mega Drive. Thanks for reading! (all rights reserved)

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