Not all aspiring eBay sellers want to become the next top power seller or run a multimillion-dollar operation; some want to start a small business or earn a second income, but they may have difficulty with product sourcing, or finding something to sell.
If this sounds like you, here are 30 ideas for sourcing products in a way that's friendly to small and local businesses.
Flea Markets and Swap Meets
These little slices of Americana are full of independent local sellers often trading in collectible, antique, or otherwise interesting goods at very low prices. You may have to spend time browsing, separate wheat from the chaff, and also do a little cleaning/restoring in some cases, but many eBay sellers have made a good side income as weekend shoppers at flea markets and swap meets.
A similar thing can be said about thrift stores, with part-time sellers developing a thrift store "circuit" and a range of goods in which they have the expertise that they can check daily or at least several times a week.
On the Street for Free
In many of America's larger cities and metropolitan areas, a surprising amount of furniture and technology is simply discarded every week as trash. If you live in one of these major metropolitan areas, consider curb cruising by apartment buildings in upwardly mobile areas for furniture and technology goods.
On the Street From Vendors
Street vendors in the largest metropolitan areas often act as or work for sources of cheap import goods that can be sold for a markup on eBay. Just be careful not to sell any kinds of goods that can get you into counterfeit or VeRO trouble.
From Drop Shippers
There are a lot of these around the web, and many sellers and retailers frown at their use. While it is true that as a business model drop shipping is more difficult to work with, it is also true that some sellers have made a good living using the drop shipping method.
From Competing Online Retailers
Don't just think of Amazon.com, Buy.com, Newegg.com and other similar online retailers as "the competition." Instead, keep an eye out for markdowns, deals, clearance items, and similar price breaks, as these are often opportunities to make good margins acting as a middleman. List on eBay and have them fulfill the order, just as you would with a drop shipper.
From Small Local Independent Businesses
Nearly every locale, no matter how small, has at least one and usually several "hand-made, right here in town" shops that deal in nonperishable goods. These days, they may already have their own website to sell their goods, but the chances are that they don't work the eBay angle. Find them, talk to them and work the eBay angle for them.
Around the House
For most Americans living a more-or-less consumerist lifestyle, there is ample opportunity to periodically go room-by-room through the house and identify things that can be sold off. This can be done with surprising frequency.
Your Existing Retail or Service Business
If you already own and operate a store or a service business, chances are there are goods, tools, and stock of various kind, or other things that you'd like to either upgrade or liquidate. eBay is a great place to make this happen.
Your Inner Creative Self
Books and eBooks, knowledge and information of all kinds, paintings, crafts, or anything else that you do either for fun or local profit can likely be sold on eBay if the quality is good and the price is right. Just be sure to identify your market and know what they desire.
As a Neighborhood Consignment Seller
Start a business as the eBay seller for your neighborhood. Get some cheap business cards, hang a shingle on the front of your house and tell your neighbors you'll help them clear out whatever is left after their garage sale (or even before it) on consignment, for a cut of the eBay takings.
Having Hobbies and Frequenting Related Businesses
If you have a hobby, you have an area of expertise and know something about a market segment. You probably also frequent a set of businesses related to your hobby (whether it's comic books, golf, reading, or classic car repair) and know when you see a fabulous or rare deal at one of those businesses. Use that expertise and series of potential sources to help you decide what to acquire, stock and sell on eBay.
Using eBay Itself
Buy lots of goods in various kinds on eBay and re-sell them piecemeal or buy entire "for price" items (cars, computers, appliances, etc.) and part them out on eBay. Or, find valuable goods on the eBay marketplace that would do better on another eBay property (Half.com, StubHub, etc.) and act as the middleman.
Government Surplus or Auctions
Most government agencies, from state and local executive, legislative and judicial agencies to military bases and state-supported schools at all level (K-12 and universities) have surplus property divisions and auction agencies to help them liquidate old, upgraded, off-lease, law-enforcement or tax-confiscated, or other similar types of goods. Hit your local white pages and start calling state agencies of all kinds to inquire about their surplus sales and auction sales.
Wherever You Need an Upgrade
Upgrades have become a fact of life in our consumerist world, but far too many people simply toss out their old consumer electronics item, computer item, car part, household item, etc. rather than trying to re-sell or recycle it.
Using Your Kids as Market Research
If you have teens or pre-teens, find out what they are dying to own or what is hot among their peers right now. Identify which of these items or trends is in short supply or find the local sources for these sorts of goods and re-sell them to kids in other markets.
Product Releases, Supply Shortages
Consumer electronics devices are legendary for this, but other kinds of goods see it as well: uneven availability of a very hot product of some kind. Be willing to camp out to get the latest item from the major manufacturer and then sell as many as you can buy at a premium, or buy as many as you can in your local area to sell to buyers in areas (often across borders) where the items are in short supply.
Dollar Stores, Odd-Lot Stores
Survey local dollar and odd-lot stores, particularly if you live in a major metropolitan area, for goods that sell for just a dollar in-store, but that goes for considerably more online. Candidates include electronics items and cables, tools and household goods, import novelties, and other durable goods.
Liquidators can be great one-off sources of marketable stock, sometimes even highly desirable name-brand stock. Just be sure not to build a business model around one type of good or on the presumption that you'll continue to be able to get one particular kind of stock from liquidators in your area.
Free and Open Online Content and Information
There are a large number of informational "products" (ebooks, images, etc.) that are available under free, open-source licenses online that grant anyone permission to re-sell them so long as certain basic requirements are met (often the preservation of a copyright notice). Project Gutenberg is one such example, but there are many others. Package these items up in various ways and resell them.
Though library sales often include a lot of low- or no-value media and books, they also often include a number of items that are actually worth more than the few cents or dollars that they sell for when resold on Half.com.
Though these are often simply marketing ploys, real, honest-to-god going-out-of-business sales can often be a great source of marketable stock allowing for decent margins.
Look through the classifieds in your local newspaper for estate sales and other kinds of one-off diverse types of sales of goods. If you specialize in a kind of good often found at these types of sales (costume jewelry, for example, or vintage home decor), they can be a great source of sellable stock at very low prices, particularly if you negotiate multiple-item buys.
Craigslist and the Classifieds
Most obvious here is the large numbers of goods offered on such sites in some metropolitan areas for free on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you have access to transportation and can pursue free or very low-cost goods in an area of your expertise, you can resell those goods on eBay.
Special Interest Events
This category includes conferences, expos, and other shows of interest to industry insiders or special interest groups, but it also includes general interest events that are memorabilia-heavy like the Olympic Games or elections. Think of these as sources for goods that are automatically limited in supply. Choose them well, and you can make decent margins on eBay.
Factory Outlets and Scratch/Dent Stores
These kinds of stores often specialize in overstock, open-box, demo, and scratch/dent merchandise. Don't confuse with the variety of "outlet malls" that have become more popular across America that are simply regular strip malls by another name.
As a Professional Recycler
Become a "recycler" of goods of a particular kind that you know well and offer members of your community a small fee for their trouble or at least a cost-free way to dispose of goods like cars, computers, consumer electronics or clothing. Then, repair, part-out, or simply select the best and sell the result.
Using Pawn Shops or as a Pawn Shop
Pawnshops can be an amazing source of deals, often because they lack expertise in various kinds of goods that they end up selling. If you know a particular kind of stock inside and out, frequenting pawn shops looking for deals can be one way to earn extra on the side.
As Professional Cleanup/De-Junkers
Foreclosing banks, relatives of deceased individuals, and even homeowners these days often make use of services paid simply to cart away "junk" of various (or of general) kinds. In many cases, a good portion of this junk has value, whether as raw materials or as eBay fodder.
State or County Fairs
Annual or semiannual fairs in many local areas are a great way to get in touch with local producers and manufacturers just dying to find a larger buying public. As an eBay seller, convince them to let it be your job to get them one.