5 Ways to Research a Rare Item Before Selling on eBay

Make sure you're properly pricing your listing

eBay seller can get the pricing of similar items at an antique shop.

Biljana Nikolic/EyeEm / Getty Images

Researching rare, unusual, or unique items to sell on eBay can be tricky. Most eBay sellers are conditioned to check completed listings for pricing information. But if the item is rare or one of a kind, there may not be any comps to compare it to. Here are a few strategies for researching items when eBay sold items don't provide the needed information.

1. Check Active Listings

Completed listings may not have many results for Items limited in quantity. If that is the case, the next step is to look at active listings. But look carefully. Examine the seller and determine if the seller has experience in that particular niche.

For example, if you are selling a mid-century modern vase, and can't find one like it in completed listings, check actives. If you find a similar one in active listings, look at the seller's other items. Do they specialize in mid-century modern, or vases? Do they have an established account with a healthy feedback number indicating they are an experienced seller? If so, their pricing may be spot-on, and you can use it as a guideline. On the other hand, if the seller is new, doesn't have much feedback, doesn't seem to specialize in a niche, or has sloppy listings with poor titles and photography, don't use their pricing as a guide.

2. Check Etsy for Vintage, Retro & Handmade Item Pricing

Etsy is an online marketplace with a completely different feel than eBay. It is an artisan community with handmade items, vintage items, or custom-made items. Many times, the exact same item will be for sale on eBay and Etsy — and priced much higher on Etsy. eBay is known as the "garage sale of the internet," while Etsy has more of a boutique feel.

You may see your rare item on Etsy and can take pricing cues from there. Unfortunately, there isn't an easy way to see completed listings on Etsy. There are tedious workarounds posted on various Etsy forums and blogs, but Etsy does not provide information on completed sales. If the item you are researching is on Etsy, try pricing close to that price with Best Offer on eBay.

3. Check Google for Blog Posts About the Item

Blogging is a huge industry and bloggers in a specific niche are passionate about their topics. For example, let's say you have some vintage Pyrex to sell and can't find an exact match on eBay or Etsy. Try searching Google for the pattern, and you may find a blog about it. 

Even though the blogs may be inactive, they may still have the pricing information you need, so read through any posts that appear on a Google search. 

4. Check Pinterest for Style Guides and Vocabulary Charts

Clothing styles can be confusing even for people who regularly sell clothes. You may have an item and not even know the right words to enter into the search engine. If you aren't sure of the style of an article of clothing, shoes, or handbag, check Pinterest for style guides, which are infographics that show a drawing or image of a style of clothing and the terminology used to describe that item. For example, a dress could be a:

  • Sheath
  • Shift
  • Bandage
  • Princess
  • Halter
  • Empire waist
  • Bodycon
  • Drop waist
  • Tunic
  • Sundress
  • Strapless
  • Wrap dress

Keywords are very important in a search, so you want to make sure you use the word that buyers are searching for. 

5. Consider Worthpoint

The WorthPoint website says: "WorthPoint Corporation is the largest resource for researching, valuing and buying/selling antiques, art, and vintage collectibles." The Worthpoint database now has over 1 billion images and is an excellent resource for finding values for items that are rare or unusual.

Since eBay completed listings only go back 30 days, a comparable item, or even the exact item, could have sold months or years ago and not be accessible on eBay's history. Worthpoint's data goes back since its inception. If you sell a lot of collectibles, vintage items, or antiques, a monthly subscription is a good investment to help with proper pricing. 

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