Selling on eBay: Choosing a Starting Price

Congratulations! You’ve chosen a bunch of things to sell on eBay. This is a great way to clear out your clutter, downsize your storage unit, or get ready to move. Now that you’ve got your “To Sell” box of stuff, it’s time to set the best price for each and every item.

Of course, you’ll want to choose the starting price on eBay that’s most likely to garner a few bids and get the highest closing price possible. You don’t want to start too low and end up selling your prized possessions for a dollar (imagine the heartbreak!), and you probably don’t want to start too high and spend your days and nights waiting for at least one bid that never happens. Not to worry: there are some smart moves you can make before you list your item that will help you set the right starting price.

You might have a real treasure on your hands. But how will you know? To you, that Elvis record that your dad gave you is totally rare. But to the world, it could be just one in a million, or a hundred (or two—the number that drastically cuts the price of anything “rare”).

When you are preparing to sell an item on eBay, the best first step you can take is to find out as much as you can about the item—from its origin to its value. Then, find out what the going price is, and set your selling strategy. Following are some excellent ways to do that.

  1. Search for the item on Google. Let’s say that you picked up a metal brooch for $2 at a garage sale. Take a good look at it: on the back there’s a marking, “Taxco.” Begin your research by conducting an Internet search on the item. You’ll learn about the place the item is from, a history of artisanship there, and maybe even a bit about 20th century silver markings.
  2. Conduct an image search. Maybe your item looks a bit like a bird, but not like any bird you’ve ever seen. You can take a picture of it, then copy that picture to your desktop. From there, drag the photo into Google’s image search to find similar images on the Internet. This can help you narrow down what it is you have: a rare treasure or a common find?
  3. Search for similar items on eBay. This is where it gets really fun. Go to and enter a few search terms that describe your item. In our sample case, that could be: silver, brooch, pin, Taxco, 925 and bird. What you’ll see are items currently listed that fit the description (eBay will also offer up some items that don’t precisely fit but are close). The results will give you some idea about the perceived value of the item—that is, what the sellers think the item might be worth. Wow! $125 for a pin that cost $2 at a garage sale!
  4. Find out the amount for which similar items actually sold. Now, on the left-hand side of your screen, under “Show Only,” click “Sold.” This is where you can see the actual selling price for items matching the description. The prices will probably be lower, but they will give you an idea of the selling value of what you are about to list.
  5. Choose a starting bid. Now that you have a better idea of the selling value of your item, the starting price is easier to set. You can start your item at the price you would like to receive and hope for a hungry bidder. Or, you can gamble a bit and start at a lower price, hoping that competitive bidding will drive up the cost. I like to start the bid at the very minimum I would hope to recoup. For the $2 garage sale item, I’d probably start at $5 and see what happens. There’s always the opportunity to relist an item that doesn’t sell the first time around.
  6. The “Best Offer” approach. I’ve used this approach successfully. Let’s say that $2 silver pin is showing up in sold listings at $20. I’d start with $20 and include the option for buyers to make an offer. This gives the buyer the opportunity to feel like he’s gotten an amazing deal.

Selling on eBay is a great way to make money; it’s gratifying to watch the bids on your items go up, up, up. Starting low gives you the chance to garner a lot of bids. Starting high ensures that you’ll get your goal price met. Doing your research before you hit the “List” button will ensure that you are in the ballpark in terms of the real value of what you’re selling.

Conna Shannon

Conna Shannon

Conna is a writer, editor and aspiring filmmaker. She's into DIY, upcylcing and macrobiotic cooking. She lives in Monterey, California, with a yellow lab named Daisy.
Conna Shannon

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