Flipping used – and new – items for a profit is a great way to start making money. That’s why flipping and retail arbitrage are the first steps on my Stairway to Seven Figures approach to building a successful online retail business.
And when you first decide to try flipping, you’ll probably search something along these lines:
- What are the best items to flip for profit?
- What are the easiest things to flip?
- best items to buy at garage sales (or thrift stores, auctions, flea markets, etc…)
You’ll find a lot of posts that promise the “top 25 best items to flip” or “the 10 easiest items to buy and resell” – but these lists aren’t likely to help you. In fact, I’d argue in a lot of cases they are more likely to hurt your ability to make money.
In this post, I’ll explain why these lists on the top items to flip for profit are more likely to hurt you than help you and explain a better way to think about finding items to flip.
I’ll also share some details about a recent challenge I undertook where I turned $0 into $1000 in 45 days in order to buy my way into the World Series of Poker. I did this all via flipping – and two of the items I flipped really were a toilet and a dog collar! I’ll also share 2 exact items I found to give you an idea of what the process looked like.
Why “top 10 items to flip” lists are more likely to hurt than help…
There are multiple problems with lists that promise to teach you the best or easiest items to flip for profit.
The biggest two are that they are often wrong and put you in the wrong mindset. Some of the people who make these lists often have very little experience flipping used items for profit, and they rely on anecdotal evidence from online flipping communities to determine what the “best” items to flip are.
The result is that they see a story about a guy making a massive profit on an extremely rare video game, so they turn around and tell you that video games are one of the top 3 things to try to flip. This doesn’t just happen with video games, they’re just one example.
You then end up going out to look specifically for these items – even though the claim that they are the best may have originated from a 1 in a 1,000,000 find. And then while you are focused on finding rare video games or books, you completely miss the toilet that is being given away for free that you could turn around and sell for between $25 and $75.
The point I’m trying to make is that you are not going to find the “best” item for you to flip in a list online. The best item to flip is any item you are looking at that you can quickly sell for a profit – and that can be nearly anything.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy a copy of Stadium Events if you stumble on it at a yard sale – I’m just saying that if you want to be successful as a flipper, you should get in the habit of looking for value in any form, even if that form is a toilet.
How to identify good items to flip…
The best advice I have for getting good at identifying valuable items is to just get out there and go to as many different types of sales as you can, keep an open mind about what items you’re looking for, and research each one to get an idea of what it could sell for.
The more you do this, the better you will get at knowing a good flip when you find it.
In order to get an idea of what you can sell an item for, you can start by looking on the platform you want to sell (usually Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or eBay) and seeing what other listings are available and how much the sellers are asking.
When going this route, you have to keep in mind that the asking price is not necessarily what the seller is actually going to get – and often times the actual price it sells for is a lot less.
For this reason, looking at eBay listings and filtering by completed and sold items is a good strategy for getting an idea about what people will actually pay.
Some other things to think about when evaluating items are:
- How quickly will it sell? Ideally if you are starting off with limited capital, an item will sell within 1 to 2 weeks. Sitting on an item for a long time waiting for it to sell directly affects how much money you make overall.
- What is the total profit? Some products offer a good ROI, but the total profit is too little to be worth it. I prefer to focus on items that offer at least $10 total profit when it comes to flipping used items. If I can buy multiple of the same item so I only have to create one listing, and it’s relatively easy to ship, sometimes I’ll go lower than $10.
- Where will you sell it? If you will sell on eBay, make sure to consider additional fees and the cost to ship it when calculating how much money you will make.
- Is there any liability associated with the item? In Flipping For Profit, I recommend against buying things like car seats, cribs, medical devices, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, guns, knives, weapons, animals, and other things like this, for example.
So instead of giving you a list of items to try to flip, I’d like to share with you a recap of my recent experience with turning $0 into $1000 in less than 2 months by flipping used items for profit. This will give you a much better idea of what flipping is actually like, including how to source products (and get started with nothing).
Turning $0 into a seat at the WSOP by flipping used items for profit…
On April 30th of this year, I accepted a challenge to start with items that I owned and turn them into a “buy-in” for a World Series of Poker event.
If you want to read my original post and the details on the challenge I gave myself, you can check it out here.
The key details are that I needed to start with 5 items that I owned, sell them, then buy more items with the profits, and repeat this process until I had enough to buy into a tournament.
I couldn’t have any single item I started with sell for more $100, and the total of the 5 items that I sold could not exceed $250.
Throughout the rest of this post I will share some of the items that I sold during the challenge and some of the main things that I learned – plus I’ll share how it went at the World Series of Poker in case you are interested.
Starting my flipping challenge…
I began the challenge right away and picked out 5 items to sell. The 5 items that I started with and the prices I sold them for were:
A dehumidifier $100 – When I moved the previous owners left a dehumidifier behind, and I already had one, so this was an extra. I listed it for $100, and received full asking price within a week.
- A toilet $50 – This was something that I bought at a discount store to try to install at my last house. It turns out that it was slightly the wrong size, and didn’t fit with the existing plumbing. The place I bought it from wouldn’t take it back, so it had been sitting in my garage for 2+ years. This challenge led me to getting rid of it, and I was able to sell it for $50.
- A used fire pit $20 – Another item that was taking up space in my garage. I listed this for $20 and sold within a week for full price.
- Some side tables $70 – There were 2 small living room side tables we weren’t using at my house. I listed them for sale, and these sold within a week of being listed for full asking price of $70.
- Paper shredder $10 – This was an extra paper shredder I had, and listed this for $15. This one took a bit longer to sell, but when I got an offer to sell it for $10, I took it.
In total, I sold these items for $250, and all of this money was reinvested into more product so that I could turn this into $1,000. As soon as I made my first sale from the items of mine that I sold, I started to go sourcing looking for items to buy to flip.
The Flipping Begins
Once I had some money coming in from these items, it was time to get to work.
Throughout the challenge, I sourced items at thrift stores, retail stores, and Facebook Marketplace. I was able to find items to sell at all three, but thrift stores and retail stores were where I had the best results.
My goal was to find items that would sell quickly and have as much potential profit on each sale. This turned out to work quite well.
Here are the details on some of the more interesting flips…
One day I was doing some sourcing at Goodwill. I was only in the store for about 5 minutes when I walked past a sign that said 50% off furniture with purple tags. I started looking through the furniture and saw that there were many items with clearance tags.
Most of the furniture was things you’d typically see at a thrift store, and wasn’t worth the time or the trouble.
But there was a stack of 3 items that caught my eye.
It was 3 white Carson coffee tables from Target brand new in the box. They were listed for sale at $64.99 each, but they had the purple tags so that brought it down to about $35 each after tax.
They had a picture on the outside of what they looked like. The picture had the name of the item on it, so I looked up the name of the item on Target’s website to see if I could figure out what the items were selling for originally.
I was quickly able to find the exact item on Target’s website, and I saw that they had a retail price of $159.99 each!
This meant I was getting a discount of over 75% off of the retail price. I was confident that I could make a nice profit on each one by selling somewhere in the middle. I did a quick search on Facebook Marketplace to see what other coffee tables were going for, and I didn’t see anything that scared me off.
I was confident this was a good buy. The only thing I wasn’t sure of is if I could fit all 3 in my car. I drive a Dodge Charger, so it’s not a small car by any means, but fitting 3 large boxes was by no means a guarantee.
So I decided I’d buy one, to see how it fit in the car and to see if I’d have room for all 3. I checked out with the first one and took it out to my car. It ended up being just the right size to fit in the back seat.
I quickly took my cart back in the store and loaded up the other 2. I checked out again, with the same cashier who gave me a slightly odd look but didn’t say anything.
Then I was able to play a little Jenga and was able to get all 3 in the back seat.
Now it was time to get them listed for sale. I decided to sell them on Facebook Marketplace, and started off with a price of $110.
I didn’t have any messages come in on them at that price for a few days. I decided to lower the price to $100, and had no messages. At this point I had the items for about a week and it was time to try to get them moving.
I decided to price them at $75.
This turned out to be a better price point. I started receiving a couple of messages per day, and within a week I was able to line up 3 separate buyers and get them all sold.
I sold each one for $75, and this was a profit of $40 on each item. In total on these coffee tables I made a $120 profit.
Here’s a look at the listing I had for these:
GPS Dog Collar
Another good find during the course of this challenge was a GPS dog collar. This was a find at a local chain of thrift stores.
They were running a promotion where a certain color tag was 50% off. As I was browsing through the store I was looking for as many items that I could find that had this color of tag. I wasn’t finding much of anything but then I started to look through their case upfront of more valuable items. Or at least the items they think are the most valuable ones.
The one that caught my eye was a Garmin GPS dog collar that would be $60 after the discount.
I had no experience with this type of item in the past, but it seemed like something that could be quite valuable. I did some research and saw that this type of item was consistently selling for several hundred dollars on eBay. I was confident that I could make a nice profit on this item as long as it worked.
I checked out, made sure that I would be able to return it if it didn’t work, and and headed home to test it out. Fortunately it worked great!
I decided to list it for sale for $300 on Facebook Marketplace.
I was able to get a few messages and had an offer for $250. That was a bit less than my asking price, but still a very healthy profit. I decided to go for it, and was able to complete the sale at $250 for a profit of $190!
This was the biggest profit I made during the challenge in a single transaction.
Here’s a look at the listing:
A Very Profitable Retail Store Find
Early on in the challenge, I stumbled across an item that turned into my bread and butter throughout the challenge.
When I was browsing Facebook Marketplace for items that I could potentially buy to resell, I was paying attention to what other items were priced at, and which ones appeared to be in higher demand. This paid off when I was out in retail stores.
I stumbled across an item that I saw when doing research and it looked like it would make a nice profit on Facebook Marketplace, even when buying the item at the retail price in the store.
This was very early in the challenge and I didn’t want to tie up any capital unnecessarily, so I took a couple pictures of the item in the store, and created the listing for the product.
Within a few hours the messages started rolling in. Once I saw the messages coming in, I went to the store and bought 3 of this item. I sold the first one of this item with 48 hours of having it listed, and was selling 1 to 2 per day for over a week. As I was selling them I kept going back to buy more with the money I was making from the previous sales. The most I ever had on hand at any one time of this item was 7.
The item cost between $25 and $30 before tax depending on what discount the store was running on it at the time, and I was selling it for $45 to $50.
I started off at $45 and the messages just kept rolling in. So I created another listing priced it at $50. The messages slowed down a bit but they kept coming in, so I kept selling the item.
In total, this item made me over $300 in profit!
I can’t share exactly what the item is this post as it’s still a viable opportunity to resell on Facebook Marketplace, and it’s easily available in many retail stores. I will be sharing the exact item within the Flipping for Profit mini-course.
Things I learned during the challenge
Facebook Marketplace is a great place to sell items. I had bought and sold a few items in the past on this platform, but didn’t realize it’s full potential. Every item that I ended up selling throughout this challenge was on Facebook Marketplace. I was planning on testing out some others, but it was working so well I didn’t end up doing it.
The biggest challenges I ran into with Facebook Marketplace were the number of messages I received from people who would never respond and getting people to actually show up.
There’s not too much you can do about the number of messages, but I started to use template responses, as you will get a lot of, “Is this available?” messages. The templates helped quite a bit.
I would estimate that somewhere around 15% of the messages I received actually turned into sales. This can be frustrating, but it really didn’t take much time to respond to messages, and of the about 85% of the messages that don’t turn into sales, the vast majority of those only require one response.
Early in the challenge I had a couple people reschedule on me, and then never actually show up.
After that I did a couple of things:
- If someone asked to reschedule and I had any other interested buyers, I would try to sell it to them instead as opposed to rescheduling. I found that if someone would reschedule or not show up once, it was likely they would do it again.
- For meetings that I did set up, I asked them to let me know when they were on the way to our meeting point and their ETA at that time. For almost all of the meetups, I picked a public location within 5 minutes from either my home or office. When people messaged me their ETAs, it confirmed they were actually coming, and I didn’t spend any extra time waiting. I’d highly recommend asking people to do this, especially if you are setting up a meeting more than 6 hours in advance.
One other thing that I did that worked out quite well was to schedule multiple meetings at the same time in the same place. I did this a couple different times and found it to be very efficient. The way I would do this is setup one meeting, and then if someone else wants to buy another item you have listed, tell them you have another meetup scheduled at X time at X place. Ask them if they can meetup then as well for their item.
I found that in general it only takes a minute or 2 to do the transaction, so even if the people arrive at the same time, no one ends up waiting for more than a couple of minutes.
Using the pending feature in Facebook Marketplace works well when you have a meetup scheduled for an item to let other buyers know as well. Although there are some people who will still send a message even if an item is pending.
Facebook Marketplace allows you to accept payment through the app, which I’d never done before this challenge. There are no fees for doing it, and it gets deposited directly to your bank account. I was paid via Facebook Marketplace’s payment feature for the dehumidifier that I sold, and it worked very smoothly. I would be happy to accept this payment method in the future as well. The only thing to be aware of is that it takes a couple of days for the funds to be available.
During the challenge I found that when I would lower the price of an item, more messages would generally start to come in. Facebook Marketplace has a category for recent price drops, and that appears to lead to more buyers seeing it. I found that lowering the price a bit on items generally got things moving, even when I wasn’t seeing any initial traction.
The items that I bought to resell and the profit on each one included:
- Bean bag boards from Facebook Marketplace +$75
- A giant yard sized set of checkers +$55
- Coffee tables from goodwill (x3) +$120
- A GPS dog collar +$190
- A pitching machine +$50
- Retail Arbitrage flips (x17) +$323
From the challenge I made $250 selling items that I previously owned, and then another $813 reinvesting the profits. In total I ended the challenge with $1,063 in 40 days. I started on April 30th, and made the final sale on June 9th.
Total items sold: 29
Total sales: $1,865
Total profit: $1,063 – counting the items I previously owned as profit
Number of times a buyer tried to negotiate in person: 1 – In almost all cases I agreed on price with buyers prior to meeting up. This made the in person meetups much easier, and avoided the need to do any additional negotiating. Typically for the first week I’d just tell people the price was firm. After a week, or if my margins were very high, then I’d be willing to negotiate a bit on price through messenger.
Number of times a buyer tried to negotiate in the app: A lot! My default response is that I had a lot of interest in the item and that the price was firm. Many people who made offers still ended up being willing to pay full price.
Meetups that didn’t result in a sale: 1 – Only one time did I meetup with someone and it didn’t result in a sale for the items I was selling. I was very pleasantly surprised by this! I’d guess that with certain higher priced items there would be more meetups that don’t result in a sale.
Bonus: My World Series of Poker Experience
Playing a World Series of Poker event has been a “bucket list” item of mine ever since college. I used to play a lot online and always wanted to play in an in-person event.
Ever since I announced which event I was playing in, I’ve been getting quite a few emails asking how the tournament went. So I’ll share some details on that here.
I entered into Event #28 which was a $1,000 buy in for a No Limit Hold’em tournament.
I bought my ticket the day before the tournament started, and made sure that I was ready to show up at 11AM when the tournament started on June 11th.
The poker tournament was held at the Rio Convention Center in Las Vegas. When I walked in, I’d never seen so many people playing poker in one place! The main thing you could hear was poker chips being stacked.
It was a very cool feeling to be there live.
There ended up being 2,479 people who entered the tournament.
I played decently well in the tournament (for my skill level at least). I ended up getting knocked out in about 550th place. I say about as the screens only updated after every 20 players were knocked out. The screen said 550 remaining when I was knocked out, and the next time it updated about 10 minutes later it was 530 players. So I got somewhere between 530th and 550th. Here was a look at the event screen when I was eliminated:
The top 372 places in this tournament got paid, so I was less than 200 people away from getting paid in the tournament.
Overall it was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the experience.
Throughout this challenge, I had a lot of fun, and I also learned a lot. This is very similar to what I was doing in the very beginning when I first started selling online. I started with what I had access to and then reinvested to keep growing.
The entire business I have today started with less than a $5,000 investment, and we’re on pace to sell over $6 million in products this year. Even if you start small, the results can be huge if you reinvest your profits and follow a smart system.
You can do the same thing as I did in this challenge. By starting with items you own, selling them, and reinvesting the profits, it can turn into a very sizable amount in a short period of time. I was able to turn items I already owned into over $1,000 in 45 days.
If you want to learn more about the strategies I recommend (and to see the item I made over $300 in profit on), you should enroll in Flipping for Profit. It’s a short course I put together to help people get started and see results faster. You can check it out here.
Make sure you also read more about the Stairway to 7 Figures so you understand how something like flipping used items for profit can be scaled into a million dollar operation.
If you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comments section below!