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Selling your stuff in an online auction

So, you want to auction off your garage-sale leftovers online but you don't know how? Selling online is a good idea. One person's garbage is another's collectible resin figurine. It's pretty simple, too. All you need is Internet access, a digital camera or scanner and stuff to sell.

Finding treasure at Mom's
Let's say you were cleaning out your mom's garage and found your old Incredible Hulk lunchbox from third grade. You have no sentimental attachment to it -- other than a fond memory of whacking your best friend, Chris, on the head with it during a recess brawl.

You have two problems. Problem No. 1: If you keep the lunchbox for yourself and Chris sees it, he might run from your apartment, clutching his forehead in painful memory, never to return. Problem No. 2: Your girlfriend wants you to take her to a movie, and you spent all your cash on dog bones for your basset hound. Problem solved: Sell the lunchbox in an online auction, and use the profits to take your girlfriend to the flick.

Here's how you're going to do it.

Case the joint
Pick an auction site. You will probably do best using a well-known site because the more people who see it, the better chance you have of someone bidding on it. Go through the site's policies for buyers and sellers, so you know what is expected of you and your bidders.

Seller fees
You choose eBay, which charges two set fees, insertion and final value, and an optional fee for setting a reserve price.

The reserve price is the lowest price the seller will accept for the item. The bid may start at $1, but if the reserve price is $20 and no one meets it, the auction will end without a winner. If your item sells, the reserve fee is refunded.

Reserve fees for eBay are between 50 cents and $2.

  • $1 to set between $0.01 and $49.99

  • $2 to set between $50 and $199.99

  • 1 percent reserve price (with a maximum of $100.00) to set at $200 and up

The insertion fee is based on the starting price. If you set a reserve price, it is set on that instead. Insertion fees on eBay are between 30 cents and $3.30.

  • 25 cents for items up to $0.99

  • 35 cents for $1 to $9.99

  • 60 cents for $10 to $24.99

  • $1.20 for $25 to $49.99

  • $2.40 for $50 to $199.99

  • $3.60 for $200 to $499.00

  • $4.80 for $500 and up

The final value fee is 5.25 percent of the closing value, if the bids end no more than $25. If the bids end between $25 and $1,000, the fee is $1.31 plus 2.75 percent of the remaining closing value balance over $25 ($25.01 to $1,000).

Basically, you will pay fees that total about 5 percent of the winning bid plus some change.

Name your price
Search for the lunchbox or an item similar on the auction site. See what other items in like condition are selling for, and scope out the key details in their descriptions. Also notice the starting bids, winning bids and reserve prices. Reserve prices are not stated, but if you watch the auction, you can see when the reserve is met.

Next: "You may have a rare gem."
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