Jumping into eBay as a seller

Collecting hockey and baseball jerseys had gotten unwieldy. Effective storytelling and communication have helped me find buyers in nearly 20 states.
A record player
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One of my listings, a Phil Esposito jersey made by Philadelphia-based Mitchell & Ness.

In my middle age, I have become that guy. No, not that guy who shakes his fist at those meddling kids to get off his lawn – they know better than to mess with my lawn.

No, I mean that guy who backs up the line at the post office (admittedly not a difficult thing to do given how under-staffed every post office seems to be) with a stack of packages filled with things he sold on eBay.

I’ve been an eBayer for years, but until 2015 – the 20th anniversary year for the online marketplace – I only had ever been a buyer.

What changed is that my hobby of collecting hockey and baseball jerseys (and some jackets) had gotten unwieldy. What Drew Barrymore’s character said to Jimmy Fallon’s Red Sox-obsessed character in the movie “Fever Pitch” was kind of true of me: “It’s like you live in a gift shop.”

David Letterman jacket

I have always been a sucker for team merchandise. I got my first authentic Red Sox jersey (at size 40 now way too small but still cherished) the summer before college.

I won’t say how big my collection got, for fear of sounding too acquisitive or too boastful. I never viewed my collecting as a way to make money.

Besides sometimes while knocking around the house or playing street hockey, I don’t wear the jerseys. I’m more into the jersey aesthetic and how each one tells a story: of a city, a team, a player, an era.

In the past year I’ve also focused on trading jerseys with other collectors, sort of like being a general manager but swapping clothing instead of people. It took my parting with game-worn New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Phantoms hockey jerseys, but it netted me one from a long-defunct team from my home state, the Maine Mariners. At this stage, I emphasize quality (at least as I perceive it) above quantity.

As for eBay, it was a jacket that ultimately turned me into a seller. This spring, I bought one of the wool jackets that David Letterman personally designed and handed out to staff members, some of whom parted with theirs on eBay. It wasn’t my intent to flip it, but as his “Late Show” ended its long run, eBayers were paying a premium that I just couldn’t pass up.

‘Great communication’

That led me to revisit my jersey collection and ultimately, in September, start listing some of them for sale. And sell they have, sometimes at a dizzying clip: at least one item in 20 of 21 days in September and October; seven items on one Saturday, eight the next day. Buyers from nearly 20 states; inquiries from Canada, Finland, Switzerland.

Just as a buyer experiences a bump in heart rate when bidding, I have discovered as a seller that there’s a definite excitement associated with someone purchasing your stuff. The money is one thing, but I suppose it’s also the validation of one’s tastes: See, I told you that Jim Bouton Seattle Pilots jersey was really cool!

And then there’s the reward that comes with meeting, if not exceeding, the expectations of buyers. I’m still amazed, after more than 15 years on eBay, that it operates with relatively few hiccups. Most people are honest, as buyers and as sellers.

Among the feedback I have received:

“Awesome jersey, great communication, super fast delivery. Thank you!!”

“Thank you for an honest and pleasant transaction.”

“Beautiful Jersey Just As Described, Smooth Transaction, Reasonable Shipping A+++”

Telling the story

I have faced a few challenges. One person bought a jersey but didn’t pay for it (which is why you never ship until after payment is in hand) and didn’t respond to my messages.

Another person returned a jersey because of a small piece of thread (even with a no-returns policy, I found, eBay is going to side with the buyer). After some reluctance on my part, I figured it was better just to accept the return, even if I ended up paying for shipping both ways. Ultimately it was worth it, the customer (he had bought another jersey that he kept) in his feedback calling me “very honorable.”

What my selling experience tells me is that buyers appreciate clear communication and prompt shipping. As a professional communicator, I take pride in telling the story of the items I am selling, with a sufficient number of good-quality photos and vivid descriptions.

After all, it’s not just a Roger Clemens jersey but rather:

“This is a hard-to-find, new with tags Mitchell & Ness Roger Clemens 1999 New York Yankees pinstripe jersey that was in a sealed bag until we took pictures of it for this posting. It’s the rare M&N polyester jersey that’s made in the United States, and it features the arm band and No. 5 in tribute to Yankees great Joe DiMaggio, who died in March 1999. On the other sleeve is a 1999 World Series patch (the Yankees swept Atlanta). Clemens played 24 seasons for the Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros, amassing 354 wins and seven Cy Young Awards. His name is mentioned 82 times in the Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball.”

As I write this I have more than 30 active listings on eBay with still more to come. My collection remains robust, but without the Clemens jersey and the many others I have sold on eBay, it’s big without looking like it’s on steroids.


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