'I made £2,500+ selling old crisp bags on eBay' - how to make a packet flogging your rubbish
An eBay seller has told how she's made over £2,500 selling empty crisp bags from the Eighties on the online auction site. But vintage packaging isn't the only rubbish you can make a packet from - hard though it is to believe, buyers snap up all sorts of nick-nacks, from old toilet roll tubes to empty jam jars.
MoneySaver Karen Chapman (pictured below), who is 49 and from Surrey, told us she's sold around 250 empty crisp packets via auction on eBay in the past few months. She's made £3,040 in total, excluding postage costs, which after fees means a profit of around £2,575.
Karen started selling the snack packs in November and is just over halfway through selling her collection, which includes the likes of Golden Wonder, Hula Hoops and Skips. Most of Karen's listings have gone for between £10 and £30, but the most lucrative bag to date has been a packet of Sky Divers, which at the time of purchase cost just 6p but fetched an astonishing £173 on eBay. Karen's even sold to buyers from the US.
While Karen's story may seem incredible, in fact it's the real McCoy - buying old crisp packets online is surprisingly common, with our analysis finding UK sellers have made almost 350 such sales on eBay in the past three months alone. See our Flog your rubbish for cash guide for tips on how to make money from old loo roll tubes, jars, corks and more, and our eBay and Secondhand Selling guide for more general tips.
'I was going to recycle them... but then I saw people paying quite a bit on eBay'
Karen originally began collecting crisp packets as a 10-year-old in the 1980s, though she can’t recall what made her decide to start. It was only when her parents' home was sold that she got her hands back on them.
“I was going to recycle them," Karen told us. "But I did a quick check on eBay and saw they were selling and people were paying quite a bit for them, so I put them up for sale instead.”
Karen, who left her job as a travel consultant to spend more time with her family in January 2020, said: “There’s something really fun about the auction process, watching the bids go up and trying to guess how much they’ll go for. Sometimes you get the same buyers bidding each week – but a lot of the time it's different people.”
It's unclear why people are so keen to bag Karen's old crisp packets, but based on what we've seen with similar items on eBay, we reckon purchasers could be collectors, people making art or possibly crafters.
Karen’s top tip for others is to sell items individually, as she reckons this means you can ensure you get the maximum price for each item. Of course, if you do this, it's worth factoring in postage costs and bear in mind eBay takes a commission from all sales, which includes the cost of postage.
'One person's rubbish can be another's treasure'
Steve Nowottny, news and investigations editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "It always hard to believe that you can make cold, hard cash selling what some people would simply chuck in the bin, but on eBay and other online sites, one person's rubbish really can be another's treasure.
"As Karen's inspiring story shows, you can make money from the sort of items you might otherwise throw away if having a clearout – examples include everything from football match programmes and odds and ends of wool to shirt buttons, pine cones and newspaper supplements, which sell particularly well to overseas fans when their favourite celeb is on the cover.
"Of course, not everything will sell, so the easiest way to get an idea of whether something's worth flogging is to check what similar items have already sold recently. Not all sites let you do this, but on eBay you can check what price previous listings have gone for by searching for an item, then selecting 'sold items' on the left-hand toolbar."
What rubbish sells - and what you could get for it
Old crisp packets aren’t the only thing Karen has sold on eBay – she’s also sold old airline tickets from the 1940s that her dad had kept, for around £10 per bundle. She's urged others to "check before they chuck", as one person's rubbish can be another's treasure.
You can't just sell any old rubbish though - the crisp bags Karen's made money from are older, and you're unlikely to be able to sell bags which are currently on sale in the shops.
Inspired by Karen, we did a spot-check of eBay sales over the past three months to see what's actually being sold, how much you can get for it and what the demand is for certain items. Here's what we found:
|Item (single or bundle)||Avg price/item||Highest price/item||No of sales in past 3mths (single or bundle)|
|Old crisp packets||£6.29||£13.50||342|
|Empty cigarette packets||£2.94||£7.99||512|
|Old biscuit tins||£2.75||£5.50||61|
|Toilet roll tubes||2p||4p||37|
How to make the most from selling rubbish - do your research first
If you're planning to sell unwanted items, bear in mind our five top tips:
- Check for fees and postage costs. When an item sells on eBay, until recently you had to pay 10% of the final sale price, including postage, to eBay, while PayPal took 2.9% of the total sale price, plus 30p per transaction. But that's gradually changing, and by the end of 2021 all sellers will be paid directly into their bank accounts, rather than by PayPal. It means PayPal will no longer take a slice of earnings, although eBay's hiking its fees to 12.8% of the sale price including postage, plus 30p per transaction.
- Upload quality snaps. You will be competing with lots of very similar-looking items – so make sure yours has the best lighting and stands out.
- Use the right key words. To make sure your listing is seen by the right people, choose your keywords carefully. On eBay, do this by searching for the item you want to sell, and selecting the 'sold listings' option on the left-hand toolbar. You'll then be able to see which keywords make for the most successful sales.
- Save on packaging. You'll need to pack whatever you're posting carefully, but to save on the cost of packaging, ask your local supermarket or corner shop if it has any spare cardboard boxes. If you're posting delicate items, such as jam jars, old newspapers are a good, cheap way to protect them.
- Consider alternative ways to sell. eBay isn't the only place to sell online. You should also consider free classified sites, such as Gumtree, or Facebook Marketplace, which is free to use - although it doesn't tend to be as good for rarer items. There's also a good old fashioned car boot sale.
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