Making a Living as a Reseller- Part 1, by BIF

JWR is a proponent, with good reason, of living at your retreat and living your preps. He has also pointed out from time to time that it can be a challenge to obtain a job in the American Redoubt. They are available, but sometimes a job require special skills or a willingness to take a step down in your salary or career path. One thing he suggests is finding a way to make a living that is compatible with your lifestyle and available at your retreat location, whether it is in the American Redoubt or not.

Buying and Selling As a Source of Income

For those of you wanting to make the move towards self-sufficiency in a career, or for those who are just looking for extra income, let’s talk about buying and selling as a source of income. I think with a little practice, anyone can learn to make money by reselling things. Buying and reselling goes back to prehistoric times before money existed.

Stone Axes Versus Steel Axes

Years ago, I read a doctoral dissertation on the trade in stone ax making materials in pre-historic Australia. The best material for ax heads was available only in a few locations. The interaction of indigenous peoples across Australia to obtain materials, distribute the materials across the continent, trade, and manufacture the ax heads was incredible. That trade and the related social norms and structures, which had evolved over thousands of years, was destroyed (inadvertently?) by missionaries who disrupted the traditional way of life by giving steel axes away to anyone who did some work for them. However, that is a different story.

A Perfect Market

A quick academic explanation for how reselling can work relies on the concept of a “Perfect Market”. A handy definition of a perfect market is “a theoretical market in which buyers and sellers are so numerous and well informed that monopoly is absent and market prices cannot be manipulated.”

Basically, you make money by buying in an imperfect market– one with a limited number of buyers and one in which there is less than perfect information about the value of an item. You then sell in a market that is closer to perfect– one with many buyers who understand the value of what you are selling, usually after doing some research about the item so you can describe it accurately, using the terminology the buyers expect.


The Internet has done a great job of creating something close to that perfect market. It has made global markets available to anyone almost anywhere in the world. Where in the past, you were limited on who you could reach and how you could do it, now you can reach thousands of knowledgeable people interested in what you are selling and do it for free or at little cost.

Tools To Help You`

There are a lot of tools out there to help you in your reselling business. One of the best tools to help you with this is eBay and its search feature. A little research, playing around, checking out prices on things you spot at garage sales, et cetera can be a good way to start your new selling career. Use eBay to check out the things you see for sale locally. On eBay, you can view items that really sold and find out how much others actually paid for them. You can use your smart phone to look up what something sells for while you are at the garage sale, thrift store, et cetera to get an idea about whether or not it is worth your time to try to resell it. There are other sites and forums to sell, and we’ll cover some of those in the article as well. However, eBay is the granddaddy of them all and the place I would recommend you start.

In This Article

In this article, I’ll discuss how to get started and build a stake with no investment and talk about how you can make money selling or reselling items that others want. For fun, we’ll put a time limit of two months on building the stake. We’ll also talk a bit about OPSEC.

Just a note, I consider myself to be a casual or hobby reseller and will approach this article from that perspective. There are quite a few people who are into reselling as a means of make a living. We’ll talk about how to get started as a full-time reseller, but you will need to do some research on your own to be successful.

A Little History

First, a little history before we get into some practical information. One good thing that the Internet has provided for us is avenues to sell stuff that are accessible to virtually everyone. In the old days, you had few options. You could pay for an ad in the newspaper, post an ad on the bulletin board at the grocery store, sell through the weekly shopper newspaper, get a table at gun shows and flea markets, call in to the Sunday radio trade show, or have a garage sale. Today, there are numerous channels, such as Craig’s List, eBay, Esty, Facebook sale pages, and many others that technology and the Internet have made available to us and that reach far beyond our local area. That’s not to say there still isn’t a place for flea markets and some of the other traditional methods; there are just more options now.

Using eBay Since 2000

I have been bargain hunting and buying and selling, since long before the Internet became available to people other than the military and research institutions. In the past, I was limited as to how I could reach potential buyers and how broad an audience I could reach. I started using eBay somewhere around 2000 or 2001. I remember the digital camera I used. (I probably still have it somewhere.) It only had a resolution of about 256 k and no removable media.

The power of using the Internet to reach buyers really became apparent to me when I sold an original Case V44 WWII Raider Bowie knife using it. I had tried to sell it at a gun show table in Early 2001 with no local buyers interested at a price of $45. I think someone offered me $30, but I felt that was too low and declined the offer. A couple of weeks later, I put it up on eBay. If memory serves, I sold it to a collector in Australia for around $225. I was hooked. After selling on eBay for somewhere around 10 years, I got a bit burned out. I think my overall positive feedback at that time was somewhere around 2500, which is not bad for a part-time gig.

Partnered With a Friend For Awhile

I did partner with a friend for awhile. I took care of acquiring stuff to sell, and my partner took care of listing and shipping, but eventually my partner got burned out too, and we stopped. Yet, I started back up on eBay earlier this year, and I will tell you that a number of improvements have been made over the past few years in listing, shipping, and tracking, all of which make selling much easier.

Kid Who Trades on Craig’s List For Porsche Boxster

About 2010, I also remember reading about a kid who was maybe 15 years old and who started bartering using Craig’s list. He started with a used cell phone but by the time he was 17 and thirty or so trades later, he owned a Porsche Boxster, and got a lot of attention driving it to high school. I know it is true, because I saw it on the Internet. You can google the story yourself, if you want to find out more.

Enjoy Flipping Items

As a hobby or casual reseller, I enjoy finding items that are underpriced, preferably by a “professional”, and flipping them at a substantial profit. There are a lot of people out there who buy and resell as a full-time job. You can spot them at book sales and estate sales with a smart phone app scanning UPC symbols on books, records, DVDs, and even VHS tapes that automatically look up the price of the item on the Internet. (Some apps automatically post the book or whatever it is for sale at the same time.) You see them at bulk sale outlets with shopping carts piled to the sky with a hundred pounds of merchandise to resell (sold to them in bulk for something like $.89 per pound but resold for maybe $1000, if they have a good eye). I’ll tell you how to get into that kind of reselling, but it does not really interest me (at this time).

That’s enough about history. Hopefully you are still with me.

Numerous Strategies Available

There are numerous strategies available to you concerning how to get started, how to gather inventory, what to use as an initial investment. There are several Facebook groups consisting of communities that help each other buy and sell, share tips and techniques, and help sellers identify and describe what they are selling. Some of the more “famous” resellers have weekly live online broadcasts talking about trends and things to look out for in the reseller marketplace. I am not going to try to recap all of them in this article. Rather, I will lay out a basic plan, using a strategy I followed just for this article. It’s one that I think anyone can do. This strategy will get you exposed to reselling and provide a stake for you to acquire merchandise in bulk.

We’ve just covered the introduction of this four-part article series. Tomorrow, we will get started with details.

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part one of a four part entry for Round 78 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by,
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
  6. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from (a $240 value).

Round 78 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. Excellent series here. This is practical, realistic info that anyone can do to support his or her preparedness or homesteading lifestyle. I began selling on eBay in 2003. Between 2013-2016, I grossed over $106,000 selling items purchased from “Going-out-of-business” sales.

    I do recommend that sellers of used items, specifically used automotive, motorcycle, ATV, tractor parts, etc., engrave your items with a small, unique symbol and clearly photograph it and record it with eBay. I have had numerous cases where buyers would attempt to return their identical but defective part for a refund. I once sold a used 2-cycle ATV cylinder that was on the original bore and the buyer attempted to return their old cylinder that had already been bored out to the limit. Luckily, the customer service rep I spoke to at eBay was the daughter of a machine shop owner and knew exactly what I was describing. Solved the whole problem: “NO RETURNS”.

  2. I found some of my fil’s old quarter horse journals and cow magazines and I listed them for auction on eBay. I did pretty well. I then used the money to buy some silver. I was pretty proud of that swap. I love to find old things. I’m going to take down some old fencing for a lady and I’ll reuse it in various places on the farm. I may make some chicken tractors with some of it. I love being thrifty!

  3. I loved a certain manufacturers product especially the well made collector stuff. Problem was I loved it so much that after I bought it I didn’t want to resell it.

  4. Since moving to Montana, my income has suffered. I am a flat rate work no pay. Just not busy enough to get a whole paycheck. I used to sell classic car parts in Southern Ca. Swap meets, ebay, enthusiast forums, person to person. That was a very good income. mostly cash too. Up here I can do that some after work, and supplement my income or lack thereof. If I didn’t have this I would be in big financial trouble.

    Just look at the stuff you have sitting around…collections and stuff. Picture that as 100 dollar bills sitting all around you. DO YOU NEED THAT STUFF? That’s the question to ask yourself.

    I sell on Facebook yard sale, but have a friend put it on hers. I don’t have facebook. That has help move un needed appliances and items too big to ship.

    Last , if you do ebay or something where you are shipping, it’s getting expensive. So make sure you know how much it will be before you agree to a deal. A few times shipping cost me more than the item cost…meaning I lost money..

    Have fun

    1. Hi Ray, I have lost money a few times when shipping was more than I estimated, that’s what I like about how eBay works now. I always list with the buyer paying shipping. If you box up the item, measure and weigh it accurately, eBay will do a pretty good job of calculating and charging postage for you.

      I also buy shipping through eBay, and get a discount. You can add to your profit using the discount. Last year with some of the pre-Xmas specials from eBay, I sold an item that eBay calculated around $60 shipping for. When I bought the postage, I was only charged $24, giving me an extra $36 profit. This was a bit more than usual, but I usually make $1 to $2 profit with the postage discount.

  5. You can sell almost anything on eBay. My neighbor threw his remote at his 60″ flat screen tv because the batteries died, broke the screen. He threw the tv away so I asked him if I could have it. This week I made $75 off the main board and another $50 off the power supply board, took me 5 mins to pull the parts and post them for sale online, and maybe another 30 mins total to drive to the post office to ship. If you find a tv with a broke screen just take pictures and get the model of the tv, and the board number, post it as untested with a discounted price with no returns, if they buy it then they knew it was a gamble in the first place. You can sell known bad boards to, some people refurbish them and resell. There’s never a shortage of broken tvs around, these days.

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