October marks the 10th anniversary of Johnny-Sells on eBay!
In 2003, my wife Janet was an award winning Public Relations professional working for a real estate investment company. It was a thriving business with dozens of eager 20 somethings buying and selling gas stations and convenience stores, mainly in the South. These kids were as ambitious as they were computer savvy. As a sideline, several of them were buying and selling computer and bicycle parts on something called “eBay”. We had heard of the fledgling online marketplace and read stories in newspapers about people making money selling Pez dispensers and Beanie Babies. Since we didn’t have anything like that, we had never given it a second thought.
But the real estate hipsters got us thinking that maybe we could sell stuff on eBay, too. So we signed up on October 23, 2003. Then we started looking for something to sell. We had a basement full of junk. There was some of my stuff, some of Janet’s stuff and some stuff left over from the previous owners of our house.
Our First Sale
The first thing we sold was a Christmas Tree ornament. It celebrated the appearance of Northwestern University’s football team in the Rose Bowl in 1996. Janet’s friend Sue, a big NU booster gave us the ornament as a Christmas present years before.
Although we respect and admire Northwestern, we had no real connection to the school and left the ornament in its original packaging and put it in the basement. It was too nice to throw out, but we had no real use for it.
We carefully followed the procedures for listing on eBay as described by Marsha Collier in her book, “eBay for Dummies” (Still the best book on the subject). A couple weeks later, we got a notice that the ornament sold! We also got a lovely note from our buyer who said that she had purchased it for her mother, who had attended the school the last time they were in the Rose Bowl in 1949. So, not only had we sold something, we made someone happy, a double win.
Johnny Conlisk & Janet Treuhaft
Then we were off to the races. What could we list next? We found a small plaque from the Masonic Lodge, an antique bisque doll’s head, a couple of ashtrays from Janet’s collection of Herend China. Almost every sale had a story. The Masonic plaque went to a company in Georgia that sells all things Masonic. They were thrilled the old timey plaque didn’t end up in a garbage dump. The doll’s head went to a collector in New England who told us it was from the 1920s and rare. And the Herend ashtray went to a guy in Texas whose little boy had broken Grandma’s favorite ashtray by playing with a ball in the house. Grandma was so mad that Dad was worried the little guy would be written out of the will. After receiving our ashtray, Dad wrote us back to say Junior was back in Granny’s good graces.
Eventually, our basement emptied out. We had a lot of misses along with our hits, but we learned a lot. We moved on to selling for other people. There are hundreds of great stories about that phase of our business, but that’s for another day.
Now, we sell stuff we find on our own. Over the last 10 years, we’ve gotten better at finding products our customers like. We’ve met a lot of nice people from all over the world. We look forward to meeting a lot more, including you.