How to Sell Off a Media Collection

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Back in 2006, when I hit financial bottom and realized I had to do something, one of the first things I did was clean out my closets and shelves and sell off a large portion of my media collection. Piles of CDs and DVDs and video games went flying out the door in an effort to simultaneously de-clutter (and make our tiny apartment more livable) and bring in some money to quickly beat back the debts facing us down.

At that time, I really didn’t have a good grasp as to how to optimally sell the items. I simply sold most of the individually valuable items on eBay (like DVD sets and CD box sets and the like) and the rest of the bulk went to a pair of used media shops.

Over the ensuing years, I’ve sold off more items myself and helped others sell off portions of their media collections. Here’s what I’ve found: there is no best way to get rid of these items. It all depends on your goals, how much return you want, and how much time and effort you’re willing to invest for those sales.

Here are six avenues I would happily follow to eliminate a media colleciton. The difference between them is more a matter of how much time you wish to invest in the sale, because the more time you invest, the greater your return will likely be.

If you just want it gone as fast as possible and don’t care about any return…
… take it to Goodwill.
The fastest way to get rid of a media collection is simply to box it up and drop it off at a Goodwill store. Get a receipt from them for the donation and use it for your taxes – it really won’t give you much money back at all per item, but it’ll give you at least a few pennies per item. Considering this will only take you a few minutes, it’s the fastest approach.

If you want a small return and have other stuff to sell…
… have a yard sale.
You’ll get more return per item at a yard sale than you will at Goodwill. Plus, you can sell other items. If you work with your friends, you can turn it into something of a social event as well. The drawback? It’ll eat a good portion of a weekend and you likely won’t sell all of the items you have available there.

If you don’t mind burning an hour to get at least some return…
… stop at a used media store.
Most cities have stores that will buy used DVDs and books and video games (and sometimes CDs as well). Selling them is often as easy as stopping in and getting the entire collection appraised, which can take thirty minutes to an hour. The offer will be more than you’d make at Goodwill but less than you’d make with the bottom two options on this list, but it won’t take too long.

If you want it done fairly quickly but don’t want to leave the house…
… list items on Craigslist.
The advantage here is that you can essentially sell all of the items without leaving the house. Just make a detailed list, post them on Craigslist, and see what you get. You’ll likely have to sell them in bulk as a collection and you’ll get yard sale level returns, but you’ve got a good possibility of finding a buyer who will come to your house, take the stuff off of your hands, and leave cash.

If you want a pretty good return, don’t mind spending some time now, but want the hassle over with in a few weeks…
… sell items on eBay.
I used Ebay to sell many of my individual items in 2006, earning a very solid return. There was a very significant time investment in doing this, as I had to create auctions for each item I wanted to sell, deal with questions from buyers on many of the items, deal with getting the payments for everything, then packaging up all of the items and shipping them out, then dealing with feedback. It was a big time suck, but it was all finished within about three weeks of listing the first item on eBay and I got a solid return on the items, much better than I would have received for the above items.

If you want the best return and don’t mind some significant time investment and some serious waiting…
… sell items on Amazon.
If time isn’t a constraint at all and you don’t mind selling tomorrow or six months from now, Amazon will get results that top even eBay on many items. Again, it takes a lot of work up front in listing all the items you’re trying to sell, dealing with buyers, and so on, but the return is the nicest. The only disadvantage over eBay is that with eBay, the item is gone in a week. With Amazon, the item can sit there for months, but you’ll have to deal with it, pack it up, ship it, and leave feedback for it whenever it sells. If you have a lot of items, you’re spreading out the hassle over a long period of time for another 20% or so more than you’ll likely get from eBay.

What’s the right answer? It’s all about the time you want to commit. The more time you’re willing to commit to it, the more you’ll get out of your items (how much more depends entirely on your items, of course).

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33 thoughts on “How to Sell Off a Media Collection

  1. Another great way to sell of media is glyde.com. It’s pretty new, I think, but lets you sell books, DVDs, and video games. Like Amazon, in that you don’t know when your item could sell (I’ve had items sell overnight, but others last for weeks), but they send you the mailing envelope and everything.

    I’ve gone the Craigslist route, but it only seems to be worth it for bigger-ticket items. ($25+).

    And still too scared to try actually selling anything on eBay–the amount eBay and Paypal take out seems too high, especially if you don’t get the value you were expecdting.

  2. Personally, I have found DVDs & CDs to be somewhat hard to sell for a decent return. I managed to sell some I no longer wanted/needed at a media store, but the return was poor. A fiver *at most* per box (this for TV series), which would retail new for 30-50 euros. That means they sold for 10% of the original price.

    Here we don’t get receipts for tax purposes for donated items, which sucks.

    I have also tried skipping the middleman, and listing and selling the disks through online “marketplaces”. Can’t do it on Amazon and eBay is not worth it — too much work and most potential buyers (from the US) wouldn’t bother because the shipping would cost too much. Anyway, I didn’t have any luck with this option. There is a price point beyond which people will just prefer to buy new. And this price point is most likely too low for me in terms of time investment.

    I think another reason for not being too lucky with such sales is that piracy is rampant. Why buy an used CD or DVD if you can download the stuff for free? If people care enough about the musicians/filmmakers/etc, they’ll most likely buy the CDs/DVDs new.

    Most recently, I have taken to giving stuff to family and friends — and only if they are interested. That way I get to declutter and I don’t have to bother with the items anymore.

  3. another option would be to donate it to some service(wo)men. I have in the past shipped off my old original xbox, controllers, games to a base in kuwait. recently I gave about 20 dvds I no longer want/need/watch to a co-worker who will send them to her son oversees.

  4. Another option for Video Games and Movies is a trading site like Goozex. I’d say it falls somewhere between eBay and Amazon as far as time investment goes. You don’t get any actual money for it, but you do earn points that can use to buy other games/movies. It sounds a little fishy, but I’ve been using it for a bout a year now, (started with a sizable collection), and I’m really happy with the service.

    It’s a great long-term frugal solution, and has almost eliminated me purchasing new games, as well as taking the serious hit in selling used games back to places like Gamestop. The only real downside is if you’re starting with a smaller collection, it takes a while to really get cruising.

  5. My husband has a rather large record collection that really irks me. It just sits in storage costing me $115 a month. I think it is time to contact Amazon …..

  6. I sold my entire CD collection, some 400 discs, back in 2003. I went to a music store that dealt in used discs and offered the whole lot to them. They spent 30 minutes reviewing them, and then gave me a pretty good offer, which I took. Sure, I could have gotten more on eBay or Amazon, eventually. The key was eventually. I got the money right away at the used CD store, and the per-disc average price was good enough to outweigh the hassle cost of dealing with listing 400 CDs and shipping the buggers.

  7. We were given a huge number of video tapes – several popular tv series from the 70s and 80s. We thought about trying to sell them, but instead donated them to a local senior center. So much easier, the senior center was extremely pleased to expand their library, and I felt better than I would have if I’d taken them to the Goodwill. I’m sure that there are a lot of organizations out there that would happily accept donations.

  8. #3 100% agree with you. I started using Goozex about a year ago and I have gotten rid of a bunch of older video games/movies. I built up enough points initially that I don’t even have to buy video games anymore, the get, play, get rid of cycle goes fast enough for me that at current it is mostly a self feeding cycle, although I am sure it will run out eventually. It works decently but sometimes you have to wait a LONG time, especially on DVDs. For me everything I have on Goozex has its own box in my closet, when it sells I get rid of it. Works for me, but I am not too cramped for storage.

  9. this was a great article. Good content articles about actually doing frugal things have been hard to find among the fluff on this site lately, but I thought this was really useful.

  10. June 8th, my fellow baseball friend, is the day of Strasburg. The Nats said he’ll be starting against Pittsburgh that day. So get him in your lineup!! Unfortunately I also have McCutchen so I’ll be rooting for the only hits to come off Cutch’s bat.

    As for selling my used media I go with half.com. I see what other prices are for similar condition items and price mine competitively. I usually sell my stuff pretty quick.

    Some media simply are too commonplace and won’t sell or won’t sell at a price worth waiting for. I either give them to friends, Goodwill, or donate them to my library where they will either absorb them into their collection or sell them to raise money. I’m a librarian and you’d be surprised how many DVDs & CDs get damaged. It’s always nice to have a free replacement.

  11. Nice post! Its wierd though..I get the same amount from Craigslist as ebay or amazon. I simply put my foot down on the price and since theyre local, they like to come check out the product in person. Theyre happier to pay what I ask for in person if I tell them over the phone the price is final.

    http://thisiswhyubroke.com
    Financial Advice + Ridicule

  12. Of the last two options, I think Amazon is the way to go by far. Yes, you don’t sell things immediately (if at all), but it’s so much easier to set up an amazon listing than an ebay auction since so much of it is automated.

  13. I’m intrigued by this article as it doesn’t refer to the one thing you do seem to take into consideration when you do other tasks that take time – the cost of your time.
    When calculating your return, the ebay option would possibly be lower on the list, given the investment in time required to do this. I had much the same conundrum when getting rid of about 200 DVDs a couple of months ago – I considered musicmagpie.com, but in the end I just took the whole lot down to a car boot sale and cleared them all in ten minutes for about 50p a DVD. (Several bulk buyers who run shops bought them in bulk, they clean up the cases and sell them for about £2 an item!)
    I guess this is about removing your emotional attachment to the items and clearing them off in the most cost effective manner – I made £100 in ten minutes, which to me was a good time investment.

  14. Hi Trent: Here is another alternative way to get rid of stuff: I held a decluttering party and invited a dozen friends. I set out a 100 books, and 100 dvds and cds and invited them to help themselves. The “price” of admission was a bottle of wine per guest. I gave everyone a book bag upon entry ( laundry bags I took from hotel stays) It was a lot of fun, books and cds found a good home, I got rid of clutter and I topped up my wine collection. Win/win all around.

  15. I use Half.com (owned by EBay). Like Amazon, it could take a while, but I have had great luck selling books, CDs and VHS tapes. You don’t get charged until the item sells. If you are willing to wait, it’s a good place to try.

  16. $4 “My husband has a rather large record collection …. It just sits in storage costing me $115 a month.” Yikes! You’re spending $1380./ year to store records which might bring that much or might not. I rent out some one car garages. My favorite tenant ($85./month) has paid rent for over 12 years on a space, over $12,240, TO STORE THINGS WHICH COULD BE REPLACED WITH A WEEKEND OF YARD SALE HUNTING FOR LESS THAN A THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!! It’s used washer dryer, some tools, some car parts he’ll never use and some modern Christmas ornaments. The easiest place to stop financial waste is to clear out that storage space and sell the contents.

  17. The website is pretty crappy, but the idea is actually a really good one!

    Check out ipodmeister.com they take your CDs and then send you a new ipod/ipad/iphone. They in turn go and sell your CD’s abroad. If you just want to get rid of lots of CD’s and just want something for it, it’s a pretty good option. I think they back up all your music at a lower compression so you can still have a copy of it, but that costs a little bit more.

  18. What’s the tax implication for selling items? Do you have to report all your income from the sales, or just the actual amount when you get above a certain threshold?

  19. If you want to move a bunch of items at once, and are ok with selling some for a few bucks, and other for a nickel, you should check out sites like spun.com or secondspin.com. I just sold 55 CD’s for $200. They also reimburse for shipping charges to them. Pretty decent deal…

  20. @Elizabeth (#13),

    Generally you aren’t making a profit on these items, so there aren’t any tax implications. In fact, you are usually taking a huge loss. Consider the case where you bought a DVD movie for $20 and then sell it for $5. You clearly haven’t made any money – in fact you’ve lost $15.

  21. Concerning tax implications – there aren’t any if you don’t make a profit. If a book costs you $18 and you are lucky enough to sell it for $15 then you lost $3 – there are no tax implications on -$3. However if you bought a book and it was signed by the author and you later sold that book for more than you paid for it then you’d have tax implications.

  22. Selling books & other things on Amazon.com trumps eBay, if you’re in no rush, for the simple reason that it’s cheaper for you. Sure Amazon takes a commission, but I find that with the combination of eBay’s commission and Paypal’s commission, it’s often not worth it to sell yard-sale-level items.

    With shipping and handling, I’ve sometimes come out negative when I first started out on eBay; though I’ve learned a bit since then, I often find the couple of bucks per item isn’t really worth it. I do love Craigslist that way, though — no s&h charges and no commissions. Just a nice direct transaction.

  23. I’d like to add give the media to someone (family/friend) who will enjoy it.

    When I’m trying to get rid of CD/DVDs, I usually sell them as a lot on Ebay. I get less money this way, but it’s less hassle for me.

  24. I’m a big fan of Craigslist for the exact reason you mentioned – never have to leave the house with the stuff. It’s great to just rid of stuff and make a little money within a week and not have to drive around to do it.

  25. Katie (#16), even though ebay fills in the info, I still always post a picture. I sold tons on ebay in 2005/2006. At that time, when I looked at completed listings, those with a picture that obviously came from the seller sold for more. I wager that people are probably more willing to spend/spend more with a seller that they know is legit.

  26. I am a DJ and completely switched all my music to digital around 2005. So I had no need for all my records anymore. I listed all of them on Ebay and made about $600. What I did was group and sell all the similar records in one auction. So reggae records would go on one auction and hip hop would go on another. Listing them all individually would have been a major time waste because some of the less popular records wouldn’t sell. I sold some of the rare sought after records by themselves. If you have DVD’s CD’s I suggest grouping them into categories and make and auction for each category while mentioning the most popular titles in the auction title.

  27. There are other (in my opnion, BETTER) options than Ebay and Amazon. I sell on Atomic Mall and (for my vintage and antiques) on Artfire.com.

    I prefer to go with companies that do not have ethical issues, but that’s just me, and I am selling as a business, not just to declutter or as a hobby. Your mileage may vary.

    Bottom line is there are hundreds of online venues out there, so do some exploring. You may find your perfect fit at a site you have never heard of!

  28. There’s another option that was not addressed here: Freecycle. You simply post to your local Freecycle email list that you have such-and-such an item to give away, and people who are interested can contact you. For items of little to no value, that is my favorite way of getting rid of things.

    Our local Goodwill has beeen REALLY picky lately.

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