How to Sell Off a Media Collection

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).

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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