096: From Baseball Cards to Antiques – Josh Chamberlain

Buying and selling baseball cards on eBay throughout college, Josh turned a $1500 loan from his father at graduation into a $2 million a year business selling fine antiques and works of art. Although dealing in a wide variety of antiques, Chamberlain has found a niche in the world of Asian arts and has become eBay's largest US dealer in this field.

Interesting Notes

  • Josh is a collector and entrepreneur by heart. Since he was still a kid, he loved collecting baseball cards and coins. As a kid, he used to set up yard sales in front of their house. He would sell puppets, toys, and anything he could sell.
  • To have money for college, Josh would buy and sell baseball cards. He started on eBay by buying and selling magazines for $10 and baseball cards for $5.
  • Upon graduation, his father gave him a $1500 loan because his job offer did not start until 6 months. He took the loan and went to the Auction. He doubled it and went again to another Auction and doubled it again. He was young and he saw the opportunity to start a business.
  • Josh never had a corporate job.
  • He is always attracted to the whole eBay world.
  • Josh was the guy at the auction that would wait for the end. There would be a long table full of junk. And he would say that he could sell the junk for $10.
  • At one Auction, he bought the table lot at the end of the sale. It had 2 Chinese items on it. He had no idea what those are. He thought they were garbage. He put it on eBay. It was sold for a $100. It was a lot of money for him then. So, he decided to buy more of those items. He learned and honed in all about Asian antiques. That is how he found his niche.
  • He grew up with a lot of antiques in their house. He is always fascinated with the history of a thing.
  • One of the best products Josh is known for is the Chinese Antiques. It is a very popular market. Looking at that, he said to his self, “If I get good stuff with these many people interested in the product, it is going to reach the level where it should. It is going to reach the price point where it should with so many people competing for it.
  • With that, Josh decided to list items with no reserve. Everything he sells, whether $100 or $10,000, he starts at $1 with no reserve and whatever it brings, it brings.
  • They run large events throughout the year with 200 – 250 items. They list items all at once. Then they would contact their clients and let them know of the big event they will be running.
  • Josh runs events 10 times in a year.
  • 70% of the buyers in their events are repeat customers.
  • Their specialty is Chinese and Japanese Antiques.
  • He has 3 staff working for him. One focuses on taking pictures. His retired father who works for him is keeping their books. The other staff does the shipping.
  • Josh has two eBay accounts. One is Juice1499 which is primarily for large Asian events. The other is Chamberondiscovery. It is the page where they list all other antiques that they buy and sell that are Asian-related. This is the page where they list some with no reserve and some at fixed prices.
  • One of the beauties of having an eBay business is you have a lot of flexibility with you. You have to work hard, but there's a lot of flexibility for family life.
  • Josh have 6, 5, and 3-year-old kids. And the fourth one is on the way.
  • On his spare time, he plays competitive golf.
  • Josh is always looking for ways to get better. He is always looking for ways to improve not only on the amount of stuff to sell but on what to sell. He is finding ways to make everything more efficient. Like being able to handle the shipments quicker. And being able to respond to the emails faster.
  • Josh has a Clear-Out Sale two days after this interview. Their next big Asian Sale is this February. And their Non-Asian Sale is two weeks after this interview.

Advice, Tips, and Tricks

  • The No Reserve approach is great. But on certain items, you've to pay attention to how popular the item is in the market. There are some items that are not popular, and listing those items at $9.99 may get you croak. You've got to know your market. There are websites that keep tracks how many people watch a particular type of item. Go to these sites. Then find out which market in the antique world gets the most attractions and have the most followers. And those are the type of items that you can be confident that will reach the price point if you start with No Reserve. Other items that do not have many followers can be at Fixed Price.
  • Josh always has the mindset to take chances when he go to Auctions.
  • They give a 100% guarantee on everything they sell. Buyers can send back the items with no questions ask.
  • In dealing with the customers, they have the mindset of “customers are always right”. They ensure that anyone who buys from their store and events is thrilled with what they've got.
  • They have a system to make sure that the right item is packed. That the right item is getting pictured and listed. And the right item goes to the right person.
  • As soon as their event starts, they start bubbling up the products after being listed. So by the time the event ended, everything is bubbled up and is ready to ship out.
  • As you start your eBay biz, sit down and develop a plan and strategy (how to list, how to ship, how to take pictures). Over time you will figure out ways to save time in each step of the process and that will make you more successful.
  • If you are selling one of a kind item, you are not selling your item. You are selling your photos. So take pictures with a mindset to make the person looking at your pictures say “Wow, that thing looks amazing and I have to have it!”
  • Biggest Advice: Take the shot. Take a chance. If you see something of quality in an Auction, but you are not too sure about it, buy it. Because, you see quality, and you want to learn about it. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you win. But you are learning about a new subject.

Quotes

  • “I absolutely love coming to work every day. I absolutely love what I am doing!”
  • “You've got to earn your keep.”
  • “eBay is such an incredible platform for selling.”
  • “The ability for yourself to list something that you own and put it in front of so many eyes is really impressive.”
  • “No matter what avenue you go down, there is going to be fees and costs involve.”
  • “I win more than I lose!”
  • “It is definitely handling the item is what teaches you in this business. Being able to hold it, feel it, and see what the whole thing looks like. That's the best way to learn.”
  • “The stuff that you lose on is the stuff that you are going to learn most about.”
  • “Feedback is key!”
  • “Logistically, figure out the best way to handle your products quickly that will create repeat customers.”
  • “Efficiency is what is going to make you money.”
  • “The quicker you can make the whole process happen, the more efficient you can be, the more successful, the more money you can make.”

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