The secret to making extra money with eBay

Once upon a time, I decided it was high time I sell some of my stuff on eBay to make some extra cash. Since it was just after the holidays, I decided to get the ball rolling with a new shirt I had just received for Christmas.

Even though it was cute, the shirt fit a little small for my taste. And even worse, the store it was purchased from was out of state, which meant no returns. So, after taking some pictures and crafting a snazzy description, onto eBay it went. Priced at $6, the shirt sold right away.

Off to a Good Start, Until…

Unfortunately, the buyer later wrote to say the shirt had a hole in it and demanded a refund. I asked for a picture and, when they wouldn't produce one, denied their request for their money back.

Well, she didn't like that at all and actually threatened to turn me in to eBay for ripping her off.

I promptly refunded her money, which meant she kept the shirt and the cash. And after that, I wrote off eBay as a potential source for side income altogether.

That being said, I am still pretty intrigued by those who claim to make money flipping items on the popular auction site. Is it really possible to make extra money with eBay? And if so, is there a trick to it?

How Much Extra Money?

Chris, an eBay resale enthusiast and blogger who writes at FlippingaDollar.com, has a lot to say on this topic. Since launching his side business in 2013, Chris claims to have earned a steady side income that has increased annually. In 2013, Chris states that he made $1,500 in net profits, followed by just under $5,000 in 2014. Chris had the lofty goal of making $10,000 in profit in 2015, but has earned just a little over $4,000 so far. Still, there are a few months left in the year.

The Learning Curve

Woman taking picture of shoes

When I told Chris about my unfortunate clothing resale situation, he shrugged it off as the price you pay to play this game. In his eyes, you have to be willing to lose a little money at first while you learn what will and will not sell, plus how to avoid losses.

And Chris says that learning is part of the process. In fact, as he waded through his eBay resale hobby, he created rules to follow that he believes makes the whole scheme more profitable over time.

Minimize Start-Up Expenses

According to Chris, the best place to find items to resell on eBay is in your own home. Doing so, says Chris, puts you in the position where you have the money you need to seek out additional items to sell without pulling from your own pocket.

“Sell some things from around your own house to get that seed money, and then only work with that money without adding any new cash to your buying money,” explains Chris.

Using your initial profits is a great way to start your side gig with no money down (and almost no risk).

Finding Items to Sell

Beyond the unwanted items you find around your home, you should stick to what you know — and what you ultimately find that sells the best. For Chris, that's high-end clothing because it's easy to store and ship. And even though clothing tends to move slowly, he mentioned that the nicest items have some really nice margins. Meanwhile, his wife picks up eye-catching crafts at garage sales and thrift stores and focuses on them.

For the average person, it helps to sell “what you know,” says Chris. If you have a hobby or interest, for example, and you know what the high end and sought-after stuff is, look for that.

If you are a collector yourself, that might mean looking for more items you know and understand for resale. Even if you're just enthusiastic about something — whether it's Disney products, video games, a specific clothing brand, or some type of antique — you can focus on finding and reselling those items.

Once you decide what to sell, you can scour garage sales, sites like craiglist.org, estate sales, and thrift stores for the best deals. And remember, you can usually find your seed money by starting with items from your own home.

Why eBay Resale Might be the Perfect Side Hustle

Since we've written about how to list items on eBay for maximum profit already, we're not going to go there again. Instead, we're going to focus on why selling on eBay might be the perfect side hustle for beginners. Here are a few of the top benefits that come with this lucrative hobby/side hustle:

  • You get out what you put in. As Chris says, your earnings are often proportional to the effort you put in. “Only have time to list one item per week? No worries,” says Chris. With an eBay resale side hustle, you can put in as little or as much time as you want.
  • It can be fun. If you are truly passionate about the items you're seeking out and reselling, flipping items on eBay can be much more gratifying than a side gig; it can be a fun hobby too. For Chris, eBay flipping is filling a void left after he quit playing video games. Still, it's basically “a real life video game,” he says. “Instead of going and killing monsters in a dungeon, I'm finding treasures at a garage sale.”
  • You don't have to invest a lot of money up front. While you'll need to branch out eventually, Chris is right that you can get started by selling items in your own home. Instead of putting money down, you can get your seed money by selling old Christmas presents, clothes that no longer fit, unwanted electronics, and whatever else you can find. And as a bonus, you'll be decluttering your home in the process!

Secrets to Success

While Chris admits that people have different strategies when it comes to reselling items on eBay, his own strategy has firmed up over the years. For starters, Chris no longer sells low-dollar items like, you know, the shirt I sold that supposedly had a hole in it.

“I try to stay away from items where I'll only make a few dollars,” says Chris. “There's a good amount of effort that you need to put into sourcing, listing, storing, and shipping.” And for a smaller sale like the one I made, the effort probably wasn't worth it.

“When you deal with something greater than $30, the buyer generally puts a little more pre-work into buying, and you seem to have less issues.”

In addition, Chris has learned which items to steer clear from, which for him, is high-end electronics. Chris says the only time anyone has tried to scam him for money was when he was reselling their old smartphones, so he has stayed clear of that category ever since.

As Chris mentioned before, however, the type of items you choose to focus on are up to you and your personal interests and goals.

The Bottom Line

While reselling items on eBay lost favor with me long ago, it is obviously going fairly well for many others. And I suppose that's the biggest lesson of all — the idea that we all need to find the best way to support our families and earn the extra dollars that will help us get ahead.

If you have a lot of stuff around the house to sell, and have a hobby or interest that might make you an expert on certain profitable items, why not give eBay a try?

From the looks of it, there might not be a lot to lose. In my case, all I lost was a shirt.

Have you ever tried to resell items on eBay? How did it go, and what tips can you share? If not, what is your side hustle?

More about...Side Hustles, Career

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Beth
Beth
5 years ago

Interesting! I wonder if there’s a big advantage to selling on eBay versus other methods? My area seems to be developing a big buy-and-sell culture through online ads and social media groups. I guess it depends on what you’re selling and how big a potential market you want to reach?

I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences. I’ve never considered flipping items. To me it doesn’t seem worth it by the time I pay income tax on the earnings (compared to other potential side gigs). Curious to hear more!

Chris @ Flipping A Dollar
Chris @ Flipping A Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I’ve had a little luck with Craigslist, but the people who are looking to buy on Facebook groups are mostly moms. There’s a lot of families who are getting rid of their children’s stuff and younger families looking to get some stuff at a discount! Definitely a win-win. It’s a lot easier than consignment sales since you don’t have to do all the work, but you’re also going to get a big of a hit on the price. Then again, it’s all cash on Facebook!

Sam
Sam
5 years ago

I’ve been selling maternity and baby stuff on swap.com (which is limited to baby/kids/women’s clothing) for the past 4-5 months. Despite the bad ratings for the selling on the site (it gets great ratings for buying) I’ve done pretty well. I’ve recovered about $350. I can’t really call it profits since I bought the clothing new for more, but instead of donating it to Goodwill (my normal course of action) I’ve made back some money. It is also a good site for buying gently used baby clothes and I’ve bought some really cute stuff for my baby on the site… Read more »

Chris @ Flipping A Dollar
Chris @ Flipping A Dollar
4 years ago
Reply to  Sam

These sites are a great option for someone who just wants to recoup some of their money but doesn’t have time to put in the eBay work!

Jon
Jon
5 years ago

The one thing I noticed is that it became easier selling things as my seller rating increased. It really does matter when you have feedback showing you are a good, honest seller.

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  Jon

Feedback is really important! One way to jump start it is to use eBay for buying for a little while first before starting to sell. Buyers would rather a trustworthy buyer who is starting to sell over a brand new person.

Leah
Leah
5 years ago

It’s obviously not the perfect side hustle. You should have held firm on the shirt or refunded only if she shipped it back. I sold on ebay almost a decade ago, when policies for sellers were better. So much has changed that I’m not interested in doing so anymore. At the time, I tidily made $3k or so, split with my father for helping me. We sold some stuff from our home, but there’s a limit there unless you receive lots of nice gifts or own way too much stuff. We picked a lot up at garage sales or thrift… Read more »

Another Beth
Another Beth
5 years ago
Reply to  Leah

“I find this article pretty weak, especially since you dipped a toe in once, didn’t like it, but then think it’s okay to promote this for other people to do.”

My thoughts exactly.

Holly@ClubThrifty
5 years ago
Reply to  Leah

Thanks for sharing your opinion. The only reason I shared my limited ebay experience was to show that there is another side to the coin. I’m not encouraging anyone to try it or not try it, really. I just thought it was an interesting idea if you have a lot of stuff laying around to sell or have a lot of knowledge about certain collectibles. Personally, I no longer have anything to sell that would make it worthwhile. I do get rid of kid’s stuff a few times per year, but it sells easily on my neighborhood Facebook page. No… Read more »

Beth
Beth
5 years ago

Have you thought of writing an article about that? I’ve noticed Facebook groups are growing in popularity where I live. No shipping, no website or payment service taking a cut. I’m aware of the downsides too but it seems like a good way to make money or to save money buying used items.

Holly
Holly
5 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Probably a good idea in the future!

Where I live, it is the easiest and best way to get rid of things quickly. We have a neighborhood and city Facebook page, and both have a ton of buyers and sellers on them. I can post my kid’s larger items or clothing lots and sell them within the day easily.

Carla
Carla
5 years ago

Sounds like a silly question but would Facebook work if you don’t have a large following? It seems like on a few people would actually see what I’m selling.

Another Beth
Another Beth
5 years ago
Reply to  Carla

I was wondering this, too. And what if you’re trying to sell something that one of your Facebook connections (like a relative!) gave you? That would be so awkward.

Beth
Beth
5 years ago

@Carla and Another Beth — you don’t post to your followers, you join a group and post to the group. One of the local groups I’m a member of has grown to over 20,000 members.

There are different options for selling. Some people post garage sales. Some people post a price o.b.o. Some people post and let others bid. You can also post ISO (in search of) if you’re looking for an item for cheap. You’re allowed to post to multiple sites but you have to be fair and let people know you did. Every group has its own rules.

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  Leah

I thought it was great that Holly reached out to me! She knew that she had a bad experience but then saw a lot of others who weren’t having the same issues, so she wanted to see what she was missing!

eBay had a period where it was pretty rough with sellers, but it got rid of a lot of bad sellers in the process (good ones too), but has recently been reigning it back into a more relaxed atmosphere. They still hold buyers and sellers accountable, but in a much more reasonable manner!

MichelleJ
MichelleJ
5 years ago
Reply to  Leah

I, too, sold on eBay almost a decade ago, and I was raking money in with a great following. Then, eBay changed their policies and changed feedback so that you can NOT leave negative feedback for a buyer. That is just wrong. I began to be scammed by buyers. Some would buy identical items to their broken ones and try to substitute. There was the ‘lost in the mail’ scam. There was the broken in the mail scam. There was the hole in it/stretched out/not as described scam. There were the buyers who didn’t read descriptions and then complained about… Read more »

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  MichelleJ

You make a lot of great points! I’ll answer your questions here: “Are there ways you protect yourself from being scammed? Do you mark your items somehow (I used to use black light ink but don’t have the pens anymore)?” I don’t do this at all. I’ve only been “scammed” when I was re-selling my old cell phones. Otherwise, I’ve had 1 chargeback from PayPal (they came in my favor). I find being honest and eating the cost if need be worth it. Over describe your items so a person is pleasantly surprised when they get it! “How do you… Read more »

Holly
Holly
5 years ago

I love to sell things on ebay! I’ve recently sold a broken watch for parts for $5 (listed as ‘broken’ of course!), a handbag for $135, and higher value items like fridges, air conditioning units and smartphones for around $100 – $300. Some things I’ve learnt along the way: * only sell items you’ve owned/know the history of – that way you can be confident that they do what you say they will do. * Make an effort with the ad! When you’re browsing on ebay and contemplating buying something, would you rather pick the item with one dodgy looking… Read more »

Kath
Kath
5 years ago
Reply to  Holly

Holly is totally right. Be honest in your descriptions on eBay. If the item has a spot or an imperfection, I make sure to include a picture of it, and highlight that in my description. I photograph all the labels and care tags. I have been selling on eBay for a couple years w/items from my sports and hobbies that I no longer want or use. I have gotten great reviews from buyers who say the item was beter than expected, which is great to see! You would be amazed at what people will buy. I sold my previous car’s… Read more »

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  Holly

I’ve used the sniper services before! I’d rather prime a buyer with a higher number and offer them a discount on the sale than the opposite. They hope they’re getting a deal, and the price gets a little higher than they’re comfortable with, they can nitpick after receiving the item!

Dean
Dean
5 years ago

Don’t forget to calculate in the eBay fees and mandatory PayPal fees, which total more than 13%. A lot of times for me, what seemed like a significant discount and a slam dunk for an easy flip would get eaten up by these fees. Also, many buyers (including myself when i’m a buyer) are looking for free shipping for an easy “out the door” total price. Although you can let the shipping price be variable depending on buyer location, it’s less attractive. I’m not saying you should eat the shipping, but calculate it into your final buy-it-now price. But here’s… Read more »

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  Dean

Definitely true. I build in my costs into items when I purchase it. 30% is about right. If I sell an item for $30, I’m happy with a $20 profit. The thing is, I’m much more cognizant of what I buy and I’m trying to push that sale price up higher and higher. As you sell higher dollar items, it’s great if you can keep your shipping and purchase prices down to eek out every bit of profit you can. I’ve also built up a small-ish inventory of boxes. Whenever we get any bubble wrap or those handy little plastic… Read more »

Ali @ Anything You Want
Ali @ Anything You Want
5 years ago

I haven’t tried to sell items on Ebay, but I have a bunch of stuff around the house that I’d like to get rid of so I am seriously considering trying it. Thanks for the tips, I’m sure it will make it easier when I do sell my items!

I have had good luck selling larger items, usually furniture, on Craigslist. Its simple and you don’t have to worry about people complaining that they didn’t get what you advertised since people see the items upfront.

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago

eBay does have a “Local Pickup” option and they provide you a little ease of mind since you have a company backing you. Craigslist is a bit dodgy, but I use them for the bulkier service too. The thing about eBay is that there are just so many users on that site!

batman
batman
5 years ago

eBay is a ripoff for sellers. Their fees are ridiculous. Read the comments above. If you want to get top dollar for something, use Craigslist.

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  batman

That’s neat that you have a lot of luck on Craigslist. The problem for me is that you get barely any hits on Craigslist and have to end up meeting someone out in a public space. Instead, I’m able to drop stuff off into the blue post office box on the way to work! I also sell a lot of clothes which do terribly on Craigslist but you can ask for top dollar on eBay.

Tina
Tina
5 years ago

My husband sells his custom made airbrushed ball caps, shirts, helmets, etc on Ebay and it has worked out really well. It has been great side income especially when his busy season is football season. Tips*** The key to success is to keep inventory low. He makes one hat to take photos of and then lists it and relists as each is bought. He doesn’t make the hat until payment has been received to keep from making hats and then someone backing out and not paying. Offering free shipping lures buyers and they tend to purchase more often. Keep your… Read more »

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  Tina

Definitely keep track of your fees! It helps reduce the taxes a lot. I use GoDaddy Bookkeeping (not a free service) to automatically pull everything except for mileage (but you can easily add that in as an expense).

Mark
Mark
5 years ago

I put myself through college selling on the side with eBay, when all was said and done I made a solid 30-40k a year. Admittedly it was much easier 15 years ago before everyone caught on to the idea. But the article has the basics right. Sell what you know. The smaller and easier to ship, the better. The more expensive the higher your margin. Buy from people that don’t know or don’t care about the value, and flip it. I made a ton of money selling cell phones – most people don’t know their true value because they’re subsidized.… Read more »

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  Mark

That is awesome! I’ve sold two iPhone 3GS and 2 iPhone 5’s, and those were the only situations where I felt like a buyer was trying to scam me. I just held firm and made sure to buy insurance and signature confirmation, so the buyer couldn’t say that they didn’t receive it. I also said that I would talk refunds once I received the police report (that the buyer had to file). That usually scared them away!

Carla
Carla
5 years ago

Last winter I sold a coat I had for almost $200. Selling it was easy because it was a winter coat, only worn once, and it was the beginning of the season. It was also easy to ship. I was hit in the face with the seller fees (something I don’t remember eBay having in the past). My eBay account is pretty old, but not as worn in as other people’s accounts are. I was hoping for another repeat, but most of my clothes that I want to sell are not that high in value. I have a lot of… Read more »

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  Carla

If you don’t sell regularly, you’re right, the fees can wallop you since eBay waits until the end of the month to bill you. My method is to put that money aside right when I have the sale. That way, it’s not so much me paying a bill as me just transferring allocated money out of my account!

Carla
Carla
5 years ago

@Chris – Thankfully I did keep the money in my PayPal account (so the payment of the fee was relatively painless.

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  Carla

That’s awesome. I use YNAB so I allocate any fees to the side right at the time of shipping. Glad to know I’m not the only one who plans ahead!

Andrew
Andrew
5 years ago

I have to agree with ‘Another Beth’ I sell on eBay part time and make a nice income from it. I am in the process of writing a detailed post about eBay and some real secrets that will help you to make some $$. In your return case Holly, never ever refund the buyer without getting your item back. That is a very beginner mistake, and I think if you put some effort into eBay again you would be much more successful at it. If I quit every time I had a bad experience with something or someone I would… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
5 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Yeah, I’m definitely not interested in haggling with someone over $7. Maybe I would have tried harder if I needed the money or had more high dollar items to sell.

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

I would have refunded the buyer IF they showed me a picture. Always own up when you make a mistake. It’s totally frustrating if the buyer is lying though. I always ask for a return or at least photographic evidence!

There’s no question that Holly’s buyer was being unreasonable.

PB
PB
5 years ago

To sell books, try Bookscouter.com. You will get quotes from 30+ online book dealers. It takes a certain amount of effort, but as long as you have an ISBN, works pretty well. Just remember that you will get only pennies on the dollar and that you will need to reach a certain threshold before the buyer will accept the offers. Still, my husband sold enough of his library prior to retirement to purchase the desire of his heart – an ipad.

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  PB

You can also sell on Amazon right from your own house. I do this with college textbooks. The market inst’ as good as it was 10 years ago, but you can still make some extra money! Amazon just charges $1 per book (plus a percentage) for each item that sells even if you don’t have a professional (pay for) account. Totally worth it!

jestjack
jestjack
5 years ago

Thank you for this timely article…I had a TERRIBLE time not so long ago trying to buy a cell phone battery on Ebay. I paid with a credit card thank goodness. I began to worry when the battery didn’t arrive in a couple of days. I contacted the seller and they swore they sent it and provided a tracing number for the Post Office….a fictitious number my Post Office said. I pursued the matter and the seller says they are gonna send me another battery….That battery never arrived either…I contacted my credit card company and they immediately reversed the charges.… Read more »

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  jestjack

That’s crazy! I think the only issues I’ve had are with cell phones/high end electronics. I use PayPal for my eBay purchases, and they are good about charge backs too. Some of the Chinese drop shipping companies got whacked for providing very terrible customer service. I like buying from other sellers who are real people instead of just a giant factory!

Donna
Donna
5 years ago

As someone who has cleaned their house out of excess stuff over the last five years (and thus included the estates of four relatives), try Craigslist and the local Facebook boards. Also there is the old fashion garage sale. EBay has some serious fees plus shipping costs. In addition, EBay has some really crazy people who buy and apparently you encountered one. Many years ago when I bought and sold off EBay, I encountered one myself. It was after that experience I closed my account and also sent PayPal packing. Since then I use Craigslist (I have shipped to other… Read more »

jestjack
jestjack
5 years ago
Reply to  Donna

I have had a good experience with Craigslist as well over all. Every once in a while you get someone unreasonable…. like the time I had a truck in need of repair for sale for $750. I received over 35 inquiries in the first 3 hours and then had a … “prospect”… offer me $100 without even coming out to look at the vehicle… I declined the generous offer and then he became hostile…very hostile… I moved on and the following day I guy comes from 2 states away and buys the truck…$750…CASH. Lately however CL has been a little… Read more »

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  Donna

The hard part for me is that a crazy on eBay is a PITA, but a crazy on Craigslist is a gun owner who you have to meet in person! I still sell on Craigslist a bit, but it’s mostly bulky items that I already owned. Maybe if I had more space to store it? The other thing is that eBay is on my time. I’m able to work on it 3 or 4 mornings a week for an hour and spend 10-20 minutes shipping every morning, vs. having to schedule a meet up with Craigslist. There’s some people who… Read more »

My Factoring Network
My Factoring Network
5 years ago

Definitely, Ebay is a platform to sell and buy your stuffs. Ebay has a good customer service too. Small Business also get help ton such E commerce platform. Thanks for this informative article.

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago

eBay’s traffic is its biggest positive. People complain about the fees but they’re up front about it. Just don’t buy crap that you won’t be able to sell for a profit after the end fees!

S
S
5 years ago

I should write your eBay article. I went from $200 in two months(2013) to $1500 in 3 months in 2014 to $4000 in 2015. This year I have already hit $4000. How do I send in an article? I already have my eBay rules written up for a document I made on my monetary philosophy. I do all this while attending school to because of the safety of delivery through the mail and the ability to work at midnight.

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  S

I’d grow it a lot faster if I was able to work till midnight! I work about 5-10 hours a week. And I’m asleep by 10pm. 😛

E
E
5 years ago

I started selling on eBay this year and made a few hundred bucks out of it. Thankfully, only tried to get scammed once when a buyer claimed I sent her an article of clothing in the wrong color. I only had that particular item in one color and Iisted it accurately with multiple pictures. When I requested pictures from the buyer, I got almost the same response (with bad grammar and spelling) requesting a refund or the “right color dress.” No pictures. I got eBay to step in after a few back and forths of us repeating ourselves. Thankfully, eBay… Read more »

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago
Reply to  E

I agree with most of your list. I give feedback once a buyer pays. Honestly, it doesn’t affect the buyer’s situation at all. They don’t get any notification of receiving feedback, so it doesn’t make them behave either way! It’s way cheaper to buy a label printer, but the best way to do that is to only use your eBay profits (that way it can be written off tax wise). For the scale, I got the stamps.com free one and just canceled the membership. You have to pay shipping (it was under $10 total). There’s even a free program that… Read more »

Common Reporting Standard
Common Reporting Standard
5 years ago

Great article!
Many people I know actually sold about $100,000 on ebay.

What they always tell me is that “You can make money selling just about anything but you have to know your product. Otherwise you won’t be able to spot the great deal when it comes along (they always do).

If you don’t know about anything in particular, just jump in selling something that interests you. You will make mistakes at first and possibly even lose some money but eventually you will be a pro as you learn from those mistakes.”

Best of Luck Guys 🙂

Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
Chris @ Flipping a Dollar
5 years ago

The talk about the deals is so true! I once had a thrift store that had tons of very large women’s jeans. I bought a few pair, tested out the waters, and sold 2 very quickly. I went back a week later to ask for a deal on the rest of them. I sold over 40 pair over the last year! For $30 minimum! 🙂

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