How to Source Items to Sell on eBay

Deciding what to sell can sometimes be the hardest part of starting an eBay selling business. One important consideration should always be sourcing items to sell. Without products, there are no items for potential buyers to purchase.

This post will examine six of the most popular ways to source items to sell on eBay, from finding unique items at garage sales and dollar stores to buying mass quantities of items via dropshipping and wholesaling.

Retail arbitrage

Though the name of this method to source items may seem strange, you are likely already familiar with the concept. It has long been one of the most common ways to sell items on eBay.

Retail arbitrage refers to the practice of buying products from one retailer and then reselling them for a profit via another marketplace. The items may be brand new or secondhand.

There is no direct contact with suppliers or manufacturers required. This means that retail arbitrage is both easier and lower risk than other sourcing methods.

With retail arbitrage, the list of sourcing locations seems almost limitless.

Here are some popular examples:

  • Big box stores
  • Dollar stores
  • Discount and liquidation stores
  • Consignment stores
  • Flea markets
  • Yard/garage sales
  • Going-out-of-business sales
  • House clearances and estate sales
  • Wanted ads
  • Pawn shops
  • Auction houses
  • Storage unit auctions
  • Local resellers
  • Community markets
  • Special events and fairs
  • Antique malls
  • Landfills (location dependent, check regulations first)
  • Craigslist and similar websites
  • Online buy and sell groups
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Community Facebook groups

It may seem counter intuitive but there are plenty of sellers who also buy items on eBay to resell. Some sellers simply improve the listing while others buy broken items on eBay with the intention to fix and then resell.


Buying from a wholesaler is a cost effective but risky method to source items to sell on eBay. It also usually requires significant storage space.

A wholesaler is the ‘middleman’ between a manufacturer and retailer. They buy huge quantities of identical items from a manufacturer with a bulk order discount. In turn, the retailer then buys smaller (but still large) quantities from the wholesaler, again with a discount.

Buying so many items at one time is a big commitment in a number of ways. Financially, it ties up money and there is, after all, no guarantee that the items will sell. Storing and managing the inventory can also be an issue.


The popularity of dropshipping has increased significantly over the last few years, mainly due to the attraction of low operating costs.

Dropshipping is a streamlined selling method involving the manufacturer or supplier shipping products directly to customers. The seller makes the listing but does not ever touch the physical product.

This process not only saves storage space, but has the major benefit of not needing to purchase the item until it is sold.

Dropshipping is allowed on eBay, but with a few restrictions. Orders have to be fulfilled by a wholesale supplier only and the seller is still responsible for the safe delivery of the item and the buyer’s overall satisfaction.

White Label/Private Label

This method is the one of the most complicated ways to source items to sell on eBay.

  • White Labeling refers to the process of buying generic items from a manufacturer, which are then sold with your own branded labelling
  • Private Labeling requires collaboration with the manufacturer to make a unique version of a generic product

Costco’s Kirkland Signature line is a good example of private labeling.

Private labeling is an involved, and often expensive, process but there are a number of advantages. The one-of-a-kind nature of private label products makes it possible to stand out from competition and also allows for better price control.

Around the house

One of the most cost effective method to source items to sell on eBay is to look around your own house. And after all, eBay has been the go-to place to sell unwanted household items since the very beginning.

A great way to get started is to simply walk from room to room, making note of items that are not utilized. You could also ask family and friends whether they have any items they’d like to throw out.

Consider items such as:

  • Kitchen appliances and gadgets
  • Books
  • Electronics (especially older phones, video games etc.)
  • Unopened cosmetics
  • Clothing
  • Antiques
  • Collectibles
  • Toys
  • Jewelry

While selling unwanted items is an ideal (and low cost) way to get started on eBay, it has limited longevity as a sourcing strategy.


Making your own products to sell is also known as self-producing.

Undoubtedly the most creative method to source inventory to sell on eBay, self-producing items can be exceptionally rewarding. It can also be extremely time consuming.

Some examples of items that can be self-produced are:

  • eBooks
  • Greeting cards
  • Handpainted items
  • Quilts
  • Jewelry

eBay isn’t the most well known online marketplace for handcrafted items, so it may be a good idea to also investigate other places to sell simultaneously to maximize profits.

Final thoughts

Availability of products is key to being a successful seller. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution when it comes to eBay selling and sourcing items to sell is so different. Research and test which product sources may be the most cost-effective and convenient for your eBay business.

Experienced sellers, how do you source your own items? Wholesaling, dropshipping or arbitage? Or a combination of several of these methods?

Gemma is our all things eBay expert. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Canada and travels extensively. You can read about her travels at her blog Off Track Travel.

Related Posts

Common eBay Scams for First Time Sellers to Avoid Part 3
A Beginner's Guide to eBay Seller Performance Levels
7 Ways to Get Suspended on eBay Quickly