Thrifting is the modern day version of treasure hunting.
I say this, not only because I’ve made thousands reselling shoes and other items sourced from thrift stores, but also because of the thrill of the hunt when you find something valuable.
Today, I’ll show you the unbelievable potential of selling used shoes online.
Finding Shoes in the Thrift
After selling on eBay for 5 years, it’s one of the few businesses you can start today and potentially make money the same day.
When it comes to sourcing items to sell, I’ve developed a specific route for visiting thrift stores.
I always start with the shoe section, because A. I love shoes and B. it’s one of the most profitable sections of the thrift store.
A couple months back I walked into my local Goodwill, and began scanning shelves and picking up shoes as I went. About 10 minutes in, I noticed this pair of old Nike bowling shoes.
Before checking eBay sold listing for their pricing history, I had a feeling they might be valuable for these reasons:
- Unique/vintage look
- Nike has a cult following
- There was light scuffing, but the heel, toe box, and outsole were in great shape
Based on those signals, I knew it was worth checking eBay sold pricing history (when in doubt, you always should). Turns out the shoe was selling for $50-$140, depending on condition.
Tactic for Success
- In some cases, eBay blocks users from searching for Nike’s with the 9 digit model number shown on the shoe’s tongue. There are 2 things you can do to get around this: (1) search the model number in Google to get the true name of the shoe, and then paste that into eBay or (2) use other platforms like Mercari to find pricing history since they accept searches with the model number
I also noticed the sold listing pictures weren’t great, so I was confident I could push the market price by uploading amazing photos after cleaning them up.
There’s an easy trick to remove scuff marks on leather shoes, which would make them look brand new again (which we’ll get to).
I tossed em in my cart, and ended up finding several more great items to resell, including a kids baseball bat for $5 which sold on eBay within a week!
I got the shoes back home after paying $8, and started the cleaning process.
How to Clean Old Shoes to Resell
It amazes me how well you can restore old shoes with a few basic items. I used two cleaners to bring these shoes back to life, and get them photo ready.
- Angelus Easy Cleaner – it’s all purpose cleaner specifically designed for shoes that cleans suede, nubuck, vinyl, canvas, and leather. I dabbed some of this cleaner on a washcloth and removed all the scuff marks on the leather upper and heel sides.
- Rubbing alcohol – it can be quite abrasive on surfaces, so be very careful when using it on shoes. But I use it on the bottom of shoes for stubborn stains. There were a few marks on the underside of the bowling shoes I removed with rubbing alcohol on a washcloth.
It took maybe 10 minutes to clean these shoes and lace them up so they were picture ready.
Tactics for Success:
- There are tons of great resources to restore used shoes on YouTube. One of the best channels in my opinion is Tino the Sole Advisor.
- If you want to sell used shoes, learning basic restoration techniques like how to use Sole & Heel Edge Dressing so you can make more money per pair and repair shoes other people think are unfixable.
Next step was taking photos that would warrant the higher price tag.
How to Take Photos of Shoes
Many people overthink how to take photos for eBay, but really it comes down to 4 simple factors: no clutter background, lots of light, clear photos, and multiple product angles.
I set the shoes on a white paper background, and snapped about 10 photos, showing all sides of the shoes, the inside, shoe label, etc.
At that point, I was ready to create my eBay listing. In addition to photos, the other key to making this sale happen was keywords in the title. I used 10 keywords to create as much buyer awareness as possible.
The trick with keywords is you want to include all the key descriptors to make your listing appear in more searches, such as the shoe brand, style, decade, shoe size, unique characteristics, and color.
Based on my research, I saw the max market price on eBay was around $140, but with excellent photos and a strong listing title, I felt confident pricing above that at $170.
*2 Weeks Later*
I hear that sweet cha ching sound from my phone, it sold for my asking price!
I ended up clearing around $150 profit, since shoes sold on eBay over $100 have 0% final value fees (this is a great way to reduce eBay fees).
Even after 5 years, I continue to be amazed by the things that sell on eBay. Despite being 20+ years old it’s still one of the best websites to sell stuff.
John-Paul Cody has been an avid online seller for years, across platforms including eBay, Mercari, Craigslist, and more. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from UNC Chapel Hill, and works in data analytics and marketing.