We've all heard that news story time and time again. Someone bought a book at a rummage sale for $1.00 only to find out it was a first edition Gutenberg Bible that ended up fetching some ridiculous six-figure number at auction. We've all also secretly wished we could be that lucky–at least I have.

While these finds are typically one in a million, there are strategies you can use before heading out to estate sales or flea markets to help maximize your earnings. Doing your research on eBay is one of those strategies.

I shop on eBay all the time. You can get great deals on clothes, toys, tickets, and a whole lot more! What I didn't know was how useful eBay could be in terms of researching the value of collectibles and antiques. It's a lot easier than getting some books from the library and hoping what you're looking for is in it, or blindly searching the abyss that is the Internet for the information you desire.

Here are some tips for using eBay both before and after you hit up those estate sales and flea markets!

Know what you're looking for

Scour those classifieds, Craigslist ads, and Facebook posts for information of sales happening close to you. Most people will now post detailed descriptions and plenty of photos of the items that will be for sale. It's usually best to focus on one thing so you don't get overwhelmed.

It's also best to pick something you're interested in and maybe know a little about, because there's always that chance that you won't be able to resell what you buy. If you're going to be stuck with something, you might as well enjoy it! For example, my husband loves collecting coins. So I'd look for estate/garage/rummage sales that may have old coins for sale.

Research on eBay

Next, head on over to eBay. Click on categories, and then select the category you're interested in.  Get as specific as you can, because that will narrow down your results as much as possible.

On the left-hand side select "sold items" so you see only the auctions that finished with a successful sale. Then, sort down the listings in order of final price.

Study the items that interest you or you think are available at the sale you're going to. Read the descriptions very carefully and pay attention to details like markings, size, materials, etc. You can always make a list on your phone or a piece of paper as well.

If possible, install the eBay app on your phone. That will make it much easier when you're at sales to look items up quickly.

Head off to your sales!

Get up early and hit up the sales that have the items you're looking for. Only buy the exact items you're looking for. Try to pay about 10% of the sold prices you studied on eBay. For something that sold for $100, try not to pay more than $10. Examine the item very closely, but don't look too eager. You can also offer less than the listed price if you feel daring that day. Most items at garage or rummage sales are already listed cheaply because people just want to get rid of stuff. Estate sales and flea markets are where you'll find higher priced items. However, they also don't want to take things home a lot of the times, so there's more room for negotiating.

Try to resell

Once you have a few things, head on home. Research the items a little more carefully, and then list them for sale on eBay! Remember, a lot of times people are looking for specific things. The more detail you include in your listing, the better. To know how people search for things on eBay and to maximize your item getting seen, check out this article.

If eBay isn't your thing and you're pretty confident in the value you've placed on your item, you can always list it on Craigslist or take it to an antique or pawn shop. If you go to the latter, you'll probably receive less than what it's worth since the shop needs to make money on it as well. But if you just want the quick cash without the hassle of selling and shipping an item, that may be your best bet.

Related: How to Resell Clothes and Household Items Like a Pro

It's very rare that you'll find and resell an item that can pay for your next vacation, but every little bit helps. eBay is a great resource that I never thought could be used for research before.

I bought a hand-painted ornament for $2.00 at a garage sale last week, and when I looked it up when I got home, I found out that it was selling for $50.00+ on eBay! Date night with the hubby, here I come!


This is a guest post by Amy B. from Bryan, TX.

How to Use eBay to Shop Estate Sales and Flea Markets Like a Pro