How long it takes me to sell one online item

A while ago, I sat down and wrote up how long it takes me to sell one online item. I thought the information might be worth sharing here so here it is.
(I’ve written up similar things for my “self insurance” experience, form letters I use for problem situations (lost packages, disappointed buyers) that I can also post sometime if anyone would find them useful)

-I am a full time stamp seller in Canada
-I sell across several online sites since 1999 (of course including Stampwants, Bidstart, SG and now Hipstamp) as well as the old traditional “snail mail” way too for almost 40 years now
-I tend to sell collections/packets, mixtures and lots
-I sell a lot of stuff internationally, at least 35% of my packages go outside North America

Pre Sale
5 minutes picturing the item (I spread the packets and mixture lots out and take usually about 5 pictures, individual stamps or sets are pictured front and back and would normally be faster)
1 minute transferring the pictures/numbers to the computer, backup, & writing on item itself
5 minutes to list
1 minute putting item number on the item after listed
1 minute filing the item so I can find it again when it sells (I have about 4,000 items running)
Post Sale
2 minutes to create receipt
1 minute to pull item
4 minutes to package item to be ready for stamping
1 minute to stamp (I generally put current Canadian stamps on the package)
3 minutes to take to PO
1 minute to send personalized communication advising item has been shipped
1 minute to leave feedback/mark item as shipped
Pre and Post sale
3 minutes for customer questions and various communications before/during/after sale
29 minutes

-I erred on the side of a minimum of 1 minute, some will usually take less, sometimes more
-generally I don’t get a pile of questions/communication, but when I do before, or after the sale, half an hour to an hour can easily be required, especially if I’m having to translate back and forth into English, so the 3 minutes is an averaged out number
-the numbers above are for my smaller $12-$50 sized mixture/packet type lots, larger lots take more time, individual stamps take less time
-using 18c a minute means I need $5.22 profit on the item to make minimum wage here
-this is why I try to avoid listing items worth less than $12.00



  • 13 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Wat you stated here is exactly how and why brick and mortar dealers have transitioned away from selling low-valued stamps. Also internet selling venues have taken over the low-end market as primarily collectors have flooded the market with that material making it impossible for traditional sellers to earn any profit by selling such stuff piecemeal.
  • That is an impressive statistic it sometimes takes me up to 20 minutes to do the same..."1 minute filing the item so I can find it again when it sells (I have about 4,000 items running)"
  • While some of the procedures you have timed might take me less, time, ie scanning 20 stamps on a sheet probably takes less time than laying out a packets contents and snapping a pic, but none the less scanning or photographing is a time eater. Finding an item can take me longer or it can take 10 seconds. Packaging of stamps is a lot faster than packaging large packets, but it still takes time.

    What you have outlined is what i would call direct costs, and the indirect costs have to be figured in at some point, ie Bank accounts, paypal fees, rent or ownership costs of an office, internet connection fees, advertising, automobile and I'm sure that there are many more. All in all I agree with a stamp dealer that said the easiest way to have a million in the stamp business is to start with 2 million or more.
  • " All in all I agree with a stamp dealer that said the easiest way to make a million in the stamp business is to start with 2 million ."

  • Hey I'm glad to see this thread generating some chatter that was my goal!

    Yes my package finding process is an art because I have stuff filed in various "size" categories from #4-6 glassines up to bankers boxes full (8 size categories total)

    The challenge is usually trying to remember what sized category to go start looking in first. 90% of the time that's pretty easy, but over the course of time I've filed stuff in "larger than necessary" envelopes, which takes a lot longer.

    I very much depend on the item number. Everything is stored based on the last 3 item numbers in each of the categories.

    Certainly the "competition" between folks selling for fun or to fund their purchases and those trying to live off it makes it a challenge for the full timers, but there is a place for both. Actually you'd be surprised how many folks I sell stuff to that resell it sometimes even on the same site (normally in much smaller sized groups)!

    I'm still struggling to get the visibility for my kind of stuff here, but progress is being made!

    Yes regarding costs, for sure the time it takes to sell is but only one of a very long list of the components of the cost of goods sold!!
  • I use the private ID field to indicate where an oversize item is located so I can find it fast.
  • My filing system is it's either here or there. If it's not in either spot I stop and have to think what binder is it in and why on Earth didn't I label that binder?

    Ron, it's good to see you over here. Post a link to your store so we can visit sometime.
  • Hi Lurlee!

    I've "always" been here, but in a (comparatively) small way until I recently took the leap to "synch" everything. This still only boosts my item count to 4000ish, small potatoes count wise comparing to many other dealers here, but a lot larger presence here than I had before. (inventory "value" wise, I'll rank higher as my average item price is a lot higher than folks selling 1000s of individual stamps).

    I have been making an effort to spend more time on the forum here in the last while!

    Here's the link to my store, I wasn't sure if it was good manners to be posting store links.


  • A little advertisement within the community is always helpful. I'll be checking out your store shortly, one must be on the way to work .... and not stamp work, either!
  • There's lots to look at, perusing it will keep you out of mischief for a while!

    PS Also my apologies for misspelling your name, apparently my day's coffee effect had worn off by the time I wrote my note. My english teachers of days gone by would not be surprised!
  • Did you misspell my name? I've been called so many names in my life I just let things roll. No biggie. Wonderful listings, too, you will keep me out of mischief ;)
  • Ron, I feel you on a lot of this. You didn't even identify, however, the time to acquire the goods and to break them into the packets by country or topic. That alone can be a huge time adder, assuming you do that yourself. Prep time clearly can vary whether stamps are bought in pre-sorted bulk or if breaking apart collections, but this can be tremendously time consuming as well. For me (who does single stamps, and sells as an extension of my hobby and not a profit-seeking business), probably 75%+ of my time is spent identifying the stamp, evaluating condition and inventorying, long before I even scan it and list it for sale. I should probably time myself someday, just for curiosity's sake, but it will probably be pretty pathetic, despite all of my tricks and shortcuts I've created to bulk list rather rapidly. -Doug

  • Doug, what about that one stamp that you spend at least forever trying to find it and it just plum alludes you? I know when I'm that mode of ID'ing stamps, it takes me longer than the average person. I like to learn about the stamp. So I'm in agreement with you, time spent on ID'ing takes so much longer than the scanning/listing/finding/mailing part.

    But I still have fun ...
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