The Future of TV Viewing: Sell your DVDs on eBay!


How is the value of your VHS tape collection holding up over the last 10 years? That’s a question you may well ask about your DVD collection in a few years. With the advent of the ROKU, and services like Netflix streaming and Amazon Prime streaming, and renting movies on Amazon, we’ve entered a new world of ‘on demand movies’ and only those old trusty DVDs that you re-watch a lot (see Band of Brothers) are worth keeping. Unlike CDs, where you can hold on to them and allow others, to rip the content, DVDs are not so easy. At this moment they have value; as more people enter the movie streaming universe they will lose value.

What have I done? First step was to get every family member to tell me what DVDs they wanted to keep. I offered to split the eBay profits with anything of theirs they wanted to sell. We ended up with about 30 keepers, and 150 to sell.  I netted over $300 which pays for a lot of netflix and amazon rentals. 🙂

Given my new ‘eBay is recycling’ strategy, I then prepared to sell on eBay. In the process I’ve learned a lot about selling on eBay, and I’ll share that here.

The tools you need:

  1. Digital camera with a good flash and focus (mine has an SD card)
  2. A computer with an easy photo editor like iPhoto
  3. A good postal scale
  4. Windex
  5. Paper towels.
  6. Printer, paper and ink for a mailing label
  7. Bubble wrap mailers that fit DVDs. Either reuse them (preferable) or buy them in bulk from Amazon. The cheapest I found were 20 cents an envelope.  Universal envelopes were 8 1/2 by 12 inch bubble mailers.
  8. Have a collection of small boxes, capable of shipping 4-6 DVD’s or a few collections.  This is in case someone orders many.

The economics of selling on eBay with PayPal and tracked shipping: eBay works best if you can use PayPal to complete the transaction, and they offer a guarantee if the package is tracked. Each of these issues affects your minimum break-even price. We start with a 20 cent envelope, and PayPal then charges a 30 cent flat fee to complete a transaction, so before anything happens we have to overcome a fee of 50 cents. EBay then charges an auction completion fee of 10%, plus you pay eBay 10% of the shipping costs. After that, PayPal charges 2.9% on the cost of the entire transaction including postage (in addition to the 30 cent fee). EBay may give you a break if you choose the correct shipping option — you get a percentage off your shipping costs, which often will cover the eBay shipping charge. However eBay does not give a discount if you use the less expensive media mail for shipping, so you’ll have to get more money on a media mail auction to break even. And choosing the correct shipping option is not always straightforward — you need to consider both the size and the weight of the item, and a padded envelope costs more to mail than a non-padded one.  In addition to other fees, you may have to pay a listing fee, you should add that to the starting costs of an auction.

The break-even points I’ve computed for me, assuming I pick the correct shipping option (it’s not first class mail in a large envelope, it’s actually a package/thick envelope which is 60-80 cents higher per shipment!), are: 61 cents for a single DVD and $1.12 if I expect to send it media mail. This ensures that when someone makes a bid I make at least 1 cent.

Also key to success on eBay is being conservative in estimating the condition of what you’re trying to sell. Disclosing all the flaws means the buyer can’t say I didn’t know.

I have not been able to predict what has high value and what does not. So far my most successful auction was a Black Adder DVD collection that had a broken jewel case: I put it up for 61 cents and it sold for $27! I lost money in a few of my early auctions, when I was learning the ropes and hadn’t yet figured out the subtleties of fees and shipping costs, and I lost 68 cents on one and 41 cents on two others. Someone got a really good deal on Outfoxed and Mr. Bean’s Holiday. 🙂

Are you ready to take this on? Cool! Read on, or save for later reference 🙂

First step: Sort all the DVDs into Keep and Not Keep. Is it on Netflix instant? Is it on Amazon prime instant? Do you REALLY want to watch that again? OK. We now have a pile of DVDs to be sold.

2nd step: Count the DVDs. Find every DVD-size bubble mailer you’ve ever kept, and count how many bubble mailers you need to buy. I bought bubble mailers at Staples for $1.25 each — way too expensive. You will give more money to Staples than you make on eBay. If you need more than 50 mailers, go on to Amazon and find the cheapest 8-1/2 by 12 inch bubble mailers. I paid $20 including shipping for 100 mailers but it took 9 days for the package to arrive, so plan ahead. You don’t want to piss off your buyers by waiting a week to ship their purchase. Order the bubble mailers. Make sure you have enough paper to print one page per DVD for mailing.

3rd step: Time planning. Set aside time to create an auction. It takes me about 3 minutes per DVD. My recommendation is to run the auction for one week, and to not offer ‘Buy It Now’. At the end of the week, make sure you will be in town and that you’ll have time to 1) find the DVD, 2) put it in a mailer, 3) tape the mailer securely, 4) print a mailing label, 5) tape the mailing label on the mailer, and 6) drop it off at a post office. Good news: It’s prepaid so no waiting.

Creating the auction process:

Setup: Designate a 3 foot by 2 foot clear area for photographing each DVD, preferably next to your computer, and have a scale handy to weigh the DVD.

Repeat the following steps:

  1. Open the DVD and take out the disc, look at the ‘movie’ side, perfect DVDs look like a mirror with no fingerprints or any visible scratches. Something with a 1/8th inch gouge will probably not play or will skip. DVD that are excessively worn would be best to find a media donation home. So Sell or donate. If sell continue, if donate go to the next disc. If your disc has fingerprints or food or mystery stuff on it, take it to a sink and spray it with Windex and clean it with a paper towel. Reassess it.
  2. Photo time: (My camera uses an SD card, and I transfer it to my computer with an SD reader) put the DVD on the table face up and fill the frame with the DVD in your camera (landscape) take a picture, flip the DVD over and take a picture of the back, open the DVD and take a picture of the contents, photograph any defects on the cover, or any writing, stickers, torn parts, plastic that ripped, etc., remove the card from your camera (or use your phone) and plug it into your computer.
  3. Photo Processing: Import your photos and delete them from your SD card (or phone). Using an easy photo editing software (I use iPhoto), edit each picture to flip it to be read, and crop it to be the correct size. Save the resulting images on your computer. Eject the SD card and put it back in the camera. (what size?)
  4. Bring up a browser (I use Chrome): go to and search for the name of the DVD. I add DVD to the end of the name, e.g., ‘the italian job dvd’. Look at the pictures until you find your exact DVD including full screen or widescreen. Click on this listing. Under the picture find the words ‘sell one like this’ and click.
  5. Edit the listing: Make sure the title is correct, remove the word NEW if your DVD is not in its original packing. Add your photos (click ‘add photo’) and move your front cover picture to main photo. Take out the disc and look at its condition one more time: If the DVD and case are in perfect condition then use ‘like new’, if it’s almost perfect then use ‘very good’, some wear on the disc and case, ‘good’, lots of wear but still plays, ‘acceptable’. Describe the disk in the full description. I usually say ‘DVD is in good condition’ to let buyers know that I actually looked at the disc. I always say ‘PayPal only’ since I have no interest in negotiating any other form of payment. Finally weigh the disk and add 1 ounce for the mailer. Then select ‘package or thick envelope’.
  6. Set pricing: if you want to maximize eBay activity, which I always believe gives you, the seller, the best price, minimize the price and let the market decide the value of your item. 61 cents in a 7 day auction with no ‘buy it now’ is my approach, or $1.22 for collections over 13 ounces with the option to ship it media mail.
  7. CAREFULLY place these DVDs in day/time order as they go online, so they can come out of the pile in the same order. Be very careful, don’t drop and break them once they are at auction.


The Shipping process:

SHIP ONE ITEM AT A TIME OR YOU WILL SHIP THE WRONG DVD TO THE RIGHT CUSTOMER. The headaches are enormous. I can’t warn you enough to take this stage very carefully.

Have good packing tape (I have a packing tape gun), and a good scale, and some scissors.

From the eBay tab ‘my eBay’ when an auction closes you’ll be informed that someone bought your DVD. DO NOT PRINT A SHIPPING LABEL UNTIL THEY PAY!!!!! When you see a bold ‘$’ next to this particular auction, check your email for a payment notice. Don’t be too eager to ship, as they may buy a second or third DVD that you still have up for auction, and would close soon (like the next hour). When you’re ready, CHECK to sure the DVD in the case is correct, and if it’s a collection make sure the cardboard cover matches the disks and each container has the correct nuber of disks.  Then put the DVD into the mailer and seal it. Weigh it one more time. From ‘my eBay’ click ‘print shipping label’ and you’ll have a menu. Select the correct weight of the package and click ‘purchase postage’ and you can then print the postage.

The postage is one half of the page, and the receipt is on the other half, so cut the page and tape the postage onto your package. Just tape the edges, don’t tape over the bar code.

Return to ‘my eBay’ and leave feedback for the buyer; I usually leave ‘excellent eBayer’.

Ship the next DVD.

When the buyer leaves feedback for you can remove him or her from your ‘sold’ list.  After  a few weeks, nudge the people who haven’t left you feedback.  Once I nudge them, I remove them from my sold list, because I’ll just irritate the people who hate to leave feedback.

How did I do?  I put up 151 Single DVD’s and collections, In working through each disk as I inspected the disks 6 were unsellable and I gave these to our local media box, 7 were missing disks and I set those aside to wait for disks to appear from where?  I don’t know.  20 did not sell on ebay (Not many fans of Charlies Angels the movie!).  And of the 118 that sold, the average price was $3.63 I netted over $300 which will pay for a lot of Netflix and Amazon Prime.

I hope this helps, and yes I’m a nut. 🙂



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