Like any product you wish to sell, you're looking to turn a profit. If you're selling CDs, you're looking to buy them and flip them for a larger amount of money than what you've paid - this much is obvious. I mainly deal in used CDs because I am able to find them cheaply, sell them at a profit, and keep my customers happy by providing them an item they may not be able to find elsewhere, at a price that is below what a new CD may retail for. Let's consider an example: go to the super-duper cutout low low price bin at a decent independent CD store. Dig past the beat-up promo single CDs and the other junk, and you may often find some gems that have happened to be wedged in there - often times in my travels in a 99 cent bin, I'll come across obscure jazz, long lost soundtracks to films few remember, or arcane-looking imports that are often in other languages. This is where I make my real money, and why my customers keep coming back to me - I'm able to track down and locate tough to find CDs and resell them at a reasonable price.
But let me back up a bit for you... What I'm explaining as far as being able to know what these lucrative and rare titles are requires some knowledge. I personally have worked as a buyer for various CD stores over the past ten years, plus I'm one of those obsessive weirdos who needs to collect everything, so finding a rare CD comes naturally to me - though this need not be the case with you; you'd just need to be willing to learn mountains of obscure facts! If you want a crash course in knowing more about the kinds of music people are willing to pay obscene amounts for, I can recommend this: Go to Ebay's "Advanced Search" page and look up the completed auctions of CDs within whatever parameters you may wish - if you're interested in specializing in Punk or Soul or Country or even a single artist, you can do that as long as you enter the info correctly for Ebay to do the search. Make serious note of these titles and what money they go for. For instance, let's say you are able to find the long lost, way out of print Vanity 6 CD. Vanity was part of Prince's group, she had a huge hit that was on this CD, and the CD has been unavailable for years. You'll find by doing this search that this particular CD may sell at any given time for $50-$90. I happened to find this CD at Waterloo Records in Austin Texas for $4 and resold it for $78. I never would have known that if I hadn't done my homework. That's really the biggest lesson to be learned - the more you know, the better off you are. I carry a list with me that I continually update which operates like a price guide. That means I don't necessarily have to have committed much of these arcane details to memory if I have a decent list going. I'd also check out other sites dedicated to obscure music and out of print titles, or even books like Trouser Press, which document many obscure bands and their recordings. Take these ideas and see what works best for you - maybe you can even have your cell phone on you and have a partner at home looking the titles up for you while you shop!
Where's some decent places to find out of print and rare CDs? I always dig through anywhere that has used CDs, from a Tower Records to a yard sale, and everywhere in between. Remember, if you're going to resell it, you wanna turn a profit. Consider all your expenses - Ebay's listing fee, the final value fee, a Paypal fee, shipping, plus what you're paying for the CD in the first place. What I'm saying is that if you buy a CD for $6 and sell it for $9, you're not breaking even once you figure in all the expenses. I usually don't risk more than a dollar or two on a single CD unless I KNOW I've got something that will get me more than $10. That means I'd pay $20 for a CD that I know always goes for over $80. The only way I know any of that is by having my list on me.
A big thing to know about CDs is their print runs - for instance, at one time one could find CD copies of Green Day's "Kerplunk" everywhere on the planet for next to nothing. Recently, Lookout Records pulled this title out of print and it's now tough to find the CD. I recently sold a copy for $28, but a year ago I thumbed past THOUSANDS of this very title for $5 or less! The inverse is also true - this title won't be out of print forever, so don't get stuck with the "Old Maid Card," meaning sell this CD while it's out of print, rare, and demand is high. Once it comes back into print and is available again, no one is going to pay a collector price for it.
OK, so let's say you've got a stack of CDs, and you're ready to list... What are some ways to keep your customers happy? Grade your CDs! Just like a comic book, a car, or a coin, a CD has a condition - though there are not the strict grading guidelines associated with CDs that those other products have. I look the CD over for scratches before I buy it. A CD can have scratches - most used titles will. If you have customers wanting an unscratched used CD, you may wish to send them elsewhere, or you'll both end up unhappy. The misconception is that "scratches" and "skips" are the same thing - they most certainly are NOT. A deep scratch on a CD will often skip, and a deep scratch that will always skip is one that can be seen on both sides of the disc. Often times these scratches don't look like a line, they look more like what is called "pitting," similar to what is commonly seen on weathered chrome. These are little dots that appear black in color and allow the laser in a CD player to go through the disc rather than read the information. Also, if you can physically feel a scratch, I'd probably pass. Also be aware that sometimes CDs that look terrible only need to be rubbed with a clean t-shirt to be brought back to life. Understanding all of this, you MUST make this aware to your customer. I have a section in each auction where I briefly explain the condition of that particular CD - No Surface Wear means the CD appears to be unplayed. You could also apply the Goldmine standard for vinyl grading (Mint, Mint Minus, VG++ and so on). If I feel a CD looks too rough to resell, I won't bother with it. The lucky thing is that if you stick to decent CD stores, they'll have weeded out the beat-up CDs for you beforehand. It's only if you dig around at flea markets or yard sales that this may become a real problem.
Beyond the CD itself, make sure the booklet is all there and hasn't been damaged. If there's a promo mark - often a cut hole through the barcode, either pass on it or make sure you notate what's flawed within your item description. CD cases are often a big deal with some customers - I ALWAYS send each CD in an unbroken, clean-looking case. The only problem, though, is this: even in a decent bubble wrap mailer, the occasional CD case will still get a minor crack from shipping. This is not your fault (unless you're running your own nationwide shipping company) and shouldn't be a big deal, but every once in a while, some lunatic loses their mind over a cracked case. It's inevitable, so all you can do is send your CD as securely as humanly possible, and then have a polite response when this happens to you. The more you cover yourself and explain what you're selling within your auction, the more discrepancies you'll hopefully have diffused for later.
That's about it for this round. Hopefully you now have a better grasp on how to track down elusive and rare CDs, how to judge their condition, and how to get them to your customers. If there's something you feel I've missed or would like me to address in this guide, please contact me. Thanks for reading!