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01-12-2014, 11:42 PM - 4 Likes   #1
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Location: Vancouver
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Buying and Selling Lenses

I just wanted to write something about buying and selling lenses.

When I first got my K30 back in October 2012 I started buying lenses through Craigslist, then through PF, then through Ebay because I wanted to try out more lenses. Soon after I started selling lenses through the forums and also through the local Craigslist listings.

Since October 2012 I have bought and sold 27 camera lenses and bodies. That’s just about 2 items per month, which is not huge but still more than just a few.

I kept a log of all of my transactions on a spreadsheet. I’d like to share my profits and losses with you all in the hopes that some of you might find it useful and/or entertaining. These items are just the ones that I bought and sold. I bought four lenses using the sandwich rule (that are now all sitting in a box), and I have five other lenses that I use regularly, so they are not included here.

Let’s start with the losses. This is what I lost per transaction after shipping, fees, and taxes.

($274.86)
($157.49)
($146.00)
($143.58)
($70.11)
($62.55)
($60.00)
($40.00)
($36.34)
($35.00)
($30.00)
($23.31)
($20.00)
($17.00)
($10.00)
($9.11)

Total Losses: ($1,135)

Looking at my biggest losses, they are caused by the following:
- Overpayment! When I started, I didn’t know what lenses were really valued at, and I also didn’t know how to haggle properly. That’s not a problem for me anymore, as I remember what lenses are worth thanks to endlessly poring over prices on Ebay/Amazon. And my phone is always with me so I can check on current prices in a pinch.
- International Shipping: Early on in my PF marketplace history I did a couple of international transactions. I finalized prices and received money before determining shipping costs, and this led to me eating some hefty shipping fees since I didn't want to back out of the deal. Now I know how to properly handle international shipping such that I don’t lose anything on it.
- Buying new: Buying a new lens just to try it out is not worth it. As soon as you open that box the resale value of the lens drops like a rock. If you want to just try out a lens, buy it used, and if it’s something you like, resell the used version for the same (or a little less) and then go buy it new. Of course, if it’s a lens you know you want, by all means go for it new. I love my 18-250, and if/when it dies, gets lost, or stolen, I would not hesitate to buy a new copy of one of the current superzooms from Amazon.
- Selling low for quick cash. When you need money, you need money.

Those four things alone count for more than half (probably between 2/3 or 3/4) of the total loss. The rest is a combination of shipping/PayPal fees, discounts for friends who wanted to buy my lenses, and lenses that lost value because I used them a bit.

Now lets look at the gains. These prices are after shipping, taxes, and fees:

$200.00
$118.86
$56.50
$54.58
$40.00
$37.50
$28.63
$28.13
$25.00
$23.00
$20.00
$20.00

Total gains: $652.20

The biggest gains were from me getting lucky on Craigslist and contacting a seller offloading something cheap for whatever reason before anyone else. I bought whatever they were selling, tried it out myself for a while, and then just sold it for under its average used selling price to pass along the savings to a fellow PF member. A couple of these items were things that I had bought strictly for reselling later on, and I could have made more on them, but had to sell them for cash (when you need money, you need money) and thus could not make as much as I wanted on them. The rest are just things I picked up locally from second-hand shops, camera gear swaps, and the local Craigslist listings to try out for a while because I knew I could quickly flip them through PF later.

So, the tally as follows:
Losses: ($1,135.35)
Gains: $652.20
Total losses: ($483.15)

So at first glance, $483.15 seems like a big loss. But I thought about what this money represented:
- I got to try out dozens of different lenses and several camera bodies of all types. And it’s not like at a camera store or a gear swap/camera show where you only get to try it out then and there. I actually had the lenses and camera bodies in my possession for quite some time, and took my time to really use them and get to know them. DA, FA, F, older manual lenses, zooms and primes, macro lenses, wide angle lenses, super zooms, accessories, other digital bodies, film bodies, lens accessories. It’s only a fraction of what’s out there, but it’s more than the casual photographer.
- As a result of that process it really helped crystallize what type of photography I like to do and what lenses I need to do it. Basically, my LBA is dead. There are a couple of lenses on my radar, but I will probably just end up buying them new when I have the cash, because hey I know from past experience that I want them.
- I can assess a lens on the spot, and while I would never buy a lens without trying it on a body first, I’m at this point where if I buy a lens and I see something wrong with it later on, it’s my fault for not catching it in the first place.
- I became comfortable with wheeling and dealing, both in real life and online. This will hopefully translate into bigger things down the road.
- Related to the previous point: I now have an established PF marketplace account with good feedback.
- I actually met other Pentax shooters in real life. One of them is a regular photo walk partner. It’s always nice to sit and have a conversation with another Pentax photographer.

Some other general observations about buying and selling that came to mind after these experiences:
- I wish I kept track of shipping and PayPal/Ebay fees separately. Just from looking I can tell that they are probably substantial. Damn you PayPAAALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!! *angry fist in air*
- Can someone make a living doing this? If you focus on just Pentax items, then in my opinion you cannot. There are simply not enough Pentax items (and not enough high-value Pentax items) floating out there in the second hand market. It’s not even a competition thing. But, while you cannot live off doing this with Pentax stuff, if you buy and sell carefully (ie. avoid losses like I did, and try and maximize gains) you can probably make some decent pocket money doing this.
- Saying that, I believe that if you bought and sold camera gear from all brands, you can make a living off of this. There are just WAY MORE items from Canon and Nikon and Sony and Olympus floating around out there. More importantly, these items can be really expensive, and that’s where you can make more money. You would have to be doing this full time (or more) but I think it can be done. I haven’t formally crunched out the numbers though, so who knows I could be totally off.
- In the age of Google/Ebay/Amazon, there is really no excuse for not being able to properly value your items. If someone wants to sell something for 10% of its value, I won’t question their decision. I was once trying to sell something here on the forums for well below its value. It was an item I bought for an even lower price locally, and after trying it out for a while I wanted to pass along those savings to a fellow PF member. Someone messaged me telling me how much more I could sell the item for through Ebay. They probably didn’t mean to, but they came off really patronizing and I was insulted. I treat buyers and sellers like fully functioning adults in the same way that I expect them to treat me like a fully functioning adult.

Finally, a couple of tips and tricks for Canadian hustlers:
- Canadian sellers: Get a VENTURE ONE card from Canada Post! It’s free, and you automagically get 5% off your shipping costs, more if you prep your shipping labels online. It’s supposed to be for business, but hey, you’re a business right?
Canada Post - VentureOne Program
- Canadian sellers: Keep an eye on the US dollar. Small swings can mean huge profits. Our dollar is currently at a 12 month high against the US dollar, and it seems to be trending higher. Now is a good time to sell to our friends south of the border. Or if you wait a while, it should get better.

I hope you found that useful and/or entertaining.


Last edited by EarlVonTapia; 01-12-2014 at 11:57 PM. Reason: PayPal sucks donkey ba
01-12-2014, 11:47 PM - 6 Likes   #2
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It is obviously not a good idea to sell. Hoarding...the final solution.


Steve
01-13-2014, 12:12 AM   #3
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Oldhand's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Mid North Coast NSW Australia
Posts: 176
QuoteOriginally posted by EarlVonTapia Quote
I just wanted to write something about buying and selling lenses.

When I first got my K30 back in October 2012 I started buying lenses through Craigslist, then through PF, then through Ebay because I wanted to try out more lenses. Soon after I started selling lenses through the forums and also through the local Craigslist listings.

Since October 2012 I have bought and sold 27 camera lenses and bodies. Thatís just about 2 items per month, which is not huge but still more than just a few.

I kept a log of all of my transactions on a spreadsheet. Iíd like to share my profits and losses with you all in the hopes that some of you might find it useful and/or entertaining. These items are just the ones that I bought and sold. I bought four lenses using the sandwich rule (that are now all sitting in a box), and I have five other lenses that I use regularly, so they are not included here.

Letís start with the losses. This is what I lost per transaction after shipping, fees, and taxes.

($274.86)
($157.49)
($146.00)
($143.58)
($70.11)
($62.55)
($60.00)
($40.00)
($36.34)
($35.00)
($30.00)
($23.31)
($20.00)
($17.00)
($10.00)
($9.11)

Total Losses: ($1,135)

Looking at my biggest losses, they are caused by the following:
- Overpayment! When I started, I didnít know what lenses were really valued at, and I also didnít know how to haggle properly. Thatís not a problem for me anymore, as I remember what lenses are worth thanks to endlessly poring over prices on Ebay/Amazon. And my phone is always with me so I can check on current prices in a pinch.
- International Shipping: Early on in my PF marketplace history I did a couple of international transactions. I finalized prices and received money before determining shipping costs, and this led to me eating some hefty shipping fees since I didn't want to back out of the deal. Now I know how to properly handle international shipping such that I donít lose anything on it.
- Buying new: Buying a new lens just to try it out is not worth it. As soon as you open that box the resale value of the lens drops like a rock. If you want to just try out a lens, buy it used, and if itís something you like, resell the used version for the same (or a little less) and then go buy it new. Of course, if itís a lens you know you want, by all means go for it new. I love my 18-250, and if/when it dies, gets lost, or stolen, I would not hesitate to buy a new copy of one of the current superzooms from Amazon.
- Selling low for quick cash. When you need money, you need money.

Those four things alone count for more than half (probably between 2/3 or 3/4) of the total loss. The rest is a combination of shipping/PayPal fees, discounts for friends who wanted to buy my lenses, and lenses that lost value because I used them a bit.

Now lets look at the gains. These prices are after shipping, taxes, and fees:

$200.00
$118.86
$56.50
$54.58
$40.00
$37.50
$28.63
$28.13
$25.00
$23.00
$20.00
$20.00

Total gains: $652.20

The biggest gains were from me getting lucky on Craigslist and contacting a seller offloading something cheap for whatever reason before anyone else. I bought whatever they were selling, tried it out myself for a while, and then just sold it for under its average used selling price to pass along the savings to a fellow PF member. A couple of these items were things that I had bought strictly for reselling later on, and I could have made more on them, but had to sell them for cash (when you need money, you need money) and thus could not make as much as I wanted on them. The rest are just things I picked up locally from second-hand shops, camera gear swaps, and the local Craigslist listings to try out for a while because I knew I could quickly flip them through PF later.

So, the tally as follows:
Losses: ($1,135.35)
Gains: $652.20
Total losses: ($483.15)

So at first glance, $483.15 seems like a big loss. But I thought about what this money represented:
- I got to try out dozens of different lenses and several camera bodies of all types. And itís not like at a camera store or a gear swap/camera show where you only get to try it out then and there. I actually had the lenses and camera bodies in my possession for quite some time, and took my time to really use them and get to know them. DA, FA, F, older manual lenses, zooms and primes, macro lenses, wide angle lenses, super zooms, accessories, other digital bodies, film bodies, lens accessories. Itís only a fraction of whatís out there, but itís more than the casual photographer.
- As a result of that process it really helped crystallize what type of photography I like to do and what lenses I need to do it. Basically, my LBA is dead. There are a couple of lenses on my radar, but I will probably just end up buying them new when I have the cash, because hey I know from past experience that I want them.
- I can assess a lens on the spot, and while I would never buy a lens without trying it on a body first, Iím at this point where if I buy a lens and I see something wrong with it later on, itís my fault for not catching it in the first place.
- I became comfortable with wheeling and dealing, both in real life and online. This will hopefully translate into bigger things down the road.
- Related to the previous point: I now have an established PF marketplace account with good feedback.
- I actually met other Pentax shooters in real life. One of them is a regular photo walk partner. Itís always nice to sit and have a conversation with another Pentax photographer.

.
Thanks for sharing your experiences.
I think that there are many, many photographers who have been on the same learning curve as yourself.
I'd actually like to comment on one of your positive outcomes - the one highlighted.
It is an absolute delight to meet with like minded souls and talk photography (mostly).
I belong to a group that meets for coffee each Saturday morning, and also critiques the image-making of the members of the group. We post images and comment online as well as chat over the Saturday morning brew.
I have learned so much about many different aspects of photography, but especially post processing - a subject that the others are better versed in than myself.
If I had one recommendation for any photographer serious about improving, it would be to find a/some soul mate(s) and have at it.
Cheers
OH
01-13-2014, 12:15 AM - 1 Like   #4
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You can sell lenses? What a horrible thought............

01-13-2014, 12:35 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by EarlVonTapia Quote
So at first glance, $483.15 seems like a big loss.
this is a bargain.
thnx for sharing...
01-13-2014, 01:06 AM   #6
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Original Poster
Here's another fun snippet from my spreadsheets: The amount I've spent on photography "Accessories" (anything that isn't a camera body or lens)

$2,362.44 Spent
$316.00 Sold
$2,046.46 Overall!

This is on batteries, filters, bags, cases, film, caps, etc. I've only attended two workshops, and that cost only $90 total. There's also an AF 540 FGZ lumped in there, but even with that, that's a huge amount to spend on stuff that I will be unable to sell, and (for most things) will probably end up sitting in a bin on my shelf until the end of time.

Watch your spending on accessories peoples!
01-13-2014, 01:37 AM   #7
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I just lost about 150$ when selling my Sigma 150-500 + Kenko 1.5x. I almost regret that I jumped on the buyers bid but it's too late now.
01-13-2014, 01:57 AM   #8
Ash
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Selling photographic gear is clearly not the way to make money. Barely do you even break even. My principle is to prepare for that 'rainy day' by keeping emergency funds aside so you don't have to sell your beloved lenses. It's bad enough having to sell good glass, but for a loss, that's a kick between the legs.

01-13-2014, 02:21 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
It is obviously not a good idea to sell. Hoarding...the final solution.
QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
You can sell lenses? What a horrible thought............
Good to see I'm not the only one refusing to sell at a loss. That is, to sell at all. Which means my loss so far is actually $0!

Sort of.
01-13-2014, 04:26 AM   #10
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My best deals have been swapping lenses and old cameras. Also cash coming in tends to get used for used other things as well, especially if my wife gets to know about it!
01-13-2014, 05:03 AM   #11
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If you are into photography to make money on trading equipment you will never make it.

That is one reason I have never sold anything. I have bought lenses because I wanted them, I have passed on many I could have bought and flipped them for a profit because what you are not considering in all this is the time taken to sell lenses, pack them up, ship them, etc.....put your personal time at , for arguments sake $30 per hour, and the 1-2 hours per lens costs you an additional $1500-$1800.

Now let's add gas to either go to the post office, courier, or sellers place. No, on second thought lets not, you will be too disappointed
01-13-2014, 05:57 AM   #12
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I've never even contemplated selling any of my lenses, but thinking about it again, I probably should, even if at a loss, before I croak... because if my wife finds out about all the lenses I bought and stashed around the house, she'd surely kill me!!!
01-13-2014, 07:58 AM   #13
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Sell lenses....that's funny. This is a joke, right? You don't actually sell lenses? (LOL)
01-13-2014, 08:08 AM - 1 Like   #14
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Thanks for sharing your numbers and thoughts. I am usually meticulous about all my finances, but have not kept track of my lens buying/selling - afraid to!

For me over the past few years, this was how I determined which lenses I wanted. There is no other way in my mind to actually try a lens out. Yes, I've lost a bit of money over the years doing this, but I have now come down to a kit of lenses that I really like. It's pretty much over for me now as far as the buying/selling used lenses.

I also will buy a lens new if it is one that I really like. While I have sent back a couple new lenses over the years because of defects, I don't like taking advantage of our great vendors and their liberal return policies. I won't buy a new lens just to try it out.

Over the past few years doing this, I've become fairly versed in what most lenses are worth used. When I do sell a used lens, I tend to price it to move quickly rather than trying to start high, then bumping the thread continuously trying to get someone to bite. The way I look at it, even if I loose 20% or so on a used lens, that is kind of like my rental fee for trying it out.

No regrets at all doing this - but am really glad I am through that stage and have settled on my current kit of lenses that I am very happy with. Without doing the buying/selling I would still be wondering what that next lens is like........
01-13-2014, 08:58 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by EarlVonTapia Quote
- I wish I kept track of shipping and PayPal/Ebay fees separately. Just from looking I can tell that they are probably substantial. Damn you PayPAAALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!! *angry fist in air*
Actually, PayPal is fairly reasonable on it fees - about 3%. It is eBay which gouges - 10%.

QuoteQuote:
PayPal fees mainly apply to sellers, who pay a 2.9% transaction fee on the total sale amount plus a $0.30 fee per transaction.


QuoteQuote:
eBay final value fee is 10%.
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