Cheap TricksThis is a rather fun, though risky, experiment I performed recently. I was wondering just what kind of profits were to be had by "flipping" (buying and reselling at a higher price) items purchased on Craigslist.

An easy experiment, probably done by thousands of people for just as many different types of objects: antiques, collectibles, action figures, etc. My vertical area of expertise was Canon EF camera gear.

Please read more below.

The experiment started a bit accidentally. Last year, I purchased a 28-70mm f/2.8 Sigma lens on Craigslist for $100 (I actually offered $125 to ensure that I got it, still a bargain). The seller agreed. It turns out that the lens did not work fully with my 300d, so I almost returned it until I mentioned I was looking for a second body like d30. Well lo and behold, he just happened to be selling one! He offered me the 28-70, the d30 and a Sigma 70-210mm f/2.8 APO lens for a grand total of $400. I didn't think twice. I knew that if I didn't keep the gear myself, I could surely profit from selling it later.

So there it begain, $400 spent to start this great experiment.

I bought this kit wholly intending to use it, but I really never did. The older Sigmas did not work with my 300D, and were too old to be "re-shipped". So I figured I'd just sell the lenses. The 28-70 sold fairly easily, I sold it for $150.


Then, just a few weeks ago came the Big Deal. A person was selling an entire 10D kit on craigslist for a phenomenal price:

  • 10D body
  • Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens
  • Canon Speedlite 420EX flash

All this gear for $850. That's a pretty healthy cash outlay, but I knew that I could easily turn around and sell all of that and come out ahead. So I presented my case to my wife who rolled her eyes and agreed. YES!


So now I had to get in gear and start selling this stuff. But wait. I need that flash and I could really use that 10D, too. Its sure is an awful nice camera, and it only had 1000 shutter activations. It was just about brand new!. So I got to thinking. If I sell the 50mm, the 28-135mm and the d30, I would just come up $100 short of the $850 I spent, if all worked out right. So my plan was to get $50 for the 50mm, $350 for the 28-135mm and $350 for the d30 ($50+$350+$350=$750, $100 short of $850).

So began the selling frenzy. The 50mm went within hours of posting it to the FM Buy&Sell forum.


The d30 sold in just a day, too, for my asking price of $350. So far so good:


But then it appeared. Another great Craigslist camera deal:

  • Canon Elan body
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens
  • Canon EF 28mm lens

For the remarkable price of $100. Another one I had to convince the wife about, but again, I could readily recoup my expense of $100, selling the 50mm for $50, the 28mm for $125 and the body for $35-50. So, bless her heart, she agreed to it once more.


The numbers in themselves were not looking good yet, but I was still confident I could do it. So again, the 50mm sold within hours of listing it on Craigslist (I had dozens of offers from both FM and CL within hours of posting it). The 28mm had a few bites but no nibbles, then then I saw that there were BG-ED3 grips on FM for $125, the same asking price as my 28mm. I decided that I'd see about a trade. I knew this would cut into my profits and be a potential risk if I didn't sell the Elan body for at least $50, but I did it anyways. I then decided that since the 70-210 wasn't moving, I'd couple it with the Elan body for a kit.


Finally a Blisteringly offered to by the 28-135, which took longer than I had expected to sell for such a new and popular lens. We agreed to $350.


All I had left to sell was the Elan body and the 70-210. The 70-210mm was a bit harder of a sell. Its a fantastic piece of work, but I am not willing to just dump it for a low ball price. The initial $375 asking price was too high for craigslist, and having to state that it didn't work with the 300D, XT, 10D or 20D DSLRs did not help it sell any faster. Even the fine folks at Fred Miranda's Forums balked at the price. After a good month of trying to sell it at $325-$375, I finally settled with a FM buyer at $275+shipping.


All that is left to sell is the lonely Canon Elan body. My best best was Craigslist. The FM folks don't seem to care about older items like 1993 film bodies.


So with the Elan sold, I'm left with $75 out of pocket. And what did I end up with?

  • Canon 10D, virtually new
  • Canon Speedlite 420EX flash
  • Canon BG-ED3 battery grip

Estimated street value: $600 + $175 + $125, for a total of $900.

Not too bad for a couple weeks of jockeying ads on the internet.