Victoria readers sell their belongings through Bargains361

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Chris Arlin is considered a "power seller" in the trading world.

For 13 years she's made good money off the Internet, selling used merchandise and collectibles to buyers far and wide. Now she helps readers of the Victoria (Texas) Advocate become power sellers themselves - without having to lift a finger.

Arlin is consignment channels manager for the Advocate. She oversees the newspaper's Bargains361 program, a year-old initiative that sells readers' merchandise on a commission basis.

What sort of merchandise?

"The most common would be old glass, knick-knacks, collectibles ... Dust collectors - just those knickknacks that families collect," Arlin said.

Electronics are also popular, and they tend to sell quickly: "Even a broken cell phone sells at a decent price."

And some of the interesting items she's sold? Antique fishing lures. Commemorative Log Cabin syrup bottles. Nude portraits. Batman and Robin toy figures. A collection of Playboy magazines. Old Avon products. A pickup tailgate.

"People cleaning out their house will decide we don't have room for this anymore, and why not make some extra money off of it," Arlin said.

With the growth of the Internet, shippable items can now be advertised worldwide as easily as they can in the owner's local market.

Bargains361 capitalizes on that potential by advertising readers' items on sites such as eBay, Amazon's marketplace section, Etsy and Craigslist.

Jason Holmes, general manager of Advocate Digital Media, said Bargains361 is like a consignment shop for "users that want to sell their items online but don't know how or have time."

"They bring the items in to us and we do some research and give them an idea of what the value is going to be. If they want to go ahead, we list the items for them on the best channels, try to get the best price, and we take a cut."

A 50-50 split is standard. From its share, the paper pays the online selling fees charged by the websites.

The buyer normally pays shipping costs. When all the expenses are tallied, the Bargains361 program's profit margin "might be 35 percent," Holmes said.

Holmes said often readers "have no idea what things are worth," and are pleasantly surprised to discover the value of their collectibles. "It's definitely interesting. I'd liken it to (television reality program) Pawn Stars," he said.

Managing Bargains361 has turned out to be a dream job for power seller Chris Arlin. "It's kind of like a treasure hunt," she said. "I never know what I'm going to get next. It's just fun!"

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