Things You Should Never Try to Sell on eBay

framed paintings

Attila Barabas/istockphoto

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
framed paintings
Attila Barabas/istockphoto

The eBay No-Ways

With 138 million active buyers, eBay is one of the largest online marketplaces in the world, and one of the most visited shopping platforms in the United States. That makes it a great place to earn extra cash as selling on eBay can bring in money with little to no upfront investment. But before you start listing items for sale, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the limitations of the platform, as well as the best practices of being an eBay seller.

Related: 17 Things You Should Absolutely Never Buy on Craigslist or eBay

large red couch outside


Large pieces of furniture are challenging to sell on eBay simply because of their size and weight. "The shipping costs on an item of this magnitude would typically cost as much as the item itself," says Tegan Phelps, a personal finance expert who founded The Blissful Budget, and operator of a top-rated eBay store. "This is not appealing to most buyers. And the items take up a lot of space while you wait to sell them." Phelps suggests selling furniture or other large items locally, using neighborhood-based sales apps and platforms such as OfferUp or Craigslist.

Related: 14 Secrets for Selling Your Stuff on Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook

bottles of alcohol


Selling liquids such as drinks, alcohol, or perfume is also not a good idea. "These items have the potential to break inside the shipping box, leak, or can have other major issues in shipping," Phelps says. "The shipping is also much more expensive if the liquid contains anything flammable." eBay also has specific policies surrounding various liquid items. Wine can be listed on eBay's U.S. site by its approved sellers only, and no other alcohol products are allowed.

Related: KitchenAid, Adidas, and Other Brands With Outlet Shops on eBay

Autographed Sports Memorabilia

Autographed Items

Unless you know for a fact who signed an autographed item, it's not a good idea to re-sell these types of products on eBay. "They could be fraudulent, and if they're verified as a fake by the buyer, your [eBay] store could be in trouble." eBay has a policy covering these items that you should familiarize yourself with. When selling autographed products, for instance, you need to include either a certificate or letter of authenticity.

Related: 18 of the Most Valuable Autographs Sold at Auction

medicine bottles

Medicine or Medical Devices

It's not a good idea to list or sell medicine or medical devices on eBay, as they can be a liability for eBay and the seller, Phelps says. In fact, eBay has strict rules surrounding the sale of medicine. The sale of prescription drugs or drugs containing prescription-strength amounts of medication is prohibited. Over-the-counter medication containing non-prescription strength drugs can be sold on eBay, but descriptions must clearly state the concentration of the drug, which cannot be expired before the buyer gets it.

Related: How to Safely Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet


Cosmetics or Nail Polish

While it's possible to list cosmetics on eBay, it's generally not a great idea. This includes items such as shampoos, nail polish, makeup, makeup brushes, and toothpaste. “In addition to not selling very well, they might break or come apart during shipping. And if they're not in decent condition, you might also receive some bad reviews," Phelps says. Used cosmetics are prohibited from sale; new cosmetics, colognes, perfumes, or lotions must be sold in their original container.

Related: 10 Beauty Products Hiding in Your Kitchen Cabinets

cat in a cage

Anything That's Alive

Animals and plants are not things you want to sell on eBay, for pretty obvious reasons. "Not to mention the fact that it would also be difficult to ship items like plants and ensure that they arrive to the customer safely," Phelps says. eBay has a policy prohibiting the sale of most live animals that's designed to protect the welfare of animals, particularly endangered and threatened species. There are several tiny creatures that slip through this policy — it's still possible to sell bees, crickets, ladybugs, tropical fish, tadpoles, domestic aquatic snails, and live bait such as minnows. But the sales require government permits, and you must guarantee safe, overnight shipping.

Related: 20 Zoo and Aquarium Live Streams for a Virtual Visit With Cute Animals

Home Improvement Supplies

Tools or Hardware

It's not often beneficial to sell tools or hardware on eBay. "These items are often quite heavy to ship, and many buyers won't want to pay the cost of shipping," says Emily Deaton, a financial journalist for LetMeBank. "Additionally, these items are often readily available to most retailers."

Related: Tools That Are Still Made in America

felt craft

Handmade Items

Selling handmade items on eBay may not be among the most profitable choices. "Most people use eBay to find a certain item, like a pair of shoes or an old record, not handmade art," Deaton says. There seem to be some craft items that sell well on eBay, though; the eBay craft selling guide says buyers like bead art, ceramics and pottery, and textile handwork, among other things. To sell handmade items more quickly, eBay suggests selecting keywords carefully for a listing and showcasing items with high-quality photos that have proper lighting and cover a variety of angles.

Related: 20 Old-School Crafts Due for a Comeback

vintage designer handbag
undefined undefined/istockphoto

Unauthenticated Designer Handbags

Who doesn't love scoring designer handbags at a discount? Or better yet, selling your gently used designer bags for extra cash once you've gotten bored with them? eBay can be a great platform for this type of item, but don't try to unload unauthenticated designer bags. "The platform does not allow or tolerate selling counterfeit or fake products," says Kate Diaz, an interior designer and owner of the website Swankyden. "Before thinking of selling signature or designer handbags, make sure to have them authenticated from the store or by a service." If eBay finds your products are fake, your account can be suspended. The site has also adopted what it calls the VeRO program, a watchdog policy that includes rules against the sale of counterfeit, fake, or replica brand-name items.

Related: 10 Look-Alike Handbags With Plenty of Style for Less

Kids Clothing

Kids Clothing

Plenty of clothing is sold on eBay, but money-saving expert Andrea Woroch, who sells items regularly on the platform, suggests choosing the clothing you list carefully. "Unless it's a designer label that you can make good money off of and it's in pristine condition, you won't make that much and it's not worth your time," Woroch says.

taking photos of shoes

When You Do Sell Items …

After you've sorted through the dos and don'ts of what to sell, it's important to put thought into your listings. Some of Phelps' top tips include taking clear, well-lit photos of your items and developing an informative title for your product. "Along with the photos, the title is one of the first things the buyer sees when looking for an item. A title with lots of item details and correct spelling and punctuation is very important," she says. 

The Good China

Product Descriptions

Take the time to write a detailed and accurate description of the product. "Most buyers will look at photos first for item condition, however, it's important to write item details in the description as well," Phelps says. Some information to consider including: What condition is the item in? Are there cracks, chips, or discrepancies? Is there anything wrong with it? How worn is it? Does it come with the original packaging?

Research Benefits

Pricing Your Products

Before listing an item, research what similar items have sold for so you have an idea how much your item is worth. "If you list a product too high in price, there's a possibility that it will never sell or even gain traction," she says.