Still, on Raise you can list a card without paying up-front fees, so there’s no risk.
What’s better? Online gift card exchange sites. They’ll purchase your gift card for 90% or more of its value and resell it for you.
Whether it’s a birthday, graduation or holiday, it’s likely that you’ll get a stack of gift cards for any celebration. Also likely: you’ll end up with a few you can’t use or don’t want.
If you do decide to sell a gift card, shop around and find the best offer. Check with two or three companies before handing over your gift card.
There is, however, one notable exception that you probably should avoid when it comes to gift cards: eBay.
Tips to Sell Gift Cards Online
Suddenly, your 0 gift card is only worth .
On top of that, you may be responsible for eBay’s insertion fees, a final value fee and a performance fee if your eBay seller account isn’t in good shape. Then, if you’re using Paypal for payment, expect an additional 2.9% fee. Yuck!
Consider Ways to Get Paid
Ebay has always been a popular place for buying and selling things online — but it might be the worst way to sell gift cards.
You can sell any gift card for store credit — new or partially used. Most cards sell within 24 hours, and Raise takes 15% of the selling price.
Or your Aunt Rita gave you a gift card to a steakhouse, but you’re a vegetarian.
Depending on the service you choose, when you sell a gift card you can receive a check in the mail, a Paypal payment or a more useful gift card.
Don’t Sell Gift Cards on eBay
Here’s what to keep in mind as you find a buyer for that unwanted present.
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder
Dana Sitar is a former branded content editor at The Penny Hoarder. Adam Hardy is a former staff writer.
As with any product, the more demand, the more you can ask for it. Gift cards for major retailers — Walmart, Target, Best Buy — tend to sell on the marketplace for 95% of their value.
There are plenty of websites to sell your gift cards, and each is a little different. Some will let users bid on your gift card, while others will purchase it from you and then sell it themselves.
Here are the top sites that put the most money in your pocket.
4 Best Websites to Sell Gift Cards
And remember, you can buy discount gift cards on all these sites, too. Keep them in mind when you need a gift.
The gift card exchange site Raise has always been one of my favorite places to sell my unwanted gift cards because I get to set the price. However, as with eBay, you don’t get paid until the gift card sells.
There is no reason for this well-intentioned gift to go to waste. You can sell gift cards online for cash.
Gift Cards Still Need a Home? Auction Them Off on Raise
Each selection has its own perks, so choose whichever best fits your needs.
You also maintain control over your listing. If your card doesn’t sell in the first couple of days, you can always adjust the price to attract more buyers. Or you can unlist it if you change your mind.
I picked three leading online gift card buyers and asked for quotes on a Walmart gift card. Here are the results: First, an eBay buyer isn’t likely to buy your gift card for more than 80% to 90% of its value. For a 0 gift card, you can count on a loss of between and .
Maybe your boss gave you a Starbucks gift card, but you aren’t a coffee drinker.
Paypal might be a quick form of payment, but keep those pesky fees in mind if you want to maximize your payout. Checks may take a little longer, but they’re as good as cold, hard cash. And depending on your spending habits, another gift card might be the best choice, as the conversion rate is going to be the highest. Source: thepennyhoarder.com
To get a quote on your gift card, all you need to do is input the brand and balance. On most of these sites, there’s an option to enter the gift card number to sell it and receive payment electronically — no need to mail anything.
Rates will vary depending on the service and the brand, so I thought it would be fun to see which would offer me the best price for my gift cards.
Instead of turning to Uber, Lyft, DoorDash or Grubhub, these college students started their own food delivery businesses to make money and show their entrepreneurial expertise to potential employers.
Two met a demand created by the COVID-19 pandemic, while two others started their delivery businesses before 2020. They all saw a need on or around their campuses that wasn’t being filled.
Here’s what they did.
4 Successful Examples of How to Start a Food Delivery Business
1. Deliver Produce from Farms to Kitchens
Will Gentry and Gray Carlton devised a way to help local farms get produce safely to consumers during the pandemic and make money for themselves with their new business, Lexington Harvest Haul.
The seniors at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., started thinking about their future enterprise last summer.
“There are a lot of farms that surround us, and we were noticing there wasn’t a great way for them to sell their stuff except at a farmers market once a week,” Carlton said. “We started brainstorming, thinking of what would be a good way to get their products to people. We came up with a system where we take orders based on what the farmers anticipate they’ll have each week.”
The students started by talking to various farmers at the farmers market to see if they would be interested in having their products delivered.
“They were extremely excited right off the bat. I was kind of surprised,” Gentry said. “I figured they were going to be set in their ways. But they are always looking for more sales avenues.”
The boys started a Facebook page, built a following in the community and collected more than 100 emails.
Here’s how the food delivery business works:
Customers place their orders on a website, Lexharvesthaul.com, by a weekly deadline. Carlton and Gentry go to five farms every Tuesday to buy all the produce, then sort the goods to assemble each customer’s order and deliver it all the same day.
“We don’t hold any inventory. It’s really unique,” Carlton said. They charge a $7.50 delivery fee, plus a markup of around 18% of the total order.
“Another benefit of what we do is customers can order from several different places and have it all come in the same package,” Gentry said.
So, a customer can order butternut squash from Sunflower Flats Farm, free range chicken from Hearthstone Farm, pimento cheese from Mountain View Farm, maple ginger cheesecake from Abundant Life Kitchen and Pink Lady apples from Dickie Brothers Orchard on one website, pay in one transaction and get it all brought to their doorstep for one delivery fee plus the markup.
Lexington Harvest Haul takes orders on a website powered by Shopify, which offers free templates for e-commerce sites, then charges $29 a month. The domain name cost $10.
In order to set up a bank account for the business, Gentry and Carlton paid $300 to form an LLC.
I figured they were going to be set in their ways. But they are always looking for more sales avenues.
“We also wanted some protection (from possible lawsuits) because we were handling food. Not that either of us has too much to protect,” Carlton said with a laugh. “Having an LLC allowed us to plug into the local business community and open a membership in the chamber of commerce. That’s beneficial because there’s a pretty strong small business community in Lexington.”
They hope to sell the business to other students or someone in the Lexington community when they graduate in May.
“Sometimes I do think about how we could build a bigger business out of it,” Gentry said. “I try not to let myself go down that rabbit hole and make sure we get it right the first time.”
2. Deliver Food from Dining Hall to Dorm
BC GET was created when a Boston College student realized how much he and his friends dreaded going out in the cold to pick up food from the campus dining hall.
J.B. Bruggeman got the idea to charge a fee to deliver dining hall takeout and soon partnered with fellow student Jack Antico.
At first, there was very little technology involved. Students could order takeout from the dining hall, then text Bruggeman and he would go get the client’s student ID card then go pick up the food, swipe the card to pay for it, deliver the food, return the card and get paid around $5 via Venmo. After a proof of concept was established, Antico got involved.
“Then there was an issue with the dining hall because you aren’t technically allowed to swipe someone else’s card,” Antico said. “I went to (Boston College) and said we proved there is a demand for this.” So, the college added a delivery option to the app students could already use to order food to-go.
As the demand grew, Bruggeman and Antico contracted with “getters,” who would receive a group email when a delivery order was placed. The first taker delivered the food and made $3.50. Antico and Bruggeman put the remaining $1.50 back into the business; they also delivered hundreds of orders themselves.
They marketed their meal delivery service in various ways, from a $150 banner hanging on a Boston College parking garage to a stunt in the middle of campus.
“I set up kind of a dorm room on the main quad and called it the Day of GET. J.B. lived in a tent, we had a TV set up outside,” Antico said. “We delivered all the meals to J.B. for 24 hours to showcase how useful the service could be. People walked by and wanted to know more about it.”
At its peak, BC GET had about 25 orders a day. Getters could make around $500 a semester. The founders made more, of course, though Antico declined to say how much. The two students ended their business partnership after a couple years when they each had different business interests and Boston College revamped its dining program.
We proved there is a demand for this.
The delivery business, however, must have looked impressive to potential employers. Bruggeman now works as a product manager for Facebook, and Antico, a BC senior, scored an internship at national grocery delivery business Shipt last summer and now owns a web development business.
3. Deliver Groceries to Homes — Without the Big Apps
When Manhattan College in the Bronx halted in-person classes because of COVID-19, Joseph Chionchio moved home to Bay Shore, Long Island. Soon, his mother told him about friends and neighbors who were waiting up to two weeks to get groceries delivered using the most popular apps.
“I saw a clear-cut opportunity right there. I started an Instagram page and made some posts saying I’d shop and deliver groceries,” Chionchio said.
At first, customers emailed him their grocery lists, but soon he set up a website where they could submit orders. He delivered during a timeframe he set each day around his online classes.
Chionchio named his new venture Smart Shop Delivery and spread the word on Facebook, along with asking local restaurants and influencers to post about his effort to help people who were having trouble getting groceries.
Most customers paid via Venmo, but if they were older and hesitant to use an app or share credit card information Chionchio smartly allowed cash and checks. He also accepted handwritten grocery lists. By taking a little extra time for these customers, he reached a market that wasn’t being served at all.
He charged a 15% fee based on the grocery bill for his delivery services.
“I made a lot of traction after a couple weeks,” he said. “Once I got six orders a day, I hired five drivers.” They were all friends or friends’ siblings.
Soon a local TV station did a story on the 21-year-old finance major, then New York’s Newsday newspaper covered the student entrepreneur, too.
“Once Newsday hit, the demand went up like crazy. I hired about 50 drivers,” Chionchio said. He also hired two administrative assistants to help process orders and verify drivers’ insurance and licenses.
Then Fox business anchor Neil Cavuto featured an interview with Chionchio.
“That was national,” he said, and demand went up even more. “We stopped advertising for a while. We were still in the process of building the infrastructure, and I was still in school.”
At this point, he also teamed up with friend John Kelly, who also graduated from Manhattan College and is currently working on his MBA there.
I saw a clear-cut opportunity right there. I started an Instagram page and made some posts saying I’d shop and deliver groceries.
In April three apps — one for drivers, one for customers and one for retailers — will be available for Android and iPhone users. The customer app is called Smartshopcustomer.
Smart Shop Delivery has partnered with a small chain of grocery stores, Fresh by Nature, a coffee shop and a meat market. Customers in the Long Island area can place their orders on the app for those retailers, but still get groceries delivered from other retailers as well.
Chionchio continues to run the growing company as he pursues a master’s degree in financial engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.
4. Deliver Food From Campus Gates to Dorm Rooms
Anthony Zhang created a business offering the second and final leg of food delivery at the University of Southern California. When he was a freshman in 2013, gates around the University Park campus near downtown Los Angeles were locked at 9 p.m. Students ordering a pizza, burrito or sandwich had to leave their dorm and meet the delivery person at the gate.
One night a friend of Zhang’s said he’d pay someone $10 to go get his Chipotle burrito once it arrived on the edge of campus. Zhang took him up on it.
He started doing the same for other friends, posted flyers around campus offering his late-night on-campus delivery, and his business, EnvoyNow, was born.
“It just had my phone number on there and said to text me. I got swarmed with orders the first weekend that I did it,” he recounted to the Los Angeles Business Journal in December. He hired other friends to start delivering and make $50 to $100 a night.
At first the orders were all texts to Zhang who passed them on to other delivery people. Then a computer science student who was a frequent customer built an app for the business.
Zhang skipped class one day to go see Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban and Survivor producer Mark Burnett speak on campus. At the end of the presentation, they took impromptu business pitches from the audience. On the spot, Burnett invested $100,000 for a 10 % stake in EnvoyNow.
Zhang received a lot of publicity and soon the Thiel Fellowship offered him a $100,000 grant. The fellowship is a two-year program for young people who want to quit or skip college to work on a business. He left USC in 2015 and expanded EnvoyNow to 22 campuses, according to a recent interview with Medium.com.
It just had my phone number on there and said to text me. I got swarmed with orders the first weekend that I did it
A year later Zhang suffered a diving accident in a Las Vegas swimming pool and was paralyzed from the neck down. After several months of rehab, in 2017 he sold EnvoyNow to JoyRun Inc., which was acquired by Walmart Inc. in 2020.
Since then, Zhang launched and sold another company that rates venture capital investors and now has started Vinovest, which gives retail investors a way to invest in fine wine.
Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance reporter and editor in St. Petersburg, Fla., and author of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps and Lessons Learned.
If you’re a beginner, start by looking into general transcription.
She added that most companies expect a 48-hour turnaround time on work. “So I start something, take a break for a while, then come back to it later. And many companies allow you to take as much or as little work as you like.”
Lisa Mills, blogger at Work at Home Mom Revolution and author of Jump Start Your General Transcription Career: The Fast & Easy Way to Get Started, started transcribing shortly after separating from her husband.
“l needed to find a job quickly, and I wanted to be at home with my children, so transcription seemed like a natural fit,” she says. “[S]ince time was of the essence, I started applying immediately for [general transcription] jobs. I got lucky and was hired immediately by a super company.”
The online course features modules, practice dictations and quizzes. It even shows you how to create sample client contracts and how to determine your rates.
The company pays per audio hour, and it does not require any equipment for transcription prior to getting started beyond a “reasonable computer” that has Google Chrome and a reliable internet connection. You’ll be paid weekly by PayPal for the work you complete.
Rev pays 30 cents up to .10 per audio minute, which works out to to per audio hour. The company pays weekly by PayPal and doesn’t require any special equipment apart from a computer with a reliable Internet connection.
What Do You Need to Get Started as a Transcriptionist?
The job sounds easy enough, right? But just like any other job, what’s easy for one person won’t be for another.
The exact amount you earn as a transcriptionist will depend on the company you’re working for, how much work is available and your speed and skill level. In general, most companies that are willing to accept beginners do not pay as well as the companies that require past transcription experience.
Is Transcription Easy?
Transcribe Anywhere doesn’t actually hire transcriptionists. It offers online transcription courses that teaches students how to transcribe and start their own freelance transcribing businesses.
Quicktate hires newbie transcriptionists once they pass a typing quiz. The company’s independent contractors transcribe short voicemail messages, as well as memos, letters, conference calls and more.
However, the flexibility of the work may make up for the fact it can be challenging and repetitive.
Transcription companies usually pay a rate per audio hour. For example, if you’re being paid per audio hour, this means you’ll earn for every hour of audio you transcribe.
“I can take a vacation whenever I like. I just notify the company that I won’t be taking work for a few days to a week, and will get back in touch when I’m ready for more work,” says Mills.
Looking for a flexible job that allows you to work from home, requires little to no prior experience and doesn’t involve making sales calls?
For example, the files you listen to might be very poor quality, making it difficult to understand what’s being said. And other times, you might find yourself trying to interpret unclear dialogue spoken with a thick accent.
Experienced transcriptionists often consider rates below to per audio hour too low. But if you’re brand new to the industry, you may find it’s worth working for a lower rate to get started and learn valuable skills that could help you land a better-paying transcription job later on.
How Much Does Transcription Pay?
If you’re considering giving transcription a try, here’s what you’ll need to know — plus some of Mills’ best advice. Anna Thurman is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
In addition, managing your own schedule means you can plan time off when you need it.
Here is a list of legitimate companies that regularly hire newbie transcriptionists. Most of these companies will require that you take short, simple transcription tests to assess your typing accuracy and attention to detail before assigning you work.
“My children are grown now, but when they were younger, I did a lot of my work at night, after they were in bed, and during the day while they were in school,” says Mills.
5 Companies That Hire Beginner Transcriptionists
However, most of the companies that hire newbies are more laid-back in their equipment requirements, so you’ll only need to have a computer and a high-speed internet connection to start working.
You’ll earn about three to 20 cents per media minute transcribed, plus bonus rates. You’ll be paid through Amazon to your Amazon Payments Account.
If you’re looking to earn a little extra money online, give transcription a try with one of these companies. You won’t break the bank, but you will be getting paid to learn how to transcribe audio files — and this could open the door to much better-paying transcription opportunities in the future!
You’ll need to pass a grammar quiz and submit a transcription template prior to claiming assignments from Rev, which allows transcribers to work as much or as little as they like.
You could become a transcriptionist. This job gives you the freedom to set your own hours and, in many cases, work as much or as little as you want each week.
Crowdsurf specializes in providing transcribed media files to the hearing impaired. You’ll have to create an account with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a popular crowdsourced work platform where Crowdsurf houses their transcription tasks.
If you start working for less than -50 per audio hour, use the opportunity to build paid transcription experience and then look for a higher-paying job.
It could take you anywhere from two to five hours to transcribe just one hour of audio, depending on the complexity of the file and your transcription skill level.
The work is also quite repetitive. You will have to listen to the same audio over and over again to be sure you have transcribed it perfectly. If you don’t like repetition, transcription might not be the line of work for you.
Pay for transcription work can vary. “General transcription pays well in comparison to most work-at-home jobs,” says Mills. “The least I’ve made per hour is . But I often make per hour or more. Those who specialize in legal can make an even higher wage per hour.”
Transcription requires listening to audio files and typing out what you hear. Companies that hire professional transcriptionists usually require a high-quality foot pedal for controlling audio playback along with the popular Express Scribe transcription software.
Before you can take on projects with TranscribeMe, you have to register and take its Transcriber Training Program. The company does not require transcriptionists to work a set number of hours. After you have done transcription for Quicktate for some time, you may be promoted to iDictate — a sister company that pays slightly more for transcribed files. Quicktate pays approximately one cent for every four words transcribed, while iDictate pays two cents for every four words transcribed. You can work as much or as little as you want, and they pay weekly by PayPal.
Lisa Peddicord works on training Saint to walk on a leash during her 30-minute visit with him in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Jan. 7, 2019.
If nurturing comes naturally to you, there are ways to turn that instinct into extra money.
Side gigs aren’t limited to doing other people’s grocery shopping or selling stuff online. There’s a slew of more personalized and nurturing jobs for anyone who likes to take care of people and animals.
Here’s a quick rundown:
5 Nurturing Jobs Taking Care of People or Animals
1. Pet Sitting
Pet sitters provide owners peace of mind by watching over their animals while the clients are away. For midday walks or in-home visits, a sitter will come to the client’s house to feed and let the pets out. During in-home overnight visits, a sitter will stay at the client’s house to feed, walk, administer medication, play with and watch over the pets all night.
If you use a pet-sitting app like Rover or Wag, you’ll create an online sitter profile where you’ll answer questions about your experience and availability. You may also need to pass a phone and in-person interview.
Once approved, dog owners will reach out to you, and you choose which gigs you want. Extra belly rubs encouraged.
The standard first job for preteens everywhere is now a thriving industry with plenty of apps to connect you to potential clients. For starters, check out Care.com and Sittercity to create a free membership.
And babysitting is no longer just the purview of the 10th grader down the block. Adults who offer their services can command a higher rate, along with those who are willing to watch kids in their own home or provide extras like homework help or carpooling.
3. Elder Care
We love this app that aims to connect two of the loneliest groups: seniors and college kids.
The Papa App, which is currently operating in cities across 17 states, provides “grandkids on demand”: college students, mainly, who are looking for extra money who help seniors with grocery shopping, chores, tech help and genuine companionship.
The company used to employ only college students as Papa Pals but has dropped that requirement. Now, to qualify, you must have at least four days of availability per week, demonstrate some tech savvy and pass a background check. There are further requirements for driving if you do in-person visits.
4. Back Scratcher
True story: This Miami woman cultivated a legitimate business from a side hustle scratching other people’s backs.
If that sounds a little weird, stop and think for a moment how good it feels to get a thorough back-scratch. See? So maybe it’s not so surprising that people pay $50 for a half hour of that feeling.
The lesson here? Well, for one thing, there’s always a market for services that meet our basic human needs.
Which leads us to …
5. Professional Cuddling
This is just what it sounds like: spooning, holding hands and snuggling with strangers. Professional cuddling is a real thing, and this woman charges $60 an hour for it.
You must like people and approach the work free of judgment. Otherwise, you’ve already got the tools to start handing out hugs.
Molly Moorhead is a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder.
Let’s talk about how to make money by selling your sperm. Like, how this actually works.
Popular media sends a strong message: Selling your sperm is a lucrative and simple way to make money when you’re low on cash. And it’s not short on gags about the subject to make sure you feel totally weird about the whole thing.
No need to feel weird. Sperm banks support thousands of families who struggle with infertility and parents who want to conceive without a partner.
In a span of 30 years, an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 babies were born of anonymous donor insemination, according to an unpublished study by the American Association of Tissue Banks, reported by Cryogenic Laboratories. That’s 4,000 to 5,000 births per year that happened because of sperm donors.
But the process isn’t nearly as simple or fun as the gags might imply.
Don’t expect to pop into your local sperm bank, make a contribution and walk out with a check that afternoon.
Here’s everything you need to know about the process and requirements to donate sperm to figure out whether it’s the right move for you.
How Much Do You Get Paid to Donate Sperm?
The phrase is a little confusing — sperm donation isn’t a charitable act.
You do, in fact, earn money. (Not nearly as much as its counterpart, egg donation, but it won’t take nearly the toll on your body, either.)
Like everything else about becoming a sperm donor, the amount of money you make varies depending on the sperm bank or donation center you work with.
Here are some examples of compensation models:
Donors through the Seattle Sperm Bank can earn up to $1,000 per month at $70 per approved donation — $50 when you deliver and $20 when it’s approved.
Donors through the Sperm Bank of California earn $125 per approved sample, with most donors earning between $400 and $600 per month.
Donors through the international sperm bank chain Cryos earn up to $40 per donation — $20 for every ejaculate delivered, plus another $20 if it’s approved.
Sperm banks also offer free fertility test results, physical exams and blood testing as long as you remain a donor, and some even provide a free annual physical after you stop donating.
Some clinics have more complicated contracts that require you to keep up steady visits and provide regular donations if a recipient chooses you as their donor. That arrangement could affect when you’re paid.
“Just to make sure you follow through [with your visits], your paychecks are kept in escrow by the sperm bank until the end of the contract,” Cracked contributor Sean Berkley wrote about his sperm donation experience in 2011.
Many sperm banks now pay monthly or per visit, however. Like any other side hustle, get details on compensation before you sign any contracts or make any commitments.
3 Things to Consider Before Selling Your Sperm
Take some time to understand all the information before you set your sights on sperm donation as your next side hustle. You might be surprised by some of these details.
Do You Qualify for Sperm Donation?
Each sperm bank has its own list of physical requirements for donors, but they’re all fairly similar.
Most donation centers require donors to be:
At least 5’7” tall and up to 6’6”.
Between 18 and 40 years old (none accept donations from minors).
Height and weight proportional.
In good overall health, based on general physical health screenings and fertility tests.
College graduates, enrolled in college or military veterans. Some banks pay more if you have a Ph.D. or attended an Ivy League school (because recipients pay more for those donor qualities).
A non-smoker and non–drug user.
Able to provide a biological family medical history.
Even if you meet a clinic’s basic requirements, you’re not guaranteed to be accepted.
Sperm banks are for-profit organizations, and like any business, they aim to provide what the market demands.
That means your sperm might be subject to the same kinds of biases you encounter among people face-to-face. In addition to the explicit requirements listed above, you could be denied because of supply and demand at a clinic based on things like your skin color, hair color and eye color.
Based on FDA regulation, potential donors are denied if they’ve ever had sex with “another man.” (The regulation doesn’t address potential nonbinary or transgender women donors.)
You could also be denied for genetic health issues, such as blood clotting disorders.
Some sperm banks will tell you why your application is denied, but some might not. You might want to know that information before you apply, so you’re not left wondering.
Donor Offspring Limits
Donation centers are regularly updating policies and practices to address ethical questions that come up about sperm donation and assisted reproduction.
Every few years, it seems, a news story reveals another serial sperm donor with hundreds of offspring. Check the details, though — in many of these cases, the donor worked with the recipient privately (a.k.a. a “known donor”), not through a donation center.
Most donation centers set a limit on the number of births or recipients per donor.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates sperm donation (and other organ and tissue donation), doesn’t set a legal offspring limit. Instead, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) sets guidelines for the industry and recommends a limit of 10 births per population of 850,000 (roughly the size of Seattle).
Many donation centers set limits well below the ASRM guideline — around 25 families in the U.S. per donor is a common maximum.
Anonymous vs. Open Identity Donation
The FDA requires clinics to keep some donor information for medical purposes, but it doesn’t regulate anonymity. You’ll make that choice based on the clinic you choose.
Ask the donation center about its policies, and be crystal clear about your options and long-term obligations before you donate. Donor arrangements include:
Anonymous: Neither the donor nor the recipient get identifying information about each other. You likely won’t even know whether a recipient conceived using your sperm.
Semi-open: You and the recipient get some information about each other, but not identifying details or contact information. The clinic is usually a go-between to pass correspondence between you and the recipient. You might learn whether the recipient had a baby using your sperm and even get baby photos. Or you might just stay open to possible contact in the future from the child once they’re an adult.
Open: You and the recipient have each other’s contact information and communicate directly, maybe even meeting in person. Ideally, you and the recipient determine together how much ongoing communication you’ll have and whether or not you’ll have contact with the child. But the child could always decide to contact you on their own sometime in the future.
Here’s the catch: Technology, as it often does without trying, has thrown a bit of a wrench in this situation.
Increasingly accessible family-tree DNA testing has made some curious (or unsuspecting!) donor-conceived children privy to their genetic roots — even when donors and recipients agreed to anonymity.
Many countries, including the U.K., have removed the option for anonymity in recent years by legislating a donor-born child’s right to find their biological father (i.e. the source of their donor sperm) after they turn 18.
The Sperm Donation Process
Every donation center dictates its own process for sperm donors, but they’re pretty similar and many parts of the process are regulated by the FDA. Here’s what you can generally expect.
1. Find a Sperm Bank
Track down a sperm bank that’s close to you through this National Directory of Sperm Cryobanks.
Most centers require donors to live within 25 miles or about an hour of the clinic, because if you’re chosen to be a donor, you’ll be visiting the facility regularly.
A legitimate organization will be registered with the FDA. Enter the clinic’s name in this FDA directory to make sure it’s registered.
2. Get Pre-Screened
All applicants start by going through a pre-screening over the phone or through an online application. Here’s an example application for Cryos.
The pre-screening confirms:
Your eligibility to work (and be paid) in the U.S.
Some medical history, including potential sexually transmitted infections, mental illness, allergies and drug use.
Your height, hair color, eye color and ethnicity.
3. Provide Detailed Family History & Get a Physical Exam
If you pass the initial screening, you’ll be invited in for a thorough interview that takes a deep dive into your family tree.
Berkley says you should be prepared to provide “a detailed medical history for every parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin and grandparent you have, as well as any children your siblings or cousins may have, going back four generations.”
That sounds like hyperbole, but this overview of the process from Phoenix Sperm Bank confirms the information you can expect to provide.
You’ll also get a physical exam that includes a blood test, urine test and DNA analysis, and screening for STIs including HIV. You won’t pay anything for this exam, and most clinics provide regular physicals as long as you’re a donor and possibly after.
4. Provide a Sample
If you pass the first two levels of the screening process, you’ll provide a semen sample for the clinic to test.
It’ll go through a fertility test for the kinds of things you’ve probably heard joked about on TV: sperm count and motility, and the overall health of the sperm.
In other words, what’s the likelihood this sperm can help conceive a baby?
Depending on the company, you might have to wait up to six months to find out whether your sperm passes this test. Semen samples are frozen and tested again after several months to make sure they can hold up in storage waiting for a buyer.
You don’t usually get paid for providing this sample, and the sperm bank won’t save it to sell to a recipient in the future.
You’ll be invited to become a sperm donor once you pass the full screening process, and you have to sign a contract with the donation center.
Depending on the clinic, the contract might include things like:
How often you’re expected to donate. Sperm banks prefer frequent donors, so your contract might require you to donate several times per month or even multiple times per week.
A requirement to abstain from sexual intercourse before donation. Presumably to ensure strong sperm samples, you could be asked not to have sex within a few days before donating sperm.
Payment terms. Your contract should spell out how much you’ll earn, and when and how you’ll be paid, plus any stipulations you have to meet.
6. Donate Regularly
You might be surprised to learn how often you’ll be expected to donate — but the rest of this part of the process is pretty much what all the TV and movies have prepared you to expect.
You can’t collect your semen from home and deliver it to the clinic. You have to visit the clinic and deposit your sample on site, in a private room and with access to pornography.
You’ll deposit the sample itself into a sterile container, and the sperm bank will freeze it until a recipient chooses your profile. Then it’s thawed and used for the artificial insemination process.
Are You Ready to Be a Sperm Donor?
Infertility isn’t an uncommon circumstance in the U.S. About 6% of married women, and 12% of women overall, between 15 and 44 years old have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, according to the CDC.
Sperm donation is one way to help them start the families they want, and the sperm banks all say the need for donors is high and growing.
The onboarding process is quite a bit more involved than most side gigs you’ll encounter, but the payoff is fair. If you’re accepted as a sperm donor, you could earn upward of $1,000 a month for a quick trip to the clinic about once a week.
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing for online audiences since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media.
It’s tempting to think that selling your old clothes on sites like Poshmark or ThredUp will immediately generate passive income that supports your brunch habit and annual rent increase.
But if you want long-term success and a recognizable brand that people return to, running a vintage resale business is anything but easy. It takes work, say small business owners who have done it. But it is possible.
We talked with three vintage clothing business owners about how they got their start, crafted their aesthetic and built their brand.
3 Sellers Making a Go in the Vintage Clothing Business
Sara DiNatale of Lucky 727 Vintage
Sara DiNatale has always loved secondhand clothing, so it makes sense that she spent a lot of time in thrift stores.
At first, she shopped for herself and bought items tailored to her tastes. But over time, she started to recognize what items were popular and trendy, even if she didn’t like them, like a Harley Davidson T-shirt.
“Maybe it wasn’t my aesthetic, but I knew that someone would totally die for this,” said DiNatale, who lives in St. Petersburg, Fla. “I did it enough times that I was like: ‘Why don’t I try this?’”
One of her first sales was a Dooney & Bourke vintage belt that she purchased on a bidding website for herself. When it arrived, she discovered that it didn’t fit. She resold the piece for more than double what she paid.
That was a teaching moment for DiNatale: She realized that there was money to be made in vintage. So she took the profits and invested them back into more vintage purchases that she would then sell.
For those starting out, she says, don’t take money straight out of your pocket. Either sell what you already own or invest what you’ve already earned into something else.
DiNatale partnered with a friend when she decided to officially start a vintage side-hustle. They chose clothing resale app Depop to start because DiNatale felt she knew their market and had a similar style.
If she could do it over, she might not make the same choice. Depop’s audience skews young, she says, and doesn’t always see the value of spending a high price on an item, even if it’s a high-quality vintage piece. On Etsy, DiNatale has found she has a better chance at getting a buyer who understands the quality of the garment, but there is also more work involved with the platform.
DiNatale’s colleague came up with the name Lucky 727 Vintage, a play off of St. Petersburg’s area code. She and her partner chose to make a business name, partially because Depop requires it and partially because they wanted to interact online with customers as a single entity. They also made an Instagram page at Depop’s suggestion, although the Instagram account ended up working out as a separate revenue stream for local customers.
The vintage business is what you make of it, DiNatale said. Since starting in January 2020, Lucky 727 Vintage has sold 200 items, about evenly split between the two co-owners. On average, DiNatale makes about $100 a month in profit, although some months it comes out to much more than that.
DiNatale has learned some tricks:
First, make sure your product descriptions have appropriate information, like measurements and garment details. If someone has to message you to ask a question, they may no longer be interested by the time you respond.
Keep apprised of any changes to Depop’s interface through a sub-Reddit and watch for algorithm changes that could affect how your merchandise is promoted.
Most importantly: Know what sells. DiNatale is an avid Dr. Martens fan, and she knows that vintage Docs go quick and at a high cost. They are the rare item she will shell out for in advance, because she knows she’ll make a return.
Jenna Wu of Nanena Vintage
Jenna Wu didn’t always appreciate her love of thrifting. In fact, as a child, she was ashamed that she had to shop at thrift stores, a necessity in her low-income family.
It wasn’t until she got older that she realized thrifting could be cool. She was inspired by a friend who had an unconventional style but always looked amazing, and almost all of her clothes were thrifted. That turned Wu’s thinking, at the same time she started to look into the dangers of fast fashion and waste.
Now, Wu has come full circle. She runs a full-time business based in Portland, Ore., called Nanena Vintage, a play on her nickname of “Nena.” The perks of running a vintage clothing business are the flexibility — you set your own schedule — and the creativity of presenting and packaging the clothes to make them look as desirable as possible.
When Wu started thrifting for money, she was working in customer service and felt drained by her 9-to-5. Running a thrifting business was an artistic outlet that she actually enjoyed. Her partner encouraged her to pursue it full-time.
Wu’s style gravitates toward feminine and classic pieces, but she tries to intersperse styles that are popular and trendy as well. She’s always keeping an eye on what people want to buy, but she’s also focused on the quality of the material and the uniqueness of the design. And there’s one thing she absolutely doesn’t do — streetwear.
When pricing, she takes into consideration how much time it takes to find what she calls a “gem” in a sea of mediocre items. All that time spent goes into the price a reseller will charge for a garment.
Wu started by selling her items on Depop and found success. She was selling at least one item a day. But a year in, she saw her sales drop off. She wasn’t sure why — had the algorithm changed? As sales continued to dwindle, she decided to switch to Instagram.
It was a learning curve at first.
“You just have to keep at it and keep going and then eventually people will find you,” she said.
Wu has a money-saving tip for anyone starting out: Create your own shipping labels rather than going to the post office.
And if you do want to go out on your own and make vintage a full-time business, be prepared for it to take time before becoming financially viable. When Wu first started, in 2019, her entire income from vintage for the year was $5,000. It has increased since then, but she’s still unable to live independently off the money she makes from Nanena Vintage. In December 2020, she made $1,200 in profit.
Lesson learned: If you want to transform your vintage clothing business from your side hustle to a full-time gig, save up in advance.
Esmeralda Castañeda of Esme Vintage Shop
For Esmeralda Castañeda, selling vintage clothes was initially a way to make money while in graduate school.
She learned the tricks of the trade by watching Youtube videos from longtime vintage sellers who had gotten their start on eBay. But she wanted to sell on a more aesthetic-driven forum — that’s why she initially chose Depop.
Like DiNatale, Castañeda recommends starting with selling your own clothes rather than buying clothes to sell. The first six months of her business were a lot of experimentation with where to shoot photos, how to style them and what backgrounds were best. But it’s harder to experiment if you’re depending on a return from your investment.
Castañeda doesn’t take her vintage reselling lightly — she recommends looking into when things were made and what to expect in material and fit based on the decade, because fakes do happen. Understanding the history behind the clothing helps to make your products better.
Castañeda doesn’t really have a defined style for the clothes she sells — instead, she tries to do a little bit of everything. Her website has designations for mod fashion, minimalist, romantic and classic. She says she skews more toward the romantic and minimalist side, but that’s largely because of what she finds in her local Indio, Calif., thrift stores.
“That’s the thing with vintage,” she says. “You really can’t dictate too much unless you are going to be exclusive. You’re not going to find enough to make a really good income. You really need to have a broader reach.”
Although Castañeda got her start on Depop, where she has almost 10,000 followers, she’s actually seen more of what she calls “influence” on Instagram. For those starting out, Castañeda recommends starting on Instagram and building a brand there. If you’re not finding success, Depop is a good way to have a built-in audience, but she finds Instagram better for building something long-term.
All three vintage business owners agree that making money with your vintage clothing business is totally dependent on how much you work. Some months, Castañeda says, she brings in as little as $500, while others can be as high as $3,000.
“A lot of people assume for some reason that this is passive income, but it’s not,” she says. “You do have to do something to get the income going.”
Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
Make sure they’re high quality and in good lighting. The more the better.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
If you want to start out small with handmade clothing, blankets or accessories, Amazon Handmade or Etsy are two of the best places to sell online.
Here’s a look at six trending hobbies that could make you serious money. These are not your grandma’s side gigs.
6 Throwback Hobbies That Make Money as Trendy Side Gigs
As an additional incentive, libraries offer access to a bunch of interesting things beside books that can help you launch a side gig or business. Tools, baking equipment, seeds and even high-tech are often available at no cost through a process called intra-library loans.
Ella Trout, a college student at the University of Vermont, is another example of how to cash in on the handmade trend. She founded puppycatco, her sustainable fashion side hustle, a couple years ago.
If you want to lean into the gig – beyond a few online sales – there’s some money to be made. The Penny Hoarder spoke with retired geologist Pat Martinek, who found a way to monetize her weaving and spinning skills through her side business The Fyber Cafe. Martinek raked in ,000 a year by using chiengora, aka recycled dog fur, to create garments and keepsakes.
When she finds a good deal, she buys it, sands it, paints it, primes it and resells it — usually for triple or quadruple the purchase price. She’s able to make ,000 a month consistently.
Boo, fast fashion trends. Yay, making and altering your own clothes. As sustainability becomes more of a conscious decision for many consumers, skills like knitting, sewing and quilting are seeing renewed demand.
Sarah Tennant started baking as a hobby when she was 14 years old. She decided to try to earn a profit from her skills by taking ad hoc requests from friends, family and referrals.
Thanks to online marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon Handmade, crafting is seeing a huge comeback. And we have plenty of ideas for you to cash in on its popularity.
College roommates Sarah Chappell and Julia Finfrock found success with their sourdough side hustle called EarlyRisers. In October 2020, the duo started out selling plain sourdough for a loaf. As orders increased, they started experimenting with flavors, adding chocolate-chip, rosemary, garlic and other flavors to the menu. These speciality loaves sell for up to .
Buy old furniture and/or tchotchkes, then resell them for a profit. The concept is straightforward, and it’s sometimes referred to as upscaling or upcycling when you work a little magic on the item to bump up the price tag.
One gardener, Stephanie Spicer, made ,200 in a single season. In her guide to selling plants, she outlines exactly how to choose, fertilize, present, price, advertise and sell them.
Millennials love plants, according to Money, the Huffington Post, CNBC, Business Insider, the New Yorker and apparently the entire internet. Adam Hardy is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
Further proof: A plant aesthetic has blossomed on social media, especially Instagram. The hashtags #Plants and #PlantsofInstagram have tens of millions of posts. Outside of the local market scene, a lot of small-scale operations use Instagram to sell their plants.
“It is warmer than other fibers, so a scarf or sweater made with chiengora can help you withstand the most brutal temperatures,” she said.
The gig economy, supercharged by a pandemic, is breathing new life into some bygone hobbies, ones associated more with retirees than entrepreneurs.
Scrap wood stocking hangers
Pumpkin spice soap
Online platforms such as Facebook Marketplace, Etsy and Instagram as well as the revival of flea markets – often with a trendy, indie twist – offer novel ways to make money on those age-old crafts and activities.
In her guide for The Penny Hoarder, she outlined how her cakes, which she priced much lower than professionals, still brought her in 0 a month.
Get the Penny Hoarder Daily
Libraries are one of the only remaining places where you can just exist. For free. There’s no expectation to spend money. That alone should be reason enough to visit. Source: thepennyhoarder.com
Baking, because of the equipment required, is a hobby that can be difficult to scale into a side gig or a business. But over the years, The Penny Hoarder has talked with several bakers who made it work and a few who started during the pandemic. You can lean on their advice no matter what stage you’re at.
5. Knitting, Sewing, Quilting
Life indoors drove many folks to experiment with tactile hobbies like bread baking and quilting. What started as a way to pass the time could blossom into a side hustle with a little know-how.
“It was a lot of trial and error,” Finfrock told The Penny Hoarder.
“Post as many pictures from different angles as you can,” she told The Penny Hoarder, noting that taking photos is her favorite part of the flip. “It’s also probably the most important part.”
Selling succulents probably isn’t going to allow you to quit your day job, but it may pad your savings or help you pay down debt.
To find a nearby market or fair to hawk your creations, search Festivalnet.
Local fairs and online marketplaces are ideal places to sell easy-to-make holiday decorations.
6. Using the Library
It takes time for dough to rise.
The Penny Hoarder spoke to Sara Chen, a master of upcycling. She focuses her efforts on flipping furniture, hunting for antique, mid-century modern dressers online via Facebook Marketplace.
She started by screenprinting her dog and cat designs onto T-shirts, but changed her business model over the years. Now, she sews and alters clothes to be more environmentally sustainable. Trout uses Instagram to sell her creations, and she told The Penny Hoarder that her handmade clothing and accessories earn her up to ,500 per month.
“You can come in and take a basic class at [our makerspace] and use our sewing machines,” Anstett said. “Used to be that you were called a knitter or a carpenter or a woodworker. Now, you’re a maker.” <!–
In addition to the fun stuff you can rent for free at your local library, Anstett explained that libraries have expanded to home community workshops called makerspaces. Makerspaces offer up all kinds of equipment for locals to tinker with and use to hone new skills. Her secret (besides serious painting skills)? “Maybe you want to make a cow-shaped cake. You don’t have to buy that cake pan,” said Bob Anstett, of Broward County, Florida’s library system. “You can check it out from a library.”
College kids wanting to make extra money can always drive for Uber or deliver food for DoorDash, Grubhub or similar apps. They can also bus tables, wait tables, work in commercial kitchens or provide childcare, of course.
But traditional jobs have become scarcer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are five less obvious ways college entrepreneurs are earning money, gaining experience and setting themselves up for impressive resumes.
Early Risers Sourdough Bread Business
Sarah Chappell and Julia Finfrock have sold 308 loaves of homemade sourdough bread since they started Early Risers Sourdough in October 2020. What started as a distraction borne out of the pandemic surge in sourdough popularity has become a thriving business for the two seniors and roommates at Vanderbilt University.
Chappell and her dad made a few loaves over the summer while she was home in Atlanta, then she and Finfrock worked on perfecting it.
“It was a lot of trial and error,” Finfrock said.
“We kept reading about it and changing things and eventually we perfected it,” said Chappell. “We kept trying different amounts of salt. And we had to get the temperature of the oven right. We had to get it brown enough without burning the outside but cook it through.”
Friends doubled as taste testers and declared the bread good enough to sell. So they came up with the name EarlyRisers, started an Instagram account and priced the bread at $7 a loaf.
“We really had to think about what people were willing to pay and consider how much time it took to make and the cost of our ingredients,” Finfrock said.
They used their savings to buy ingredients and a few pans, then landed a big order. A friend’s father ordered 50 loaves to give to his employees at a technology consulting business.
“We knew we had a guaranteed source of revenue coming in the next few days, so it forced us to use the money we had made so far and buy more supplies,” Finfrock said. They bought proofing baskets to help shape the dough and two more Dutch ovens. The baskets made the bread look and taste better, and boosted sales on campus.
As demand increased, Chappell and Finfrock compared their class schedules and came up with a set work schedule. They take orders throughout the week, but bake only on Monday and Wednesday, and weekends if needed. Customers pick up their own orders from a box outside their house.
The entrepreneurs recently added new flavors, such as chocolate chip, sundried tomato and basil, rosemary and garlic, that sell for $9 and $11.
JannyTans Spray Tans
Vanderbilt University senior Hunter Skidmore’s spray tanning side business would probably never have happened without the pandemic.
She’d been working as a lifeguard at the university pool when it was shut down in August because of COVID-19. Then she remembered having met someone with a spray tanning business, who shared the secrets of the trade.
Skidmore ordered the $300 Aura Allure Spray Tan Machine that came with three trial sizes of different toned solutions. Each full-sized bottle of solution is $50. “Normally I can get about 35 to 40 tans out of one of those bottles,” she said.
So, with an average of 10 to 20 tans a week at $15 each, she’s making $150 to $300 weekly minus the cost of the solution. Skidmore created an Instagram for her business, JannyTans, and taught herself about spray tanning.
There is a learning curve. (Remember the mistakes Ross Geller made on “Friends” when they asked if he got his spray tan on the sun?)
“It definitely took a little bit of practice. I watched a lot of YouTube tutorials,” Skidmore said. “My roommates were kind enough to be the first guinea pigs. But they looked a lot better than I thought they were going to look.”
Her on-the-job learning has taught her a few things about running her tanning business. Skidmore uses baby wipes to clean up drips and wipe off the solution that sticks to polished nails. A towel is also a must, for clients to stand on while they are in the tent, which comes with the machine. A tan usually lasts about 10 days if clients don’t exfoliate too much.
Knack is an app that matches students and tutors within the same college. The tutors have taken the courses students need help in and proven they were successful. Tutors make an average of $15 an hour, and in most cases, that’s paid by the university.
“We hear tutors saying ‘I was able to pay my rent because of Knack’ and ‘this gave me the flexibility to earn extra money because I have a kid at home or I have another full-time job,’ said Samyr Qureshi, Knack CEO and co-founder. “We’ve also heard students say they wouldn’t have walked across the stage to graduate without their tutor.”
Along with making money while in college, a key part of Knack is the connections it offers for tutors and employers. Businesses that sponsor and supplement the cost of tutoring review tutors for job opportunities. On campuses where there are sponsorships or the university pays for the tutoring (so that it’s free to students), tutors’ rates are set and average $15 an hour. Because Knack has been paid by the university or a sponsor, tutors collect their payment in full. In cases when tutors set their own rate, Knack collects a fee of 2.9 percent plus .30 per transaction.
Though Knack is based on one-on-one help, tutors may lead small group sessions. In these cases, their rate goes up 50% for two students, 80% for three and 100% for four. For example, if a tutor makes $20 an hour for one student, they make $30 an hour for two, $36 an hour for three and $40 an hour for four.
Ella Trout, a student at the University of Vermont, makes $700 to $1,500 a month selling pants and sleeveless tops she sews out of fabric from thrift store clothing. The 20-year-old college entrepreneur started her business, PuppyCatCo, selling T-shirts she screen-printed with her original designs of dogs and cats a couple years earlier.
Then the quarantine and a realization about textile waste changed her business model.
“I started sewing just for fun during the quarantine because I had so much more time on my hands,” Trout said. “Around that time, it dawned on me that I was not being very environmentally conscious with the T-shirts I was importing for screen printing.” She bought T-shirts made overseas in bulk for $2.99 each and sold them for $20 and up after screen-printing them by hand.
“I got into all of these YouTube videos of people upcycling their clothing during quarantine. It made me think I should start making my products out of thrift store clothes instead of adding more new clothing. It would actually save me money (on supplies) and be better for the environment,” she said.
An estimated 11 million tons of textiles ending up in landfills each year, plenty of it from unsold thrift store clothing.
At first, Trout bought dresses, shirts and pants then upcycled them by adding patches she designed or drawing original art on the clothes. They sold well on her Instagram, puppycatco, but it was hard to predict costs and the time it would take to create since each product was a new endeavor.
So she started buying clothes made of fabric with interesting designs that she could cut and use as “raw” fabric. She used a pattern for a sleeveless shirt with four different pieces that could be cut from various clothing articles she bought. Now she could buy something that was priced really low because maybe it had a stain, or wasn’t stylish, yet it still supplied fabric for individual pieces of the shirts.
“It’s definitely more reliable to be able to produce more of the same design,” Trout explained. “Every product will be unique because it’s made from different material, but the pattern remains the same.”
The uniform design allows for more mass production because she has focused work sessions for cutting and others for sewing.
“I sit down and cut all the pieces and put them in a stack. Then if I get two shirts sewn per day it doesn’t end up being a ton of work at once,” she said.
At first, she charged $30 each for the shirts, but they sold out in minutes. She raised the price to $45 and they sell well.
Trout has sewn since she was a child.
“My grandmother taught me how to sew on my Barbie sewing machine probably when I was 7,” Trout recalled. “Then in eighth grade I nannied for a family in return for sewing lessons from the mom.”
Moving Means Money
College Truckers is a six-year-old venture that offers income to college students three different ways. The company is more than a moving company.
It gives students boxes, then they pack up the contents of their dorm rooms or apartments when they are moving. College Truckers employees take the boxes to a storage unit near campus for up to three months. When the next term starts, the boxes are delivered to wherever the student is living. Pricing is based on the number and size of boxes and starts at a minimum of $225 for about 60 cubic feet of packing and storage space.
College Truckers pays students as movers as well as marketers and franchise operators. Its website says student entrepreneurs launching a College Truckers business at their campus can make $5,000 to $20,000 a year. Movers are paid a “competitive” hourly fee plus tips, according to the website.
The company’s “Lift and Tell” program encourages “outgoing students interested in marketing” to spread the word about the moving services available year-round by handing out flyers or posting on social media. These marketers make $25 per referral, capped at $2,000.
College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving also hires college students as well as other people who can lift 50 pounds. According to Indeed.com, the pay ranges from $10.63 per hour for a manager on duty to $17.73 per hour for a higher-level consultant.
Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance reporter and editor in St. Petersburg, Fla., and author of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps and Lessons Learned.
You may have heard stories of people cleaning out attics to find older comic books they then sold at a hefty profit.
That does happen — but it’s not just older books that are becoming valuable. Even comic books from the last 20 years are becoming more collectible. Some have jumped in value from just a few dollars five years ago to over $2,000 today.
Smart investors are finding they can make money off of this trend, but only if they treat it like they would any serious investment.
I started investing in comics in the mid-1970s with the change I could find in the cushions of our couch. Through careful savings and picking the right comics, I invested and parlayed my profits into bigger and bigger purchases. Here’s my advice for anyone looking to get started.
How to Get Started With Comic Book Investing
The idea of comic books as an investment first picked up steam during the 2008 recession. Between the turbulent stock and real estate markets and next-to-nothing interest rates offered by banks, people had to come up with creative ways to invest and make money.
Many people did, and continue to do, well by investing in comic books, but it’s not like throwing a dart at a dartboard and hoping for the best. To make a profit on what some still think of as “kiddie fare,” you have to act like a kid in school and do your homework.
1. Learn Everything You Can About Comic Books
The first step is to learn everything you can. Talk to experts. Follow auctions on sites like ebay and ComicConnect to see what’s selling and for how much. [Editor’s note: The author is the owner of ComicConnect.] Study the trends, such as a surge in popularity due to a character being featured in a new movie or TV show.
And, most importantly, know your superheroes. Comic books are about more than the “blue chip” superheroes: Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the like. Expanding your knowledge beyond the big names can make you a savvier investor. For example, some heroes from the Golden Age (1930s-1950s), such as Catman, Black Terror, The Destroyer and Phantom Lady are very popular, despite the fact that they’re no longer in publication.
2. Decide Your Budget
The next step in investing is to decide on your budget. There’s room in the market for small and large investors alike, and that can mean anything from $10 to $3 million.
When figuring out your budget, determine how many comic books you want to buy per year, and how long you want to hold onto them. I recommend putting together a “want list” of the comics you want to buy and grades you want them in. You can then look at current market prices by using the Overstreet Price Guide, gpanalysis.com and gocollect.com.
I also like to leave about 10% of my budget for something that catches my eye — and something always catches my eye!
3. Start Buying — But Do Your Due Diligence
Before the pandemic, I would have suggested attending comic conventions to find comics for your collection, but now your best option is to check out dealer and auction sites.
For instance, my company ComicConnect holds four event auctions a year, featuring a wide range of vintage comics, original art and other collectibles. We also host monthly auctions, where you can find more great comics.
Many other sites sell comics, but it’s important to find reputable sources that will stand behind what they are selling. Accurate grading and a return policy are important.
And if you’re considering getting into selling your comic books, be prepared to answer a lot of questions from seasoned collectors.
Is This a Long-Term vs. Short-Term Investment?
Consider whether you want to invest for the long or short-term. Long-term investors should select comics that have traditionally shown slow, steady growth. For example, people who bought a copy of “Amazing Fantasy 15” (the first appearance of Spider-Man) for $3,000 in 2010 own a comic book that’s worth $10,000 today.
For long-term investors, pre-1985 books are the best choice. These comics have shown they have legs to them, and by the time they’ve been around that long, they’ll have hit vintage status. There are plenty of modern comics from the last 20 years to read, collect and invest in, but the market for those books can be a bit more volatile.
For short-term investors, it’s all about timing. Try to buy books when they just start to get hot with the intention of selling them quickly before interest wanes. There are comics that have only been out for a few months that are selling for anywhere from $50 to $100.
But remember, the short-term market can be very volatile. For example, investors who bought “Green Lantern 7” a year before the “Green Lantern” movie came out saw huge profits if they sold within a few months. But if they waited until too close to the premiere of the movie — which totally flopped — they probably lost money.
Nobody wins all the time, not even experts like me. I was one of the guys who bought a high-grade “Green Lantern 7” the week the movie came out. I ended up taking a small hit when I was eventually able to sell it a few years later.
Some Tips for Identifying Potentially Valuable Comics
Whether investing in new or older comics, there are a few general rules you can follow to help determine whether a comic will increase in value.
Issues that feature a character’s first appearance or death, or an artist or writer’s first professional publication, are more likely to be good investments down the road. Individual pages from Action Comics 1 (Superman’s first appearance, in 1938) have sold for tens of thousands of dollars.
But it’s not just the big names that can prove valuable. It’s just as possible that the first appearance of a character in a low-grade comic can provide substantial returns one day. It’s a gamble, but one that could potentially pay off.
Remember, though, it’s not just a comic book’s significance that determines its value. Condition and rarity also have an impact. But nothing is set in stone. If there’s one copy of a book in near-mint condition but five more are found a year later, the value of that issue could drop.
Once you jump into the comic book market, remember to protect your investment. Store books in a cool, dry place, such as a safe deposit box.
Finally, use professional appraisers and consider purchasing insurance for your collection. A quick search of your comic’s name and issue on reputable auction sites can help you gauge your comic’s value.
Vincent Zurzolo is co-owner of the New York-based Metropolis Collectibles, the world’s largest vintage comic book dealership, and ComicConnect.com, the largest online vintage comic auction house. He and his partner, Stephen Fishler, hold five Guinness World Records for the most expensive comics and related collectibles ever sold. Contact him at [email protected].
As we continue to make our way through COVID-19, many people are still looking for ways to get items they need without physical contact with another person.
Vending machines serve that purpose — and make money for the machine’s owner.
Owning and operating vending machines is big business, providing passive income without any specialized skills. It’s also called automatic merchandising.
Basically, all you need to get started is some startup money to buy a machine, a good location and the right products.
The Vending Machine Business During COVID-19
Revenue for the vending machine industry was $24.2 billion in 2019, up 3% from the year before.
That data came from the Automatic Merchandiser’s Annual State of the Industry Survey — before the full impact of COVID-19 hit.
There were 2,175,756 vending machines in service in 2019 in a variety of locations including:
Hospitals and nursing homes
Restaurants, bars and clubs
Cold beverages were the top-selling product category. A majority of vending machines involve food and beverage products including sodas, coffee, snacks and candy.
There are also machines for bulk vending like gumballs, stickers, toys, novelties and more. During COVID-19, machines popped up selling masks and hand sanitizer.
At places like airports, vending machines often sell tech accessories and travel essentials like neck pillows, blankets and eye masks. Laundry rooms in residential buildings often have machines with detergent and fabric softener.
With many offices, businesses and other public spaces closed or restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the vending industry is certainly taking a hit.
“We’re in a tough, tough industry right now with COVID-19. A lot of stores don’t want the machines there, they don’t want the kids congregating, they don’t want people touching them,” said Scott Ausmus, director of manufacturing for National Entertainment Network, Inc. and president of the National Bulk Vendors Association.
He grew up in the vending business. The machines he sells and operates are the novelty kind, offering things like stuffed animals, toys and gumballs. Many are in restaurants and entertainment venues like bowling centers.
Many factors make owning a vending machine an attractive business venture.
The startup costs are relatively low, sometimes around $2,000. The work is flexible and often doesn’t require much day-to-day involvement. The risk is comparatively low and there is growth potential.
“There’s a higher profit in the gumball then there is anything else,” Ausmus said. “The cost of goods is low on the gumballs and everybody likes gum, so everybody still purchases a gumball and so that is a winner for a lot of people.”
Starting a Vending Machine Business
While the startup costs are low and the income is often passive, owning vending machines is not without risk. You must be able to understand your own financial situation and how much you can afford to invest.
There is the cost of the machine, the cost of inventory, personnel to keep it stocked, maintenance and more.
The more perishable the product and the busier the area, the more of your time the machine will take.
“If (your machine location has) a big break room and a lot of employees, you would have to be there once a day to fill your machines up because that’s how busy they are,” Ausmus said. Other machines like toys and candy don’t require as much restocking.
One of the first steps in starting a vending machine business is finding your niche and deciding what to sell. That takes a bit of research and knowing who your customer is.
“You gotta buy the right product. If you buy the wrong product, it won’t move and you won’t make any money and you certainly don’t want to throw [product] away,” Ausmus said. “You’ve got to have the variety for people and find out which ones they want and that’s what you restock with, what sells.”
Vending machine businesses are scalable, meaning it’s possible to start small and expand. You don’t have to wait for payments because customers pay when they purchase an item.
Location, Location, Location
To put yourself in the best position to be profitable means finding the right location.
Places with lots of foot traffic are good. Before COVID-19, that meant schools and universities, malls, office parks, etc.
Think about where people need to wait. While waiting, they may get hungry or thirsty. Ausmus’ novelty machines need kids around.
“One of the hardest things to do is to locate a location,” he said.
Location can be about trial and error.
“It’s really not a bad risk to put it in a location and find out that it’s not making enough money. … You can remove it and move it to the next one until you find that right location,” Ausmus said.
When looking for locations, be prepared to approach the owner or landlord with a business plan for the machine.
Also be prepared to:
Pay a percentage of sales or other fee for having your machine in their location.
Pay for the electricity the machine uses.
Ensure the security of the machine. There is money inside a machine as well as inventory. Theft and vandalism are always possible.
Research state and local laws and regulations.
Pay sales tax on the revenue the machine generates.
Key Purchase: Your Vending Machine
Then you will need an actual vending machine. There are several types, and prices vary depending on what is in the machine, whether it needs refrigeration or heating, and the interactivity.
Buying directly from a manufacturer or supplier is one option, as is purchasing on a secondary market. Some companies also rent machines. Ausmus cautioned to make sure there are spare parts and support available for what you buy.
Machines range from about $1,500 for a used or refurbished machine to several thousands for a new, high-end machine with many technical features.
Some machines have:
Remote monitoring software: This helps keep track of how the machine is working and notifies the operator if something is wrong.
Low stock alerts: Notify the operator when items needs replacing.
Vending management systems (VMS): Tracks sales and other data to help owners make better business decisions.
Running a Vending Machine Business
While owning vending machines does not require any special skills, it is a business.
You will need inventory and someone to keep the machine stocked and maintained. This may require a van or truck.
Perishables need to be stocked more often than other items. Learning some basic maintenance skills could keep you from having to hire someone if there is a problem with the machine.
Different types of machines have different capabilities. Some take only cash while others will process credit or debit cards. Some models have touch screens or voice capabilities.
“Make sure that you have your phone number on the machine, and that the store location knows your phone number,” said Ausmus. “If somebody didn’t get what they wanted, make sure the store can give them a refund and you pay the refund back to that store. Then get out there as soon as you can to fix the machine so that you can continue to make money.”
Automatic merchandising isn’t for everyone, but owning and operating a vending machine can be a good business. Being able to retrieve the money you make and restock your machines easily is the key.
“Then you only work probably three days a month, basically on the whole gig,” said Ausmus. “Three four days a month can make somebody a good little extra income.”
Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.