My Ebay Publishing Success Story By Matthew Sparks

I like to collect things and I design and sell paper models as a hobby business and I have often sold them on eBay. At some point, I got a Toy collectibles book and was going through it checking out the value of toys I had as a kid and I came across “PEP” pins. PEP was a Kellogg’s cereal in the 40’s (before my time). They gave away lithographed pins of comic book characters in each box. They looked fun and, at the time, available, so I started collecting via eBay.

I soon realized I would need to keep track of which pins I had and which ones I didn’t. So almost without thinking, I started gathering data on PEP pins. I needed images of each pin, the date it was released, which series of pins it belonged to, etc. Then I started making notes about what made a pin valuable (condition, rarity) – just notes for my own education.

Actually it turns out the pins weren’t quite as affordable as I thought. There were some people on eBay with deep pockets snagging all the good ones. Oh well. About six months went by where I didn’t even think about PEP pins. I stopped watching the eBay auctions.

Then, one day, my hard drive was getting a little full on my computer, so I had to go through the old files and toss what I didn’t need. I opened up all my notes in the PEP pins folder and almost hit delete. Then, a little voice in my head said, “You know, somebody might pay for this…”

I popped up my word processor and arranged my notes in a narrative, added the checklist with photos, tidied it all up and made it flashy. My “Collector’s Checklist” only came to 11 pages and that included the cover. I took it down to Kinko’s and had 10 copies printed and comb bound. With no real hope of an actual sale at all, I put all 10 up on eBay for $19.95 each under their “buy it now” option. I sold the 10 the first day. Ka-Ching$$$

Unfortunately, PEP pins are what you would call a vertical market, a market that has a narrow group of clients. Basically I’m pretty sure everyone who collected PEP pins on eBay bought one of my Collector’s Checklist. It was good money while it lasted, then the market totally dried up so I stopped posting the auctions. Its been about two years since I sold the last one. Maybe there are new collectors out there. Hmmmm…

Matthew Sparks is a Systems Administrator for a large newspaper publisher. He lives in the high foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains northwest of Sacramento, CA, with his wife, two daughters, two dogs, two cats, a llama, a goat, four chickens and a large lizard. He has had several magazine articles published and two short stories published online. He holds a bachelors degree in Computer Science. For fun he designs and sells paper models and is writing a novel. You can see his paper models at and The latter is his “business” and is based on british models that were popular in the 40’s & 50’s

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