Selling old jars

The other day Chris went over to visit with our friend and local connection, Jimmy Ellis, to ask about good places to find pipe scraps for his gasifier project. As they visited Jimmy mentioned that he had a stash of antique jars that he thought could be sold somewhere like eBay, and that he’d be more than willing to pay a generous cut to the person who arranged to sell them. Chris said he’d be glad to give it a try.

I’m agnostic about whether there is any money to be made selling antique jars on eBay. But I’m all for someone with the time giving it a try. Often the quickest and best way to determine whether a project is worthwhile is to just go ahead with it on a small scale. Think you might like to grow food for market? Don’t map out a five-year plan and make a huge up front investment in materials and equipment, just grow yourself a few tomatoes or cucumbers and head on down to the farmers’ market. You’ll learn what it takes to grow food, to arrange to sell it, to create an attractive display, to get up early on market day, to price you produce competitively, to deal with customers with different backgrounds and attitudes. And all for a minimal investment.

So I’m glad for Chris to spend some time on this project. The initial investment will repay itself as long as he is learning something new. These are the guidelines I always offer:

  • Do it for real.
  • Look for the quickest, simplest methods to get the job done.
  • Rely heavily on materials on hand and sweat equity.
  • Keep close track of time and money invested.
  • Decide as soon as possible whether the project will pay enough to be worth continuing.



When you approach every new potential enterprise with this attitude, you can’t really lose. You’ll immediately rule out the ones you know are losing propositions. You’ll choose wisely among the rest, learn something from the ones you pursue, and waste as little time as possible when things don’t pan out as you had hoped.

So far Chris has learned how to photograph objects in a makeshift studio, what the market is for antique jars, and how to put something up for sale on eBay. And throughout the project he will get hands-on experience with counting the cost.


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