Interview: A conversation with Stephen Smotherman (of Full Time FBA) on the weird world of reselling board games on Amazon
Stephen Smotherman is the man behind Full Time FBA, and the author of The Reseller’s Guide to Board Games. To get deeper into my favorite subject of reselling things other Amazon sellers miss – I’m posting an interview I did with Stephen on the weird world of reselling used board games.
(The glitch at the beginning is remedied about 10 seconds in, so don’t freak out.)
Peter Valley: Today, we have Stephen Smotherman, who is the author of “The Reseller’s Guide to Board Games.” He is also the man behind “Full-Time FBA,” which is an awesome blog everyone should check out.
I think board games are one of the coolest and most overlooked blind spots amongst Amazon sellers that source in the secondhand market. For years I would look at board games and I would think, what is it that I’m missing? What is it that’s right under my nose that I’m not seeing? I knew that board games was one of those things, and they’re everywhere. I would scan them, and they’re worth money a huge percentage of the time.
But, the missing pieces, so to speak, were like, how do I make sure all the pieces are there? And there was just a lot to the equation that I could never figure out on my own. So that’s what The Reseller’s Guide to Board Games did for me, is it filled in all those gaps.
Stephen Smotherman and his Amazon FBA business
So, let’s get into it. Let’s talk about first of all, just kind of who you are, what type of Amazon seller you are in terms of your inventory, and just kind of give us a roundup.
Stephen: My name’s Stephen Smotherman. I blog over at fulltimefba.com. I started the blog because I kept seeing so many Facebook questions asking different questions. And I enjoyed filling out the answers and trying to help people. Some of the stuff was like really long answers and I thought, man, a lot of people need to see this. So I put a blog together to kind of just help people be better FBA sellers.
It’s always frustrating when you’ve got other FBA sellers out there who are doing things wrong, and doing things that are not profitable, and making it worse for everybody. So, I just wanted to help everybody.
I’ve been selling on Amazon for full-time for about four years. Before that, I did eBay as a hobby for about a decade and made real good money with eBay. But Amazon has really kicked things up a notch, where I’m able to support myself, and my four kids, and my wife.
How Stephen got into reselling board games on Amazon
That’s awesome. That’s a familiar story that people transitioning from eBay to Amazon, specifically FBA, and just finding that things just really took off for them. So, talk about board games specifically. How did you get into board games? What’s the story?
Stephen: Well, like a lot of other resellers, one of the first tips that they tell you is scan everything. Look at everything, research everything. The more you do that, the more you start to learn what stuff is not profitable, and what stuff is profitable.
So I’d see a ton of board games at resale shops, thrift stores, garage sales, and a lot of times I’d be like, “That’s a mess. That is just too much to do.” But then, in the back of my head, there’s that little, you know, voice saying, “Scan everything, just take a moment, scan it.” And I started scanning stuff and started realizing there is a ton of money in board games.
How common it is to find board games that can be resold on Amazon
I know the answer to this question, but I just wanna hear you say it. What percentage of sources that you go to would you say have profitable board games?
Stephen: In my experience, 95% to 98% of thrift stores that I go into, I’m walking out with a profitable board game.
I was gonna say, like 90-ish percent. That’s my experience as well. Are you self-taught when it comes to board games? I mean, you kind of alluded to that, but you just had to figure this out on your own?
Stephen: Yeah, for the most part. I love board games personally. One of the first things I did as a lot of resellers do, when you have something around the house you don’t use anymore, you think, “Well, hey, how much can I get for this on Amazon or eBay?” And so, there were some board games that we had, we weren’t using anymore. The kids weren’t using them anymore. So, you know, I scanned ’em and I was like, this is pretty good stuff. And then I started realizing, hey, this one has all the pieces, but this one is missing pieces. So, I kind of figured out where are the best places to find the missing pieces. And, you know, there’s a learning curve when it comes to reselling board games. That’s why I put the book together: to kind of make that learning curve a lot faster for other people that. You know, to help my mistakes become your successes.
Why more people aren’t reselling board games on Amazon?
As far as board games, what do you think is the biggest obstacle for Amazon sellers is? Why aren’t more people selling board games?
Stephen: I think the number one thing is that most people are lazy. They want the easy find, they want the easy flip. Being able to sell something that’s brand new, you know, that’s piece of cake.
But when you’re finding a used or collectible board game people are thinking it takes too much time to make sure that all the pieces are there. Or it takes too much time to find the missing pieces, and make the complete set.
But what most people don’t realize is it’s a really small amount of extra time. And so, most people just assume it’s a pain in the butt, and they look over it and pass by it. And I’m okay with that because that’s more for me to find, and more money for me to make.
Reselling board games on Amazon vs eBay
Let’s talk about reselling board games on Amazon vs eBay. If you had to pull a number out of the air, like, what percentage of board games do you sell on eBay versus Amazon. Is it all Amazon? What’s the breakdown?
Stephen: Well, if it’s brand new, it definitely goes to Amazon. And when it comes to used or collectible board games, I’ll do the research. Look on Keepa to see how its doing on Amazon. I’ll sometimes take a look at Terapeak and see how things are doing on eBay. Then see where I can get the most bang for my buck. Where I can get the biggest amount of profit. Most of the time it’s Amazon.
For a completed game, every once in a while eBay will give me a higher profit. But the thing that I love about eBay is that I’m able to sell some of the pieces of the board games on eBay. And sometimes I’m able to buy a board game, and maybe I’m missing a few pieces. It’s actually sometimes more profitable to break that board game up, and sell the individual pieces to other people who are trying to complete their sets and find their missing pieces.
One of the things that a lot of Amazon sellers miss, as much as we hype up Amazon, is that there’s a small sliver of inventory that does better on eBay. It’s not much, but there is a little bit.
Stephen: Absolutely. I’m thinking about like, really specific board games that do better on eBay are the ones where the condition is so important, for whether it’s a collector who is wanting to get the exact board game that he had when he was a kid, or you know, wanting to have…because on eBay, you know, you can have the multiple pictures, a more specific item description, and you’re able to get more on eBay for that older game or, you know, rare game than you could on Amazon where, you know, you’re just kind of a blanket item on Amazon for the most part.
Why people buy used board games on Amazon
One of the things that I feel like is important when you’re selling, especially kind of the weirder stuff that we’re talking about, is to know the motives of the Amazon buyer. And that allows you to spot new kinds of inventory. And then within that category, it helps to know why people buy. So, put us in the head of a board game buyer. Who are these people? Why are they buying used board games?
Stephen: Well, like with almost anything, there’s so many different types of people who will buy board games for different reasons. There’s the guy who wants to buy the exact same game he played when he was a kid. And he wants to have that exact game, from that exact year, to play with his own kids.
There’s the collectors who are wanting to buy every single game version of a particular theme, or TV show, or something. Someone wants to buy every single Seinfeld game that’s out there. They want Seinfeld Clue, and Seinfeld Trivial Pursuit, and Seinfeld Scene It? They’re trying to collect those.
And then there’s the people who just have a passion for antique board games.
So, anytime I’m out sourcing board games, if I see something that is a very specific theme, I’ll scan it. If I see a board game that I’ve never heard of or seen of before, I’m definitely looking into that. The rarer the better.
It’s interesting you mentioned people who grow up and are trying to kind of reclaim their youth. A real simple rule of thumb, is if you just look back 20, 25, 30 years from the present. Look at what was huge back then, if you’re trying to think about what’s a weird oddball thing I make money with on Amazon now. People get older, get a little bit of money, and they start to buy all that stuff. I mean, I do that. I’ve got a whole record collection here of stuff that I listened to in high school, that I’m buying again. So, that’s a good point that you made.
Why he wrote The Reseller’s Guide To Board Games
With a lot of the weird things I’ve sold on Amazon, I’ve always had sellers tell me, “That won’t work, that won’t work.” Anything that strays just slightly off the most well-worn path, Amazon sellers freak out and tell you, “It’ll never work.” You know, they’re so experienced and say, “Take my word for it, I’m old school, I know…” And it’s like, turns out they’re almost always wrong. It’s good that they don’t know this stuff works because it’s more money for us. That’s why I wrote my book, “Blindspot Profits”: To plug people in to all the stuff (like reselling board games on Amazon) that other sellers tell you won’t work that actually will sell.
So, why did you write, “The Reseller’s Guide to Board Games?”
Stephen: Well, I first just wrote it out just because I loved board games. I loved buying ’em, and selling them. It first started off as just like a little blog post. I thought, I’m just gonna write this blog post about board games. And I was like, “Man, there’s just so much.” And, I kept writing, and I kept thinking, “Well, this is gonna turn into like a series like maybe part 1 of 4 or something.” And then it ended up being a book because I realized, I have so much knowledge about this.
So I decided this needs to be a book. There needs to be a resource out there to help people turn what my mistakes were into their successes. Because everyone’s looking for, what’s the next new thing I can learn to increase my profits? What’s the next new thing I can learn to be able to have more inventory? And in almost every single thrift store, garage sale, resale shop, there are board games. I needed something that was something very profitable, and something that was everywhere, and board games was it.
When I started looking into writing all this stuff down in the book, I started realizing that, “Man, there’s just so much good information out there for people.” I was starting to get a little afraid. Am I starting to, you know, give away the deed to the house? Am I giving away all the secrets and stuff? But after the book came out, I’m still able to find just as much inventory. In fact, I probably find even more just because I was so engrossed in it for so long.
The most valuable board games he’s sold on Amazon
So, let’s just end on your biggest score, give us like your all-time biggest board game score.
Stephen: Yeah, you know, for a while it was this board game called, “Space Hulk,” which I bought for a couple bucks and sold for $200. But recently it was, “Eclipsed,” by the original Axis & Allies board game. I can’t remember the exact year it was, but it was one of the first ones that came out. And, I bought it for I think 5 or 10 bucks, I spent about 20 bucks on replacement pieces because there was some stuff that was missing. And sent it in, and it sold about a month later, for just under $400.
I think that this is going to help a lot of people. Thanks.
Stephen: Thank you for having me.