Norb Novocin, owner of Estate Auctions, Inc., built his entire business on ebay. The Seaford-based company has eight employees and generates up $1 million in sales per year. His key to success: Start every auction at $1 regardless of the item’s value.
Online bidders reach the right price point on their own, he said. The average item sells for about $150, but some bids jump into the tens of thousands. Products range from antique paintings of 18th century aristocrats to obscure historical trinkets, such as Russian nuclear launch keys from the Cold War.
“We go out there to estate auctions and buy dead people’s stuff,” Novocin said. “We like quirky. We like unusual.”
Novocin and his wife, Marie, first started selling on ebay back in 1998. Novocin had lost his full-time job three weeks before Christmas and six weeks before the birth of their first child. To make some extra cash, he decided to hunt down cheap antiques at yard sales and estate auctions and sell them on ebay.
“We had about $50 to work with,” Novocin said. “We went out to yard sales with the rule that we could only spend $1 per item.”
That $50 turned into $500 in sales.
Two decades later, ebay has recognized Novocin as one of its top sellers. In May, the Seaford resident visited Capital Hill in Washington D.C. as part of a delegation of small business owners making a living on the ubiquitous e-commerce site.
Novocin spoke with legislators from both sides of the aisle, laying out a series of concerns borne out of his experience running a small business online.
He recalled several instances in which the Canadian import tax lost him customers. Novocin said he sold to 70 countries in 2017 alone. Each have separate rules for shipping and varying tax rates. His main goal is for lawmakers to help smooth out the process.
In addition, Novocin expressed concern over the possibility of online sales taxes cropping up around the county. While larger businesses could handle selling across a patchwork of states, he said, his company would struggle.
For now, at least, Estate Auctions is thriving in the current market. Novocin said the company sells about 135 items per week. Many come from estate auctions in New Jersey and southeast Pennsylvania. Novocin said he often buys 12-30 percent of the entire auction, picking up the bulk others might leave behind.
“We’re the bottom fisher,” Novocin said. “We go to these auctions and buy the things that, in my opinion, would fall through the cracks.”