Financial Lessons for Kids: Selling Unwanted Toys on eBay

My oldest son has always been a builder. He’s the type of kid that wandered over to the giant wooden blocks in preschool and never walked away. While all of the other children eventually left to play dress up or craft colorful art projects my son stayed firmly planted on the rainbow carpet which muffled the sound of blocks crashing to the floor.

At home building has always been his favorite pastime. It began with colorful alphabet blocks, then moved on to elaborate wooden train configurations and continued with roads, bridges and ramps for his matchbox cars.

At the age of three my oldest was introduced to Legos for the first time. My husband bought him a tiny truck and matching dune buggy set. Although he’d never seen Lego instructions before he instinctively figured out how to search for pieces and follow the diagrams to put everything together. (I guess that’s why Legos have continued to wow children for generations. They are so easy and fun to build.)

For his sixth birthday my son requested a very special Lego. You may not believe what I am about to write, but I promise I am not making this up. He asked for the Lego Creator Expert Brick Bank.

That’s right, above all of the other Lego options, including fast cars, robots, construction vehicles and space shuttles my son wanted his very own Lego bank. We discuss money a lot in our house and this kid of mine wanted a Lego bank along with the little green Lego bricks that look like $100 bills.

There are smaller Lego banks available but he specifically requested the Creator Expert version recommended for kids 16 and up. In total it has 2,380 pieces and retails for over $150.

Now my in-laws love to spoil my children so my mother-in-law heard my son’s request and jumped to the ready. She asked him multiple times if that was the gift he most coveted and when it seems he couldn’t be swayed she ordered one off Amazon.

With a small amount of adult guidance, (there are a ridiculous number of pieces to sort through), he completed the bank construction in three days. As crazy as it sounds, not long after receiving the gift from his grandmother, another Lego Creator Expert bank was gifted to him.

My son was thrilled for the opportunity to build again, but alas after three days of consistent building he put a pause on Legos for a bit and that $150 box of Legos sat idly in his closet.

Over time he received other Legos, which he voraciously opened and built, but that Lego bank never made its way out of the box. One day while purging unwanted possessions I asked him about it.

I presented him with the following options:

  1. Build the Lego
  2. Keep the Lego in storage and build it at a future point in time
  3. Sell the Lego and put all proceeds from the sale into his bank account

Well my son is just like me, so rather than answering the question he replied with a series of questions.

  • Did I think the Lego would sell?
  • Where could we sell it?
  • How much could we sell it for?

And so we set off to investigate. The going price on eBay is right around $205. I explained that some sell for more and some sell for less, but $205 is the average. I explained that once you place the item up for auction you can never be certain what will happen, so you want to make certain you choose a listing price wisely.

We also talked about associated fees. We would have to pay to ship the item, eBay would take a 10% cut and PayPal would also charge us a fee.

If we sold the Legos for an even $200, which included the cost of shipping, he would net $164.99.

  • $200 (price + shipping) – $20 (eBay fee) – $6.10 (PayPal fee) = $164.99.

Now this kid knows that it can take him nearly two days to earn $80 from his summer lemonade stand. That includes baking cookies for hours the day before we set up the stand and sitting outside waiting for customers for six to eight hours on the day of the event. The idea of selling one box of Legos without any of that work nearly sent him into a tizzy.

He immediately asked if we had other toys to sell. I reminded him that most toys are worthless once they are played with and that this one was valuable because the Legos were still sealed inside the box.

After we went through every detail I could possibly think of he decided he wanted to try to sell his unwanted toy through eBay.

I could have boxed up the Legos and sold them myself. I could have left them in his closet forever, (heck they may have doubled in price in another ten years), or I can hand over the decisions to my seven year old son. I can teach him about money in a tangible way and hope that these lessons will stick well into adulthood.

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