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Sports card shop also offers eBay selling service

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WILLMAR -- Sellers as well as buyers are welcome at The Fan Zone.

Fan Zone owners Aaron Hofland and Rodney Staska sell sports cards, sports memorabilia, apparel and collectibles at their recently opened store located in Willmar's Kandi Mall.

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But if you want to sell a car, property, toys or just about anything else, Hofland and Staska will place it on eBay, the online auction and shopping Web site for buying and selling goods and services worldwide. Hofland and Staska receive a percentage of the selling price for their services.

"Our heart and sole is the retail and the card business, but we're always willing to help someone out, and make a few bucks ourselves,'' says Staska. "You have to think of ingenious ways the way the economy is and try to make a buck. People are trying to get rid of old stuff and trying to put some money in their pockets that way, too.''

Hofland handles most of the eBay business. He's been selling his own stuff and selling things for family and friends for over 10 years. He previously ran a small retail and selling business at another location for a couple of months when he met Staska.

"When I was over there, Rodney came in. Since he was interested in sports and I always wanted to do this, we discussed things. I had bigger expectations than my wallet and I thought it would be better if I partnered up with someone,'' recalls Hofland. "We share a lot of interests. It works out pretty good.''

Hofland and Staska concentrated on the retail side when they opened their store last October. Now that the Christmas shopping season is past, they're pushing the eBay side of their business. The partners are not aware of similar businesses in the immediate area.

The partners buy and sell sports cards, but they also buy and sell on eBay.

"We have our own stuff plus what people bring in to us,'' says Staska. "Pretty much anything can go on eBay within reason. Aaron listed a motorcycle last year for a guy. People sell businesses, property, time shares, automobiles. If you want to try to find something, you can find it on there pretty much.''

Some items they've been asked to sell include two canisters of 50-year-old building blocks, prints, an antique butter churn and rubber stampers.

The partners don't tell people what their items are worth.

"We're going to let everyone that has access to the Internet all over the world determine what they want to pay for it,'' says Staska. "Whatever someone is willing to pay is what they're going to get.''

The partners recycle boxes and packing peanuts for shipping the items they sell. They received half a dozen messages from people asking if items can be shipped to Canada or other places like that.

"Certain people won't ship internationally, so you can tell the variety of people that are looking at the items,'' says Staska. "It's neat to see where the stuff is going.''

The future for selling on eBay looks good, says Joel Karsten of Roseville, who owns and operates a product marketing and distribution company and who became a certified eBay education specialist in 2004. He began selling on eBay a few years ago and has had nearly 200,000 transactions.

"I certainly don't see any downturns at all. Generally with the economy having a slight glitch right now, we're seeing that translate to eBay. Sales are slowed a little bit and eBay is feeling that impact as well,'' says Karsten.

"But in terms of the concept of auctions online and people selling to people, this is a fantastic concept and it's certainly the leader in the industry. I don't see eBay slowing down in the future. It's still growing, with approximately $70 billion in gross merchandise volume in 2008. That's a significant amount of sales.''

Karsten will lead a class on the basics of selling on eBay on Saturday in Willmar. The class is offered through Willmar Community Education and Recreation.

Topics include online safety, item research and pricing, photography, writing titles and listing descriptions, shipping issues, and return and warranty issues.

"It is pretty user-friendly to get onto eBay and get something set up. But if you don't really understand what makes the search engines on eBay work and if you don't understand the basic concepts behind why you create a listing the way you do, it becomes more difficult to get as profitable as your competition to get your things to sell for as much,'' says Karsten.

"So people see the wisdom in spending a little bit of money through Community Education in taking a class, and you can earn that back in the first few things you sell in terms of the difference in the price that you'll achieve versus just trying to wing it when you put it up.''

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