For those of you who know me, you know I love buying and selling coffee mugs. Mugs make me happy! I love going into a thrift store and seeing shelf after shelf of coffee mugs. Most people don’t even bother to look at these, so the selection is usually pretty good. They are easy to find, inexpensive to buy, don’t take up a lot of storage room, easy to ship and best yet, can bring in some good money when they sell. But, not all mugs – you have to be selective!
When you are looking at coffee mugs at a thrift store, flea market or garage sale, you should expect to pay anywhere from $.10-$2 per mug. It would have to be a pretty special mug for me to spend more money than this. I base my purchasing decision based on the brand of the mug, the image on the mug and the condition of the mug. (I’m smiling even when writing this – I want to go shopping now for more mugs!)
Let’s talk about condition first. Mugs should be free from chips, cracks, crazing and repairs. Any of these are a deal breaker and I will walk away if damaged regardless of how special the mug is.
- Chips – Run your finger along the top and bottom edges of the mug. If it isn’t smooth, pass on it.
- Cracks – Check the handle. I have bought many mugs that when I got home, I noticed that the handle was cracked and had been glued. Since I was holding the mug by it’s handle while inspecting it, I didn’t notice the damage. They went straight to the charity pile (someone else might not mind the repair).
- Crazing – Crazing can be identified by looking for fine lines inside or outside the mug.
- Utensil marks – gray (usually circular) marks inside the bottom mug. If it’s not too dark, try scrubbing with a little bit of Barkeepers Friend and water – it almost always gets out the stains! Adding some bleach and water into the mug and letting it sit often works as well.
Of course I can’t list every type of mug that will sell, but here are a few that I will never pass up!
- Starbucks mugs – Especially ones from cities or states. Do you live in a big city that has it’s own Starbucks mug? Buy one and list it – you should at least double your money. Are you going on vacation to some fun exotic local? Head to Starbucks and load up on some mugs. New ones sell for $9.99-$12.99 at Starbucks. Put them on eBay for at least twice what you paid for it. Best souvenir you can get –cash!! For example, I went to Aruba over Christmas last year and bought several mugs. I have sold 6 mugs so far from $60-85 each!! Paid for lots of my frozen fruity beverages – umbrella and all.
Update! The style shown below is the older version of Starbucks mugs and they can sell for up to $150 on Amazon and/or eBay! But the newer Ones – from the “You are Here” collection still sell for in the $25-40 range. Expect the value to increase whenever these are updated.
- Disney/WB/Cartoon Mugs – Anything with Mickey Mouse and his friends will sell! Even better, look for mugs from Winnie the Pooh, Disney Princesses and Disney movies such as Lion King. Not all of the mugs are made by Disney – they may only be licensed by Disney – but most people don’t care. Another great seller is Loony Tunes – especially Tweety and Taz. Look for Garfield, Bloom County, The Far Side, and any other popular cartoon. The more common ones sell for $9.99-$14.99
Update! If you see mugs from Disney/Pixar movies – scoop them up even if they aren’t current. It’s amazing to see how many people collect things from specific movies!
- Boynton Mugs – I can’t keep these in stock!! They are cute cartoon mugs usually featuring cats, cows or elephants. These also sell for $9.99-$14.99
- Waechtersbach Mugs – These are stoneware mugs that are made in either Germany or Spain. They are easy to identify as the image is usually embossed on them. Once you see and feel one, you will spot these immediately. These typically sell for $9.99-$24.99. Always identify where it is made (it will be on the bottom of the mug)
- Mugs with animals – People love their pets! Of course since we can’t always take our beloved Yellow Lab (or whatever dog/cat/bunny/horse/etc) with us to work, so the next best thing is to drink our coffee from a cup that reminds us of our faithful friend every time we see it. Look for breed specific mugs. But also watch for mugs featuring roosters, cows and pigs. Also, look for mugs titled “Catzilla” – I sell a lot of these. I sell these for $9.99-$24.99
- Taylor & Ng mugs – some of these are quite risqué (let’s just say that there are some WILD animal parties). They are signed Taylor & Ng San Francisco next to the handle. I have sold quite a few for as much as $75 for some of the rarer ones – the more common ones sell for $9.99-$14.99.
- Mugs featuring artwork by famous artists – Look for mugs from museums. One I sell a lot is designed by Chaleur and will have famous pictures by Monet, Van Gogh or other famous artists. I sell these for $14.99 – $29.99
- Travel/Souvenir Mugs – I ignore the “cutesy” mugs – like the mugs with a flamingo that read’s “Florida”. I look for mugs from far away places like Kuwait, Ireland or Russia. I do look for places like the White House, Alcatraz, The Eiffel Tower or The Leaning Tower of Pisa. The price range for these varies from $9.99-$34.99. I sold a White House Mug for $49.95 last year!!
- Advertising Mugs – I especially like the old milk glass mugs, but I look for any large company. People like to collect mugs from where they work(ed) or in the same line of business that they collect items (such as railroad mugs). Companies often buy older mugs to complete their archives. I recently sold an Entenmann’s mug for $24.99. The only time I don’t buy them is if they look too plain – I look for something that looks unique enough that someone would want to add it to their collection. Price range typically is $9.99-$14.99 for the newer mugs and $14.99-$34.99 for the older mugs.
- Mugs to popular china patterns – Look for Dansk, Pottery Barn, Pier 1, Caleca, Lenox and other popular brands that would match someone’s existing china. Prices greatly vary by manufacturer/pattern.
There are so many more mugs I wouldn’t pass up! You have to look and see what sells. Most of the mugs I see, I leave on the shelf. But I can easily pick up 5 to 10 mugs everywhere I go. The prices I listed don’t seem like much – especially the $9.99. But if I can pay $.25 for a Mickey Mouse mug (ok – even at $1) and sell it at $9.99, it’s a great profit!!
Storing mugs – another reason I love mugs is that they don’t take up much space. There are so many ways to store mugs. Some people store their inventory by when it was listed. I store mine by category (it’s easier for me to find!) – I sort them by Starbucks, Boynton, Disney, Garfield, Looney Tunes, Travel, etc – you get the picture. I took some inexpensive wire shelves I bought at Kmart and combined them to make one unit. I use the posts from 1 set and all of the shelves from 2 or more units so that I am not wasting vertical storage space. I set my shelves about 8” apart and put my mugs in the lids that come with paper boxes. All the boxes are labeled so I can find them easily. That way, I can pull out lid and view all of my mugs easily to store and pull mugs. It works for me.
(Look mom! I have lots of room to buy more mugs!) I have lots more to list, so this will fill up again quickly!
Bottom line is mugs are an inexpensive item to sell on eBay – especially if you are just starting out. They are not a big investment and the payout is reasonable. To start off, I would concentrate on the tried and true sellers – such as Starbucks, Disney, Looney Tunes, Boynton and animal mugs.
I would love to hear what other mugs people always look for!