Beachcombing for Fun and Profit: What to Look For and How to Sell It
A walk on the beach might be a relaxing (or romantic!) way to spend an afternoon, but did you ever expect it to help you make money?
A friend of mine often heads to her local beach after festivals and concerts. Using her metal detector, she has found thousands of dollars' worth of jewelry and coins lying in the sand. Even without a metal detector, just walking the shores of oceans and big lakes with your eyes open can lead you to interesting and valuable treasures.
Ready to hit the beach? Here are some of the more common treasures you’ll find while beachcombing -- and how to sell them for the most money.
Over years in the water, pieces of broken bottles are rounded and smoothed by waves and sand. The result is called beach glass or sea glass. Green, white, and brown are the most common colors, but purple and deep blue are sometimes found too.
As a kid, I found dozens of pieces at a time on the shores of northern Lake Michigan, and any ocean beach is also a good place to look. These frosty-looking gems are valued for making jewelry or as decorations. At least one online beach glass jewelry vendor sells necklaces for up to $450. But unless you're into making things, you'll be selling the pieces for a lot less. (Like this idea? Click to tweet!).
When I searched for "beach glass" on eBay, I found a piece for over $500, but with no bids. I scrolled down until I found bidding action at about $50 or so. For example, a collection of 45 pieces of lavender, blue and seafoam-colored beach glass had 15 bids, the highest at $52.02. A beach glass collection of 17 pieces had three bids, with a top bid of $17.40. Other collections with a dozen or more pieces had bids ranging from $7.60 to $10.20. You might be able to make up to a dollar each for nice pieces, when selling small collections.
Many beaches and nearby cliffs hold fossils, and they’re a fun find. Look them up on a fossil identification chart to see what type they are, then search eBay to get an idea of what their value is.
I looked up the horn coral fossils, which I used to find along parts of the Lake Michigan shoreline. On eBay I found one active auction for 150 pieces with a high bid of $15.50, which is about 10 cents each. That's not much, but I recall collecting hundreds of them in a day, so maybe there is some extra income to be had -- especially if you are also collecting other items along the way. In addition, the horn coral is fairly common; some fossils definitely sell for more money.
Large conch shells sell for $10 or more on eBay, but there is a market for just about any pretty shell you find. My wife used to glue small mermaid figurines to the shells we gathered, and we sold these at flea markets and craft shows. You can also check with gift shops that sell shells to see if they will buy your finds at wholesale.
Single large fossil shark teeth sell for around $10 on eBay. A necklace made from a tooth was bid up to $45 as I researched this post.
If you have less-than perfect teeth that won’t sell on their own, save them to sell by the jarful. I saw a rum bottle full of 200 shark teeth with a bid of $13.
Other Beachcombing Treasures
You never know what you'll find on a beach. I used to find light bulbs on isolated stretches of Lake Michigan beaches -- and they still worked. It was twenty years before I solved the mystery of their origin: a sailor told me that crews on cargo ships threw them overboard and shot at them for entertainment. The ones I found washed up on the beach were the ones that nobody hit.
In addition to the light bulbs, I've personally found a wooden door, shells, fossils, rocks, amazing driftwood, balloons with messages attached, bottles, furniture, boat parts, clothing, and fishing floats made of wood, aluminum and plastic.
Anytime you aren't sure if something is valuable, quickly research it online. Whatever it is, check for auctions on eBay and Google "we buy + [your find]" to see if there are buyers. You won't know until you check! And in case you're wondering, there is a whole website devoted to selling driftwood, and it is also always for sale on eBay.
If you want to make more money with your finds, one way is to add value, meaning you'll have to get artistic with them. Beach glass jewelry sells for hundreds of dollars, and sea shells that are worth only a penny each can be worth a couple of bucks once you put a little mermaid or fish figurine in or on them. Consider selling driftwood art at craft shows or online. A shark's tooth that sells for a few dollars can becomes a $30 sale when you add a chain to make it a necklace.
Your Turn: What's the most interesting or valuable thing you've found at the beach?