Maybe you've got a garage full of junk you're dying to unload. Or you need quick cash -- and your grandmother told you those vintage Barbies would be worth something someday. Whatever the case, eBay, the successful online auction site, (www.ebay.com) can be the key. But how do you maximize your haul? Read on:

Know the right price. You may love your slightly chipped Wedgewood wedding china -- but that doesn't mean others will. To find out how much similar items have sold for over the past 30 days, type in a search term (such as "china"), then check the completed listings box on the left of the screen, suggests David A. Karp, author of "Ebay Hacks: 100 Industrial Strength Tips and Tools" ($24.95, O'Reilly). Too lazy? Wise Research(www.wiseresearch.com) can calculate profit potential for you ($29.95 for the first three months).

Take a risk. eBay lets you set a reserve, or lowest acceptable, price for your items -- but that can discourage buyers. Starting low (anywhere from $.99 to $9.99) will actually drive people to your auction, says Marcia Hall, an antiques dealer and eBay seller in Chantilly. "If people think they're getting a bargain, they'll start bidding right away," she says.

Keep it clear. "People will search for your item by its title, so think about how you would find it if you were the buyer," says Paul Berger, CEO of Eknowledge Institutes, a company that runs eBay training seminars nationwide. Don't waste space with words like "fabulous;" use name brands and simple nouns (like "scuba gear").

Illustrate. Inside your listing (what people see when they click on your title), be sure to include clear photographs of the back, front, and sides of the ware. (Consider making one of these your gallery photo, which means people see your item when their search results come up.) Provide as much detail as possible -- including flaws. You don't want to surprise the buyer.

Watch your timing. Bidding frenzies usually occur in the last hour, so you don't want your auction to end at 3 a.m., says Berger. Best bet? Seasoned sellers try for between 4-9 p.m. Also, be mindful when you sell. To unload old textbooks, aim for back-to-school time.

Let someone else deal. AuctionDrop (www.auctiondrop.com), found in UPS stores, will photograph, write up and post your item online for a cut of your commission.

Michelle Hainer

I know the bidding will be fierce on my stuffed goose and macrame lamp.