Domain Beginnings: How I Started Investing in Domains

Subscribe to Elliot's BlogThe domain industry is made up of a diverse group of people with vastly different backgrounds. I’ve always found it interesting hearing about how domain investors became familiar with domain names and ultimately decided to invest some (or all) of their money in these virtual assets. Beginning today with my domain beginning, I will be posting stories from industry veterans, so you can learn how they became involved in the domain industry.
When I was in graduate school studying direct marketing at NYU, I wanted to earn some extra money – New York City is very expensive!   One week, a family friend was contracted to clean the theatre curtains in the Empire State Building, and since I lived next door, he asked for my help.   For 3 days, we cleaned the curtains, and I got some sage advice from him, an entrepreneur who has built a very successful business in California.
I was told I should find some type of unique product to sell online – maybe using a venue like Ebay. Since my apartment was small, the product would have to be compact, so the inventory didn’t take up too much space. I spent a few days looking on Ebay for products that were selling, and I saw that some domain names sold for hundreds of dollars.   I looked into this some more, and I found unregistered names that looked similar to ones that were commanding big bucks.
After a few hours, I made my first purchase at Network Solutions.   It was something related to the legal field, and I remember that it had a hyphen.   I still have the receipt packed away somewhere, but I forgot what the name was.   I do remember that I tried to sell it a couple of days later for a few hundred dollars to no avail.   I eventually broke even on the name and found Godaddy, where I could buy names for much less.
I spent the next several months buying and selling domain names on Ebay, reinvesting almost all of my profits along the way.   I continued to learn about what makes a good domain name, and had some good luck along the way.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Already had few domain names, was randomly typing things in, when i realized that a lot of common sense descriptions was not taken, which more or less were defining the industry. Then it clicked for me, and started heavily buying up new reg domains, and bought few at actions since then. Although i am more of passive investor, not actively selling domains at the moment.

  2. reg my first name in 1999 – lost interest from 2001-2005 – obviously a big mistake – became interested in drop names in early 2005 when i tried to register a name for my wife’s business, – i lost – but over the past few years have acquired some good names.

  3. for me it was by Luck, one summer night trying to think of business ideas, to innovate on the web.
    I was not aware that a domain name industry even existed at that point in time.
    I got an idea that just didn’t want to go away,even after weeks of trying to find reasons why I should not do it, and many sleepless nights planning/thinking about it.
    It was during research that I fell into this very interesting , dynamic world of domaining.

  4. speaking of beginnings – i highly recommend “founders at work-stories of startups’ early days” by jessica livingston – great stories of determination and tenacity.

  5. I’m just starting out in the industry myself, so looking forward to the stories of how the veterans got started.
    Elliot, how long did it take before you could focus on domaining full time?

  6. Hi Elliot and blog readers,
    For those that have not already listened to the podcast interview I did with Elliot several months ago, you can still listen to it at no cost at this link below –
    It is one of my most listened to podcasts and well worth the hour out of your time.
    Elliot is a great example of what can be achieved in this business with some focus, study and hard work.

  7. Nice story, Elliot. Tell us, have you stuck with Godaddy? And do you still use ebay to sell domains? I’ve never done this, because all the crap on an ebay page confuses my instinctive “fix this page” impulses that web companies hire me to — fix.
    I heard that ebay domain auctions don’t produce anymore? Your experience and advice could be very helpful to new domain investors (or pros) in whether to take the time to try and sell on ebay. How was your total experience using ebay for selling domains? Sorry if I missed any previous stories you told about ebay, but I didn’t see it in your Categories sidebar.
    I bought an expensive “How To sell on Ebay” book (like as thick as a phone book) and I’m ashamed to say that I read about 20 pages, got bored with the author’s tales of great success and his failure to show me the easy 1 2 3 steps to sell on ebay. The book on how to sell on ebay was just as confusing as ebay is to me… lol (Sheryl Crow “Isn’t It Ironic” plays right here)
    I tried to sell a well-known artist’s lithograph at one of those ebay seller bricknmortar stores that take a percentage, and they couldn’t sell it, even at half the price the artist was selling the same product on his site for, except, my product had a $300 frame added to it and had an earlier print number on it.
    I’m going to post some stupid ideas for selling domains in the next day or so, so keep an eye out for my blog! lol
    keep up the good work, broey

  8. I just started approx. 5 weeks ago. I had bouhgt a name for a business idea which never came thru and someone told me it was a good name and it might be worth something. I had never thought of domain names as money makers… I still have to make my first sale! I started by buying names I thought sounded good then started reading about what domainers consider good names and using tools, and understood more generic clear names have more value. One needs to get the hang of this. I’m still shocked to see the prices some people ask for their domains even though they are not premium .coms. I still have a lot to learn about pricing – opinions truuly vary – and can’t wait to make my first sale.

  9. Same here, I have been thiking of something like a side business or a couple of hundred quid a month of something. But at the moment not sold anything but have something like 40 domains that I have. Some parked and some developed. Will see how it goes in the next few months.

  10. Started in 2004 with Domain Nesteggs – and focused on the niche of emerging technologies – mainly robotics, virtual reality, biotech and nanotech. Haven’t looked back sense and have had a lot of fun – although I have only sold about 15 or so domains/websites over the last 4 years.

  11. Believe it or not it’s because of Larry Flint that I’m into domaining! Larry is a frequent visitor to the Cayman Islands and I noticed his famous black jet here in January. When i got to my office that day I Googled “Larry Flint’s Airplane” to get a closer look. I found myself on a blog which had a picture of the plane but a story that was completely irrelevant. The author was explaining how he’d seen Mr. Flint in a restaurant and how funny it was that months earlier he had contacted Hustler to offer them some very valuable domain names but they just didn’t get it (I didn’t get it either). I later realized that the author was writing locally in Cayman, and I became interested in this intriguing person who lived among us. Of course, I’m referring to Frank Schilling whose blog I devoured and was left to starve like the rest of his readers when he quit writing. In any case, thanks to and the forums, I have access to wonderful blogs like yours and have been a “student” of the industry since January. I’ve not gone too crazy with purchases as my young family comes first but I have managed to sell a few names so far. It’s tough for a newbie but I am determined!

  12. Not knowing anything about wine and I attended a wine class at a community college.
    Asked a stupid Q to the instructor: do you have a website ?
    Answer :No
    Turned out that wine industry is so slow and late in adopting e-commerce business in internet.
    Now, I am the largest wine domain owner in the world and ppl are calling me for wine domains. Amazon will be selling wine soon.

  13. To Flo in wineincalifornia, flo dont register too much, trust me, in my first month i hand registered over 600 domains, most of them crap, that said i did get few jewels but most of them were after my first month. So take your time. For Wine in california, same here, i got a lot of domains in my industry and now i got a nice roster.

  14. Remember back in early 1999 I registered my first 10 domains, all on While searching for these I came across some fantastic generic .coms, but at that time I could not see any reason to buy them, plus the fact they were then about $120 each from many of the British registrar companies I seem to remember.
    In 2001 I really started to buy in bulk and hand reg’d hundreds which I still have to this day. Over the next few years I learnt about web design and affiliate marketing from constantly reading websites on the subject. Started building sites on some of the domains some of which still earn me a nice income without any more than one page update every year.
    Still buying hand reg names today and in the past two months reg’d over 400 .com generics which I believe have been overlooked. It does take sometimes 6 hours of mining to find one or two decent ones however. I have to admit though that my enthusiasm and inspiration in the past 6 months has all come from reading blogs such as Elliots and Rick Latona’s which have made me more proactive in my selling endeavours and also made me feel like i’m part of a larger network of people that all get the bigger picture.
    It’s often quite isolating working from home, day in day out, with no outside influences to say if you are getting things right or wrong, but since discovering blogs like this I feel i’m doing the right thing and on the right track.
    Thanks Elliot and Rick

  15. Hi Eliot,
    Pleasure to have met you at he conference. I started buying mortgage domain names back in 2000. I was a mortgage broker, still am and thought by buying mortgage names i could eventually build a mortgage site and have all the traffic point to my site,(that never happend). ever since then i have been acquiring names. names like,, and I wish I could devote more time to the domain industry. see you soon.

  16. Hi Elliot:
    I was hoping you could elaborate a little more on one point. Also, requested by another reader above.
    The point I am curious about is your thoughts on selling domain names on eBay today?
    As you have a great deal of experience, do you think it is still a viable venue? Just something to think about, but Rick Schwartz listed and received offers of over 100k.
    Your thoughts…
    Thanks much,
    I am not sure about Ebay anymore because I don’t really use it for domain names. I probably look on Ebay once every two weeks. I can’t remember the last name I bought on Ebay – it’s been a while.

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