Hot Topics:

Former Navy Man is Explosive Selling on eBay

'Hunting' takes on a new meaning for eBay, Amazon seller.

While many of his comrades were fast asleep under a hot evening sky, Adam Coleman hunted for explosives along high-traffic roads in Iraq.

Coleman was part of Special Operations for the U.S. Navy as an explosive ordnance disposal technician, a post he held for eight of the 11 years he served in the military. Recently, Coleman turned down a $90,000 re-enlistment bonus so he could sell full time on his eBay shop, FamousTurtle2010,  instead.

From bombs to treasures

Since childhood, Coleman has been going to garage sales with his mother, a fond memory that eventually led to his change in careers in October.

He credits his mother with teaching him the foundation and secrets to a successful eBay business, and his military experience as the engine to his online success

“It always felt like we were going out treasure hunting, and to this day it still feels like that,” he reports.

So instead of hunting for improvised explosive devices, Coleman now hunts for treasures, which make up the inventory of his successful home-based business. He sells mostly vintage home items and military collectibles, but adds that he will sell anything he thinks has value or that people will enjoy.

Much of what he offers in his store might be considered hard to find, so he reaches a lot of customers who are searching for a particular item they otherwise couldn’t locate. It’s fitting for a man like Coleman.

“I have trained to spot things that most people wouldn’t, because—if I didn’t—I would be dead,” he says.

When hunting for IEDs, there are telltale signs to look for, such as out-of-place rocks or objects that might be used as markers for hidden devices, Coleman says. When it comes to finding the right treasures to sell online, he researches key features to help spot valuable items and determine their ages.

Explosive sales

Not only is Coleman’s military experience amazing and beyond what can be put in this story, but his success selling online is also very impressive. He credits his mother, Doreen, with teaching him the foundation and secrets to a successful eBay business, and his military experience as the engine to his online success.

“I was trained in the military to think outside the box and to never stop trying to make things better,” he notes.

“I like to sell across multiple platforms as I feel that the diversification helps dampen the peaks and valleys of sales”

Within the first several months as a newbie merchant selling on eBay—he’s been listing about three years—Coleman achieved PowerSeller status. In his first year, he earned about $10,000 in sales, but that was just the beginning.

“My second year, a switch went off, and all of the sudden I just figured things out, and I was averaging about $2,000 and $5,000 a month,” he adds.

Coleman’s sales have increased every year. Last year he added Amazon
to his marketplace options—and his own Web store.

He moved all his barcoded items to Amazon and kept the vintage home décor products on eBay, he says. That decision proved to be very profitable, because it seems when one marketplace experiences low sales, the other picks up the slack.

“I like to sell across multiple platforms as I feel that the diversification helps dampen the peaks and valleys of sales,” he continues.

Of course, each platform has its own pros and cons, but Coleman notes that all three are easy to list on. And though Amazon and eBay have high fees, they both provide fast sales and high traffic, which can eventually lead to more traffic on his personal Web shop.

Wife and military are behind his success

When Coleman was on active duty, it required an extremely high level of professionalism and expertise, he says. His team would drive about 5 mph to locate IEDs along highways, clear U.S.-held bases of leftover unexploded ordnance from Desert Storm and disarm underwater mines.

“I have been ambushed, shot, blown up, and I almost drowned at 150-feet when my diving rig malfunctioned,” he says. “I realized after the third time of almost dying that I should probably start considering a new line of work and selling online.”

“I realized after the third time of almost dying that I should probably start considering a new line of work and selling online”

Originally, selling on eBay started out as a means to help pay for his wedding to now-wife Sonia. Just days before his wedding, a medical emergency came up, so he continued selling online to pay medical bills.

By then, he says he was already addicted to selling. From there, his online business took off, and Sonia helped with the orders while he was deployed.

“[The business] was not strategically planned at all,” he notes. “It was actually a knee-jerk reaction to the amount of orders that I started receiving.”

Wooden turtle inspires name

Coleman named his eBay Store based on a gift from his wife, who had traveled to Fiji and brought home a wooden turtle. Coleman made the turtle famous by making it his store mascot, and thus was born Famous Turtle’s Treasures.

When he started his Amazon store, Sneaky Squirrel Games, he decided to give it a different name based on his experience in the Navy. Those who were part of elite special operations—such as Coleman—with very hush-hush missions, were jokingly referred to as “sneaky squirrels,” he explains.

“On top of that, my wife calls me a squirrel because I am always hiding money around the house, forgetting about it, then finding it weeks-to-months later, and reacting like I just found treasure,” Coleman adds.

And it’s thanks to the support of his wife that he has made it this far with his business. Coleman credits Sonia with keeping him organized and on track, despite the fact she looked at him like he was crazy when he first brought home items to sell online, he says.

In turn, Coleman tries to offer that same support to his customers by offering a 14-day return policy, next-day shipping, and “going above and beyond” the call of duty to make sure they are happy with their purchase.

Visit Coleman’s listings on eBay, Amazon and his Web shop.

About the author

Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • mehdi

    way to go Mr Coleman served your country in excellence and are doing the same for your online biz!!

    • Adam Coleman


  • Doug

    Way to go my man! Am in the Air Guard and am having med issues. Will be out soon when the board gets finished my package. Wife and I began selling last June and we made about 2K with many many mistakes along the way. Plan on still going for it. Just have not be able to “get it” yet but it will come. No logic in the process, wild west. Will have to experiment. Veterans should organize and push hard in this area to make money. It can be done-no doubt. Any advise would be appreciated-experience, knowledge and attention to detail is the name of the game. Take care-Doug

  • Mr.Farr

    Great accomplishment Coleman and very well written to the author Shara Brown. I am amazed everyday with the level of motivation I receive networking with online sellers. I am just starting to sell online and it is quickly becoming a passion of mine. The communities, forms, blogs, etc. are filled with great people from different backgrounds and inspirational stories like Coleman’s. I am grateful for and thank you for the experiences shared in this story. Time for me to use this positive energy and create my new day:)


  • Adam Coleman

    Thanks for commenting everyone. If you liked my article, I would like you to check out my youtube channel.

  • I’ve know Adam for a number of years and worked with him in the EOD community. His work ethic is unmatched and he especially has a knack for finding the hidden value in common garage sale and thrift store items. His track records is impressive and is only getting better. If your looking for a customer service oriented seller with great merchandise, make sure to take a look at Mr. Coleman’s sites!

  • Beau Claar

    I really appreciate your ebay tips in your blog. I had totally forgotten that you could send items by Greyhound bus!

Newsletter Signup