Entrepreneurs Find Gold in Used Phones

More companies are jumping into the business of refurbishing and reselling the used cellphones and other electronic gadgets clogging Americans’ drawers and closets.

Within a few years, the used market could account for a fifth of all cellphone sales in the U.S., says Stephen Manning, chief executive of ReCellular Inc., one of the largest U.S.-based cellphone refurbishers.

ReCellular resold or recycled 5.2 million cellphones last year, up from 2.1 million five years earlier. ReCellular sells about 60 percent of its phones in the U.S. and the rest mostly to dealers in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Until recently, the privately owned company acquired phones only in bulk, getting them from charities that held collection drives and retailers or others with returned merchandise. Now ReCellular advertises on cable TV that it is willing to buy phones one at a time from individuals via the Usell.com Web site.

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