Saturday, October 11, 2014

Halloween ideas that sell!

Now that we're in October, it's time to finish selling off any remaining Halloween items you might have laying around. I started early. My Halloween inventory went up on eBay way back in the July. Starting early is always a good idea if you don't want to get stuck with smiling pumpkins and skeletons staring at you for an entire year, not to mention the royal pain of storing big, bulky Halloween decorations.

A Halloween idea! Sell em on eBay!
My Halloween sales began in July as a trickle. I posted one eBay listing at a time to get things moving and to free up space in the MoneyintheGarage warehouse. I began with this huge pumpkin inflatable. Most yard inflatables are made by a company called Gemmy and can sell for big bucks in the stores. If you snag one at the right price at a yard sale, they can be excellent flips on eBay. I bought the pumpkin seen here at a yard sale back way back in June. In fact, I actually bought five holiday inflatables from the same seller that day. I paid $10 dollars for each one. They included three Halloween pumpkins, one Thanksgiving turkey and a snowman. But while you can make a lot of money flipping yard inflatables, it also can be risky business. The main problem? You may get  stuck with one that doesn't fully inflate. Usually this is because of a hole somewhere in the fabric. The dead giveaway is when your inflatable refuses to stand straight up after plugging in the fan. Who wants a saggy pumpkin on their front yard, right?

But while it's wise to test out an inflatable before paying, I rarely do. If it's cheap enough, I fork over the dough and go! Most of the time, I'll snag a holiday themed inflatable for around five to ten bucks. In the case of the five inflatables I bought in June, the seller promised me they all worked. He even told me that if any of them didn't inflate, I could return them. With that money back guarantee, I forked over $50 big ones and hoped for the best.

Obviously, you always want to test out an inflatable prior to re-selling it. Once it's fully inflated, you can also snap some photographs for your Craigslist or eBay listing. In the case of the five holiday inflatables, I decided to test all of them on a hot summer day in July. Take it from me, there's nothing stranger then the sight of a huge Halloween pumpkin or Frosty the Snowman on your front yard in July! To avoid calls to the police from my neighbors, I test out my inflatables in the backyard away from prying eyes. There is one neighbor I can't hide from. He lives right next door and can't help watching my antics in full view. But he's grown accustom to seeing me photograph all kinds of weird, wacky garage sale finds in my back yard. In fact, I was in the middle of inflating one of the giant pumpkins when he wandered outside and looked over. I waved at him and yelled, "Happy Halloween!" He just waved back, shook his head and walked back inside his house.

Halloween decorations sell for big bucks!
Once the testing and picture taking was completed, I packed all five inflatables back into their boxes and stacked them on my inventory shelf. Noticing that five inflatable boxes can take up a lot of space on the shelf, I decided to take a shot at selling them early. I began by  posting the eight foot high Jack-o-lantern for a Buy-it Now price of $65  plus shipping. Before the month was out, a buyer snapped it up! Feeling lucky, I then posted what I though was my crown jewel of all the inflatables-a combination pumpkin, turkey and scarecrow. I listed the trio for a BIN price of $65 dollars. These guys were quickly snapped up too! Keeping my streak going, I posted my final Jack-o'-lantern in September for $50 plus shipping. He sold just as quickly. At this point, all of my Halloween inflatables have been sold and shipped. In total, I made $180 bucks on a $30 investment! I still have the Thanksgiving turkey and the snowman waiting in the wings! If I can keep up the pace, I should make around $275 dollars on all five inflatables. That's pretty good money for spending fifty bucks at a June garage sale!

Have you sold any yard inflatables? How'd you do? Share the score in the comment section below...    


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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Batman phone

Old telephones are one of my favorite garage sale items to flip. Not just any dusty, old phone though. I am talking about those classic telephones the phone company use to "lease" to customers back in the day. The Bell phones are a "must-have" for many collectors who use them as an accent piece in their home. Not only do they look good, but you can actually make a phone call on them! Making a telephone call on an old Bell phone just feels good. The click, click, click of the rotary dial. The heaviness of the handset when you hold it. They're solid, substantial and always dependable. There's no doubt when you're talking on a Bell phone, the person at the other end hears you loud and clear!

Ma Bell phones were built to last!
The old "Ma-Bell" phones were manufactured by Western Electric and were built to last. In fact, I still have a Western
Electric wall phone from the house I grew up in. It's in the classic "avocado green" color that was all the rage back in the Seventies. I can still picture my mom sitting at our kitchen table every day and talking to her sister on that phone. The phone finally came down off the wall after my father made some kitchen renovations. Prior to Bell's breakup, the phone would have been returned to the phone company. But this was long after, so I grabbed it for future use. Some years later, I hooked it up in my basement adjacent to my workbench. Keeping my mom's tradition going, I would endlessly yap away on it. I still have that phone today, although it's been disconnected and relegated to the closet. But I keep telling myself that one day I'll hook it up again. While it's unlikely that I will, I am definitely not going to sell it. How could I possibly get rid of my mom's telephone, right?

I am not the only one who has a deep, abiding affection for the old Bell Phones. Lot's of people like them. Even upscale retail stores like Pottery Barn sell knock-offs of the old Bell phones. But nothing beats an original, so when I see them at a garage sale, I buy them. You have to be somewhat selective however. For example, black rotary dial phones are aways a winner. You can usually snag one these phones for around five bucks at the yard sales. Flipping them on eBay will typically earn you around thirty to fifty dollars. Beige or "bone" color phones are a different story however. They seem to attract only lukewarm interest on eBay.

The Batphone...so cool!
But in my overall experience, the most sought after color is the red Bell phone! Red phones are a rarity at yard sales, so it's the old supply and demand theory at work. Because there are fewer red phones available, prices on eBay are higher. All that makes sense, but I also have another theory as to why red phones are popular. Many of us baby boomers vividly recall that Commissioner Gordan always used the red "Batphone" to summon Batman for help! That's the real reason for the red phone's popularity! Yes, I am 100% certain that's why people seek out red rotary phones! Most definitely it was Batman! What's that you say? My pathetic Batman fixation, which I've clung to since youth, might be clouding my thought process? Very well then, ummm, (clears throat) okay, let's just go back to red phones are really, really hard to find.

Whether it's the red Batphone or other popular colors, I am always on the lookout for vintage Bell phones. Not long ago, my quest paid off at a moving sale. The seller had tons of boxes spread out in his driveway. Buried inside one of the many boxes, I found Bell's illusive red wall phone. I pulled it out and asked the buyer how much? He quoted me two dollars and I didn't even dicker with him.

After cleaning up the phone with some Windex, I posted it on eBay with a starting bid of $20 dollars. By the end of the first day, the phone had already reached $25 bucks. Not a bad start, considering there were still six days to go in the auction. But then things got even better. I received an e-mail from a potential buyer who begged me to end the auction immediately. In return, he offered to flat out pay $130 dollars, plus shipping for the phone! Normally, I don't like ending an auction early. Instead, I prefer to let the bidding run it's course and let competing bidders decide the price. I usually feel bad about canceling bids. It sort of feels like your pulling the rug out from underneath bidders. But I didn't feel bad this time. For one thing, I've kept track of many of my previous sales and know that I've never made $130 on a single phone. By continuing the auction format, I didn't see any chance of even approaching $130 in bids. In fact, the guy may have been able to buy it for less if the auction continued! So I had to jump on the guy's offer right away. Realizing this would be fast, easy money, I knew what had to be done. The auction was shut down! (Sorry eBay bidders, no hard feelings-business is business.) Once cancelled, I immediately re-listed the phone for a Buy-it-Now price of $130. Within minutes of posting the BIN auction, the guy bought my phone! Just that fast, I turned two dollars into $130 dollars...a new personal best for me!

Bell phones all in a row!
The following day the phone was in the mail to the buyer. It arrived at his mailbox two days later. The guy loved the phone!
We exchanged several e-mails, mostly from the buyer thanking me for selling him the phone. In addition to his extreme generosity, the buyer turned out to be a great guy. He explained that he collected old Bell wall phones and had almost every color except red. That was until he found my auction. The red model finally completed his collection. He even sent me a photo proudly displaying all his phones on the wall. He pointed out that every single one of his phones actually work! Can you imagine what that sounds like when a call comes in? All heck breaking loose!

If only every garage sale flip could be that sweet. A huge profit and a grateful buyer. What more can you ask for in a phone? I mean, other then maybe calling Batman on it?

Have you ever flipped an old Bell phone? If so, which model and how'd you do? Share your story in the comment section below...






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Monday, September 8, 2014

Vintage industrial furniture

Ever hear the expression, "Pay it forward?" Basically, it means to do a good deed for another person. Then that person, in turn, does a good deed for the next person down the line. A few days ago, I paid it forward to a fellow yard sale picker. Instead of keeping a hot yard sale lead for myself, I passed it along to a fellow picker. The lead should turn into an awesome flip for the guy. I got to be honest though, my gesture wasn't totally altruistic. The guy had just bought two rusty old stools from me! So he paid me... then I paid it forward! Confusing, but here's the story:

A few Saturdays ago, I was wrapping up the garage sales for the day when I spotted an unexpected sale on the way home. The sale hadn't been advertised on Craigslist, so this almost always means less buyers and more stuff! I was feeling burned out from the long morning and actually debated whether to stop. Usually I lean on the rationalization that arriving at a garage sale late in the morning means the good stuff is already gone. But after finding so many late morning scores in the past, how could I not stop? So I stopped and guess what happened? Yep....SCORE!

Pulling up to the house, I immediately felt a good vibe. The sale was being run by an old timer. This always increases the odds of finding old, valuable stuff. This theory proved true again, when I found two vintage industrial metal stools. Old industrial furniture are hot sellers on eBay. Prices can go sky-high, but most come in at around fifty to a hundred dollars depending on the piece. The two stools I found met all the major criteria-very sturdy metal construction with just the right amount of patina to give them "character." The History Channel's American Pickers show often spotlights industrial furniture. American Picker's Mike Wolfe is completely obsessed with the stuff, buying anything from old factory shelves to light fixtures, chairs and stools. Basically, anything rusty or gritty that came out of an old factory or warehouse. One of the reasons industrial furniture is so popular is it represents a time when America was the undisputed manufacturing powerhouse of the world. A time when most things bought in this country were proudly stamped, "Made in the USA."

The metal stools I found were clearly made in the USA. They said so right under the seat! Grabbing one in each hand, I walked over to the old timer to see about a price. Unfortunately, he was engrossed in a conversation with a neighbor. I don't know about you, but when sellers get wrapped up in conversations with neighbor, friends or buyers, it can be an annoying situation. Should you patiently wait until they're done yapping, or just jump in and interrupt? Sometimes interrupting can be your only option, otherwise the jib-jabbing can drag on forever!

In the case of the old timer, I decided to quietly wait until he was done talking with his neighbor. The conversation mercifully ended after a few more minutes. Turning his attention towards me, I asked him what he wanted for the two stools? He grinned and gave me the old, "Waddya gimme for em?" Now I have to admit, at this point I was a little cranky. It had been a long, hot day and I had just waited patiently while the old fella yapped it up with his next door neighbor. Feeling a little sour, I low balled him, offering just five bucks for the pair. To my surprise, he smiled at me and said okay. Suddenly, I was feeling much better! After paying him, he laid out the back story on the stools. They dated back to the 1940's and were from an old firehouse. I was pretty happy with this last minute find. Not only did I score two vintage industrial stools, but the firehouse story made them even cooler!


The great thing about flipping old industrial finds is you don't necessarily have to clean them up. The grittier and "sweatier" they are, the better. When it comes to this stuff,  the old Billy Joel song fits perfectly..." I love you just the way you are!" After some light dusting, I sat the stools in front of my garage doors and photographed them.  Here's how they looked on my Craigslist ad:


   Vintage Firehouse Industrial Steel Stools - $100 


image 1



Great looking pair of vintage Toledo-style industrial metal stools. These stools are two feet high. The concave seats measure one foot across. (Very comfortable to sit in.) I acquired these from an old timer who told me they came out of a local firehouse. He estimated they date back to the 1940's or thereabouts. Nice industrial detail to these, check out the angled legs and fluted feet. They don't make them like this anymore!      

 Looks like a winner, right? Well, yes...and no. As much as I admired these two stools, the buyers were not exactly beating my door down. One thing I learned is Industrial is hot in many upscale, big cities. But if you don't live near those cities, then you're not going to get the calls. While I could have posted the stools on eBay, the shipping would have cost me around $80 for each stool. So I stuck with Craigslist and waited for a buyer. After several weeks of posting, then reposting, a buyer came along and offered me $50 for both. I countered with $75, but he wouldn't budge, explaining that after cleaning them up, he planned to re-sell them for $50 each. His explanation seemed legit, so I put up the white flag and told him to come get them. After all, turning five bucks into a fifty bucks ain't so bad!  

Paying it forward with a Facebook find
When the buyer picked up the stools, I realized he was a kindred spirit and a pretty good guy. We began trading garage sale flipping stories. He shared one incredible story about buying a huge lot of old trains for twenty dollars and flipping them for $900! (I am working through a train lot too. Will share that story at a later time.) After trading a few more stories and getting paid, I decided to pay it forward with my new buddy. Knowing that the guy had an interest in industrial, I gave him a lead I'd found on a local Facebook yard sale group. It was an old Industrial cart offered for $30 dollars. He jumped right on the lead, contacting the seller and buying the cart later that day. That evening, I received an e-mail from the guy thanking me. I told him that us yard sale pickers have to stick together! So it worked out pretty well for both of us.

Have you flipped any Industrial finds? Share your flip in the comment section below...


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Saturday, August 23, 2014

How to host a yard sale

August continues to be a rough time of year for a yard sale picker. As mentioned in a previous blog, the garage sales have really dropped off. Although I have no scientific data to back this up, I think this summer has seen the fewest number of garage sales in a long time. The last few weeks have been particularly brutal, with only two to three sales each Saturday. What's a yard sale picker to do? In my case, I decided to stop whining and take matters into my own hands. If you can't find any yard sales, have one of your own! This decisive action was strongly encouraged by Mrs. Dude, who's been harping, ummm, I mean suggesting, we hold a sale to get rid of some stuff.

Stuff piles up fast!
After several non-starters due to rain, family events and other things that typically get in the way, we finally had our yard sale last Saturday. While we had a bunch of things from around the house to sell, much of our merchandise was made up of what I call my eBay "stinkers." This is yard sale or thrift store stuff I bought, but could not get sold on eBay or Craigslist. Hey, it happens! Even though I've honed my skills pretty well, once in a while this Dude gets stuck with junk I just can't sell. When I do, I usually conclude the item is a "stinker" and relegate it to a junk pile in the corner of my basement. Since it's been about 16 months since our last yard sale, the stinker pile has gotten big! I am sure more rational people might get rid of the stuff by donating it to Goodwill. That would be the easiest thing to do, but as the old saying goes, "In for a penny, in for a pound." In other words, I already paid for the stuff, so I might as well make a few nickels and dimes by selling the junk at my yard sale!

As a professional yard sale picker, I know a thing or two about running a sale. I begin by posting my sale on Craigslist early in the week, then reposting it every other day to make sure folks see it. It helps to put in a few teasers in the ad too. Mentioning good stuff you're selling like old furniture, old records, trains and other goodies brings the buyers out. In addition to my Craigslist ad, I post the all-important yard sale signs around town. This time out, I chose a very bright, very purple poster board. This ugly purple could be spotted a mile away. If you follow my blog over time, you'll notice that crummy yard sale signs are one of my biggest pet peeves. They can be too small, illegible and/or drooping over. Since these signs help buyers get to your sale, they should be clear, concise and easy to read! In my case, I keep it simple. My signs look like this...


   YARD SALE ! 

ADDRESS

---------------->


Brief and to the point. When you think about it, how much more information can a person process when flying by a sign at 40 miles per hour? You don't need the hours of operation or the date. That's all useless information. Keep it simple and just point them in the right direction. (That's what the arrows for.) On Friday evening, I made a bunch of purple signs just like the above and with Sonny Boy's help, tacked them up around town.

After the first influx of pickers
On Saturday morning we opened at about 7:30. I was in no hurry to open up, but Mrs. Dude dragged me out to the driveway before I even had breakfast! (She's quite the taskmaster!) Surprisingly, we didn't get hit with a big influx of early birds. The ones that did show up early were pickers like me. I am sure when they pulled up to the house their eyes lit up. Our tables were packed with lots of colorful merchandise like old Fisher Price toys, wood puzzles, plush toys and other yard sale eye candy. To the untrained eye, it looked like the garage sale mother lode. Making it even more attractive, I priced most of the stuff cheap, no more then three bucks for any one item. It was funny to watch the pickers scoop up stuff I had no luck selling on eBay. One guy had his arms crammed with stuff from my reject pile. I got a chuckle out of his buying enthusiasm. If the guy could find a way to make money on my eBay stinkers, more power to him!

eBay stinker...this time.
After the first wave of pickers left, the tables looked a little bare. That's when you have to reposition stuff to fill in the empty gaps on the table. You don't want incoming buyers to think all the good stuff has been picked through. I made adjustments as the morning proceeded and even dug more stuff out of the house to sell. Stuff was selling quickly, even the the eBay stinkers. For example, I had some old newspapers for sale. I bought these 1980's era papers in a weak moment about a year ago for five dollars. I previously had some good luck selling old newspapers on eBay. There was a big difference however. My previous newspapers were much older. Apparently few people are interested in newspapers from the Eighties era. These dust collectors were impossible to sell on Craigslist or eBay! Fortunately, I found a buyer for them at my yard sale. A guy paid me five bucks for them...exactly what I paid for them a year earlier.

We were busy with sales like that all morning. As they day wore one, it was satisfying watching the eBay stinkers thin out and transform into dollars bills. While we didn't sell everything, we got rid of a lot of stuff. All in all, we made over $200 bucks at the yard sale! Not bad for a morning standing in my driveway. For now, the money went into the piggy bank. Mrs. Dude is looking to buy a new kitchen table, so we'll use the cash towards that big ticket item. Best of all, I was able to clear out that annoying pile of eBay stinkers that accumulated in the corner of the basement. Now the corner is completely empty...for now!

How's the summer wrapping up for you? Have any good yard sale hosting stories to tell? Share them in the comment section below.

 
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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Reality television...all at your local Goodwill store!

These are trying times for a garage sale picker. With many folks on vacation and the weather being hot, August is always a slow month for yard sales. The last few weeks have been particularly slow for me. I've found a few yard sales here and there, but it's been tough going. This hasn't slowed down my sales, however. I am still doing well with the few good pieces I've found. Shopping the local thrift shops has helped a lot. I've found that even though yard sales have gone cold, the action is crazy at my local Goodwill store. Although, not in a way that you might think, more like reality TV crazy! I'll get to that in a minute. First, check out this great summer time score....

Coleman Cooler 
Everyone knows I am a big Coleman guy. About a week ago, I found this awesome Coleman "Steel Belted 54" cooler at the local Goodwill store. Although it had a crack on the bottom corner, overall it was in pretty nice shape. Most importantly, the inside was clean as a whistle. It was tagged for only six bucks. This was a lower price then many coolers I've found at the yard sales! Even the cashier lady was impressed with the cooler, marveling over the condition and cheap price. With summer winding down, I decided I'd better sell it quick. Big coolers like this are always best sold on Craigslist. Reason Number On: No shipping costs. If I sold it through eBay, shipping for such a large item would be brutal! I've been burnt on the big items before, with my buyers invariably being on the West Coast. Since Money in the Garage corporate headquarters is situated on the East Coast, this always means higher postage costs!

To avoid all this, I sell the really big stuff exclusively on Craigslist. Following my usual practice, I listed the Coleman cooler under Craigslist's sporting goods equipment section for $75 dollars. About a day later, a nice lady e-mailed me asking if I would take $50 for the cooler? Of course, I countered back at $60 and she agreed!. We met that evening and she greased my palm with three crisp twenty dollar bills! I am no math major, but that's a pretty good return on my six buck  investment. Six turned into sixty...try getting that return at the local bank!

Coleman burner stove
In addition to the nice profit, I am always a little extra giddy when I successfully avoid using eBay. Imagine if I had sold the cooler on eBay. With a sixty dollar sale, eBay would have taken a nice bite out of my profit. As a quick comparison, I recently sold this portable Coleman camp stove for $51 dollars. ( I paid $5 for it at Goodwill.) After I charged $10.50 for shipping, eBay grabbed six bucks in final value fees. Crazy, right? That's 12% of my sale going into eBay's pocket! In the case of my Coleman cooler, my entire profit went straight into my pocket instead. Not to mention avoiding the drama of eBay's new and insane, "defect" policy. No worrying about some dopey buyer sabotaging your hard earned seller rating. With Craigslist, you'll never see, and more importantly, hear from that buyer again!


Better then a reality TV show !

Speaking of drama, I witnessed quite a scene the other day at my local Goodwill store. Two customers were arguing about some merchandise. It was like watching a reality television show! I should have pulled out my iPhone, because it would have been a real YouTube moment. Voices were raised and a fight almost broke out, as the man accused the women of taking an item out of his shopping cart while he wasn't looking. The guy got louder and louder, jabbing his finger in the women's direction. The women acted confused, claiming that she didn't know what the guy was talking about. (I had my doubts over her act.) Finally, when it looked like a boxing match was just about to break out, a Goodwill employee got in between the two and told the man to leave the store. The employee began yelling at the guy, "You're a grown man, now don't be yelling at this lady! Get out of my store now!" At that, the guy backed off and stormed out of the store. Crisis averted, thanks to the Goodwill employee stepping in.

I have to say these little shows are not that unusual in my local Goodwill store. On another recent visit, I was patiently waiting in line to pay when an angry women in front of me began arguing with the store manager. She was demanding a refund on a dress she had bought. Now if you know anything about Goodwill, you know the store has a strict "No refund" policy. While it's pretty much a cardinal rule at Goodwill, this didn't stop the angry lady who was now holding up the line. She insisted on a refund for her dress, claiming it was torn when she bought it. (If true, she should have looked it over carefully prior to buying it.) The manager calmly attempted to explain the Goodwill refund policy, but the lady was having none of it. Looking slightly possessed, the women glared at the manager, telling her in a low, scary voice that if she didn't get her money back, she would start screaming and creating a scene right there in the store. Seeking to avoid what promised to be a major hullabaloo, the manager wisely gave in and refunded the women.  Another drama averted and not a moment too soon. These little dust ups are better then watching a reality television show...shouting, screaming and finger pointing...all happening at a local Goodwill store near you!

How's the summer  treating you? Any drama scenes playing out at your local thrift store lately? Share the story in the comment section below....




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Thursday, July 24, 2014

American Pickers Danielle & Mike are a bad influence on me!

They say watching too much television can really influence a person. For me, watching too much of American Pickers on the History Channel has definitely influenced my garage sale purchases...and not always in a good way! I love watching the show and have learned a thing or two about what to buy. But prior to the show hitting the airwaves, my buying habits trended towards small-ish items to flip; shirts, toys, collectibles. Pretty much anything I could fit inside a USPS Priority mailing box. But since the arrival of American Pickers, I've noticed my buying tastes have grown much bigger! Not a bad thing, but unlike most of those sellers on American Pickers, I don't have a barn or warehouse to store my stuff in. As a result, it's getting a little crowded in my basement and garage. If this keeps up, my house will look less like the American Pickers' shop, and more like a house on the Hoarders show! Here's some of the bigger stuff I've come home with lately. Some have turned into pretty good flips, others...ehh, not so much.

STOP in the name of American Pickers
Here's an example of a American Pickers influenced purchase-a genuine STOP sign. Think about it-who among us does not need a STOP sign? Everyone should have one! It can be posted in your driveway to prevent visiting company from driving straight into the garage! Either way, at only five bucks it was a deal. (Would you believe a brand new STOP sign can sell for over $75 bucks in industry catalogues?) The American Pickers were on my mind when I scooped up this sign. The stars of the show, Mike Wolfe, Danielle Colby-Cushman and Frank Fritz, are always on the lookout for old traffic signs and related automobile paraphernalia. Although this sign wasn't nearly as old as the signs found on Pickers, I figured someone could use it in an industrial setting or hang it up in their man cave or garage. Although the sign was large, storing it wasn't a problem. Traffic signs are made to be out in the elements. For six weeks of occasional rain and hot summer sun, the STOP sign sat on the side of my house until it sold on Craigslist. After a month and a half, a young guy finally bought it, paying me $25 dollars for the sign. He told me he intended to convert the sign into a table. A creative use for a street sign and a twenty dollar profit for me!

At the very same garage sale where I bought the STOP sign, I also came across this old metal bird feeder.
Would Danielle buy this feeder?
The weathered, primitive look of the feeder caught my eye. It was another American Pickers type purchase. Like the guys always do on the show, I speculated as to who would end up buying this old piece. Since there are plenty of bird lovers and folks who like anything primitive, I concluded there would be a buyer for the big and bulky feeder. I listed it on eBay using an auction and it sold seven days later for twenty five dollars. My only concern was the shipping costs since the heavier the item, the higher the postage costs. If you're not careful, you could undercharge and get left holding the bag on some postage. I charged a reasonable shipping cost for the heavy feeder, but also caught a break when the buyer turned out to be only a few hours away from MoneyintheGarage corporate headquarters. Like the sign, I made another twenty dollar profit.

Steamer trunk-not worth the trip! 
But alas, not every one of my American Pickers influenced buys can be a winner. I bought this awesome looking steamer trunk in my local Goodwill store. When I came across it, I thought I had a definite winner. The vintage piece had all the makings of a classic steamer trunk seen in the movies. It oozed old world charm, including weathered travel stickers from a defunct cruise line, wrap-around ribs and a classic aged patina. In my mind, it was the total package and I gladly shelled out sixty big ones for the honor to take it home. I am pretty sure Danielle Colby or Mike Wolfe would have bought this trunk. But sad to say, we all would have greatly overestimated the popularity of old steamer trunks...or at least this old steamer trunk. Starting with a pie-in-the-sky price of $175, the old trunk languished on Craigslist for nearly two months. Over the weeks and months, I slowly dropped the price, finally throwing in the towel at fifty bucks. That's ten dollars less then what I paid for it! But after lowering the price to fifty, I finally received my one and only e-mail from a buyer. I met the young mom at the local CVS pharmacy and loaded the trunk into her car. Although it turned out to be a small loss, I was just happy to get rid of the monster. I will say that had the trunk been deeper, it would have sold for a much higher price. But what can you do, right? Even the American Pickers get burnt once in a while.

Overall, not a bad record with my American Pickers style buys. I have a couple of more big items currently sitting in the garage that should turn into major flips. Big money or not, I am under some pressure to get the stuff sold. Mrs. Dude wants her parking space back before the winter snow returns!

Got any American Pickers type stuff that you've sold lately? Share the story in the comment section below.....


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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fisher Price & Tonka Trucks for sale

Yard sale sellers can be all over the map when pricing their stuff.  Some set their prices based on what they originally paid for an item. If they paid a lot, then they think they can sell it for a lot. Other sellers are under the delusion that certain items are highly collectible and jack up their price accordingly. A few consistent examples I've found are; Hess Trucks, Barbie "collectible" dolls, comic books and baseball cards. What sellers don't realize is this mass produced stuff can be found at many garage sales. Hess trucks and Barbie collectible dolls are a dime a dozen around my town. When it comes to modern baseball cards, the market is saturated. There are way too many cards for too few buyers. But good luck trying to explain this to some yard sale sellers.

Not every Tonka is worth big $$$!
I came across a lady with this high-priced mind set at a recent yard sale. Only in her case, it wasn't Barbie dolls or Hess trucks. Instead, it was an overpriced Tonka truck. Not every Tonka is worth big money, particularly the newer versions. It's the older Tonka toys that fetch the high dollars. How can you tell if they're old? Look for all metal parts on the toy. New Tonka trucks use more plastic, particularly in the under chassis. In the case of the lady's Tonka, I found plenty of plastic parts, so I knew it was fairly new. But even though it was newer, I was still interested at the right price. I asked the lady what she wanted for the Tonka? But before she gave me a price, she stated the obvious, informing me it was a Tonka truck.

Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate a teachable moment as much as the next guy. But I already knew it was a Tonka truck...and not just because I am a seasoned garage sale picker. No, it was actually the famous yellow paint and the large letters spelling out "Tonka" on the side of the truck that pretty much gave it away! But having now informed me of what I had in my hands, I waited for the seller to whack me with a high price. That's a consistent trait with sellers who feel the need to announce the name of the item back to you. That's exactly what this lady did, proudly stating she wanted thirty bucks for the Tonka. But since plastic Tonka trucks are barley worth half that, I just nodded and quietly put the overpriced Tonka back on the table. I continued to look around her table hoping to find something she didn't overprice. Soon enough, I found it.

Fisher Price Western Town
As I turned away from the table, I practically tripped over a brightly colored Fisher Price box sitting on the ground. I picked up the box and checked it out. It was a vintage Fisher Price "Western Town" set. I've made some nice money on Fisher Price sets, mostly flipping the more commonly found family house, the school and parking garage sets. Since the Western set is much harder to find, I had a hunch it might do well on eBay. The set contained a jail, cowboys and indians, horses, wagon and a stage coach. The box was a little damp from being outside, but other then that, it was in pretty nice condition. I decided to work the damp box to my advantage. Picking up the box, I asked the seller what she wanted for the set? I added that even though the box was wet, I was still interested in it anyway. She pondered the damp box for a moment. More importantly, unlike the Tonka, she did not announce the name of the toy back to me! Instead, she quoted me a price of only three bills...much more reasonable then her Tonka toy prices! I handed her three dollars and grabbed the (slightly damp) Fisher Price set.

The wet box turned out to be a non-issue and was practically dry by the time I arrived back at MoneyintheGarage.Com Headquarters. A few hours sitting in the back of my truck on a warm spring day will do that. After a little dusting, I set up the Cowboys and Indians for their eBay photo shoot. Having never flipped this particular set before, I was anxious to see how my three dollar investment would do. Turns out, it did great. After a seven day auction run, the set sold for $64 bucks! (Buyer paid shipping.)

That's what I mean about sellers and their prices-all over the map! In the case of my Tonka lady, she way overpriced the Tonka truck and waaaaay underpriced the slightly damp Fisher Price set. You gotta love those type of yard sale sellers...inconsistent and unpredictable!  What's some of the commonly overpriced stuff you've seen at garage sales? Share your examples in the comment section below.....




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