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...

Pin It now!

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...




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.

Pin It now!

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....

Pin It now!

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.....

Pin It now!

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.....

Pin It now!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A box of highs and lows

Talk about a roller coaster ride! Recently, I found a box of toy cars at a garage sale that generated some great eBay flips for me. But a few other toys from this same box ended up biting me in the backside. Let me share the ups and down of the story.

A few months back, I walked up to a garage sale in one of the local suburban neighborhoods. There were lots of toys and household stuff all lined up along the edge of the driveway. Towards the top of the driveway, I spotted a big box filled with small die cast cars. This grabbed my attention since I am always on the lookout for original Hot Wheels cars from the Sixties. The early Hot Wheels are called "Redlines" and are sought after by baby boomers. It's no kid games when it comes to these Hot Wheels. Many can sell for huge bucks! (The Redlines refer to the red sidewall on the car's tires.) Seeing some older looking cars in the box, I asked the seller if he had any old Hot Wheels? His response hit me like a ton of bricks! Apparently there had been a few old Hot Wheels in the box, but a buyer had grabbed them an hour earlier. Despite hearing this bad news, I kept a calm demeanor and began searching through the box anyway.

Lucky for me, my diligence paid off. The previous guy had missed a few! They weren't in the greatest condition, but I know from experience collectors will still pay decent bucks for almost any Redline. I asked the seller how much he wanted for the cars? He gave me a slightly annoyed look and pointed to the word scrawled on the side of the box which read "Free." Since I am not totally mercenary, I told the guy I'd give him five bucks and take the entire box. With nothing left to negotiate, the guy took my fiver and I tossed the box in the back of my truck.

Redline Hot Wheels - banged up, but still worth $$$!
Redline Hot Wheels can be a sweet eBay flip. While it's rare that I find Redlines, when I do, it's always guaranteed money. Searching through the box back at MoneyintheGarage headquarters, I discovered a total of 14 vintage Hot Wheels. Since some cars are worth more then others, I carefully researched each car on eBay and came up with a game plan to sell them. Because of it's value, I decided to sell a Volkswagen  bus all by itself. The resulting auction earned me $26 dollars. I was off to a good start! Next, I auctioned off two VW bugs. These earned me an additional $21 dollars. Finally, I auctioned off all the remaining, slightly shabby, Hot Wheels in one lot. These guys netted me $28 dollars. Collectively, I made $75 bucks between all the auctions. Pretty good, right? I was on an emotional high! But little did I know, my next sale would soon bring me crashing down to earth!

Looking at the remaining car and trucks, I decided there were no big moneymakers left in the box. The toys all looked like common type stuff, including Matchbox cars, some larger plastic cars and a ton of smaller plastic cars. Content that I'd already made all my big money, I decided to sell the rest in one big lot on Craigslist. I posted a few pictures and listed everything for a twenty dollar bill.

Big bucks hiding in plain site!
With over a hundred cheapie cars for sale, I figured it would take some time before I unloaded this box of junk. But after only a day, a buyer reached out to me. In retrospect, maybe this should have been a sign that something was up. The guy told me he wanted to buy all the cars for his kid. But when we met in the parking lot of my favorite Dunkin Donuts, he changed his story, claiming he was really only interested in two trucks in particular. Pulling the two larger trucks from the box, he asked me if I would just sell them? Since I'd already listed the whole lot for $20, I offered the trucks to him for five bucks. Thanking me profusely, he quickly handed over five bucks. He continued to jabber on and nervously reached into his pocket and handed me another five dollar bill. Being the Honest Abe, I told him he'd already paid me. I then braced myself for some possible bad news and asked why the trucks were so special? He sheepishly admitted that the trucks were "collectible" and pointed to the lettering across the top of the windshield which read, "Stomper". I began to get a sinking feeling.

See the Silver & Camo trucks? Yeah, big bucks!
As he thanked me again for selling him the trucks, I put on a brave face. He then jumped back in his car with the Stomper trucks. I, of course, immediately jumped into my truck and feverishly typed "Stomper" into the eBay search bar on my phone. As the buyer pulled away, I got my answer. Many vintage Stomper cars and trucks can sell for over fifty bucks...Dohhh! The tables had just been turned...the hunter had just become the hunted! Realizing I may have let a hundred bucks slip through my fingers, I exited my truck and began banging my head on the hood. Well, not really...but I wanted to!

Looking back, I really can't beat myself up too much over this missed opportunity. Even if I had noticed the word "Stomper" over the window, I am pretty sure I would have concluded it was decorative and not the actual name of the toy brand. In fact, I'll never really know what those trucks could have sold for on eBay. But I know one thing for sure..they were worth more then the five bucks I got for them! Hopefully, this hard learned lesson will pay off for me in the future.

Have you ever been "schooled" like yours truly? Share your story below.....


Pin It now!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How I save on Keurig Coffee Makers

Recently, I found myself at my favorite little thrift store and once again came across another great score. Walking along the shelves, I spotted a Keurig coffee maker. But it wasn't your average kitchen countertop Keurig. Nope, this was a heavy duty model usually reserved for offices and business. Dana, the store manager, had priced this special Keurig model at $25 bucks. Not a bad price, considering similar models sell for well over $200 bucks new. I was definitely interested, but a bit nervous about spending $25 big ones for something that might not be working. Not wanting to take any chances, I did what any smart thrift shop picker might do. I decided to plug it in and test it.

Grabbing the bulky coffee maker, I walked to the back of the thrift shop where my buddy, "Sarge" volunteers his time. A former Vietnam vet, Sarge has his own workshop in the rear of the store where he makes repairs to donated items. Usually when I check in on Sarge he's tinkering with some donated item. Other times, he's taking a well-deserved snooze in his chair. The little guy likes to put me to work too, often asking me to help him move furniture when he spots me. Fortunately he cut me a break this day. No heavy lifting was required! With coffee maker in hand, I stuck my head around the corner of the partition that separates Sarge from the rest of the store and asked him if I could plug in the coffee maker? Sarge loves company, so he gladly welcomed me back to his kingdom.

Being invited back to Sarge's work area is a special treat. The main reason I enjoy it so much is because he reminds me of my grandfather and his basement workbench. Like my grandfather, Sarge's bench is neatly organized with lots of little drawers and shelves for all his tools. On one shelf he has an AM radio that's always playing oldies while he works. On another shelf sits a fluorescent lamp shining down on Sarge as he tinkers away. Above the bench on the wall is a cross and an old framed photo of President Kennedy. The President looks down on Sarge as the old veteran makes his repairs. I guess it's a guy thing, but I love hanging out with JFK and good old Sarge at his workbench.

My conversations with Sarge almost always follow the same pattern. He begins by proudly showing me something he's repaired. Usually it's a vacuum cleaner, stereo or boom box. He then tries to convince me that the repaired item is something I just can't live without and urges me to buy it! My response is always the same. No matter what the thing is, I compliment him on fixing it. I then tell Sarge that's although it's really nice, I already have one. (Whether I do or not.) I wrap it up by assuring Sarge his repaired item will sell quickly once it's put out on the shelf. I am not sure if Sarge realizes I give him the same old lines, but he always seems to enjoy our give and take.

Back at the workbench with the Keurig, Sarge showed me where I could plug in the coffeemaker. We also filled the tank with some water. I then turned on the Keurig and while the screen lit up, nothing else happened. As President Kennedy watched from high on the wall, Sarge and I proceeded to fiddle with the Keurig, but to no avail-the thing wasn't working. But even though the coffeemaker looked like a dud, I was still interested. I knew there was a chance Keurig might replace the broken coffee maker if I called their consumer hotline number. As I ran all my options through my head, Sarge called over Dana, the store manager.  It was time to negotiate with her. Telling Dana that the Keurig didn't seem to be working, I asked her if she'd sell me the broken coffeemaker for five bucks? To my surprise, she agreed with no hesitation. With that, I unplugged the coffeemaker, told Sarge I'd see him later, and headed to the front of the store to pay.

If you don't know already, I am big a fan of Keurig coffee makers. I've blogged about these great machines several times in the past. So once I got my office version Keurig home from the thrift store, I really, really wanted it to work.  So much so, in fact, that I decided to give it one more try at home. Setting it up on my kitchen counter, I plugged the machine in and hit the brew button. Guess what happened? Yep, the dog gone thing actually worked! Don't ask me how it happened, because I have no idea. Maybe President Kennedy threw down some Irish luck at me as I was leaving the store? Whatever the reason, the thing was now operating perfectly fine. Needless to say, I was ecstatic! The Keurig now had the potential to earn me some major bucks! With that in mind, I wasted no time posting the miracle Keurig on eBay.

Lo and works!
Keurig coffeemakers are big sellers on eBay. Many used models sell in the range of $40 dollars. Large office versions sell for even more. How'd mine do? The Keurig that miraculously decided to start workinng after  leaving the thrift store sold for $120 dollars! And to give you an idea of how well my luck was going with this Keurig, I'll blow your mind with one more piece of incredible happenstance. You can imagine how hard it is to package a big, bulky Keurig for shipping? Well, not for me. I actually found an empty Keurig coffee maker box for the exact same model in the local school recycling dumpster! I often visit the dumpster to retrieve boxes for shipping. Obviously the school must have purchased the same model and tossed the box with it's packing material in the dumpster! With the recovered box, I just slipped my Keurig inside, slapped a shipping label on it and sent it on it's way. The buyer probably thought it was the originally box for the coffee maker. It sounds unbelievable, but I swear it's true!

All in all, it was a pretty lucky thrift store flip! But that's what makes it all worth while, right? Have you flipped a Keurig or other coffee maker? Share your story in the comment section below. Meanwhile, I think I may go visit Sarge at his workbench. Who knows what I'll find there next?

Pin It now!