Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fahrvergn├╝gen !

I tend to be very regimented in my “hobby”. Late in the week I comb through the local Pennysaver and Craigslist ads for yard sales. I scurry down to the computer, light up Map Quest and chart out a map listing all the yard sales in my town. I draw a little star on the street address in red ink so I can read it easily. I carefully write in the times each YS opens and maybe a note as to what the ad said. For example, if the ads reads, “Old tools, Dept 56, ” then I write that next to the star. On Saturday morning I follow my map carefully with 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM being my “core hours”. As mentioned in an earlier blog, I race from one YS to the next hoping to find the good stuff before it's gone. Once I reach 10 AM, I psychologically wind down-like a runner who just finished a 5K race. In other words, I treat it it like a marathon.

But you don't have to be as structured as I am. You can find stuff at yard sales by pure happenstance with no map and no racing around. You just have to be on the look-out, ready to pull over at a moment's notice. As an example, one Saturday morning I was forced to cut my yard sales short after being called into into work for a few hours. I grumbled to myself and felt stifled, like being in the middle of that 5K race and told to stop running. I grudgingly went to work, did what I had to do then headed back for home. By this time it was 1:00 pm on a summer afternoon-well past my "core hours" for yard sales. As I was driving down a very busy state highway I noticed a yard sale at a roadside vegetable stand. Locking up the tires, I figured why not stop? My only reservation was the YS was on a busy state road used by vacationers heading to the beach. Surely all those passing vacationers would stop and snatch up all the good stuff, right? Which brings us to yet another Yard Sale rule: never assume!

Walking around the sale, my eye was drawn to a metal die cast Volkswagen in excellent condition. It was sitting amongst a lot of dusty junk on a dilapidated farm table normally reserved for summer tomatoes and blueberries. The car's roof opened up to reveal a brandy decanter and drinking glasses inside. Because it was already afternoon the seller was packing stuff up and preparing to close. (Bringing us to Yard Sale rule #2: Sellers who are packing up will almost always come down on price.) I eyeballed the bug and debated in my head as to it's potential value. Concluding that there are plenty of Volkswagen collectors on Ebay, I decided to buy it if the price was right. I asked the seller how much for the little VW? As he hurried around packing his stuff he threw out a price of ten dollars. Figuring he was pliable due to the lateness of the day, I countered with five bucks which he accepted without any reluctance. I threw the Beetle in my car, feeling slightly redeemed at having found something not in my usual yard sale core hours.

I took multiple picture of the little Bug, showing the roof open with the brandy glasses and decanters and closed like in the photo shown here. You should know that car enthusiasts are always trolling Ebay looking for collectibles that remind them of their "baby". My instinct proved right as this cute little bug ended up selling for $52. So in hindsight, my emergency call to work ended up netting me $47. Not bad for a day that I thought was ruined!
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

If you list it, they will come.

It never ceases to amaze me how far people will travel just to hand over money to you. Find some little innocuous item at your local yard sale, list it for sale and someone drives hours just to buy it. I've seen it first hand a bunch of times!

Recently, I sold two doll furniture kits that required full assembly. The kits were identical and were basically balsa wood cut-outs. I found the sets at a thrift store and paid ten dollars for each one. My reasoning was that doll furniture is really a sought after item on Ebay, so why not doll furniture kits too right? Ummm, no..... I was completely wrong! These two kits were an albatross and hung around my basement for about nine months. I tried to sell them on Craigslist and Ebay and found no interest. I guess most people want their doll furniture assembled and ready to play with. Can’t really blame them for that.

However, seeing a last chance to sell them during the Christmas season, I posted them on Craigslist for what I paid for them. Low and behold, a lovable grandfather who lived about sixty miles away contacted me and said he would buy them. With traffic, this kindly old gentleman drove two hours just to pick up these two dumb boxes. He told me when we met that he was going to build them for his granddaughter - very nice! I broke even on the deal and was just happy to get them out of my house. So live and learn, no more kits for me! But I could not get over the fact that this grandfather drove so far for the kits. Not to mention the assembly work he had ahead of him. That's a heck of a grandfather!

A more successful Craigslist sale was the train set seen above. I purchased this from a serious collector who was asking only $50 for it. It was new in the box and never opened, basically a traditional HO scale set but made by "Marklin" of West Germany. The seller was one of these guys who did not deny himself when buying train sets. If he wanted a set-he bought it. I suppose this was one set too many for him since he told me he never took it out of the box! I paid him his asking price and surmised that between train collectors and Christmas shoppers, I would find a buyer and make some money.

Doing my research on Ebay, I learned that although these sets are considered high quality, there was not a huge demand for them here in the States. I worried I might get stuck with a another no-sale dud. This is where Craigslist comes in very handy. You can post an item for sale and list it for months at not cost to you. Hopefully over time, a collector will discover it and make you an offer.

Fortunately that’s what happened with my German trains. A father and teenage son wanted them bad, driving well over an hour to pick them up. I made arrangements to meet them near the turnpike exit to make it a little easier. I was asking $125 for the set and was paid every bit of it from the young collector. So I made me a quick $75, not bad considering I thought I had a stinker on my hands.

As James Earl Jones said in the movie classic, "Field of Dreams", “If you build it, they will come”. In my case it's usually, "if you list it, they will come!"

Yep they will buy your stuff !

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's the Holiday Season - let the bidding begin !

As you accumulate inventory it's always a good idea to hold back some stuff to sell during the Christmas season. In my case there are certain items that I will stockpile and sell during the Holidays in the hopes of increasing my return. Even items that you can't give away during the year seem to attract buyers during the holiday shopping season. Some of the items I like to stockpile are: Dept. 56 Christmas Village pieces, Thomas the Tank Engine cars, clothes that still have their tags attached (because you can't give a used shirt as a gift-right?) dolls in the original packaging and trains sets.

As an example, every year I always seem to find a Target Store/Lionel train set in the Goodwill store. This is because Target will dump their unsold Christmas merchandise on Goodwill, including their yearly Lionel Train set model. Recently, I found last year's set at Goodwill for $25 and sold it for $75 on Craigslist. I probably could have sold it for a little more, maybe even a $100 if I was patient. But I would rather have a bird in the hand as they say.

But one of the best returns I had this holiday season was the Lego Harry Potter set seen here. Amazingly, I found this 2001 set complete and unassembled. As background, this past Spring I purchased the identical set for only two bucks and quickly sold it on Ebay for $165. Thus began my "awakening" to the Harry Potter Lego set market. I followed that up with a smaller Potter Lego set in it's original box that I bought for only fifty cents. I turned around and sold this much smaller set for $41...a great return on my two quarters! (As an aside, the Star Wars Lego sets are red hot as well.)

Having quickly learned about the Potter Lego market, I eyed the set seen here in a driveway of a very pricey home. I nearly had to wrestle it from a Middle School age kid who was also looking at it. (Hey, I am not above pulling a power play on some dumb kid-he'd have the set busted up and lost in a week's time!) After diverting the kid's attention to a Lego soccer set (not worth much on Ebay) I took possession of this rare set for a whopping five dollars. I couldn't believe my luck at finding a set in this condition, intact and unassembled! I decided to maximize my return and patiently hold it until the Christmas season.

The set went up on Ebay in the beginning of December for a ten day auction. My hope was that over ten days many a mom would find it, causing a bidding war to ensue. Most Mom's will do anything for their kids when it comes to Christmas presents, including try to outbid each other for their little Potter fan. Just as I had hoped, a bidding war did take place with my set. The auction turned out to be truly magical. My five dollar investment made a steady climb all week, topping out at $227! Comfort and Joy! Woo-Hoo!

The Christmas shopping season can really put your Ebay auctions into the stratosphere! So keep an eye out and have the foresight to store those special items away until Christmas-You'll be rewarded for your patience !!!
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