Monday, December 27, 2010

Go "Green" after Christmas!


Christmas is a time for giving gifts right? But what do you do with all the leftover boxes, packing material and plastic wrappers once the gifts are opened? Don't throw it all away - it takes up valuable trash can space and fills up the local landfill! Recycle the "waste" for your eBay business! What may look like trash strewn around the Christmas tree can be excellent, low-cost packing material.

Every Christmas I beef up my supply of mailing boxes, packing paper and shipping material with the throwaways contained inside the gifts. With some imagination you can put a lot of this "waste" to good use in your eBay business. More then once my kids have rolled their eyes when I stopped them from trashing a gift box with a "Keep that....it's the perfect size for shipping eBay stuff !" Clear plastic wrappers used for new shirts or electronics can be re-used for packing clothing to ship. When I sell a team jersey on eBay, I slip it inside a recycled shirt wrapper then mail it. The buyer receives their jersey neatly packed in clear plastic. It makes a nice impression and a happy buyer means a higher feedback rating for you!

Styrofoam packing material such as peanuts and big foam blocks used to protect electronics are invaluable! Shipping stores like "Mailboxes Ect" sell these same packing peanuts in large leaf bags for 20 bucks! Why pay those prices when you have the same stuff right inside many of your Christmas gifts? Just salvage them from the gift boxes and store them for eBay wrapping and shipping. If the Styrofoam blocks are too big you can break them down to a manageable size. It's worth the time and effort-there is nothing more frustrating then not having enough packing material. Ever see those big air bubble wrappers you get in Amazon boxes? They also make excellent material. Another awesome "waste" product to recycle are the soft spongy wrappers used to cover things like new TV screens. We gave our daughter a plasma TV for Christmas. After she opened the box I grabbed the spongy wrapper before it ended up in the trash. It's going to have a second life protecting fragile dishware or a picture frame.

It's all good, useful stuff and you should save as much as you can. As the months pass, you'll use every bit of the recycled packing material. So by thinking "Green" you're not only helping the environment, but that's less bubble wrap and peanuts you have to buy. Green is good!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! As the old Andy William's song says, "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" Unfortunately with the economy being so bad it's been a difficult year for some folks. Hopefully, you've picked up a few ideas from my blog this year and made a little extra money during these rough times. If so, that's great! Take some of the money you earned and buy the kid's an extra Christmas present or treat yourself to a nice gift...you deserve it!

Here is a nice little flip that's in keeping with the holiday season. I found this vintage postcard of Santa and Uncle Sam in a shoebox chock full of old postcards. Many of the postcards dated back to the 1940's. I paid only a couple bucks for the whole box which had over 200 postcards inside. So when you average it out, each postcard cost me a few pennies. Not only were they cheap, but they were a lot of fun to look through, inventory and auction off. I sold this Holiday themed postcard all by itself. I knew it would appeal to both Santa and Uncle Sam Collectors. I also listed the postcard on eBay during the Christmas season, increasing the number of bidders in the holiday buying mood. Of course my two favorite people in the world; Santa and Uncle Sam did not let me down that Christmas.... they sold for $22 dollars!

If you come across big lots of vintage postcards at your local garage sales you should buy them. You can sell them grouped by subject matter such as vacation destinations or if they are really unique, like Santa and Uncle Sam, you can sell them separately. As long as you pick them up at a reasonable price you should do well with them.

So Happy Holidays to you and your family! Here's hoping you find lots of money in the garage in 2011!
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's the Law...Police and Law Enforcement collectibles sell!


If you found a shirt or hat at a garage sale with a police badge emblazoned on the front would you buy it? You better Danno, because Ebay is filled with Law Enforcement collectors! LE (Law Enforcement) stuff is very collectible. I always keep an eye out for golf shirts and hats with police emblems on them. There is a huge segment of collectors out there who love to buy, display and trade all things LE.

But you have to be a little bit careful. There are some eBay regulations on law enforcement collectibles. For example, once I tried to list an old wooden police night stick but it was quickly removed by eBay because it is considered a weapon. You will also get a nasty e-mail if you attempt to sell a "Fraternal Order of Police" or "PBA" anything, so don't bother with those either. Both FOP and PBA are very protective of their associations and trademarks and will be on you like a cop making an arrest!

Avoid any local police department shirts, these have only limited interest and can draw the ire of the local coppers if they see it on eBay. I once listed a local police department polo style shirt and was subsequently bombarded via E-mail by a local “Barney Fife” type. Deputy Fife basically accused me of somehow stealing the shirt from his police department. I politely explained to him that one his officers must have donated it to Goodwill since I bought it there. He must have been a heck of a police investigator, because he didn't believe my story and with no further evidence basically called me a thief! I was getting ready to blast him back when a cooler head interceded. His Police Chief followed up with an E-mail explaining that they did not want the shirt to fall into the wrong hands. ( I guess that's why he was the Chief and Barney was only a deputy!) I think it was an overreaction on their part, the shirt was not official uniform type stuff. But I am very pro-law enforcement, those guys have a difficult job and I am not going to cause them any extra aggravation. Even though the Chief offered to pay for it, I ended up donating the shirt to the police department and mailed it to him gratis.

But don’t let that little side story dissuade you, I have done very well selling State Police and Federal Law Enforcement shirts. I occasionally find these shirts at the thrift stores. The above picture of a great looking US Secret Service polo shirt was a big winner for me. It had the agency emblem stitched on the front, very top quality stuff. I paid only five bucks for it at the local Goodwill Store. No secrets here... the shirt sold for fifty bucks on eBay! Now that's a sweet return! So keep an eye out for the right kind of law enforcement collectibles and buy and sell em Danno!


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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Garage Sale Season 2010: Officially Closed!




Here it is a Saturday morning around 9 AM and I am home drinking coffee. No further evidence is needed that the garage sale season is officially kaput for the year. It's cold outside, maybe in the upper thirties so few people are thinking, "Hey, let's have a garage sale!" Of course I did find one garage sale listing on Craigslist but it's a real stinker. She is a repeat offender, one of those people who holds a yard sale almost every Saturday. I find these re-runs to be real annoying...nothing but junk to sell. I want to send her an e-mail, " Lady, give it up, it's over!" Hopefully, when there is snow on the ground she'll get a clue and pull the plug on her weekly exercise in futility.

But now that the garage sales are done I am also a little relieved. I get to sleep in on Saturday mornings - no rushing around, woofing down breakfast, making coffee and grabbing my maps as I run out the door. Now I get my Saturday mornings back for about for about four months. My thrift shop finds and remaining inventory from the garage sale season are going to have to get me through the winter.

While the winter garage sale is a rarity around here, I do occasionally find them and it's mostly by accident. Last winter I was heading down a local state highway and spotted a guy with a few tables filled with stuff. Naturally I whipped the truck over to the side of the road. It was cold outside and the wind was gusting around as I perused his merchandise. I pegged the guy as an auction buyer given the random stuff he was selling. Amongst the stuff was a Seventies era Barbie dollhouse and a "Malibu Barbie " in the original packaging. The dollhouse even had it's original Mattel string tag still attached to the handle! The seller was asking twenty for both but I got him down to $15. I was pretty happy with this find for two reasons. First, I wasn't even expecting to find a garage sale. Second, anything I can find in the winter is a bonus to me. I look at it as one more listing that gets me closer to the spring garage sale season.

So I listed each piece separately on eBay and did very well. The dollhouse sold for $27 and the Malibu Barbie saw a closing bid of $41 bucks. I would have done a little better on the doll but the clear plastic packaging had come away from the cardboard backing. I am sure this dampened the bids down slightly, but I'll take two twenty dollar bills any old day! Together, I cleared $53 on both-not too shabby for a winter find!

So even though the garage sales are shut down I am going to keep my radar up for the rare winter find...once I finish this cup of coffee ; )
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ralphie's Lionel Christmas train and other Holiday deals !


Holidays are a crazy time. I am busy selling off all my Christmas inventory accumulated over the garage sale season. I stockpiled tons of stuff in anticipation for the Holidays: Dept 56 Christmas village houses, new shirts and sports jerseys, American Girl doll stuff, train sets and more. Just as soon as something is paid for, I wrap it and get it in the mail. I don't want sold items hanging around this time of year. During the Holiday hustle and bustle it can be easy to overlook a paid item and forget to get in in the mail. To prevent a slip-up I follow a simple rule....as soon as the buyer pays-it ships!

When it comes to inventory it's not difficult to find stuff if you know where to look. A great hunting opportunity begins in January. That's when the post-holiday mark-downs really kick in at the stores. For example, last January I found a Dallas Cowboys football jersey for Tony Romo in a local Kohl's department store. It was hidden in the back of the racks with a mark down price of only three dollars. The original retail price was probably around $30 or more, now that's an awesome mark-down! Since very few people are buying football jerseys in January, I stored it away for my Christmas auctions. I posted the jersey the first week of December and it sold for $28. This was a net profit of $25...thank you Kohl's! (As an aside, selling sports team jerseys is a smart niche eBay business. A friend of mine did this and drove a weekly circuit, going from store to store. He would find marked-down football and baseball jerseys at his various stops and flip them on eBay for nice bucks.)

Another place to look for post-holiday deals is your local Goodwill store. Walking into Goodwill sometimes feels like entering a Target "clearance" Store. Once Christmas is over Target donates much of their Holiday inventory to Goodwill. I am told they do this because they need to quickly make room for their Spring and Summer inventory. If you go into a Goodwill Store you'll see Target packaging everywhere; lights, trees, decorations, household stuff and more. Over the last several years I have consistently found Lionel Train Sets sold exclusively by Target. You'll know the sets because Target has their name slapped right on the front of the box. Last year Target sold a Lionel "A Christmas Story" train based on the movie with Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun. A few months later I found a set at the local Goodwill Store for only $25 bucks. Like the football jersey, I stored it away for Christmas. Just a few days ago I listed it on Craiglist. It was snapped up by a women who bought it as a gift for her nephew. She paid me $60 for it, so I cleared $35...a quick sale and a nice profit!

So when the holidays are over don't get the blues. Head out to the local department stores and Goodwill to scoop up those post season bargains. Maybe you'll find Ralphie's Red Ryder BB gun...just don't shoot your eye out!
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Christmas selling season has begun !


The starting gun has fired! The television commercials have begun...the stores are decorated...I even saw Santa yesterday in my local Mall.... it's time to begin your Christmas auctions! Just turn on your television and you'll see a barrage of holiday commercials. The eBay home page even has a calendar counting down the days until until Christmas. So the message is drummed into the consumer's heads - it's Christmas shopping time!

As a seller you have to get busy right now. I like to start selling Christmas gift items the week leading into Thanksgiving. If you begin a seven day auction right now, it will run past Thanksgiving, through Black Friday and into Cyber Monday. I am not rushing the season. For all intents and purposes your selling period basically ends around December 20th. You need those remaining days to mail your sold items out to buyers. Having your sold stuff shipped in a timely manner is critical: hell hath no fury like an eBay buyer who doesn't receive their purchases prior to Christmas.

To make selling all your stuff more manageable, you may want to shorten your auctions to only five days. If you have lots of inventory, a shorter auction will free up more time to wrap and ship. As the dreaded December 20th deadline approaches, I shorten my auctions to five and even three days auctions. I don't want to cut it too close to Christmas.

Christmas is also the time to get rid of your "dead wood" inventory that you couldn't sell during the year. Because there are more buyers looking, these items will usually find a bidder during Christmas. Above is a pair of Hallmark Christmas train ornaments. Yeah, I know it's a Christmas item, but I listed these several times just prior to the Holiday season believing a train collector would snap them up. They are replica's of Lionel train engines, very realistic and pretty cool looking. Unfortunately these things languished for several auctions during the Fall months. Finally I re-listed them during the holidays, and instead of seeing big fat goose eggs like previous auctions, they were bid up fast and furious. The set closed at a selling price of $26 dollars! HO-HO-HO!

So get digging through your inventory and post with reckless abandon! The time to sell is now...miss out on the Holiday selling window and your stuff may end up on a table at your next Garage Sale!
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pssst, wanna make some money? Two words: Pottery Barn.










Did you ever notice that there are some name brand products that carry a certain cachet about them? These companies have an enthusiastic and loyal following due to the style and quality of their products. Some examples that come to mind are; American Girl Doll, LL Bean, and Lenox. They all have a strong name brand loyalty and buyers flock to them. I guess you could say they're the "gold-standard" in their field. A definite "gold standard" company that you can add to this list is Pottery Barn. This retail and web-based company markets home decor stuff that seems to be all the rage in home decorating. Their prices range from moderate to high, but that fact doesn't seem to scare off buyers. Take a look for yourself, just type in "Pottery Barn" in your eBay browser and see what comes up. You'll find tens of thousands of items from bedding to candles to telephones...many with nice high bids!

Within the galaxy of PB stuff sold, I've found a "sure thing" item to turn a nice little profit on are the Pottery Barn telephones. Over the years, PB has sold a variety of styles based on the traditional rotary desk-top and wall telephones. In the Pottery Barn stores these phones list for as much as $80, but at the garage sales they can be had for five bucks or less. All are designed with that old "retro" look but with updated push buttons in place of the old rotary dial. Colors include silver, red, gold, white and more. But for my money the most popular of all is the traditional black models. The basic black telephones can pretty much fit in any decor and look way-cool.

The pictures above are some Pottery Barn phones I've scored this garage sale season. The desk top version seen on the right was found on my very first garage sale stop back in July. I paid all of three bucks for it. The phone had a couple scuffs which I pointed out in my auction description but bidders didn't seem to care. It sold for $44 big ones! The wall unit seen on the left was purchased "NIB" (That's "new in the box" for those of you who don't speak eBay.) I paid five bucks for it and sold it for $56 dollars, that's eleven times what I paid for it! Can you get that return in the stock market? I think not !

So mark down Pottery Barn to your "buy" list when at the garage sales. It's another cache name that really brings in the bidders.
If you have a "cachet" name that we all can do well with don't keep it to yourself....pass it along so we all can have fun!
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Friday, November 5, 2010

Hey lady...Stop what you're doing and step away from the Star Wars set!


I had a frustrating experience at a local Goodwill store this past week. One of those disappointing moments that all good garage sale/thrift store hunters endure at some point. Tell me if this has ever happened to you.

Normally when entering a Goodwill Store, I head straight to the Men's shirts to begin my rummaging. I am pretty fast, but when you factor in some quick eBay look-ups, it still can takes some time to do. Once through the shirts, I head towards the miscellaneous stuff which is usually in the back of the store. This includes toys, electronics and all the knick-knacks. So on this particular day I went right to the men's shirts as I always do, spending about twenty minutes buzzing through the racks. As luck would have it, I found a duplicate of a baseball jersey I had recently sold for $20.00 on eBay. Not huge money, but now I had one more in the same size which I could easily re-list with no work on my part, a nice find. So I was feeling pretty good about this Goodwill visit but that was quickly about to change.

I then made my way over to the toy section in the back of the store. As I walked up the aisle, I watched another customer lean into the shopping carts used to haul out newly arrived merchandise. A smart technique for any thrift store scavenger, these carts are filled with fresh inventory so you want to be the first to look it over. This diligent shopper was digging deep into the cart for something! She looked like Lucy bobbing for apples in that Peanuts Halloween special. But instead of an apple, she pulled out a prized Lego "Star Wars" set from the bottom of the cart! As you may know from my earlier blogs, these sets can bring in huge eBay money. Thinking hope was not completely lost, I hovered near the women as she examined the box. All the while I am thinking to myself, "Put it back lady! Puh-leeze put it back!" My silent wish had no effect because she tucked the Star Wars Lego kit under her arm and walked away. Rats and double rats....she was buying it!

As she headed to the cash register, I just so happened to follow with my jersey. (Does that make me a stalker? Hey, I was planning to leave anyway!) I was about two people behind her in the check-out line, close enough to read the Lego set number on the box lid. Because I have a perverse need to torture myself, I immediately looked up the set on eBay as I stood in line. I clicked on "completed listings" and up comes closing prices ranging from $40 to as high as $130! This lucky women paid only $5.99 for the set. As she left, I wondered if she was aware of it's true value or was it just an impulse purchase for her kid? Once outside the store, I watched the lady drive away with "my" Lego set. I briefly thought about throwing myself onto her car window and begging her to sell it to me. I decided against this tactic. I realized any money I made from the Lego set would be off set by my medical expenses after falling from the speeding vehicle!

But there is a happy ending to the story which proves everything works out in the end. The following day I was in another thrift store and happened across two vintage Mattel "Speak n Say" toys. I paid a buck for each and while they may not be as hot as Lego Star Wars sets, I will probably sell each for around $30. When I snatched them up I looked around to see if there were any stalkers (like me) watching. So it's all garage sale/thrift store karma, right? It all evens out in the end.

Do you have a "just missed it" moment? Misery loves company, so feel free to share your story with all us.
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kiss...long may you rock!



Everyone knows Kiss rocks right? Yeah the music is ok too, but I am not talking about that. Kiss collectibles rock! The Kiss Army fan base is so humongous and passionate that with a little selective buying, you can make some big bucks faster then Gene Simmons can stick out his tongue!

Not long ago I drove to a huge garage sale out in the country-the last place you would think to find Kiss stuff. The place had a couple of out buildings filled with lots of overpriced collectibles. Included in all the old stuff were a ton of dolls. Each one had those little paper string price tags with the prices hand written on them. It seemed like the seller was an antique dealer or flea market seller. This normally means you have a low probability of getting a bargain price, especially if they took the time to attach little tags to each and every item! So I wasn't holding out much hope of finding a deal when I spotted a group of vintage Kiss dolls. All four members were in the lot and she had a price of $75 for all. I walked past them several times wondering if shelling out $75 would be worth it. I finally grabbed the Kiss Fab Four, and with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, asked the seller if she would sell the dolls for fifty? The seller was pondering over it for a few seconds when her friend who was standing next to her gave her a little nudge, " Oh, just go for it!" To my surprise she did and I drove home rocking out with my own Kiss doll collection.

But when it comes to eBay, business is business, so I decided it was time to break up the band. In my mind most collectors are not looking to buy all four dolls. They may need just one or two to complete their set. So I posted each individually. The band members did me proud and sold as follows:

Ace - $38
Gene -$24 (missing most of his clothes)
Paul - $26
Peter -$112 (fully clothed and apparently harder to find)

So after selling of all four dolls I cleared $150...not bad!

On another more creative purchase, I bought a Kiss "Gene Simmons" Teddy Bear in the box. I did so after first buying what I thought was an expensive pair of cowboy boots for ten bucks. I went home with the boots and looked them up on eBay. To my dismay, the boots were barley worth the ten I paid for them. But I quickly recovered! Remembering the seller also had a Gene Simmons Teddy Bear, I went back to the garage sale and told the women the boots didn't fit me. I then asked in my most sympathetic tone if I could trade for the Kiss bear? The seller agreed and I dumped the boots and picked up the bear! I ended up selling the fuzzy guy for $30!

So look for Kiss stuff but practice a little caution. Gene Simmons has cranked out an enormous amount of merchandise. Some of it is worthless while other stuff is worth big cash dollars. If you are unsure of the value, look them up on your cell phone or call a member of your family back home to do an eBay "price check". With the right garage sale finds, you'll see that Kiss collectibles can rock your eBay world.
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Happy Halloween...now think Christmas!


With the leaves turning, it's that time of year when the garage sales begin to drop off. I think I may have hit the high water mark last Saturday, there were plenty to go to and I got lot's of stuff. As an example, I literally drove about 2/10 of a mile from my house and found a great garage sale. I bought two American Girl dolls for only five bucks each and a ton of American Girl doll clothes for $30! I'll keep you posted how these sell, but suffice it to say American Girl stuff is money in the bank! This week's garage sales were pretty lame. It's amazing the difference a week can make. I hit one today after spotting the women tacking up her garage sale sign on a telephone pole. I whipped the truck around thinking, "Cool, I may be the first one there!" Upon my arrival, I literally could not tell if her stuff was for sale or left out for the trash. It looked like she had a previous sale and was too lazy to bring her junk back into the garage. There were even some leaves covering some of the refuge...it was pathetic! With next week being Halloween, the quality and number of garage sales may drop down even further.

Although the number of sales begin to drop like the Fall temperatures, I can usually count on some garage sales until at least Thanksgiving. After that it's hit or miss. But once we reach the first weekend in December its pretty much over. People are thinking Christmas and not about having a garage sale. Then it's back into the thrift stores for me until early April.

So while the garage sales are still running I hustle out there to build up inventory. I try to accumulate enough stuff to carry me through the lean winter - like a squirrel collecting nuts ! I even back off on the number of Fall auctions I post, sort of slowing down my pace to prepare for the long winter ahead. The Christmas buying season is in about six weeks and this comes into play too. Buyers will soon start trolling eBay for Christmas gifts. Almost anything that didn't sell on eBay during the year has a very good chance of selling at the holidays. On top of that, a typically eBay item will for sell for more as competing Holiday bidders drive up the price!

With this in mind, I get a case of the Fall "yips" when pondering items to post. I have an agonizing time picking out stuff to sell from my inventory. My mind runs possible selling scenarios, " A Lenox picture frame? Nah...wait til Christmas. How about those new Hiking boots I bought? Nah, hold off....those will make a great Christmas gift for someone's hubby. " It goes on and on like this for me!

Not to make you crazy, but if you are selling in October choose carefully. Ask yourself, " Would this make a good Christmas gift?" If the answer is yes, then you may want to hold off. The wait may be worth it to you! Merry Christmas....uh, I mean Happy Halloween!
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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Jack-pot!


Even a garage sale groupie like me can have a rough time getting out of bed some Saturday mornings. Groggy and grumpy as my alarm clock sounds off, I find myself mumbling, "Must sleep more...it's the weekend.. stay in bed!" When this happens I have a little mantra I repeat to myself to get moving. I quietly say, "Jack....Jack.....Jack." My mantra always works. I swing my legs out of bed, put my feet firmly on the floor and stumble out to the garage sales. Why would the mantra "Jack" get me moving? (Cue the Scooby Doo "back-in-time" music)

It was a Saturday morning with a threat of rain in the air. (Better for you as a buyer, rain keeps the competition home) I walked up to a garage sale and immediately took notice of a huge beautiful framed print of Jack Nicklaus. Jack was portrayed casually leaning on a fence at Pebble Beach, gazing off into the distance. The framed print was resting in a shipping box, still sealed in a protective plastic wrapper. From what I could see through the plastic, it came complete with all the artist's papers authenticating the print. The frame's dimensions were huge, measuring four feet high and three feet wide. The print was a wonder to behold, it belonged in one of those "members only" golf clubhouses, right above a stone fireplace. The price tag on the plastic wrapper read $50 dollars, a price that even a mini-golf guy like me could afford.

Not believing what I was seeing, I asked the seller what the background was on this work of art. (Always a good practice for when you re-sell it) The seller was a young, cocky guy who reminded me of Arie on "Entourage". He proudly went into a long story, bragging how he had won the print at a fancy corporate golf tournament. His insane reason for selling this beautiful work of art? He was a Tiger Woods fan and "not into" Jack Nicklaus! (This was before Tiger was chased down his driveway by his wife) Why any golf fan would sell a beautiful framed print of Jack is beyond me. Seriously, who doesn't like the Golden Bear? This seller's hero worship of Tiger was impairing his judgement but that was fine and dandy to me. I quickly paid him fifty bucks and headed home with Jack.

Once I was home the real fun began. Part of what makes this hobby interesting and exciting is doing Internet detective work on stuff you buy. The more information you can gather on an item, the better the chances of realizing a higher selling price. In the case of my masterpiece, I took a close look at the bottom of the print. I discovered the print was definitely the real deal! It was signed and numbered by the actual artist...very awesome! I then looked at the center bottom of the print-there was a signature there as well. I peered in at it closely. My mouth dropped in disbelief...was it...could it be...is it possible?! You betcha...the Golden Bear had also signed the print too! I not only had a beautiful print, but I had Jack Nicklaus' actual autograph on it ! Slot machine bells went off in my head! DING-DING-DING-DING....JACK-POT!

After a celebratory dance around the kitchen table, I caught my breath and jumped back on the Internet. To make certain this was the genuine article I went to the artist’s website. There I discovered a photo of Jack and the artist proudly standing next to the original painting! I feverishly searched for a price on the print. My draw dropped again when I discovered the same exact signed print was listed for $2000 on the artist's own web site!

With this happy discovery, I got busy putting together an auction for my work of art. I took multiple pictures of the print outside in the natural light. I then posted Jack with a starting bid of $1000. Although a good price compared to the artist's website, I think buyer's are reluctant spend that kind of money on something they can't personally examine and verify. So it sat on eBay for a few weeks. After lowering the price, I ended up selling it during Christmas to two kids who bought it for their Dad. They paid me $730 for the print! I am sure if I wanted to stick it out I could have sold it for more, but I was pleased as punch with a profit of $680 big ones. The buyers got an awesome gift for their Dad and I made some big money...everybody was happy!

Like I said, it's not always easy pulling myself out of bed every Saturday morning. But my "Jack" mantra always gets my juices flowing. Your "Jack" find is waiting out there for you too. Say it with me ...Jack, Jack, Jack. Now get out there!
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Money in the Library !


We all have our first time with eBay, that "let me try one" posting that you do for fun in hopes of making some cash. Sort of a fishing expedition-you don't know if you'll catch something but why not throw the line out there and see what happens? For me it was over ten years ago. I began hearing stories from family and friends about people who were making nice side money selling stuff on eBay. Not just the hard-to-find stuff, but things anyone could could come across. I remember a buddy telling me his daughter had bought a bunch of Dale Earnhardt T-shirts at a local Wal Mart on clearance. She paid a dollar for each and turned around and sold them for twenty dollars a piece on eBay. Around this same time, my wife had opened an eBay account and sold some of the kid's Beanie Babies. She made some nice change and got some clutter out of the house. Those were the dawning days of eBay, a brave new world where anyone could make some quick money just sitting at the computer.

One of my first eye-opening auctions was the Model A Ford service manual seen here. This is a compendium of re-printed monthly Model A Ford service bulletins from back in the 1930's. Still in use today, the monthly service bulletins were sent out by car companies to their local dealerships instructing how to diagnose mechanical problems and make repairs. Model A Ford car collectors love these manuals. I was familiar with this obscure manual because my brother once attempted a restoration of a Model A Ford. He had a copy of this manual and I remember thumbing through it, fascinated by the neat old 1930's diagrams and photos.

Fast forward twenty years and I am at the local library with my kids. The library had a "books for sale" shelf in the lobby where I found a copy of the Ford Service manual. Remembering my brother's copy, I bought the book just for fun. It set me back a whole quarter! A few weeks later, I did an eBay search on my book and learned that my manual was a hot collectible. As a newbie, I decided this would be a good starting off point for me to try eBay. I awkwardly created an auction and posted my quarter book for the world to bid on.

At the end of the auction I became a true believer in the power of eBay; my library find sold for $75 cash dollars! Needless to say, I was hooked and the auctions have been coming ever since. When sharing eBay stories with family and friends, my brother always throws in... "Tell them about that Model A book!" So I recite that early story and my brother always adds, "Man, I should have kept my copy!"

You may think that specialty books require some unique niche-type knowledge on your part. While that always helps, much of your buying decisions can be good common sense reasoning. Books such as high school yearbooks, car manuals, military related guides are all specialty niche books. One basic rule of thumb that helps me decide if the book may be collectible is this: can you find it at the big box retail bookstore? If you can't, then then it may be worth buying and flipping on eBay. Other issues should be considered as well. For example, is it a subject that collectors, history buffs or hobbyist would be interested in? When looking at books for sale in the library, I have even logged onto a library computer and looked them up right there on the spot! Even if you are still not sure of a book's value, with most used books costing a dollar or less, what have you got to lose? (Nowadays, the Ford Service manuals sell on eBay for around $35. Less then the old days but still good money if you paid only a quarter) If you know of any "hot" books that bring in big cash dollars on eBay send me a comment to pass along.
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Friday, October 1, 2010

eBay buyers love Disney !


If you follow my blog, you know I am high on Disney products. Some time back I talked about a Disney Cinderella Castle I bought for a few bucks and sold for $60 on eBay. With Halloween fast approaching, I currently have auctions running for a few Disney children's costumes I picked up over the Summer. With all the Moms looking for Halloween outfits for their kids, I am certain my Disney costumes will see plenty of bidding action. So whether it's costumes, toys or DVDs, Disney products are often the gold standard when it comes to garage sale finds.

Above is a classic example: a Walt Disney World Monorail set. I recently bought this for ten bucks at a garage sale. Let me tell you something very important. If you are at a garage sale and see one of these sets you should make a bee-line for it. If you have to knock a few people out of the way to get to it - go ahead and do it! Don't worry, the person you knock over will be fine. Your actions will be justified because these sets are gold on eBay! Disney theme park monorail sets can't be purchased at Target or Wal Mart; they are sold exclusively at Disney properties and on their website. So if a collector wants a set, they either have to buy a theme park pass, find the Disney website or bid for one on eBay! On average I find a Disney monorail set about once or twice a year at the garage sales. These sets are battery operated and run around on an oval track. Just like the real Monorail, a voice welcomes you to Disney World as it glides along. I can't believe folks unload them at their garage sales! They cost big bucks in the park and are a fun Disney park memory.

When I brought this set home I took inventory to make sure it was all there. Turns out it was missing about three pieces of tracks. I was bummed, less track could mean lower bidder interest. But looking at other sets on eBay, I noticed that collectors also buy them to add to existing sets. So selling a set with a couple missing track pieces is no biggie. Posting my set, I stated in the description that it was missing track. I then sat back and watched the Disney "magic" take place. As I hoped, the missing track didn't seem to hurt my auction. Like the actual monorail, my set moved along nicely with bids all week. At the end of it's run the set pulled into the station at $81 dollars! Ironically, this was a few bucks more then the last "complete" set I sold.

So keep an eye out for these sets. If you list one on eBay, make sure you point out the color of the monorail cars. Apparently some colors are more collectible then others. I always state the color in the auction listing title. While your at the garage sales, look for other "Disney Park exclusive" products. For example, some of the various theme park pins are hot too. Let me know if you have sold a "hot" Disney product. If it's Disney... it's gold!
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's Halloween, break out your pumpkins and Jackie Gleason decorations!



What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think Halloween? Probably Jackie Gleason, the famous 1950's television icon right? Uhmmm, actually no... you probably don't associate Jackie Gleason with Halloween. But as you can see in this picture, some Goodwill Store employees apparently do! Let me explain my Halloween season lament.

Recently I was dutifully combing through a local Goodwill Store finding zero...zilch...nada. Throwing in the white towel, I started making my way to the vestibule doors to exit the store. As I was leaving I took note of a large elaborate display of Halloween decorations in the lobby vestibule. It was filled with mannequins dressed in costumes, fake cobwebs, pumpkins, all the usual spooky stuff. (Fun fact: Goodwill has become one of the largest Halloween merchandise retailers in the country.)

As I began to pass the spooky hodgepodge of a display, my eye caught two Esco statues. They looked out of place among all the Halloween stuff. I stopped dead in my tracks and looked closer! It was Jackie Gleason and Art Carney! What the heck were they doing standing in the middle of a Halloween display? Looking them over carefully, the Art Carney statue was in poor shape, lots of chips and cracks...no value to me. But the "Great One" Jacki Gleason was in very nice shape with barely a scratch on him. As mentioned in an earlier post, Esco statues are a hugely popular with collectors. I quickly whipped out my Blackberry and looked up Jackie Gleason Esco statues on eBay. I instantly found that similar Jackies' were currently selling for $85 bucks or more!

I now wanted this Jackie but there was only one problem-a sign hanging under the display warned, " Halloween display items are not for sale." But I never let a little paper sign prevent me from making a buck. I reached into the display and grabbed Jackie anyway. My plan was to play stupid and pretend I never saw the sign. Walking up to the register with my best poker face, I mumbled to the sales clerk, " Hi, I am buying this but I can't find the price tag." My little act didn't fly and the clerk reacted like I had just violated one of Goodwill's ten commandments; " Though shall not disturb the store window display." She grabbed Jackie from my hand, " Oh no, no, no, this is part of the Halloween display, it's not for sale!" Realizing my ruse had fallen flat, I attempted to switch to reason, " Well, you know, it's not very Halloweeny. Plus it's probably going to fall from that little shelf and break, then Goodwill won't make any money from him. So how about I just buy him now before he gets broken? " The clerk stood her ground. (For a moment, think about the nicest sales clerk you ever met. Got one in mind? Ok, Goodwill employees are the complete opposite of that!) The sales clerk looked at me crossly and with a snooty tone shot back, "No sir, we can't sell any of our displays, come back the day before Halloween, it will be for sale then."

I walked away frustrated and dejected. I guarantee that poor Jackie will never make it to Halloween. Esco statues are very top heavy and made of fragile chalk ware. You can bet some little brat, uh...I mean adorable child, will reach over and knock him from his perch. He'll end up shattered in a hundred little pieces! So I left empty handed and the $85 dollar Jackie Gleason statue was back on his little shelf awaiting his doom.

But then again, who am I to thwart the latest Halloween trend? Soon everyone will put Jackie Gleason on their front porch instead of pumpkins!
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Monday, September 20, 2010

There may be an extra prize inside!




I get a big charge out of reaping extra sales from one garage sale purchase. It's fun to look inside a box you bought and find an additional item that you can sell on eBay. Kind of like finding that prize inside the Crackerjacks box! But you have to keep an open mind to see these opportunities. What you might normally overlook as a mundane item can be highly sought after by collectors!

Case in point, not long ago I bought a 1960's era plastic military tank model. It was pretty cool looking, great graphics on the box and all un-assembled which model collectors love. There was even an old tube of glue inside the box. The seller charged me a buck for the model. Not much money to risk so you have to buy it right? I threw out a dollar bill and took the tank model home. Well, I ended up selling the tank on eBay for only six bucks. Not huge money, but a few extra dollars for me. But wait, remember the tube of glue? I didn't send that along to the buyer when I sold the tank...no way! Just like the tank model, this little tube was old and dated back to the early Sixties. Could there be a market for old model glue tubes? Can you believe there actually is? My eBay research showed collectors will pay five to ten dollars for them. (Seriously, who collects model glue? Do they build fancy display cases and show them off proudly?) But I am not going to judge... I am just here to make some money.

So I took a photo of the old tube and posted it on eBay. I made it clear in the description that the glue had dried up after all these years. Basically the tube was for display purposes only. (If that's what you're into...LOL). The glue tube collectors of the world apparently took note of my auction; that little tube sold for a high bid of $23! This was almost four times more then the model itself! So an afterthought found inside the main item actually sold for more... an awesome concept!

So keep an open mind and look through your stuff carefully after you buy it. Maybe you have that extra Crackerjack surprise inside that brings you extra cash you weren't even counting on! Have you ever found something extra and flipped it? Let me know and I'll pass it along!
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Pack Rat


On one profitable Saturday morning, I walked up to a garage sale at a big beautiful house. There were lots of people milling around and I recognized the owner. He was a local school board member and I chuckled to myself as he feverishly ran around pulling stuff out of his packed garage. He seemed overwhelmed with trying to sell his accumulated treasures, while at the same time glad-handing locals who arrived to check out the goods. Overhearing his conversation, I learned he had just sold his lakefront house. The only hitch in the sale: he had to vacate and move out quickly.

There can be no better garage sale then an owner who has to "bug out" fast. These folks are primed to let their stuff go cheap! On top of his emergency fire sale, this guy was a true pack rat. His garage was loaded with boxes of stuff he apparently could not part with...until now. This was a perfect storm for the garage sale shopper !

Walking around his stuff, I nearly tripped over this huge gas powered model airplane. It was big and beautiful. I asked Mr. School Board member what he wanted for the plane. Still politicking with some local voters, he looked over to me and said “How about twenty bucks?” Something this big and unusual is always a winner in my book, so I didn't dicker over this already low price. I peeled off twenty and walked the plane down to my truck.

But when you've found a good fishing hole you have to go back...my work here was not yet complete! I wandered through his garage some more and found three old high school yearbooks from back in the Seventies. I also found three local town commemorative pewter mugs and one pewter plate. Stacking the plate, mugs and yearbooks into a pile, I asked Mr. School Board what he wanted for each? He waved his hand at them dismissively, “Take them-they're free.” Huh? Did the guy think I had voted for him and this was my payoff ? Probably not, I think he was so overwhelmed with the task of unloading his years of accumulated junk that he was just happy to get rid of it all. Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I thanked him and headed off to my truck with all my free booty.

I have since sold the three mugs for $15.00 each and the plate for $10. I sold two of the Yearbooks for $35 each and still have one yet to sell. (High School year books can be a nice flip, more on that later) All that free stuff netted me $125 bucks and I still had my very cool plane to sell!

I decided to sell the gas powered plane on Ebay over Craiglist. I thought more potential buyers would find it and drive up the auction's final price. However, I made the auction “pick-up only” due to its bulkiness. The auction had over 50 people watching it and I fielded numerous e-mails begging me to remove the "pick-up only" requirement. While it would have meant an even higher closing price, I decided against doing it. I did not want to get involved with the complicated hassle of taking the plane apart and possibly damaging it. So it stayed "pick-up only" and I still did pretty good in the end... my twenty dollar plane ended up selling for one hundred dollars!

So in all, I made $225 dollars on a garage sale that cost me a single twenty dollar bill. Not bad for a Saturday morning walk up a driveway!


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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Uggs in the trash...a world gone mad!


Once again, opportunities to acquire stuff to sell on Ebay can be found in the least expected places. Working around my house recently, I went to my garbage can to dump some junk. I opened the trash can lid and stumbled backward in disbelief! Laying on top of the trash were my daughter's Ugg boots! If you know anything about girl's fashion, you know Uggs are the hottest boots around. All the girls just gotta have these high end boots while their poor parent's pay through the nose for them. A new pair of Uggs will run you $150 or more. The boots I retrieved from the trash were a Christmas gift for my daughter only two years ago! I even have home video of her that Christmas morning, smiling and happy as she tried on her new Uggs! Now just over two years later, the boots were cast aside in the trash like those poor misfits toys from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer!

I was incredulous; sure they were old and worn but these were still Ugg boots! So I fished them out and with disapproving looks from both my daughter and wife, went right to my computer to research Uggs on Ebay. As I walked past her, my sweet but naive daughter wondered aloud, "Who's going to buy an old pair of beat-up Uggs?" Clearly, all my hard work selling on eBay has not made one iota of an impression on my princess! I modified one of my favorite movie lines to answer her question, "Dearest, if you post it, they will bid!" My daughter rolled her eyes and went back to concentrating on more important things, watching the latest episode of MTV's "Jersey Shore".

If you searched "Ugg Boots" on eBay right now you would find there are over 500 used pairs up for auction. Just like my daughter's boots, not all of them are in great shape. I believe in truth in advertising, so when I listed my daughter's Uggs I was straight up about their condition: soles...worn, toe caps...worn....insole....yep, worn too! I also posted a bunch of pictures, including two that showed a wear mark on the inside sole and fraying on the boot's toes. I didn't want the buyer to complain later that I wasn't up front. Just to make sure these boot would not come back to haunt me, I made it a "NO RETURN/AS-IS" auction. My description emphasized that while they were definitely worn, they were still real Uggs. With the Ebay world flooded with Ugg knock-offs, at least my buyer knew they were getting the real thing.

As the auction ticked along, the trash-bound Uggs had 81 "page views" and nine "watchers". I listed the boots for a starting bid of $9.99 and they quickly kicked up to $16 in only the first day. I was starting to feel vindicated! Nobody wants used, beat up Uggs?....please! When the auction closed I was completely beside myself, those beat up Uggs sold for a winning bid of $32 dollars! This was money that was almost thrown away. I was happy and my buyer was happy too. She wrote this in my eBay feedback, "Thank You! Great Boots! Very Satisfied! Great Seller! A+++++" ...Now that's what I call a Win-Win!

Even though she initially doubted her dear old Dad, I gave my daughter the proceeds of the sale. I was a little conflicted about doing that, how's she going to learn the value of money when I keep handing it over to her? (sigh)

So I guess I need to check my own trash can on a regular basis. Who needs to waste time at the garage sales? My daughter is throwing away perfectly good stuff I can sell on Ebay!
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Saturday, August 28, 2010

A word about Pampered Chef.....


A reader sent me an E-mail asking about Pampered Chef after I mentioned the popularity of these clever kitchen gadgets in a previous blog. The stuff is everywhere! I would estimate I come across Pampered Chef gear at probably 50% of the garage sales I get to. I guess in my town there are lots of Pampered Chef parties, creating an overabundance of these gadgets in people's houses!

In doing some research on eBay, I found Pampered Chef items ranging from a corn cob buttering gadget to a pizza stoneware gift set. Most were in the "green" with active bids from $4 to $30 dollars. You just can't find that consistency with many other name brand products. Plus buying Pampered Chef at garage sales can be a "No-lose" situation. In the unlikely event that your item doesn't sell, you can always use it in your kitchen!

But just like all products, some Pampered Chef gadgets are winners and others are losers. As an example, I would stay away from the omnipresent Ice Shaver. I see them all the time at thrift stores and garage sales...don't buy them. They seem as common as paperback books at a garage sale and only fetch around five bucks on eBay. The stoneware gingerbread set is another commonly found piece. These really only sell well during the Holiday's. But if you don't mind stockpiling them, you can buy them for a low price, usually around three dollars. When the Holiday selling season comes-post away! I have sold them for as much as thirty dollars during the Christmas...Ho-Ho-Woo-Hoo! Another "Only at Christmas" item is the cookie tubes. Stay away from this scrap metal unless its brand new and the seller is only asking a buck or less. Other then these seasonal gadgets, if it's Pampered Chef in the box, you should see a nice return.

Here is a Pampered Chef gadget that will make you shake your head. This is a Pampered Chef Digital Thermometer. A little more sophisticated then your average Pampered Chef gadget, you stick the probe end in your turkey, chicken or what have you and read the cooking temperature. A senior citizen was selling it at her garage sale. She told me she barley used it. (A common trait with people who buy Pampered Chef, swept up in the party moment, they take it home and it sits in the kitchen drawer). Lucky for me, she kept this gadget in the original box. When I asked her what she wanted for the thing her husband looked over in disbelief...she was asking fifty cents! I always respect my elders, so I quickly dug around in my pockets and handed over two quarters!

This digital thermometer is one of those "can't lose" sales for a seller. It has name recognition, is in the box and it's easy to ship. I knew it was money in the bank so I wasted no time posting it on Ebay. Seven days later, my 50 cents had turned into $36 dollars!

With the Fall Garage/Yard Sales right around the corner Pampered Chef stuff will be everywhere. If you keep an eye out for the Pampered Chef stuff you'll turn quarters into big cash dollars!
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Buying & selling new is the cat's meow !

When I started my eBay hobby back in the day, I originally focused on "vintage" stuff: old radios, old signs, old toys. My simple rule was this: if it's collectible and I can type "vintage" in the eBay title, I am buying it! But as time went on I came to the realization that there's good money to be made selling"new" stuff too.

New stuff has some big advantages over old. First off, if it's new there are no broken and/or damage issues that can later bite you in the backside. This means no angry e-mails from buyers complaining about a scratch or other "alleged" damage they find on the item. You'll find another advantage comes with deciding the opening auction price. Most products are easy to find on the Internet. You can check Amazon.com, Walmart or Google to learn what the product sells for retail. Best of all, when you find the product's website, just copy/paste the description for your listing. You'll have no writer's block issue. Just insert the manufacturer's original description into your auction listing...what a breeze! Lastly, new products are in the original packaging so you don't have to search around the house for a box and packing material. I usually just wrap it in brown shipping paper and mail it!

Above is a cat door I bought from a lady at a townhouse development. It had never been removed from the box and sat in her garage for a year or two. I purchased it for a single dollar bill. Researching cat doors on eBay and other sites, I learned they sell for $50 or more. I posted it for a "Buy it now" price of $35 (plus shipping) and it sold within days of posting...Meow!

Almost every garage sale has something "NIB" aka: new in the box. I have found things like bathroom exhaust fans that hubby never installed, the aforementioned Pampered Chef stuff, even Sear's Craftsman tools! If you think about it, you may have something similar to sell that you bought in one of those spontaneous shopping moments. Seemed like a great idea at the time but now it's still sitting "NIB" in the corner. So look around the house and the local garage sales...you gotta love the "NIB" auction!
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Friday, August 13, 2010

A nice catch....











Here is another example of a garage sale find that kept on giving. I came across this old, rusty tackle box back in the Spring. Take it from me, if you see a tackle box filled with fishing gear and the price is right....buy it! This old rusty box had a bunch of lures, tackle, hooks and lots of other stuff. While it wasn't overflowing with gear, there was still plenty to sell.The owner told me it was his Dad's and it dated back to the 1950's. He was asking $20 but after a little negotiating, we agreed on $17. I took it home and inventoried the contents. I decided to go with my "bust it up" strategy. I made individual lots, reselling the smaller groups of tackle on Ebay to maximize my return. This is how my auctions played out:

I started with three large fishing lures. These netted me $19. After this first sale I was basically "even". In other words, I made my initial investment back plus two bucks. Now the remaining auctions would all be free money! Here was the payoff:

(3) Original fishing reel manuals....$22 (I know, you're thinking people actually collect fishing reel manuals?)
(1) Pristine fishing reel manual still in the cellophane wrapper.....$15
(1) Large 6 " fishing lure....$20
(1) Smaller 4" fishing lure....$7

Last but not least, was the tackle box itself. It was big, old and had some rust. The gear left inside was basically the cast-off junk, nothing of great collectible value. I decided to sell this monster on Craigslist instead of Ebay. It's weight and bulk would really make it very expensive to ship, turning off potential bidders. That is the beauty of Craigslist, listings are free so you have nothing to lose by posting it. I listed the old rusty tackle box and got few nibbles. Finally after a few weeks a Dad contacted me saying he wanted to give his son an "old school" metal tackle box. I met Dad out on the highway and he gladly handed over $30 for the thing!

So adding up the final tally, I earned $96 from that old rusty tackle box. A nice "catch" at that garage sale!
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You turn me on, I am a radio!


Sometimes selling on eBay can be a quick process: bring stuff home, take a picture, post it, then a week later you count your money. But other times you bring the stuff home and hit an immediate road block... you discover the stuff is broken! You then have to ask yourself: do I try to fix it or just sell the thing "as-is" and take my lumps with a lower closing auction price?

I was faced with that tricky dilemma after I bought this Sony Shortwave radio. I paid only twenty dollars for it at the Goodwill Store and doubt I will find another one any time soon. This awesome radio was considered top-of-the-line when Sony manufactured it back in the Eighties. It has all the high-tech bells and whistles that shortwave collectors go nuts for ! (If you take away anything from today's story it's this; name brand shortwave radios are a solid Ebay sale for you. If you see a reasonable priced shortwave radio at the yard sale or thrift shop, don't hesitate to buy-it will sell.)

The problem with my Sony shortwave radio was that it did not turn on. Sort of an important function and probably why it ended up in a thrift store. However, the digital readout showed a mysterious message which read "Error 3". I pondered my predicament, should I sell the radio "as-is" or do some research on "Error 3". Selling the Sony as-is meant earning a lot less money. The "as-is" tag takes a whole segment of potential bidders out, leaving only the handy "fix-it yourself" types to bid on it. I decided to "Google" the problem and see if I could figure it out before resorting to the lowly as-is auction. I typed in the Sony radio model number, along with "Error 3" in the search bar. I immediately found several Shortwave collector websites and "strings" discussing what turned out to be a common problem with the radio. I learned that you could attempt to fix the problem by taking out the batteries and pushing a small re-set button in the battery compartment. I carefully followed these steps as if I was defusing a bomb! When I finished I closed the radio back up and hit the power button... lo and behold the "Error 3" message had disappeared and the radio turned on! Dollar signs appeared in my eyeballs just like a Warner Brothers cartoon character....Ka-ching!

I went ahead and posted the radio on eBay. No need for an "as-is" description, this radio was working great thanks to my Internet research! Shortwave radio collectors found my Sony and bid like mad! It was a fun seven day run watching my thrift store find go up and up. On the seventh day the radio closed with an impressive bid of, now hear this...... $220 bucks! This was eleven times my initial investment, well worth the extra effort I took researching and fixing the problem !

So if you come home with stuff that you think is broken don't lose faith. Take a few minutes to research the problem. With Google at your fingertips, you may be able fix it yourself and power up your final auction price!
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Dumpster diving in the dark.

Here is a true life story of “dumpster diving”. A few winters back I took note of a very old house being torn down near where I live. Situated in front of the house was a large steel dumpster. Deciding to investigate further, I peeked into the dumpster and noted not only construction material, but some personal belongings too! Unfortunately, it was broad daylight with lots of prying neighbors around, so I fought the primal urge to throw myself over the top. I decided I would investigate later under the cover of darkness. That night I bundled up, grabbed a flashlight and headed back down to the dumpster to explore further. Once I arrived at my destination, I climbed up on the dumpster and saw that amongst the old wood and refuse there were a bunch of old dress shirts. They were still folded and pinned, some even wrapped in their original cellophane! From the style I guessed they were vintage Sixties era. It was cold and freezing outside, so I quickly tucked the shirts under my arm and made my way back home. I hoped my leap into the dumpster was worth the effort!

It's hard to gauge what a vintage shirt will sell for on eBay. There are gazillions listed at any given time. But a good way to attract buyers is to give them a bunch to bid on. So I posted all five shirts on eBay in one big grouping. I hoped an auction for five vintage shirts would fire up the many eBay fashionistas out there! Sure enough, my dumpster dive paid off...they sold for $30. Not huge, but found money as far as I was concerned! Interestingly, a West Point cadet bought them. I guess he wanted to look sharp when he went casual. Not bad for a quick dumpster dive in the dark !

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Camp Stoves are hot...and not just when the flame is on !


As mentioned in a previous post, Summer is a great time to sell camping gear. In Summer people go camping and before they hit the road, they need gear. The most well-known of all the camping gear brands is Coleman. When I am at the yard sales I keep an eye out for that famous green color and red logo... it's a sure-fire sale on Ebay.

I noticed out in my YS travels that people often have Coleman gear that has been lightly used or never left the box! While camping can be a lot of fun, it's also a major time commitment and labor intensive. You have to buy the gear, pack the van, unload the gear at the camp site, start the fire and so on and so forth. Soon enough you learn that camping takes total commitment! For those who can't commit, they lose interest quickly and the camping gear goes unused, stored away somewhere in the garage. Then it gets rolled out to the next yard sale-that's where you come in!

I have a lot of "outdoorsy" types in my town so finding camping gear is not difficult. The propane camp lamps are easily found. The older and cleaner the better, Ebay buyers seem to love them. Gas propane stoves are another big seller. You can often pick them up for five to ten bucks and re-sell them for $50 or more on Ebay.

Here is a stove I really lucked out on. It was an early 1960's Coleman Stove still in it's original box with it's instruction manual. This Stove was a beauty: clean, pristine and never used! (To check the date you only need to look on the underside of the stove. Coleman prints the date of manufacture on the bottom. When you sell one on Ebay, make sure you tell folks the year it was made.)

I encountered this stove on one of my first stops one Saturday morning. The lady wanted 20 bucks for the stove which I thought was a little too high. I tried to negotiate her down, but she felt it was too early in the yard sale to drop her price. In retrospect I should have just gave her twenty, but instead I went away empty handed. That stove ended up bugging me the rest of the morning...I really wanted it! Later in the morning I decided to employ my "Trojan horse" ruse. This is when I ask my wife to drop by the same yard sale and offer a lower price on the hot item. My theory is this: It's psychologically easier for the seller to come down on the price with a new buyer then me. She already turned me down once, to come down on the price now would admit she was wrong! She also might feel embarrassed or annoyed that I am back to low-ball her again. So I sent my wife into the fray like one of those Russian spies. Her spy orders were to search, low-ball then buy!

I think my wife would make a good spy! When "Natasha" arrived back home she had the stove with her and nonchalantly told me she paid a whopping five bucks for it! Turns out it was late in the day and the women just wanted to get rid of it. (See my baby stroller theory) I immediately took some pictures of the stove and posted it on Ebay. (Camping gear photos should always be taken outside, it gives it that appropriate woodsy look.) My Ebay description played up it's vintage age and it's pristine, like-new condition. Bidders must have liked the sound and sizzle, because the stove ended up selling for $85 dollars...Yea Coleman, Yea Natasha !

With lots of Summer and Fall still left in the yard sale season, I 'll keep looking for the green Coleman gear... green Coleman means green paper!
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Saturday, July 3, 2010

You're so crazy Rose !

Remember in the movie Titanic when Rose jumps out of the lifeboat to rejoin Jack? As he pulls her back over the railing, he says in disbelief, "You're so crazy Rose, why did you do that?!" That's what I kept repeating to myself when I sold this little model of the doomed Titanic. This unassuming thing was all plastic and about eight inches from bow to stern. It even showed some chipped paint. Really nothing much to get excited about and easily overlooked. Just another poor little thrift store cast off. I paid 50 cents for it. But despite it's lowly appearance, I reasoned that there might be some Titanic collectors who may buy it. For the cost of two quarters I thought why not try it? Guess what the thing sold for? Would you believe thirty four dollars? After the auction closed I wanted to ask the buyer, "You're so crazy, why did you do that?"

Lest you think it was a fluke, I found another one months later and sold it for 30 bucks! But the larger point is this: when looking for inventory, keep in mind what's hot in popular culture at the moment. The Titanic movie was one of the top grossing movies of all time. People went nuts over that flick. It won best picture, the Celine Deon song was played on the radio constantly and it's movie spin-offs such as coffee books and posters were everywhere. Thanks to that movie a whole new generation of Titanic fans were created.

Would I have made $34 dollars on that plastic Titanic prior to the movie's release? Doubtful...it may not have received a single bid. But thanks to Titanic fever, lots of people were typing in the ship's name in their Ebay searches.

If you find one of these little plastic Titanic ships buy it and make a few bucks. Better yet, those "Twilight" movies are doing big box office, maybe look for vampire stuff in the thrift store? Just an idea.....
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Use your powers to do good!


There are times in this business when you can use your sharply honed skills to do some good for others. Sort of like when the Grinch's heart grew three times as big and he saved Christmas! That happened to me right on the street where I live.

About a year ago my neighbor was in a car accident. Fortunately he was ok, but his Toyota Sienna Mini Van was totalled. This seat survived unscathed and my neighbor put it out to the curb for trash one summer night. Seeing this perfectly good car seat down the street, my trash picking instincts kicked in! I walked down to his house and like a good neighbor, informed him that he may be throwing away money. He agreed with me, but being a young and busy family guy, he claimed not to have the time to sell it. I owed him a favor, so what better way to pay him back then to sell it for him? I told him not to worry...I would take care of the sale. I dragged the heavy sucker back down to my house and took some quick digital photos. By the end of the evening the Toyota seat was up on Craigslist.

As days past into several weeks, I wondered if I had seriously overestimated the huge pent-up demand for mini-van rear seats! I ended up living with that stupid seat in my garage for over a month. But I was determined to sell the thing, I had boldly placed my "wheeler-dealer" reputation on the line! A few more weeks past and after starting at $75, it finally sold for $36. (They sell for $175 at Toyota). The buyer told me he was going to retro-fit it into the bed of his pick-up truck. Hey whatever floats your boat, right?

Thinking ahead, I knew my buddy would not accept the cash from me, so I cleverly converted the profits into a case of his favorite imported beer. I knew he would not refuse this! When he answered his front door he found me with beer in hand grinning from ear to ear! He couldn't believe I sold the dumb thing and laughed as he accepted his profits from the sale. I even had a little money leftover and treated myself to a six-pack. This was my sales commission! I sipped that brew with a sense of pride, I helped out my neighbor by converting his trash into beer: a win-win for both of us!


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