Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Boxes Rule!

Like the awesome oven described previously, opportunities for free stuff are all around you. For example, last Spring I was driving home from work when my hawk-like eye caught the glint of what appeared to be a Nintendo 64 box. It was sitting out at the trash! Complete NES 64 systems are highly prized by "gamers", particularly if they come complete in the original box. Like a good garbage picker, I doubled back to make sure it was a Nintendo box. It sure enough was! I quickly veered my car over to the curb like a New York cabbie and jumped out to grab it. (It's important to be quick when picking trash in your don’t want to be spotted and have the neighbors gossiping about you!)

Upon arriving back home at my Bat Cave, I discovered the Nintendo box was empty. But it still contained the two-piece styrofoam packing that protects the system. In this business you must adapt to your conditions, so I quickly retrieved a Nintendo system I had socked aside. I paid a mere $3.00 for it without the box. So I matched the system with my garbage picked box and created a "complete" system. I posted it on Ebay and it sold in it's "new" box for $49. This was a lot more money then I would have earned without a box!

Some additional hints on selling game systems; the more games you can include with the system, the more bids you will receive. Also, if you don’t have the system but do have the box, there is a market for the empty boxes. Many “gamers” and those Used Game stores are always looking for boxes to make a complete set and re-sell. Lastly, if you buy a new game system for the kids, DON'T throw the box away-save it for when you re-sell the system.

Boxes rule!
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Saturday, January 16, 2010

James Dean says, "Secure your load...please!"

Despite my boastful blogs, not every thrift store find I buy turns to gold. I have a few duds too, some of which are completely my own fault. Last year I was in a Goodwill Store and spotted a highly collectible "Esco" statue depicting James Dean. You may not recognise the Esco name, but you probably have seen the statues. Very popular back in the Seventies and early Eighties, these two foot high statues depicted movie, music and sports stars from back in the day. These great old statues included: Bogart, the Stooges and Marx Brothers, the Beatles and many more. A Sinatra Esco statue recently sold on Ebay for $500 big ones! One recent James Dean was listed on Ebay with a "Buy it Now" price of $300! Needless to say, they are highly desired by collectors. If you find one, it's guaranteed money in your pocket.

I spotted my James Dean across several aisles and hurried over to take a look. I remember thinking to myself, "It couldn't be a real Esco, I am not that lucky". Well, turns out it was; this James Dean was in excellent shape, no chips or cracks and the price tag read $5.00! I snapped him up in a hurry and was quite pleased with my find.

After leaving the Goodwill store, I gently placed James Dean on the back seat of my car. The rear seat was pitched so with his dead weight (they are heavy) I thought he wouldn't go anywhere. I had just left Goodwill and was blissfully driving home when I slammed on my brakes! A student driver just in front of me had come to a complete stop in an intersection. Standing on my breaks, I swerved to avoid the girl and heard a thump in my back seat! Oh-no, not my James Dean!? Turning around in dread, I saw my statue had flown off the back seat and hit the floor. One notorious problem with Esco statues is they are made of fragile chalkware and can easily break. Guess what happened to my Esco James Dean? Yep, he split in half on impact! My potential $300 profit vanished, thanks to my stupidity. I should have "secured my load" as the truckers say. A few extra minutes to safely wrap him or cradle him in my coat would have protected him from quick traffic stops.

I took him home and examined him in my garage like a plastic surgeon. The split turned out to be nice and clean. Hoping to salvage some potential profit out of the deal, I glued my James Dean back together again like humpty-dumpty. I posted him in Craigslist and made it clear that he had broken in half but was repaired. A nice couple who collected Escos showed up at my door and paid me $15 for him. Ten dollars more then I started with, but not nearly the potential I could have made...ugh!

So don't be a ding-a-ling like me! Make certain you wrap and protect your prized thrift store acquisitions to maximize your profits...and watch out for student drivers!
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Rainy Day Success !

Nothing hurts a successful yard sale excursion then rain. I am bummed when the weatherman forecasts rain for a Saturday morning because many folks cancel their yard sale. Such was the case one Saturday back in the Fall when I woke up to find it drizzling outside. When it rains I usually double check the yard sale ads looking for those that say, "rain or shine". If the fair weather yard sales wimp out, I usually can count on a few "rain or shines" to go to. On this rainy day I found one fella who consistently holds a YS every year. This guy is not one to sell junk either, so I made sure I stopped by. Sure enough he was open like his ad said, but his stuff was tightly crammed in his very well organized garage. (I'm jealous of guys like him) As I scanned around, he pointed out a pair of fishing waders to me that looked pretty expensive. I asked him his price and he told me he would take five bucks for them. Knowing that it could be the only thing I buy on this rainy day, and also that good quality fishing gear is always a winner, I gave him his five and scampered off. It turned out to be the only item I found that rainy day.

I posted them quickly, thinking the fishing season is fast coming to an end for this year. As I was hoping, my seven day auction attracted a lot of interest. This five dollar rainy day find closed with a sale of $35. Seven times my investment;boo-yah!...a yard sale money maker!

My only downer was the buyer lived on the West Coast, costing me slightly more to ship then what I charged him.

So today's YS tip: quality fishing waders and related gear equal a nice profitable return. Lastly, don't let a little rain stop you from hitting the yard sales!
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Sunday, January 10, 2010

These shirts here? I'm gonna wear them of course!

There are times when I walk into the thrift store and just hit the lottery. Such was the case about two years ago, when I was searching through the men's shirts section of a local Goodwill store. As I combed through the shirt racks, I happened across a dozen identical classic dress shirts. Now I am hardly a fashion expert, but these shirts set off an alarm bell in my head. They were vintage silk dress shirts made by a defunct shirt manufacturer called "Sulka & Co". The collar label appeared very old and elegant and listed four major cities: New York, Chicago, Paris and London. The shirts had the true look of the fifties cosmopolitan style; pleated at the wrist, long tail in the back. Style you just don't see in today's dress shirts. They looked like a shirt the guys in that Showtime drama, "Madmen" would wear to the office. Adding further to my interest, the shirts all had their original tags still attached. These things had never been worn! I surmised they came from a long closed tailor/tuxedo type shop. But despite my radar going off initially, I decided to leave the store without them. I did not trust my instincts when it came to vintage fashion.

Later that day when I arrived home, I looked up "Sulka" shirts and had a huge surprise: they were a highly sought after shirt. I let out a Homer Simpson, "Dohhh!" I spent the rest of the evening grumbling to myself that I should have scooped them up. I decided I would return to the thrift store the following day and grab all the shirts...provided someone hadn't already bought them all !

The next day I raced down to the thrift store repeating a mantra to myself as I drove, "Please be there, please be there" followed by an occasional, "How can I have been be so stupid?!" When I arrived, I raced into the thrift store, making a direct B-line to the racks. I looked anxiously up and down the racks. Lo and behold, they were still all there hanging in a neat row! I folded them over my arm and headed to the cashier. Amazingly, dozens of people had passed those shirts in the 24 hours since I last looked at them. Yet no one figured out they were worth big money! As I stood in line with my find, a little old lady looked at me curiously. I knew it was coming: the nosey question. "Excuse me sir" she began, " May I ask what are you going to do with all those shirts?" Now you can call me paranoid, but I don't like clueing people into what I am doing... even a little old lady! What if she decided to get into Ebay like me? Yipes, competition! I looked at her with a slightly annoyed expression and replied," I am going to wear them". "Oh, well that's a lot of shirts" she said with a look of bewilderment. I quickly shot back, " I don't like doing wash, so I buy multiples". This seemed to satisfy her and amuse the cashier who knew better.

Once home, I hung up my new found inventory. I took multiple pictures, showing the label, attached tags and the pleats. The shirts were all the same size, making it very easy to re-list. I posted them periodically over a year, mostly during the fall and winter months since they were long sleeve. I later read an article lamenting the fact that you can not find quality, high-end dress shirts anymore. Most shirts now come from China and other low wage foreign sweatshops, forcing companies like Sulka out of business.

This would explain why my shirts sold so well and turned out to be the gift that kept on giving. I paid $4 for each one and my average sale was around $35 per shirt. Re-listing after each sale was a breeze too, as the shirts were all identical in size and style. So I made approximately $420 on a $48 investment, a real Thrift store moneymaker!

Although it can be tedious sometimes, it is worth going through the hundreds of shirts at the thrift store, you may come across your next inventory bonanza!
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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Money right in front of your face.

Don't feel like leaving your house to comb through yard sales, thrift store or trash pick like me? No problem, take a good look around your home. You probably have stuff laying around or packed away that can fetch you a nice dollar or two. I try to always stay alert for selling opportunities in my kid-cluttered house. I have this theory best described as the "overlook syndrome". This effects all humans in their daily life. It goes like this: Due to daily exposure, you do not see and/or ignore valuable items in your home. This household clutter becomes much like background scenery in your life. It's right in front of your face; you move it, dust it and just store it...but you don't pay any attention to it. Most importantly-you do not need it! It just sits on a shelf and takes up space. Yet if you sold it you could easily put money in your wallet. Take for example a video game your kids have not played with in months, would you rather have it sit on a shelf collecting dust or turn it into a twenty dollar bill? I like the twenty dollar bill myself. Twenty will buy a nice lunch or maybe a new shirt!

Not long ago, the "overlook syndrome" was in full effect for me regarding a "Sims" CD game that literally sat in front of my face every day as I toiled away on my computer.The kids stopped playing it, having upgraded to the latest, greatest "Sims" game. I am not kidding... it was three feet from my face on my desk shelf, just above my computer monitor! Then one day I just happened to notice it. I tilted my head like the RCA Victor dog and wondered, "Hmmm, wonder if this is worth anything?" Looking it up on Ebay, I discovered this particular Sims game was still in high demand. I listed it right away and sold it for $35! So not only did I make enough money to buy dinner for myself and my wife, I freed up valuable shelf space on my computer desk!

The "thing-a-ma-jig" seen above was used by my Son back when he went through his guitar stage. It's some kind of electronic unit you hook up to your electric guitar. I must have handled this little gizmo a dozen times when cleaning the basement, moving it from here to there. I wasn't even sure what it was, still don't to tell you the truth. All I knew is that it was very lightweight and seemed kind of cheap, so I assumed it was a piece of junk. One day I had an awakening with it and decided, "What the heck, let me see if it has any value". I typed in the name of the manufacturer and dang if it didn't! Some of these thing-a-ma-jigs were selling on Ebay for as much as $75 with the cables. Since I didn't know one wire from the next, I sold the unit without the original cable. Didn't seem to matter, seven days later I was $46 bucks richer...a basement moneymaker!

Liberate yourself from your clutter! Take a walk around your home with eyes wide open. When you spot something ask yourself, "Do I really need to have this around?" Then look up it's value on Ebay. If it's worth a few dollars-sell it. You may be able to turn it into a nice Saturday evening dinner at your favorite restaurant!
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Trash picking for fun and profit.

Not all your inventory has to come from daily trips to the thrift store and yard sales. I have found numerous items to sell sitting right out at the curb, left for trash. Don't knock it, once I even found a fresh cut Christmas tree with a "free" sign on it. No, I didn't sell it on Ebay, I am not that wackie! The curb side find became our second tree and was displayed in our family room. We always like to put up a smaller tree in the family room, and I figured my find saved me about $35 that year!

But the mother of all freebies for me started one glorious day when I pulled into in my driveway. I looked over to my neighbor's house and my heart rate began to race; there sitting at the curb was a gleaming GE electric oven. I laughed in disbelief...I had some history with this behemoth. The previous owner of this oven had once asked me to help her poor husband schlep it down to her basement. My "Yuppie" neighbor had tricked out her kitchen with new marble and designer appliances. She then had a grand scheme to use the old oven strictly for occasional holiday cooking. But unfortunately for my old neighbor, her corporate job was eliminated and she moved away leaving the "back-up" oven to languish in the basement for the new owner to contend with.

Lucky for me, my brother-in-law was with me when I eyeballed this beauty from across the front yard...a curbside gift from my new neighbor! We quickly went into full alert, hoisting the sparkly clean oven onto my hand truck and wheeled it into my garage. I shut my garage door quickly, not wanting my new neighbor to see I was about to turn a quick profit on his cast-offs.

The oven was a perfect candidate for Craigslist. Since I knew the history of the oven I described how “Mrs. Clean” had owned it and that it was in "like-new" condition. I sold it quickly, thanks to my description and multiple pictures. This curbside moneymaker earned me a fast $125... and it was just sitting out for trash no less! As I was counting my money, I gleefully remembered how I cursed the thing when I carried it down my neighbor's basement. Thanks old neighbor, wherever you are!
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