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? 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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