Monday, December 26, 2011

Would Santa surf Ebay after Christmas?


Earlier today, I posted a comment on my Twitter feed advising everyone to look out for an eBay listing special this week. eBay has a long history of announcing a listing special right after Christmas. Since the "in-between" holiday week is always slow, it's eBay's way of luring sellers and buyers back into the water! Sure enough, a few hours after my Twitter comment, eBay announced this.....

Sellers: 3-day special! List Auction-style for free, December 27-29. Add Buy It Now for free, too!


I don't know how many buyers are out there trolling eBay during this holiday week. My guess is not too many. Most folks are returning presents, buying marked down wrapping paper and cleaning up after all the holiday festivities. In other words, doing everything but going on eBay. But since you can't beat the price of free, and the auctions run for seven days, I'll post some stuff. If you decide to list some auctions, be careful not to start your prices too low. It's questionable how many bidders you'll have. Nothing worse then selling something at a low starting bid when you know it's worth much more. To keep from getting burned, start your items close to the price you'd like to see them sell for. Remember, the listing is free so you have nothing to lose!

What's your opinion on this "in-between" week? Either way, good luck and enjoy the rest of the holidays!
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Wow, that was a hectic holiday season wasn't it? It's fun selling during the holidays, but I am always relieved when the auctions are over and the packages are mailed. Now all those good little eBay buyers have their presents under the tree, thanks to you and me. I made some great sales over the month of December. I really hope you did too. With the season over, I'll tell you about a nice little flip I made. It definitely made me say, Ho-Ho-Ho!

This past Summer, I found a vintage Christmas tree color wheel at the local Goodwill Store.
It was mint in the original box and looked like it was barely used. (I posted a picture of it on Twitter back in the Summer.) For those too young to remember, a color wheel slowly rotates, projecting it's colors on the old aluminum Christmas trees. Many people still like to put up the old retro aluminum trees and need these wheels to complete the look. You can still find cheap versions of them in some stores, but buyers prefer the big "old-school" look of the originals. So when I found a vintage color wheel still in the box, I knew I had something special. I paid the crazy-low price of five dollars for it, then stored it away until the holiday selling season.

Once December arrived, my color wheel went up for auction on eBay. While there were quite a few of them listed on eBay, my wheel had no problem attracting bidders. It sold for $73 dollars! Like I said, Ho-Ho-Ho!
The wheel wasn't my only big-time score, but I'll tell you about my other sales at a later time.

So as the year ends, I hope this site has encouraged and motivated you to get out to the garage sales. Maybe you learned some things that helped you score big cash dollars...I sure hope so! With the crummy economy and high unemployment, every little bit helps.

I know the followers of this site are pretty selfless. The money you earn doing this usually is spent not on yourself, but on your family. So I am not going to tell you to use some of your earnings to buy something for yourself. Because even though you should-you probably won't. But maybe you can do this-when things settle down after the holidays, use some of the money you've earned and take the family out to dinner. It can be your kids, spouse or a close friend...the people that are important to you. This is a Christmas gift for them and for you too! It doesn't matter where-a local diner, a fancy restaurant, or someplace in between. Just go out and treat yourself and your family. And as you sit at the table and listen to your spouse chat about work, or the kids talk about their school day, enjoy the warm family moment. Make sure you give yourself a pat on the back for the fact that you were able to do this for them. You deserve it!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I hope you find more "Money in the Garage" in 2012! .........Dude ; )
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ugly Christmas Sweater ? How would I know?


Funny story while at Goodwill today. I noticed another guy wandering through the racks who looked lost. You can always tell the folks who are newbies in the Goodwill Store. They look uncomfortable being there and wander around aimlessly. It's as if they want you to know that they don't normally frequent a thrift store-they're only there for some special reason.

I was in my usual stride, motoring through the Men's shirts when I heard the newbie let out a big sigh. Now I am all business, so I basically ignored the gentleman until he was standing right next to me. He then interrupted my rhythmic pace through the shirts and asked me a rookie question,"Excuse me, you didn't happen to find any of those ugly Christmas sweaters?" I looked over at him sceptically and said, "Sorry, what?" He had my attention now and asked again, "Have you seen any of those big ugly Christmas sweaters? I need one for an office party I am going to tonight."

The poor guy had no idea who he was dealing with! Because if I had found an ugly Christmas sweater, I would have kept it for myself. Seriously, I am the CEO and President of MoneyintheGarage.com for crying out loud! I've made some nice cash selling ugly Christmas sweaters! But since I know Santa is watching during the Christmas season, I tried to be agreeable. I spared the fella any attitude and just pointed out the sweater rack to him. I told him that's where he would find any sweaters. He thanked me and went on his way. (Hopefully, he found one as sweet as the one Mr. Andy Williams is wearing here.)

My encounter with this befuddled guy reinforces how people really want those ugly Christmas sweaters this time of year! Buyers are looking for them at Goodwill and on eBay. Even though it's late in the season, it's a good idea to just stockpile when found for the right price. Either that or you can set up a table in front of the Goodwill Store for those last minute shoppers!

Did you sell any ugly Christmas sweaters this year? Fill us in below......
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Pottery Barn Kids for less

Remember my fondness for anything from Pottery Barn? It's one of the gold brand standards that buyers will pay big money for. The brand is so popular a rock painted egg shell white with "Pottery Barn" chiseled on it would sell! For real.....buyers go nuts for Pottery Barn!

So imagine my joy a few months ago when I came across this Pottery Barn lemonade stand. Even a lug like me can tell this is high on the "cuteness" meter! I found it at a garage sale in one of the local neighborhoods. While perusing the yard sale at this big fancy home, I glanced into the seller's garage and saw this sitting there. It would have been hard to miss, what with all it's bright white paint. I asked the owner if it was for sale? To my delight she told me it was. She then picked up the lemonade stand and carried it out to her driveway. I commented how neat looking it was and then she said the magic words, "Thanks...I bought it at Pottery Barn."

DING-DING-DING! Alarm bells went off in my head! This thing was oozing cuteness and was from Pottery Barn! Trying to contain my excitement, I casually asked the seller how much she wanted for the stand. It was a little dusty, so she began wiping it down with a paper towel and some spray cleaner. She was one of these "busy-bee" Moms-the type who can't stand still for a moment to talk. She continued to wipe down the top and began to work me at the same time, "Well I paid a lot for it, but I would take $25 dollars."

With that, she kept spraying and wiping down the stand. I thought for a second and then countered, "I'll tell you what...how about twenty and you don't have to bother cleaning it?" She stopped wiping and thought for a few seconds. Crumbling up her paper towel, she said "Ok, I'll take twenty for it." I peeled off a twenty and carried my awesome Pottery Barn lemonade stand down to the truck. After stowing the stand in the truck bed, I went back and bought a few more things from the lady. She had some nice merchandise; a set of fancy lampshades, a few more toys, all good quality stuff. After paying her, I left wishing I could find more garage sales as good as this one was.

Sometimes after I get home from the sales, I'll stage my finds prominently in the house. It's a way to show off my stuff, plus I like to see how the family reacts when they notice a new treasure. In this case, I positioned the lemonade stand in the family room where I knew my gang would spot it. My staging caught the attention of Mrs. Dude when she walked into the room. She spotted the lemonade stand and gushed out, "Ooooh, that's really cute!" Hearing this, I knew my Pottery Barn find was a winner!

Now it was time to sell. Something the size of a lemonade stand is pretty difficult to ship, so I went with a Craigslist ad over eBay. I did some internet searches on the stand and found that PB doesn't make this model anymore. This is always a good sign, making the piece even more attractive to buyers. I snapped a bunch of pictures of the stand in my backyard. Adding to the "cute" factor, I scribbled "Lemonade - 5 cents" on the overhead chalkboard. Nice touch right? I would have placed an old fashion pitcher on it too, but just couldn't find one in the house.

Originally, I thought selling the lemonade stand would be a little difficult since the weather was turning colder. What kid is interested in selling lemonade in cold weather? For a few weeks prior to Thanksgiving this turned out to be true-I didn't receive any offers. But then I posted it again for the Christmas buying season. A nice flurry of e-mails began coming in, including a Mom who wanted it for a Christmas gift for her daughters. She drove to my house on a dark, cold night in early December and paid me $85 dollars for the lemonade stand! That gave me a profit of $65 dollars...a nice return on a twenty dollar investment!

So once again Pottery Barn came through! How about you? Any good PB stories or other gold standard brands? As the Christmas selling season winds down, I'll bet everyone has story or two...share them below!
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Sunday, December 11, 2011

This is awesome....my wife won clear plastic wrapping paper !

Are you being "green" this Christmas season? Opportunities abound to recycle your Christmas wrappings, packing material and other related material. I mean seriously, the stuff is everywhere. You may remember I harped on this last year, but using recycled material is a really smart way to ship your eBay items.

Check out these "before and after" pictures of two holiday baskets my wife won recently at a school fundraiser. She was pretty excited about winning the baskets. One was full of holiday themed stuff, while the other was jam packed with pet store items. (Suffice it to say, our dog is now set for the year) When Mrs. Dude came home from the fundraiser with the baskets, she couldn't wait to show off all the stuff she won. I took one look and commented, "That's awesome, just look at all that wrapping paper!" Probably not the reaction she was looking for! But after Mrs. Dude inventoried all her basket winnings, I made off with the clear plastic paper. The paper couldn't have come at a better time, I am wrapping and shipping a zillion holiday sales.

Here's the end result-check out the shirt in the above picture. It's all neatly wrapped in the recycled basket paper, ready to be shipped to the buyer. Looks pretty good right? When buyers receive their item neatly packaged like this, they will usually show their appreciation with high seller ratings. Amazing what a little recycled paper can do!

Do you have any example of recycled stuff you use? Send in a picture and/or story and we'll post it on the site! Happy Holidays!
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A very A-Team Christmas

Isn't it funny how during the holiday shopping season you can often unload items that received zero bids in previous auctions? Sometimes I've become convinced that I'll never get a bid on certain things. Then I post the same item in December and BAM..... someone buys it! It's all part of the magic of Christmas I guess.

This old GMF View-Master featuring the A-Team is a good example of this. For those younger folks, this was a very popular show on NBC back in the early Eighties. The break-through character was "Mr. T" who's catch phrase was, "I pity the fool!" I found this View-Master for a buck at a yard sale a few years ago. Since it was in nice condition and in the original packaging, I thought this was going to be an easy sale for me. But it turned out that the A-Team was more like the B-Team. I posted this several times during the Summer months and didn't get a nibble. I guess I thought more highly of Mr. T and the A-Team then most eBay buyers did. After a few more no-sale auctions, I put the A-Team up on the shelf. I was starting to feel like the fool that Mr. T was referring to!

But then the Christmas selling season arrived with the promise of holiday shoppers. Needing to recover my huge one dollar initial investment, I decided to make a last desperate attempt to sell my A-Team View-Master. I posted the auction in December and guess what? The A-Team View-Master that couldn't get a bid in the summer, saw multiple bids in December. The closing auction price was $31 dollars...I was a fool no longer!

So if you have some "junk" laying around that you think can't sell, try it one more time for the holidays. There's still plenty of time. Remember, if I can sell my A-Team View-Master, you can sell your "no-bid" stuff too!

How have you done this season? If you had a few successes this month let us all know.
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Stick your head In the trash for cash!


As you may know by now, I am no stranger to a little trash picking from time to time. You may remember when I found my daughter's old Ugg boots carelessly thrown in my trash can. I fished them out and sold them on eBay for $32. Well, sticking my head into trash cans continues to pay off for me!

I have routine whereby I drive over to a local middle school and retrieve cardboard boxes out of the school's reclying dumpster. It's a great source for shipping boxes in all shapes and sizes. One day after grabbing a few boxes, I naturally took a peak in the adjacent school trash dumpsters. School had just wrapped up for the year and you never know what might be in there. I've come across some useful items; scissors, writing paper, books and more. Once I even found an entire set of stage pieces built for the school play, "Seussical, the Musical". I told my eccentric-musician friend about all the colorful Dr Seuss pieces, and he salvaged them for his music studio basement!

On this particular day, I opened each trash can lid and did a quick scan inside. On the last one, I peered down and
took note of a varsity style jacket bundled up in between some plastic trash bags. I speculated it was probably a kid's jacket left in the school's lost and found. When the school year ended, the custodian tossed it in the trash. On the front of the jacket I could make out some kind of stitched logo, I figured it was the school mascot or something. Being naturally curious, I reached in and pulled out the jacket.

As I shook out the jacket I began to chuckle to myself. This was no school jacket...it was an embroidered State Police jacket! The logo I spotted wasn't the school mascot, it was the State Police insignia stitched on the front! It was a quality garment too; colorful embroidered State Police Insignia, varsity bands at the waist and cuffs. The size was even right...adult/extra large. (I find XL is the most popular Men's size to sell. Look around, there's more XL guys out there then any other size.)

I could not believe my luck! Normally, I have to labor through racks and racks at the thrift stores to find law enforcement gear. Here was one just laying in the trash waiting to be discovered! As noted in my blog last month, law enforcement shirts, jackets and hats are all hot eBay items to sell.

Although it wasn't really dirty, I ran the jacket through the wash just to take off any "trash can" smell it may have picked up. The jacket came out fresh and clean. Since It was a jacket, I waited until Fall to post it on eBay. Once up for auction, the law enforcement collectors took notice....my trash can find sold for $28 big bucks!

Isn't it amazing what people throw away? Money found in the garage...uh, I mean school dumpster.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

How much for this carpet on my shoulder?

As it get's colder and colder, yesterday may have been the last yard sale of the season for me. (Check out the frost on the roof.) This was hosted by a little old lady who is a bit of an eccentric. That's a child mannequin standing next to the Little Tikes chalkboard, sort of creepy right? I've been to this lady's sales before. A few years ago while looking around, the lady asked me if I would move a couple of rolled up area rugs out to her driveway. I am a pushover for seniors since they always seem to remind me of my grandparents. Naturally I agreed and threw the carpet over my shoulder...dang it was heavy! It's the only time I've ever been asked to perform hard physical labor at a sale! Mrs. Dude was with me at the sale and was very amused that I was put to work. What's worse, after hauling the carpet, I didn't find anything good at the sale...all that heavy lifting for nothing!

At this frosty garage sale I was the first person to show up. But since she's had sales before, I figured the likelihood of finding anything good was low. Turns out I was right-nothing of great significance found. I did uncover one of those vintage Fisher Price house boats, but they really have no value by themselves. The money is in the smaller pieces like the chairs, tables and Little People figures. If you research Fisher Price toys on eBay, you'll find big toys without their smaller pieces don't sell well. It's always a good idea to look them up before you buy.

So once again I walked down the driveway empty handed. As I left the sale, the little old lady came out of the house with her cup of coffee. I gave her a quick wave before she recognized me and put me back to work!

Let me know if you find any late season finds. Also, remember if you're asked to move the seller's stuff...lift with your legs!
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Christmas spirit does not extend to returns!

Happy Holiday season! Are you going crazy posting all your holiday inventory? I' ll bet that you are! Add to this mayhem, eBay's "one-cent" and "free" listing days and I am sure it's a nutsy time around your computer!

As you slowly go crazy posting listings, you may want to consider a strict "no return" policy for most items. That's what I am doing. While I do except returns during most of the year, I turn into old Ebenezer Scrooge during the holidays. Let's face it, most buyers haven't a clue what us sellers deal with when moving holiday inventory. They think we're all Wal-mart or Sears and can just take back returns with no problem. What they don't realize (or care) is sellers only have a four week window to get their stuff sold. If we except returns, more then likely that item will not be returned in time to be re-posted for a second auction. The seller is left "holding the bag" and usually ends up being stuck with the merchandise until the following year!

Take for example this Dept 56 New England Village school house. I paid $5.00 for this at a garage sale. Dept 56 buyers are always looking for additional pieces for their Christmas display, so I held it until the holidays to maximize it's sale potential. My selling strategy panned out, because this this school house sold for $36. Waiting until Christmas boosted the sale price and I made a profit of $31 dollars.

While all went fine with this sale, what if I permitted returns for this piece and the buyer decided to ship it back to me? There's no way would I have enough time to re-post this school house and sell it in time for the holidays! Frankly, do you know anyone who is buying Dept 56 Christmas pieces....in January? I sure don't! In fact, that's when collectors are boxing them up and throwing them back into the attic. So by accepting returns I'd have to sell it for much less, or be forced to store it on my shelf where it would sit for 11 long months. Not a good scenario, so my listings are all no return.

Have you ever been left "holding the bag" on a holiday return? Tell us about it in the comment section.
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Uggs in my trash can...Has someone in the house lost their mind?

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Finding stuff to sell on Ebay can come from the least expected places. Not long ago, I was throwing some trash in the garbage can when I looked inside 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 them and they're not cheap! A new pair of Uggs can easily retail for $150 down at your local mall. 

The boots I retrieved from the trash were very familiar to me. They were a Christmas gift to my daughter only two years before! I even have home video of daughter grinning from ear to ear when she tried on her new Uggs for the very first time! Now just over two years later, the boots were cast aside in the garage can like those poor misfits toys from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer!

I was incredulous...sure they were old and worn,
but they were still Ugg boots! So I fished the boots out and with disapproving looks from both my daughter and wife, went right to my computer to look up what used Uggs sell for on Ebay. As I bolted past her, my daughter skeptically commented, "Who's going to buy an old pair of beat-up Uggs?" Clearly, all my hard work selling on eBay had not made one iota of an impression on her! To help daughter understand, I modified one of my favorite movie lines, replying "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".

Typing in "Ugg Boots" on eBay, I found over 500 used pairs up for auction. Just like my daughter's, not all the boots listed were in fantastic shape. But the important thing was that most were getting bids. That was good enough for me. I listed our trash can pair and was straight up about their condition. Soles...worn. Toe caps...worn. Insole....yep, worn too! I also posted a bunch of pictures showing all the wear and tear. I didn't want the buyer to complain later that I wasn't up front. My description emphasized that while they were definitely worn, they were still real Uggs. With the Ebay world flooded with all kinds of Ugg knock-offs, at least my buyer would know they were getting the real deal!

 
Uggs in the trash? It's a world gone mad!!
I listed the boots for a starting bid of $9.99 and they quickly shot up to $16 in only the first day.
As the auction continued to tick along, the trash-found Uggs had a ton of page views. What did my daughter say? Nobody wants used, beat up Uggs?....puhleeze! When the auction finally closed I once again proved that Dad knows best... those trash can Uggs sold for a winning bid of $32 dollars! The way I looked at it, that was money that almost got thrown away!

Even though she initially doubted her dear old Dad, I decided to give my daughter the $32 dollars. I was a little conflicted about doing that. I mean how's she going to learn the value of money when Dad just keeps handing it over to her? 

So I guess I need to check my trash can on a regular basis. Who knows what my kids are going to throw away next?!


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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An old bag

Riding the wave of a popular television show is always a good way to make some money on eBay. You may remember I found a phone shaped like a duck, similar to the one on MTV's Jersey Shore show that netted me $31 dollars! Not long ago, I found another artifact at a garage sale that did pretty good too....thanks to another TV show.

It was this old airline travel bag. This thing looked like it came off the set of Pan Am, the popular ABC television show. I came across this Sixties era luggage at a garage sale at a little old lady's vacation home. I could tell from her stuff, this lady came from money. She clearly had put this bag to use and probably jet-setted to glamorous and exotic places back in the day.

I picked up the bag and tucked it under my arm as I continued to look around the sale. Because of her age, the old lady had her daughters helping with the sale. But she was clearly in charge. Mostly, she sat in her rocker and gave orders to her kids from the front step. This lady had some attitude and looked like someone you really didn't want to mess with! Walking over to her, I expected to battle over the price of the bag. But her bark was worse then her bite. She charged my one dollar for the bag! I  gave her a quick, "Yes Mam, thanks" while handing her the  dollar. Relieved she didn't bite my head off, I happily walked away with a great deal. As I did, the old lady went back to ordering her kids around from her rocking chair.

If you want proof of how a popular television show can affect market prices on eBay, just try this simple experiment. Compare the selling prices of vintage TWA bags with vintage Pan Am bags on eBay. Both are defunct commercial airlines that were hugely popular back in the Sixties. But today, only Pan Am has a network television show named after it. You'll find that Pan Am bags are big sellers, while TWA bags see almost no bids. That's the power of television at work!

I couldn't wait to post my new find. My Pan Am bag went up on eBay faster then that old lady could get out of her rocker. It saw friendly skies during it's seven day auction and closed with a high bid of $30 dollars. Now that's what I call a smooooth landing!

So keep an eye out for vintage airline collectibles, particularly Pan Am. Here's another one that will really l get you motivated : http://www.ebay.com/itm/PAN-AM-AIRLINES-VINTAGE-STEWARDESS-HAT-AND-PIN-SIZE-22-1-2-/380385574981?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5890bf4045

Wow, that's a lot of dough for a hat! But $30 for an old bag is pretty good too right?
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Stop your listings tonight & save $$$ ! ! !

Stop the presses, hold your horses, and stop the clock! SUNDAY NIGHT NEWFLASH........!

I just received an e-mail from eBay a little while ago stating the following:

Seller Special
One day only: November 21
Applies to Auction-style listings
Pay just 1¢ to list an item
New eBay ads mean more buyer
Of course, I read this right after I hit the "List your item" button and paid 50 cents for a listing! (I hate when that happens.) But with this offer, I am done for the night. Better to pay a penny for a Christmas listing then 49 cents more right?

Just thought I'd pass the word in case you haven't checked your e-mails this evening. Back to posting tomorrow-for less money!
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Garage sale from H...E...double hockey sticks !

Is there anything worse then an unprepared garage sale seller? I ask that question because last Saturday I ran into one that was the "Titanic" of garage sales. Just like the great ship, this garage sale seemed to show promise, but quickly sank once people were on board.

The seller started off with the right idea. She hung signs all over town advertising her sale, along with a friendly Craigslist ad posted several times during the course of the week. The ad read as follows:

"Time to pass our treasures on! Clothing for maternity, babies, children and adults! Shoes, Handbags, Kitchen tools, China, silverware, Four Poster beds, Cribs, Brio Trains (tons of them...paid a college tuition for them over the years actually!), Brio Train table! Bikes, Armoire, TV, Coffee table, End Tables, Easy Bake Oven, Creepy Crawly (boys easy bake oven to make bugs), Shrinky Dink ...and much more!!! 7:30am-3:00pm"

Pretty intriguing ad right? Lot's of interesting stuff listed and hello...Brio trains! That got my attention! If you follow my blog, you know I am pretty keen on Thomas the Tank Engine stuff. The ad further teased me with the mention of a Brio train table. That could be the icing on the cake for this sale! A good Brio table, combined with trains, buildings and houses can be sold for a hundred dollar bill or more on Craigslist. Making the garage sale sound even better was the bright and early 7:30 start time. This women sounded like a real "go-getter" when it came to garage sales! My plan was to make it my first stop and head right for the trains and Brio table! I was practically counting the money I could make from this sale!

But alas, perception turned out to be way different from reality! As I rolled up to the garage sale, my plan quickly vanished in the early morning frost. Apparently, I wasn't the only cowboy at this rodeo...cars were parked everywhere! Contributing to the problem was the overall meager number of garage sales being held that day. Only a pathetic five were listed on Craigslist! With so few sales for the day, there was a rare convergence of eager buyers all at the same location! It reminded me of those wedding dress shops that have a one day sale and all the ladies stampede into the store to grab anything they can find. It was almost that bad at this garage sale!

Despite the crowd, I forged ahead and elbowed my way up the driveway. That's when things went from bad to worse. The seller was completely unprepared for the influx of buyers who showed up exactly at 7:30. Not only that, it seemed like the seller had just threw open her garage doors but forgot one thing-stuff to sell! Only a few things had been brought out in the driveway, most of it still in the boxes. Compounding an already bad situation, the seller wasn't getting anything unpacked. She was too busy playing "sales girl" to people who inquired about her boxes of stuff! Don't you hate when sellers do that? In a fit of frustration I wanted to blurt out, "Hey...less yapping and more unpacking please!"

While she continued to chatter on, I squeezed around people and searched for the Brio trains she had advertised. But the trains must have still been up in her kid's bedroom because they sure weren't in the driveway! I did uncover what the seller had charitably called a "Brio" table. Just two little problems...it was all in pieces and it wasn't Brio! Since the table wasn't assembled, I couldn't tell what condition it was in. This garage sale sale was turning out to be a real mess!

I wasn't the only buyer frustrated with this disaster of a garage sale. A women standing next to me shook her head in disgust, mumbling she would come back once the seller stopped chit-chatting and actually put her stuff out. I was pretty much right behind her, leaving annoyed and frustrated. I never even bothered to go back, figuring by the time the seller did get set up, all the good stuff would be snapped up by other buyers. I was completely baffled and annoyed over this sale. How could a women who seemed to prepare all week by posting signs everywhere and multiple ads on Craigslist, mess it up right from the opening of the garage door? It was unbelievable! Clearly there should be some kind of training course for garage sale sellers.

Have you've been to any disastrous garage sales? I am certain everyone has been to a few disasters. If so, share your nightmare garage sale story below!

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Take the stuff off the shelves...it's time to sell!













Happy Thanksgiving...wait a minute, I really mean Merry Christmas! Even though the leaves are still on the trees and Thanksgiving is in a few weeks, it's the holiday season for us eBay sellers. Just like those retail giants Wal-Mart and Target, you can also make your big money during the holidays. I am starting too pull out stuff to sell that I stockpiled during the year. In particular, I like to sell things like clothes with original tags attached and just about anything sealed in the original box. Some of my inventory includes Department 56 village pieces, Thomas the Tank engine toys, American Girl and all those special edition Barbies.

Selling during the holidays almost guarantees your stuff will go for higher prices. The Thomas the Tank engine piece seen here is a good example. It's the "Sodor Hospital" and came with Harold the helicopter and an ambulance. I bought this for a dollar way back in the spring. Rather then store it away until the holiday shopping season however, I made the mistake of selling it right away. It turned out to be a dumb move on my part...it only sold for ten bucks! Now fast forward to present time where there are more buyers looking to buy Christmas gifts. The same Sodor Hospital just sold on eBay for $41 dollars! So waiting until the holidays would have netted me another 30 dollars in profit! Oh well, live and learn right?

The holiday selling season is "magical" in another way too. You can sell stuff that you just could not give away during the rest of the year! The plush carousal pony seen here is a good example. I posted this poor little pony on eBay on multiple occasions during the year without a single bid. She was almost destined for my own garage sale or Goodwill, when I re-posted her one last time during Christmas season. Good thing I did too... she ended up selling for twenty dollars! My pony proves you can really clean up your inventory during the holiday selling season!

What kind of things you do like to sell during the holiday season? Like my pony, have you ever unloaded stuff that was impossible to sell during the year? Leave a comment below then start selling!
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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cowabunga Dude....it's a mixed lot!

Take a look at these two baskets of toys. Originally I thought these were mostly Legos, but turns out they had some nice extra stuff mixed in. I bought them from a nice lady who started her garage sale at 9 AM sharp. Even though it was a late start, I somehow beat the "early birds" and had first crack at everything. Walking up the driveway, I was blown away at the amount of boy's toys. There were so many boxes and baskets of toys that it was almost overwhelming. Making matters worse, the toys were all mixed together. Don't you hate that? Basic Legos were mixed in with Bionicals. Duplos were thrown with Star Trek action figures. The mixed lot anarchy went on and on like this! It was enough to give any serious garage sale hunter conniptions! I mean gee-whiz, why can't kids neatly segregate their toys in separate containers by product? Yeah....maybe on another planet!

Despite the disorganized mess , I was able to walk away with a bunch of things including the two baskets of the loose pieces seen above. As I said, they included not just Star Wars Legos, but other brands too. I paid ten dollars for both baskets. After a little work combing through the pile, I was able to separate pieces by toy brands. If you look closely at the photo you'll see two little Lego Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles standing proudly in front of the whole mess. Those two little guys were the first to go on the eBay auction block. Even though one guy was headless, I managed to sell the pair for ten dollars-the exact amount of my initial investment. Now all the other pieces were pure profit! With my original ten dollars back in my pocket, the remaining pieces were sold as follows:

Lot of Power ranger action figures and parts....$15

Lot of Lego Start War figures.............................$20

Lot of Lego Star War spaceship pieces.............. $19

Lot of Polly Pocket figures..................................$15

Fantastic Four Action figure...............................$11

So adding up all the auctions, those two baskets made me $80 big ones! And I still have some leftover pieces that I may be able to squeeze a few more dollars from. That's why I love mixed lots. If you buy the right stuff they can just keep giving! As the Ninja Turtles like to yell, "Cowabunga Dude!"

How have you done with mixed lots? If you have a major "mixed lot" score go ahead and brag about it in the comment section below!
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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Icons on eBay

If you are even remotely following the news, you know that the Steve Jobs biography is about to go on sale. You don’t need me to tell you about Job’s great contributions-that will be discussed by greater minds then me. But one of the missions of this blog is to inform you of what's hot on eBay right now. I also like to be topical, discussing events currently in the news. So I'll point out an obvious truism...stuff associated with Steve Jobs can sell for a lot of money on eBay. As we’ve seen in the past, whether it's Elvis, Micheal Jackson or other icons, people want stuff associated with that famous person. Naturally, this is now happening with most anything related to Jobs. A few examples stand out.

For a very long time, hard-core Apple enthusiasts have sought the Time magazine issues which feature Jobs on the cover. Of particular interest is the 1982 copy featuring Job’s first appearance on Time’s cover. (seen above) Since then, Jobs has appeared on the cover several more times. Each one is highly sought after by the Apple collectors with the older covers obviously selling sell for more. But either way, if Jobs is on the cover of a magazine, it's worth something. Just a few weeks ago, a 1982 Time cover sold for $162 dollars! You can expect to see other copies go even higher. So when you're at the yard sales, it’s worth your time to flick through any old stack of news and computer tech magazines looking for Steve Jobs covers.

My sons are big Apple users and huge admirers of Jobs. So several years ago, I learned of an unauthorized “Steve Jobs” plush toy doll that was selling like hot cakes on eBay. The doll was an eight inch likeness of Jobs, right down to his trademark glasses, black shirt and Levi jeans. It was so popular that the doll company sold out of the figures quickly and you had to back-order it and wait for more to be made. I ordered two for my guys, but I never received them because the company was slammed with a cease and desist order from Apple. (Apple is extremely protective of their name and Jobs' likeness.) Needless to say, those rare dolls can't be found anywhere today. But imagine what one of those dolls would sell for today on eBay? The sky is the limit! Dude's Postscript: Just looked them up, they are selling for as much as $500 on eBay!

Another highly sought after Apple item is the "Think different" poster series. These posters were produced by Apple as part of an advertising campaign from 1997 to 1998 and feature such icons as Thomas Edison, Jim Henson, Bob Dylan and other historical figures. Some of these posters today easily fetch $1000 or more on eBay. If you find an original "Think different" poster at a garage sale, it's definitely your lucky day. But be careful, like anything else there are knock-offs out there.

Currently on eBay there are a slew of a Steve Jobs figurines for sale. A few months ago the average price was around $35. Now some sell for for $100 or more, with some sellers even asking over $2000! (I guess it can't hurt to ask right?)

Take a look yourself on eBay-you'll be amazed at the variety of Steve Jobs stuff listed. I guess everyone wants to own a piece of an Icon.


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Monday, October 17, 2011

Reading the tea leaves

A fellow garage sale groupie who goes by the name "Cotie" wrote in last week with an interesting question. Cotie inquired whether I had any tips on the fine art of reading garage sale ads. This dilemma comes into play when faced with a multitude of garage sales. During those peak weekends when just about every seller gets the brilliant idea to hold their sale on the same exact Saturday, you have to make some calculated decisions based upon what an ads says. The ability to decipher a garage sale ad can save time and make you money. Here's a few handy tips I've developed to decipher an ad.

The phrase "years of accumulation"

If I see a garage sale ad that declares, "years of accumulation" it's going on the top of my list. Years really means decades, and that's a long time! Usually it's an elderly person's belongings which really falls under the category of an estate sale. So when I see the "accumulation" ad I am pretty confident I'll find old and collectible stuff.

The address

I may be stating the obvious, but it's still important to mention. In my town there are some affluent neighborhoods that I like to call the "wine & cheese" country. (I could also call it Pottery Barn country, because I find a lot of PB in these neighborhoods) So given a choice of where to go first thing in the morning, I tend to steer towards the wine & cheese neighborhoods first. They have expensive stuff usually listed cheap. They don't need to make big money because they already have it! A garage sale is just a way for these folks to clean house and make room for even more expensive stuff. Now some folks have also wrote in to tell me the complete opposite-that wealthier sellers tend to ask more for their stuff. I guess it just depends on the individual seller. Either way, when faced with way too many garage sales to cover, I am heading up to wine & cheese country first!

Eclectic or high end items listed

Specific items listed in the ad can be a tell-tale sign the seller has good stuff to sell. For example, when an ad lists a canoe for sale I am definitely stopping to take a look-see. Not for the canoe, I already have one. As crazy as it sounds, I've found people who list a canoe for sale will also have other very cool things to sell. My theory is people with canoes are a little more adventurous and eclectic in their tastes. In their travels they may collect antiques, art, unusual clothing, camping and other all-around interesting stuff. Much of it ends up for sale at their garage sale, because like the wine & cheese folks, they need to make room to buy more!

Newspaper ad versus a Craigslist ad

It's sad to say, but newspapers are slowly fading away in the world of instant internet news. Younger people won't even touch a newspaper-they hate getting the ink on their fingers! When they list a garage sale it's not going in the newspaper, it's going on Craigslist or other similar websites. So I am finding more and more that garage sales listed in newspapers are placed by older people. Once again, older people have older stuff.

The "Moving to Florida" ad

Garage sales that state the seller is moving to Florida, California or some other destination offers nice potential to scoop up some bargains. These sellers often want to downsize before the big move. Moving all their belongings will cost them major cash so they're motivated to sell stuff cheap. People tend to drop those personal attachments to things when its going to cost them money to move it. Bulky items like furniture and large decorative pieces all of a sudden can become dead weight to a seller. Next thing you know, it's in the garage sale and you can buy it for a song!

Ads that describe the seller's interests

A garage sale ad that describes the seller or his interests always piques my interest. For example, occasionally you'll see an ad that describes "man cave" stuff for sale. Being a guy, that's one that makes me drive fast to the sale! Man cave stuff can be sports collectibles, beer and bar paraphernalia, Nascar...basically "boys and their toys" stuff. In a recent blog I wrote about a "man cave" garage sale that I couldn't wait to go to. It turned out to be a blast! I bought a garden windmill, several old radios, a hand carved hunting duck and more! So if an ad describes the seller's hobbies or interests, it can be worth checking out.

The "little something for everyone" ad

Don't you hate this type of ad? It's like the seller isn't even trying to draw you in. It's devoid of any creativity or originality! Seriously, if they're taking the time to write an ad, can't they come up with something more to say? What the seller really is saying with this lame ad is, "I have nothing for anyone specific." Boy, that really sounds like an exciting yard sale doesn't it? Bottom line is this ad tells me the garage sale could be a stinker. I may stop by at some point on Saturday, but it may be at the end of the morning.

The Garage "fundraiser" sale

Garage sales to benefit a "good cause" are the absolute worst for folks like us. This type of garage sale consists of entirely donated items. Now I am no Ebenezer Scrooge, but if you're going to do a fundraiser please just make it a car wash or sell cookies! Let's face it, when people are asked to donate some personal item for the "cause" it's usually pathetic! You'll find mostly junk that people no longer have a use for. And if they can't use it, why in the world would anyone else want it? So the stuff you find at the "fundraiser" sale always seems to be one step away from going into the trash...empty fish tanks, ugly cordless phones, outdated TV rabbit ears and dog-eared John Grisham paperbacks. The "Good Cause" garage sale is usually a waste of time for me.

So that's how I go about interpreting garage sale ads. Not very scientific and yep, there are exceptions to every rule. But this is what I've found after many years or reading ads and walking up a gazillion driveways. Everyone has a few tricks of the trade when reading ads. Be kind and e-mail in with a few tips of your own. Please save me a trip up a driveway!
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stop the truck...that guy has white hair!

When driving up to a garage sale, I'll evaluate it's potential before even walking up the driveway. I look for tell-tale signs as I approach, maybe an expensive car in the driveway or a well kept, nicely decorated home. All these things can be a good indicator of finding some high quality stuff. One of my favorite tell-tale signs is white hair. You're probably wondering, "Who's white hair?" I am talking about the seller's of course! If I drive up and see the seller is an older person (usually with white hair) then I am ready to find some garage sale gold!

Now believe me, I am not being a wise guy. In fact, I am starting to show some strands of white hair myself. It's just a fact that folks who are in their senior years often have better stuff to sell. I've literally been at neighborhood garage sales with two sales directly across the street from each other. The one house is a young couple with kids, while the other is an older couple with white hair. Guess which driveway I am going up first? Dog-gone right....the older couple! That's the garage sale where you'll find the antiques, the old tools, fishing gear, kitchenware...all around better stuff!

A few years back I went to a garage sale held by an older gentleman. This was a guy I liked immediately...flannel shirt, neatly kept house and yes, white hair! I wandered around his driveway and chatted it up with him. But it was late in the morning and it began to looked like all the good stuff had already been sold. Thinking I had struck out, I began making a turn back down the driveway when a box caught my eye. I doubled back to take a quick look. It was an Sixties era plastic toy model made by the Aurora Plastics Corporation. The model was partially hidden from view because the old-timer had thrown it in a big "junk" box. (Another reason to slow down and take your time when looking through a garage sale.)

I pulled the box out from it hiding place. It was a very cool depiction of the famous Iwo Jima flag raising from World War II. Opening it up, it was clear that the old timer bought this model many years ago with all good intentions to build it. Lucky for me he never got around to it. The model was pristine with all the parts still attached to the plastic stems. Model collectors drool over vintage kits in this untouched condition! Back in the 1960's, Aurora was the premiere model company. Unfortunately they went out of business in the 1970's, making their kits even more collectible today.

So when I found this Aurora model, I had a hunch I discovered something good. I asked the gentleman what he wanted for the model and he told me fifty cents! Holy cow-only fifty cents? If I had been drinking coffee at the time I may have spit it out my nose! I quickly handed over two quarters to the fine gentleman. Heading back down the driveway, I let out of a sigh of relief that I had spotted the model. That last second glance before leaving may have generated me some serious dollars!

If you have some time, type in "Vintage Aurora model" into your eBay search bar. You'll see collectors are hot for these old models. My Iwo Jima model went on eBay and it was clear it had plenty of interest. It appealed to both World War II, Marine Corps and just general Aurora model collectors. By the end of the auction, my fifty cent driveway find sold for, ready for this......$135 dollars! ......Semper Fi!

So you may have thought the "white hair" theory sounded a little crazy, but try it for yourself. Maybe you'll turn a couple quarters into big cash dollars. That's crazy in a good way!

(Got a good "white hair" story? Shoot me an e-mail or comment below!)
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Thursday, October 6, 2011

In honor of Steve Jobs: An Apple flip revisited...


Dude's Note: In honor of Steve Jobs, I am re-blogging a great Apple Computer flip from the past.

I use an Apple computer to manage my far reaching Website, Twitter and blog accounts. I was the last holdout in the family, but my kids finally dragged me over to Team Apple a few years ago. Now our house is all Apple: iMacs, iPhones, iPads and even an iTouch. I am glad I made the transition. Apples are more user friendly and have a near zero chance of crashing with a bug or virus.

So last Fall when I came across this Apple IMac-G4 at a garage sale I grabbed it. A women sold me this eight year old computer for only twenty five dollars. This thing sold new for $1800 back in the day. It had an awesome Apple design with a 15 inch LCD flat screen that could pivot around like the famous Pixar lamp! I brought it home and my youngest son checked it out for me. He owned this same model a few years ago and knew his way around it. Sonny Boy began doing some Apple housekeeping, deleting some old files left by the previous owner and other geeky-tech stuff. But when I asked him to upgrade the software to make it run faster, he ran into a major roadblock. The operating system was password protected! I never thought of asking for the password when I bought the computer-who would? But no password-no getting into the operating system to upgrade things. It's sort of like not having the key for your car's trunk...you may not need to get into it right away, but eventually you will!

I implored Sonny Boy to scour through the files and see if he could find the password hidden somewhere. To his credit he found a password clue. It was a seven digit word and the clue was "Dad's nickname". He also found the owner's name in some documents: Paul Smith. (My fictitious name to protect the innocent) We assumed the dad was Paul and went to work. Like Wheel of Fortune contestants during lightening round, we tried a string of different nicknames: PaulDad, Pops123, Daddio1...all with no success. The situation was looking hopeless!

Seeing my potential profits slipping away, I decided I would try to find the lady who sold it to me. But without getting into the truck and retracing my steps how could I track her down? I am pretty good at remembering where I buy stuff, so I began by using Google maps. Because her house sat on the corner of two streets, I was able to locate it and figure out her house number. Now I had both the street address and their last name. I typed both in the Google browser and up popped the women's full name and her home telephone number! Scary right?

It had been four months since I bought the computer-that's a long time in garage sale years. But I had to break the code to get into the Apple! I looked over at my son in desperation, "That's it, I have to call her!" He agreed and sat back and enjoyed the show as I dialed the number. After a couple rings, the lady actually answered the phone! I began to explain how I was the guy who bought her computer back in the Fall. Trying my best not to sound like a cyber stalker, I told her I was now in need of her password. There was silence on the other end then she asked suspiciously, "How did you find my number?" Using the friendliest tone I could muster, I explained that between remembering where she lived and finding her husband's name in the computer files, I was able to track her down using Google. She seemed somewhat satisfied with this explanation, especially when I mentioned that my 14 year old did most of the detective work. With her now reassured I wasn't a wacko, I again asked her for the password. She paused then responded, "Oh I doubt I could remember the password, that was years ago."

At this point I turned into a TV game show host, "I can help you with that. Can you remember a seven digit nick name for your husband?" She paused and thought for a minute, then excitedly blurted out "Oh.... try Big Paul!" I shouted over to my son, "Big Paul!" He quickly typed it in and clicked the mouse. Like computer hackers, we waited anxiously while the iMac processed Big Paul. A second later my son yelled victoriously, "We're in!" The password worked! I thanked the lady and again reassured her we would wipe the computer clean of any leftover family files. After she hung up, I thought she was going to have a very bizarre story to tell Big Paul!

Once in, Sonny Boy was able to upgrade the software, making the Apple run faster and smoother. With his work complete, I posted the computer on Craigslist for $125. I could have seen $150 or more for it if I sold it on eBay. But like other bulky items I've sold, I didn't want the hassle of shipping the huge box. It took about a week, but I ended up getting my $125 from a Dad who bought the computer for his kids. I also made sure I gave him the password! Once paid, I forked over $25 to my son for his tech support work, leaving me a profit of $75 dollars.

This was a cool flip, combining my son's computer tech skills with some Internet stalking...whoops, I mean detective work! Sonny Boy and I had fun seeking out the previous owner on the Internet and cracking that pesky password code. It also illustrates the scary reach of the Internet and how you should make sure your computer hard drive is wiped clean of personal files before you sell it. Unless you sell it to me and my son!
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Craigslist buyers won't commit to me !

Craigslist is a great alternative platform to eBay when selling stuff. You avoid all those annoying fees that come with listing on eBay. From the initial listing fee to the final value fee, eBay can take some of the fun out of selling on-line. And isn't it a great feeling when you're handed cash by a buyer knowing you actually get to keep every penny of it? But there is one big annoying drawback...Craigslist buyers can't commit! Trying to get one of these prospective buyers to commit is a little like wrestling with a greased pig...it's frustrating!

If you sell on Craigslist, I bet you know exactly what I mean. Part of the problem is that unlike eBay, a Craigslist buyer isn't locked in after they've committed to buying. With eBay, once you win an auction you pretty much have to pay or you'll face big trouble. An eBay buyer who backs out of a deal is subject to a string of automated e-mails from eBay and the threat of possible removal. But not so on Craigslist. It's a frustrating commitment-free zone where anything goes. Buyers can send you e-mails for days and weeks running you around. Bottom line is that you never know until the buyer pulls up to your house if you're getting paid.

Take for example these ceramic tiles I recently sold on Craigslist. They were left over from a home improvement project in my house. I listed all seventy tiles for $50 bucks-less then half what I paid for them at Home Depot. I received a huge amount of inquiries, many assuring me they would be right over to pick them up. But I was like the proverbial bride left at the alter...no one ever showed! Having no sale, I started to think I would be stuck using them to tile the dog house! Finally, after about five no-shows, a husband and wife showed up at my house and paid me my asking price. This isn't uncommon with a Craigslist sale.

Knowing Craigslist buyers can be illusive, I've developed a few strategies to try to reel them in. It starts with the inevitable e-mail that asks, "Do you still have them for sale? (I think this is a dumb question. I have them on Craigslist right? Well then, they're still for sale!) When I get the initial inquiry, I respond with a quick, " Yes, when do you want to pick them up?" This is a variation of the old salesman trick when they ask, "How many can I put you down for?" By asking them this, I am trying to cause them to commit right away. Sometimes this question scares them off. But if it does, they probably weren't going to buy anyway.

Making it convenient and easy to pick up is another good tactic. I'll inform the buyer that I'll meet them at a location close to their home. Occasionally when trying to land a really big dollar sale, I'll even offer to deliver the item right to their home. This can really grease the deal since the seller doesn't have to lift a finger. (Other then pulling the bills from his wallet!) I once sold an Apple computer to a private music teacher and drove the computer to his studio. While he was in another room giving a music lesson, I set the computer up for him like a tech support geek! After finishing his lesson, the teacher came out to the reception area and was tickled pink when he saw the computer up and running! Transporting the computer right to the teacher's place of business sealed the deal for me.

Lastly, I'll utilize a little psychological warfare on some prospective Craigslist buyers. When responding to e-mail inquiries, I 'll sometimes bluff and say that someone else may be coming over to buy it. I then tell the indecisive buyer that I'll sell it to whoever shows up first. Sort of the old "first come/first serve" rule, only there's no one else actually coming over. But by suggesting an imaginary competitor, I am trying to create a sense of urgency in the mind of the buyer. Hopefully this will motivate the indecisive buyer to jump on the deal.

What kind of strategies do you employ to get Craigslist buyers to follow through on a deal? They are a frustrating bunch, so if you have a trick I sure would like to hear it. E-mail me or send in a comment below! You should do it right now because it's y'know....first come-first serve! ; )
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Left behind


I talked earlier about the benefits of going to estate sales over the average garage sale. At estate sales you're more likely to find antiques, old furniture and other great old collectibles. But there's another sale I've come across where you can do nearly as well. It's what I call the "left behind" garage sale. You won't find this type of yard sale every Saturday, but when you do it can be an awesome buying opportunity. The left behind sale is where a new homeowner is selling stuff that was left in the house by the previous owner. The previous owner may have passed away and no one cleaned out the house, or the seller left in a hurry, abandoning his stuff. Personally, I can't understand why people would just leave stuff behind in a property. But for whatever reason that people do, new owners are stuck dealing with the stuff. Fortunately, some people wisely get rid of the junk with a garage sale. And when they do-they usually sell cheap! They're not looking to get rich, they just want it sold and gone! So you have old stuff at cheap prices, a double dose of good garage sale kharma!

About a month ago, I happened upon a "left behind" garage sale. This sale wasn't posted on Craigslist, so it was a complete surprise when I stumbled on it. (Making it more attractive...No advertising means less buyers) Walking up to the sale, the new homeowner had stuff all along the driveway which lead up to a detached garage. Since it looked like an estate sale, I asked the lady who's stuff it was? In an almost a defeated tone, she told me she and her husband had purchased the home and all the stuff in the driveway was found inside. Looking around at all the junk, I could tell immediately the previous owners were seniors. There were lots and lots of old things in dusty leaf bags and boxes....the search was on!

After combing through the driveway junk, I asked the new owner if I could look inside the old detached garage. She was fine with this and I began wandering through the old stick and frame building. Looking high and low, there were tools, auto parts, garden gadgets and other garage paraphernalia everywhere. Like some wide-eyed kid, I asked the new owner in breathless tones, "Wow, they actually left all this stuff when they sold the house?" Being that the new owner was stuck dealing with the mess, she was not nearly as impressed with the garage as I was. She reiterated what she had already told me earlier, "Yep, just left it here." The seller then went back outside to deal with buyers, while I toured the garage as if it were the famous Sistine chapel! Then my heart really started pumping when I overheard her price some things for buyers...she was a "quarter" lady! Almost everything she priced was just twenty five cents and nothing was over a dollar. Hearing this, I went into full buying mode!

After a careful search I found some cool stuff, most of which was priced at a quarter a pop! Some of my finds included; an old wood peach crate, a vintage tin thermometer I pried off the wall, a 1961 Scout jamboree bandanna and a set of old Coca Cola soda machines cups. I also found a Massachusetts state police cap and a 1980 John Deere riding mower manual. It was one of those sales where you keep walking around, combing through old bags and boxes hoping to find more. That's the sign of a great garage sale!

Turns out this sale made me some nice coin! Believe it or not, John Deere lawn tractor manuals sell very well on eBay. John Deere is the "Cadillac" of riding lawn mowers. As the advertising says, "Nothing runs like a Deere." So when an owner buys a used John Deere tractor, naturally they're "Jones" for the original manual too. Knowing that, I posted this manual on eBay and made a quick ten bucks! Then there was the Massachusetts State Police cap I found in a leaf bag. This old cap appeals to the law enforcement collectors out there. It screamed "vintage" right down to the gold oak leaves on the brim. This quarter find sold for $15 on eBay. Lastly, I sold the 1961 Boy Scouts Jamboree scarf for $23 dollars. The tally on these three sales came to a righteous $48 dollars. Just think, all that jingle for just three quarters!

So if you happen to come across a "left behind" garage sale, don't you be left behind. Get up that driveway and help that new owner clean house!
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On Batteries and postage costs

There is an overlooked fringe benefit to working in the garage sale industry. You may never have thought about this, but when you buy toys and electronics, a hidden bonus is inside just for you...batteries! Free batteries come with the territory and save you money over the long run. Of course, sometimes you'll buy a toy and the batteries are dead or corroded with acid. That's never a good thing. However, more often then not when I buy a toy the batteries are usually still good. The reason for this? Probably little Johnny hardly played with the toy, so the batteries stayed fresh. Prior to selling it, I always pop out and check toy batteries with a tester. If the batteries are good, I don't put them back in the toy, I store them away for future use in my TV remotes, garage door opener and other stuff.

Check out this picture of a Leapfrog Educational toy I recently bought for one dollar. When I opened up the battery compartment, I found not one...not two...not three....but four fresh AA batteries! While it may not seem like a big deal, let's do some math. I paid one dollar for a toy which contained four AA batteries. Think about what a four pack of AA batteries costs you at your local big box store. I'd say around $3.00 dollars right? So in reality, the dollar I spent for the toy comes right back to me because I am saving on the cost of batteries. Or look at it another way; I paid one dollar for a pack of (4) AA batteries and got a free toy with the deal! A little round-about logic but still true!

Another important issue with batteries is this....always take the the things out of a toy prior to shipping. While you may think you're providing a nice extra for the buyer, I say the following...... HORSE FEATHERS! Never, ever send batteries as part of the purchase! Does Mattel, Hasbro or any other toy company include batteries in their toys at time of purchase? Heck no and you shouldn't either! Why? Because they are dead weight! Without a doubt, the extra weight of the batteries in the toy will push your postage costs higher. You want to do everything you can to keep the weight of that package down. Who wants to pay more for postage? You could try to charge more to cover postage costs, but that's a big turn-off for buyers. And Ebay grabs a parentage of your shipping fee, while at the same time nagging sellers to keep postage fees down. You're in a "no-win" situation! So don't make the mistake of including batteries in a toy you sold. It will only make it harder on you financially. (Incidentally, I've found most buyers don't expect batteries to come with their toy)

So just consider free batteries a fringe benefit to the job. Have you found some other garage sale fringe benefits like free batteries? If so, give me a shout and I'll pass it along!
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Toxic toys? Not in my neighborhood!

We talked a few weeks ago about the benefits of toy recalls. One of the more newsworthy recalls was the Thomas the Tank Engine lead paint fiasco. In that notorious screw-up, some wooden Thomas the Tank Engine toy trains were found to contain lead based paint. Primarily it involved Thomas wood train pieces made in China that were painted red. The recall program has been in place for a couple years and has been a buying opportunity for folks like you and me. Many of these toys can be had at garage sales for a dollar or less per train.

Best of all, you're not just buying toxic trains to make some quick bucks. Heck no, you're like a comic book super hero coming to the rescue of little kids! When you buy these dangerous lead based toys, you're helping to get this toxic junk out of the hands of innocent children. Did you ever think you could do a "good deed" at a garage sale while making money at the same time? You absolutely can...so go out and do lots and lots of good deeds!

Take a look at the brand spanking new trains seen above. These little gems were sent to me from the toy company RC2, the producer of wood Thomas trains. They were all replacements for lead based trains I bought at a recent yard sale. I only paid fifty cents for each train. While not all the Thomas trains have paint problems, it was easy to find out which ones fell under the recall. The company provided a consumer service hotline number and website. The website had photos of all the toxic trains. I clicked on each toy to create an inventory list of trains eligible for return. A few weeks later, I received a confirmation letter and a pre-printed postage label to return the trains. I wrapped each toy up and sent them to the manufacturer with the attached inventory list. About four weeks later, brand new replacement trains were in my mailbox! Not only did they replace each toy, but they gave me an additional brand new Thomas the Tank Engine toy in the package! I now have about a dozen of these replacement trains which I am stockpiling for Christmas auctions. The Holidays are the best time to sell Thomas Trains, they make great stocking stuffers or can be added to an existing set as a gift. During the holidays each train piece can sell in the range of $8 to $20 dollars. If I don't sell every train, I can always sell them in larger lots or with a train platform. (Discussed a few months ago in a previous blog)

As a cautionary note, I am not certain how much longer this program will be in place. I've learned that Tomy Corporation, a huge Japanese toy conglomerate just took over RC2. Now when you attempt to go to the RC2 company website, it immediately reroutes you to Tomy.com. But until the Tomy corporation shuts down the recall program you can be the "Toxic Avenger" super hero, removing dangerous toys off the street while making money at the same time!

Do you know any other toys recalls we all should be looking for? If so, let me know in the comments section or send me your story for the website. Happy Hunting!
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Monday, August 29, 2011

I am sorry...did you just say one dollar?


Here's another garage sale find falling under the “I don’t know what that guy was thinking” category. I recently found two vintage mechanical toys which I bought cheap and sold, well...not so cheap. I got such a deal on these that after sharing the story with a friend he gave me the overused, "Boy, you took advantage of that guy!" That's a common critique you hear people throw out sometimes. Needless to say, it's a theory I don’t buy into. Let's be real...we all know it takes almost no effort for a seller to look up an item’s value on eBay before pricing it. So it's not the buyer's fault when a seller doesn't bother to do a little homework. Conversely, there are plenty of sellers who quote you a price and back it up with the definitive statement, "I looked it up on eBay". (And boy do I hear that a lot.) So while some sellers take the time to do their research, others don't bother. Naturally, I prefer the ones who don't bother!

This mechanical tin toy is a case in point. The guy who sold it to me was in his mid-Fifties and said it was a childhood toy of his. It was a space capsule modeled after the Gemini spaceships from the early Sixties. With a flick of the switch, it spun around, beeped and the door opened revealing an astronaut. Very cool right? I'll bet you don’t even have do an eBay "price check" to figure out it’s worth a lot of money!


So guess what the seller charged me for his childhood toy? Would you believe one dollar? Before you accuse me of taking advantage of the poor fella, let me assure you he seemed lucid and bright. So how to explain a guy selling me a vintage collectible tin toy for a buck? Maybe he didn’t really care about it’s true worth, or was too lazy to research it. Or maybe he didn't need the money and just wanted to clean house. Either way, I gladly gave him his asking price. I even bought another toy of his...a tin flying saucer for another dollar! I am telling you....this guy was the best!


Once again, I was tempted to keep this great find for myself. As a kid I was fascinated by the Space program and still have a little thing for all that cool Apollo Space program stuff. But I decided against it, sticking to my rule not to get emotionally involved with my garage sale finds!


In order to show off my space capsule on eBay, I needed lots of pictures. Photos showing the great graphics, another photo showing the capsule door open with the astronaut inside and finally one showing the lighted plastic light nose cone. After taking all the appropriate photos, I launched the capsule into that vast galaxy we call eBay. This type of toy is a winner as it attracts two types of bidders; space exploration collectors and people who love mechanical tin toys. When the auction went live both groups jumped in on the bidding. Just like a rocket leaving the launch pad, my one dollar find sold for an out-of-this-world $90 dollars!


As an extra booster, I also posted the Space Saucer and it sold for another $30. Not as good as the capsule, but not bad for a buck investment. Getting back to the original seller, why would he give away two great old mechanical toys for only two dollars? Who can really say? But as long as there are deals out there like that, I'll keep getting up early every Saturday morning! You too, right?



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