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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Friday, August 19, 2011

Flannel shirts and radios: who could ask for anything more?

On any given Saturday morning you can come across garage sales, yard sales and tag sales. Although they have different names, they are basically all the same in terms of merchandise. Usually you'll find lots of toys, kid's clothes, sports equipment and other family oriented junk. Then there's my personal favorite...the estate sale. It's here you'll often find a lifetime of accumulated belongings: antiques, tools, furniture and much more. Recently, I came across a local estate sale that did not disappoint!

It was the first one of the morning and this estate sale was just five minutes from my home. I barley started to sip my coffee when I rolled up to the old house. Estate sales often have a few obvious traits. They're always at older homes containing antiques and collectibles. Secondly, the people doing the selling are typically the grown children of the person who passed away. Often times they are ready to sell cheap because they're looking to get the house cleared out quick. So when you find an estate sale, get ready to hang around a little longer then normal. You'll be rewarded as the kids bring out box after box from their parent's house.

At estate sales you'll also discover what I like to call the "Gifts received but never used" category of stuff. If you have older parents, you know what I am talking about. How often have you given good old mom or dad a gift they refuse to use? Older folks are set in their ways and are comfortable with the things they already have. They hate new stuff and just put it away-usually in the box it came in! When you're at an estate sale search for the "Gifts received but never used" section. You can even ask the kids, they'll probably point it out to you!

This category was prevalent at the estate sale I found and made me laugh. Apparently, the old-timer's kids either completely gave up trying to come up with new things to buy dad or they just lacked any imagination when it came to gift giving. It was pretty obvious this particular dad liked two things: flannel shirts and table top radios. There were tons of both at this sale, it looked like a cross between Radio Shack and the Men's department at Sears circa 1975! I counted almost fifty flannel shirts still in the cellophane packaging and almost as many radios in boxes. God bless this old timer, because if shirts and radios were love, well then this fella was really, really loved!

After amusing myself with the thought of the old timer's shirt bonanza, it was time to get down to business. Generally speaking, basic table top radios are no biggie on eBay so I don't buy them. However, among all the basic radios at this sale, I found a sweet "Sharper Image" travel alarm clock/radio. This radio was never opened and still in the original shrink wrap! Yet another "Gift received but never used " given to the old timer. When it comes to eBay, pretty much anything Sharper Image is money! For example, not long ago I discovered my son's old CD player/alarm clock shoved in the back of his closet. I flipped it on eBay for a quick $35...pretty darn good for a back closet find! Knowing how well my kid's used alarm clock did, I was confident the Sharper Image Alarm clock radio would be "gold" on eBay. So I grabbed the radio off the table and continued my estate sale pursuit. I found a bunch more things, including a police scanner in the original box, a Sears tractor attachment, a camera and a few other things. The price on the Sharper Image radio was $10. I asked one of the son's if he would take $5 for it and he agreed. After paying up for all my nice finds, I loaded up my truck and was on my way.

Later that day I began researching my Sharper Image alarm clock radio on eBay. The prices varied widely, but I found one like mine that sold on eBay using a "Buy it now" listing. I wanted the most I could get on this radio, so I listed mine at the same fixed "Buy It Now" price. It was a good decision on my part. After only a few days, my five dollar radio sold for a cool "Buy It Now" price of $125 dollars! How's that for a sharp image?

Just another great score found in the "Gifts received but never used" section of an estate sale. Keep your eye out for this kind of stuff. They shouldn't be hard to find, they're usually right next to all the flannel shirts!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ever hear of recycling?

Generally I am a pretty laid back guy. As you get older you realize that some things are just not worth getting all worked up over. So when faced with some kind of drama or weird situation, I try to not let it upset me or cause me stress. But while at the garage sales this past Saturday, I was witness to something so personally outrageous and egregious, that I threw out my "serenity now" persona and popped off on another guy at a garage sale. Boy, he won't forget that morning anytime soon!

It all began at a big neighborhood community yard sale. Things were going well for me, I found some great kid's toys and chatted up some friends who live in the neighborhood. Moving along, I parked near a house I 've been to in past yard sales. I almost passed it up based on the "They always sell, so they probably don't have anything good" theory. But I stopped anyway , figuring it was worth a quick look. Turns out I was right, nothing I turned around and headed back to my truck. I was about 20 feet away from my truckster when I noticed an older, heavy-set guy walking past the back corner of my truck. He had just finished the last gulp of his water bottle when he did the unthinkable. The guy very casually dropped his empty plastic bottle into the bed of my truck, then kept walking to his wife's waiting car!

In case you didn't know, I am sort of attached to my truck. You may have heard of that song by country singer Toby Keith where he sings, "I like my girlfriend, I like my truck...but I LOVE this bar." Well for me it's more like, "I like my girlfriend, I like this bar... but I LOVE my truck!" I mean seriously, this guy was only ten feet away from his own car which I am assuming had a small trash can in it. (Because don't most civilized people keep some form of a trash can in their vehicle? I sure's neatly placed just below the stick shift.) But Nooooo, not this guy. He had to dump his trash in my truck! I was seeing red and was all like, "Oh, no you did-int!" Springing into action, I grabbed the guy's attention with a big angry, " YO!!!!" The guy looked over at me, probably instantly regretting his method of trash disposal. I then threw my arms high in the air above my head with palms up. This is universally recognized body language for, "Are you crazy...what the h#@l are you doing?!" Stomping towards the guy with my arms still up in the air, I yelled further, " Yo buddy, you're kidding me right? Are you for real? "

The guy had a stunned look on his face. He thought he was being slick but instead just got busted! Adding to his embarrassment, other people were now turning around and watching my little show. The litterbug continued to slink towards his wife's car looking to make a hasty retreat. I approached the back of my truck and looked in to verify what I had just witnessed. (All the while thinking to myself: if there's no water bottle in here I am going to look like the biggest idiot.) But sure enough, the offending evidence was laying in the back of my poor innocent truck. Embarrassed that he had just been caught, the guy sheepishly offered up a lame defense, " It's just an empty water bottle." I angrily shot back, " My truck isn't your personal trash can!" I retrieved the plastic bottle from the back of my truck and briefly thought about spiking the bottle in the street for dramatic effect. But I wasn't sure if he would actually bend over to pick it up, so I settled on holding the bottle out in his general direction. He meekly accepted the bottle and quickly jumped into the passenger side of his wife' car. I stared him down as they drove away. To add to his public humiliation his wife began yelling at him. I thought it would be fun to give the litterbug the "evil eye" if I spotted him at any further garage sales, but his wife wisely hustled him out of the neighborhood. I hoped that she continued to beat his ear all the way home...just desserts for his obnoxious actions!

It all made for an interesting Saturday morning at the garage sales. I defended the honor of my truck and gave an inconsiderate litterbug a lesson he won't soon forget! Oh, and I picked up some great garage sale deals that's what I call a good day!

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Oh the humiliation...oh wait. Ok, I am over it!

Not long ago, I had a slightly humiliating experience buying a huge lot of vintage Barbie dolls. While the transaction was awkward for me, I got over it pretty quickly after I sold this awesome find on eBay.

On this particular Saturday morning, I pulled up to a garage sale where the entire family was up early and participating. Mom, dad and three daughters...all were in the driveway chatting it up loudly, eating their morning bagels and drinking coffee. I don't know about you, but I hate these three-ring family circus type yard sales. Everyone is being very loud and carrying on... it always makes me feel like I am interrupting an early morning family reunion!

But despite all the distractions going in the driveway, I quickly spotted a nice big lot of vintage Barbie clothes and dolls. The dolls and clothes were all separated into smaller lots of three outfits per bag for three dollars each. The dolls were marked at only five dollars a piece. They even made up a sign outlining the price of each baggie. At the bottom the sign read, "$35 for all". I was able to interrupt the chatter between mom and her daughters long enough to ask about the age of the dolls. The mom told me they were her Barbies and were from the early Seventies. That was good enough for me...a sale was imminent! The daughter's all gave me a strange look, wondering why some middle aged guy would want Barbie dolls? Throwing out my usual diversionary line, I volunteered that my wife collected Barbies. The daughter's all nodded in agreement, their evaluation of me seemingly changing from "weirdo" to "nice-guy husband" in just a matter of seconds!

Now that I had mom and daughter's approval, I asked if she would take $25 for the whole lot? Amazingly, she said yes and I quickly scooped up the clothes and dolls. But I had to suffer one more indignity before retreating to my truck. Out of the garage came "Driveway Dad". If you go to enough garage sales you've seen this guy. Usually sporting "bed hair" because his wife woke him up way too early, Driveway Dad buzzes around the garage sale on a caffeine high, cracking lame jokes like Shecky Green and just generally getting in everyone's way. This particular Driveway Dad spotted me with the Barbie dolls and started chuckling. Then he had to take his shot, "Oh, I see you bought some dolls for yourself!" Playing along, I shot back, " Sure, why can't guys collect Barbie dolls, right? " I gave "Driveway Dad" a wink and headed back to my truck knowing that with the help of eBay, I was going to have the last laugh!

Once I arrived back at the "MoneyintheGarage" studios, I quickly took pictures and posted my vintage Barbie doll collection on eBay. Not wanting to mess around with smaller lot sales, a dress here, a doll there, I sold everything in one big lot. Would the strange looks and dumb wisecracks at my expense be worth it? Well, there were 270 reasons that it was definitely worth it! Yep....the Barbie dolls and clothes lot sold for a big, fat $270 dollars!

So don't let the driveway dads and yard sale-family parties distract you. While they're eating bagels and making dumb wisecracks, you're making money and having the last laugh...and that's no joke!

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Boys of Summer

Around my neck of the woods the number of garage sales has really dropped off. It's the peak of summer and folks are away on vacation or just staying inside their air conditioned homes. It's so bad that I found only two yard sales listed this weekend in my local paper. And like the drop in yard sales, most Ebay sellers will tell you sales tend to drop off this time of year too. But when the going gets tough, the tough eBay seller always finds something good to sell. For my money, golf shirt sales seem to be unaffected during the "dog days" of Summer. Why? Because many golfers are still out there duffing around in the hot weather. If you're golfing, then you need shirts. So shirts I sell!

When it comes to golf shirts, most of my inventory comes from local Goodwill Stores. Many of the shirts I find are new, always a big selling point with buyers. Used shirts sell for much less or sometimes don't sell at all. While I am not the first eBay blogger to sing the praises of golf shirts sales, some of my flips have been pretty amazing. Here are some brands that I've done well with:

Nike "Dri-Fit"
Bobby Jones Collection
Augusta National and/or Masters Collection
Adidas "Clima Cool"

And the best of all......Under Armour.

Check out the picture of this beautiful Under Armour golf shirt. I found it in the racks at Goodwill and it set me back a whole five dollars. Best of all, it came with something that always guarantees a big sale price...original tags still attached! Most Under Armour shirts are hot sellers on eBay-when you add brand new with tags attached....a home run for sure!

While I was confident this shirt was going to sell for good money, it exceeded even my expectations. My five dollar purchase sold on eBay for a jaw dropping $58 dollars!

So if your other inventory is moving slow during the dog days of Summer, sell golf shirts. It's a hole in one!

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