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 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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