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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  1. Guess who? Every morning I scan your blog for new stories. I don't know what draws me to your entries.. but I think it is that you are a fine writer! I also can totally connect with a lot that you are saying. Now, if I was you with two garage sales across the street from another, I would have went to the younger couple one first. My experience with the "white hair" garage sales is high prices! Yes, that's right. Plus, if they have a nice yard and a sweet ride, that means they are rich. There is something about rich people garage sales. They always want more money for their stuff, than say a younger family. Plus, I can see you are very educated in vintage "stuff." That is actually awesome! I, on the other hand, am not. I bought a few older stuff in the past, but never had luck with resale. Plus, you like vintage stuff, and you go with what you like. Where is I like ________ and I go with that and plus I also know a lot about that.

    I do have one "white hair" story to share.
    Well, my dad was a collector much like you. He loved those older homes with just plain older stuff. This story takes place about 4 years ago. It was at a time that my dad came and lived with me for a year. When he came, he brought a handful of "stuff" with him that he held dear to him. Stuff that I guess he thought or knew had value. This was back a few years, and I was all about selling "young people stuff." He came over to me and said can you list this for me? It was an old pen made of wood that really looked beat up. I laughed and said something like "Dad, I don't have time to list something like that." He said trust me, I know this pen is worth something. I decided to sit with him and list the pen. I asked "how much do you want me to start the bidding at?" He said $50... WHAT? $50? for this beat up old pen? He said again, trust me. I took lots of pictures of the pen, and wrote deeply about it's condition and everything. It did have an inscription on it, so that was the title of my auction. So, not to hurt his feelings I did what he said. A day or two into the auction, it had 1 bid. I was actually shocked. I told him and he said, you see. Day 3-4, it had a few bids, now it was up to about $150. Again, I was shocked and told him. He had a computer in his room, so he was watching it too. Well, on the last day of the bidding, I didn't watch it, but when it ended I came to the computer to see what it ended at and to tell my dad. OMG! The pen sold for over $500. I believe it was something like $550 ? I was totally amazed. It sold to some guy in S. America. I told my dad that I was afraid that when the guy got the pen, he would not be happy and leave me bad feedback. I shipped it out, and weeks later the guy left me a positive, saying he was very happy with the item. As you might know my dad passed away about 3 years ago. I never asked him where he got the pen, nor how did he know it was worth that much. I regret that. It would have been nice to know the story of how he got the pen. He was like me, a garage sale nut.. so I think he must have got it at a garage sale or an estate sale. Not sure. Go figure.. an old wooden pen, with plenty of flaws, sold to someone in S. American for $500+ ! So, that's my "white hair" story for you! PS: I am sorry about the line "_______" above. I kind of like to keep what I sell private. It's kind of my little thing that not many people know about. I just wanted to apologize to Dude's readers about that.

  2. GSA- Great story! $550? I guess I have to put vintage pens now on my ever growing "look for" list!

    As far as seniors having high prices, that can be true on some things. But many times they price stuff too high on things they think is valuable, like old Avon collectible bottle, while underpricing others. I also like their justification on a high price. They'll just say,
    oh, that's old". My socks are old, that don't make them valuable!!!

    I'll still get to that young couples garage sale- it's just that the toys will still be there after I am finished at the senior's garage sale.

    Thanks for the great story, hope to hear some more from other folks!

  3. My husband and I used to pass up the garage sales with toys. That is until he started looking for nerf guns (hard to get on Ebay at a low price). He paints and customizes them to look Steampunk and resells them. We went to a flea market at 7:30am last Sunday. We learned from a seller that someone had already come in and bought all his nerf guns, leaving only one or two imitations behind. Also, my nephew gave me a Power Ranger Morpher toy (1991) to sell for him. It sold for $135.00. Like you, I prefer the old stuff and avoid the toy market, but there is money in it if you have the for it. The buyers can be a problem as I found out recently.

  4. Clamco-I was'nt aware of the market for re-painted Nerf guns under the "Steampunk" genre, that's awesome!

    That's why I encourage readers to write in with ideas, so we all can learn and profit. I think some folks may be protective of "finds" and don't want the info out there. But this blog is a small little universe, so it's not like we are going to be competing out there with each other at that garage sales! ;)

    Hope more folks write with some great ideas like your "Steampunk" thing. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hey Dude!
    Not a "White Hair" story just a question on something I bought at a "White Hair's" sale. Although I wasn't sure of the value I took a chance for $1 on a red Boy Scout beret. I thought I recalled a post of yours on BS gear so I figured it was worth picking up. Worst case it could become part of a Halloween costume at this time of the year. Well, I was pretty happy to see the exact hat sold for $40 on EBAY! Now for my question....the boys name is sewn into the hat. I could easily snip it out and cause no damage, but should I? Does the scout's name add or take away from the value in your opinion?
    Thank you for all your tips and I look forward to your thoughts on this.
    - Jill

  6. Hey Jill,

    If its on the inside, I would leave it alone, just say in the description that the previous owners name is written on the inside. (Or however it appears, sewn tag, ect) I think buyers expect the scout's name to be written on the hat, so you should be ok.

    For a buck investment, you can't lose right? Let me know how you do with it Maybe send me a pix of it to and thanks for liking the blog! : ) ....Dude

  7. Hi Dude,

    Like those stories about clues about good yard sales. I've always have mainly sold books. Some years back when I lost my job and did ebay and Amazon for a living for a few years, I had developed a list of clues to look for in the ads. Then when I reached retirement age I moved to a more rural area and cut back on yard sales, focusing on the few more local. And lost my old list I had of clues and red-flags that i had compiled.

    But, this summer I bought a GPS and have been venturing further.
    I'm finding that I have to get back to really looking for clues and red-flags before adding a yardsale to my list to go to.

    Today, was good example. I made a list of about 9 or 10 sales to hit. But only two of the ads gave me that stronger feeling that they could be good. The rest only mentioned books or "moving sale" in the ad.

    One that should have been a red flag was the ad said "Dansko Sandals!! - the mention of a hot ebay item with exclamation points
    should have made me pass, but I was over optimistic that they would be cheap enough for a profit. They wanted over $20 for them. From now on I'll pay attention to red flags like that.

    Of the 2 clues that seemed good, one mentioned art supplies in addition to books. I've always noticed that artistic people have good books. And they did.

    The other good clue, the one I should have gone to first. Said "over 60 years of accumulation" Those are the ones I do the best at. Those ads that indicate that the sale is essentially an estate sale but not run by pros. Today's sale was right out of American Pickers. The cellar looked to have been owned by a hoarder, who horded tools. I don't know zip about old tools and was kicking myself. I did take a chance on an old gray camping lantern, not a colemans. I culled a few old Life Magazines out of a pile and took one of the old Sear Catalogs. After getting home and researching, I wish I had taken all of the old catlogs,

    Some of the red flags I remember from my old list was
    1). if the ad says "early Birds Welcome" that is an indication of professional sellers.

    2) Over doing the selling of the sale. "Super Colossal mega Great sale" that type of statements tend to be run by professional yardsellers

    I'm looking to rebuild up my red-flag and clues list. so, if you have a few, that would be good future blog.

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  9. Hey Cotie- Thanks for the great tips! You’re right, interpreting garage sale ads would make a pretty good subject for a future blog. I have a few of my own, so I am going to have to give that some thought.

    I agree, when they quote a name-brand item in the ad that can be trouble. They think they have high-end stuff and will charge more for it. And people with interesting books can have a nice eclectic mix of stuff to sell. As long as all the books aren’t tons of John Grisham and Tom Clancy (Don’t you wish you had a dollar for every one of those you spotted?)

    The “XX years of accumulation" always piques my interest too. You’re right, that usually is an estate sale selling the parents or grandparents belongings. More potential for finding really good stuff! By the way, you should do Ok with that Sears catalog. It doesn’t even have to be “vintage”. The ones from the 1970’s & 1980’ can bring in nice bucks!

    I have a “red flag” theory that garage sales listed in the paper can be a good indication of finding old stuff. Because older people still use the newspaper to list their sales, rather then Craigslist. So if you see a garage sale listed in the paper, there’s a better chance it’s an older person’s garage sale.

    I am gonna give this subject some more thought and expand on it. If you find that list let me know and we’ll publish it here. Sounds like you know your way around the garage sales! Thanks for your great tips!....Dude

  10. Dude - In trying to remember what some of the classified ad clues were that I had once compiled, I remembered that the whole concept started with the Bookthinker blog by Craig Stark.
    I did some digging and found the original article from 2005, but can't find the follow up information that was accumulated in in his forum.
    The link to the original article is here, and it is about looking for books at yard sales