Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday morning with the boys at the dump.


It's still Winter here in my part of the country. Although the temperatures have recently warmed up to a balmy upper thirties, February remains a no-garage sale season. However, last week the garage sale Gods smiled down upon me! I found a lone garage sale posted on Craigslist. The listing said, "Man cave stuff for sale". That's all I had to read.... I was there!

The listing said no early birds, so I arrived right at the traditional 8 AM start time. I drove up the gravel driveway to a handsome looking two-bay steel garage. (Guys appreciate such magnificent structures) Upon entering this fortress of manliness, I greeted the seller. He was an older gentleman with a white goatee, flannel shirt and a John Deere cap. He already had a nice morning fire blazing in his wood stove. He was the handy type with lots automotive and construction tools hanging all over the place...a good sign!

The seller told me he had recently sold his property and had to move in about a month. He and his wife planned to move temporarily to an apartment with a final destination of Florida. I joked with him that I would buy the whole building and move it to my backyard! We continued with a nice chat about the real estate market, then I began looking for some good eBay inventory.

After some poking around, I grabbed a few things that I thought would do well on eBay. I bought a CB radio and an obscure piece of electronic equipment called a radio amp booster. He sold them both to me for for ten bucks. I also bought a small hand carved wood duck for two bucks, which I expect will fetch at least twenty on a good day. Satisfied with my small take, I wished the old-timer good luck on his move and went back out in the cold. But as I jumped back into the truck I eyed an eight-foot high farm windmill standing in the yard. Since I knew the seller couldn't take this big monstrosity with him, I asked him if he would sell it to me for ten bucks? He quickly agreed and I strapped it into the bed of my truck. It was a scary ride, the wind was blowing and the prop was spinning furiously! My little pick-up truck looked like some kind of crazy flying machine. All I needed was wings!

I had one diversion before heading home with my new stuff. I had to stop at my town's municipal recycling center to drop off some old paint cans. (We use to call these places the town dump.) My windmill was still strapped to the truck as I pulled in to dispose of the paint cans. I quickly became the center of attention to the municipal employees...they wanted my windmill! The employees came flocking towards me like the zombies in that Michael Jackson "Thriller" video! The whole recycling operation came to a grinding halt as the guys rushed up to me asking if I was dumping off the windmill? I knew I would get this reaction...these guys scarf up all the best junk at the town dump. It's a perk of the job!

The guy's were crestfallen when I told them the windmill wasn't being dumped. Always hoping to turn a quick profit, I told the boys the windmill was actually for sale! Nobody bit on my offer though. These guys never pay retail for junk at the dump and weren't about to start now! Although they were disappointed, a few of the guys lingered around and admired my windmill as I proudly explained how I acquired it. One of the guys even offered to grease the axle of the prop with a dump-salvaged grease gun. I thought this was government service above and beyond for a town employee! After dumping off the paint cans and wrapping up my garage sale story, I bid the boys adieu and headed out. Some of the guys watched mournfully as I pulled out, looking like they had just lost the big fish that got away!

I wasted no time listing the farm windmill on Craigslist. The boys at the town dump illustrated the keen interest in the green monster. In under 48 hours the windmill sold for fifty dollars...a quick profit of forty! The CB is up on eBay right now and should sell at around $35. The hand carved wood duck will see at least twenty. The Amp booster is a whole other story. Apparently it's something of an "underground" market type item. In other words, not permitted to be sold on eBay. If it does sells it may go for big bucks. I'll share that story later.

So after spending $22, I am currently up about $40 bucks with more to come. Isn't it awesome that you can wake up on a beautiful Saturday morning, take a drive in the country, meet some nice folks and make money all at the same time?

You gotta love this business!
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Monday, February 21, 2011

Seriously...is anyone watching all those DVDs ?


I'll bet your house is a lot like mine. You have tons of DVDs laying around that no one watches anymore. You know the routine when a new movie is released on DVD. It's displayed prominently on the end of the aisle at Target or Walmart and your kid throws it in your cart, right? That's what happens around here. As a result, we have a ton of these movies the kids haven't watched in years. Sure, they may have played them a couple times, but soon enough the DVD ends up under the sofa or buried in the entertainment center. To make matters worse, sometimes the kids forget to take the movie out of the DVD player or put it back in the correct DVD case! They're unbelievable right?!

But I digress...the real point of my story is you need to unload these DVDs now. With the rise of Netflix on-line movies, people are slowly moving away from buying DVDs. These discs may soon become as worthless as VHS tapes, another outdated movie format. Now is the time to dump them!

I've found the trick to selling DVDs is to bundle them. There's really not much money in selling individual movies. If you think you may have one that would sell all by itself, by all means look it up on eBay. But most are not worth much. Take a look at my photo...who's going to buy a single copy of "Jumanji? (Probably one of the loudest kid movies made and guaranteed to to give you a migraine!) Just last week I sold a copy of the Oscar winning movie, "Slumdog Millionaire" on Half.com for a meager $3 dollars. It was hardly worth my effort.

So bundling in a big lot is the way to move DVDs. Buyers like making a purchase this way. They get a bunch of movies to keep their kids busy for hours on end. Not long ago I bundled the above kid movies and listed them on eBay. There was a nice variety of titles: Shrek, Bolt, Bewitched and more. It must have been a good idea because this lot sold for a big fat $56 dollars! That's enough cash to pay for a nice Friday night dinner at a local restaurant! If you average this sale out it's just under three dollars a DVD. You could have sold each individually on eBay or Half.com for around the same price, but who wants to wrap and ship 18 individual DVDs? Not me, that's a hassle!

Obviously if you have kids your house is already a great source for these DVDs. They can easily be found at the garage sales too, but never pay more then a buck a movie. So grab a box and head up to your kid's room or wherever you stockpile your movies. Time to clean house and make some "Dinner and a Movie" type money!
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day !


In keeping with the holiday, I thought I would show you a sweet as candy Valentine themed sale I made recently. As you know, I sold off boo-koo American Girl Dolls and clothes during the Christmas shopping season. When I tell you I was swamped with American Girl inventory, I am not kidding! I was mailing stuff out at a dizzying rate, trying to maximize my profits. Seems like every Mom in the country buys their daughter American Girl gifts to put under the tree. Naturally, I saw nice high bid prices on most of my stuff.

However, I didn't sell all my American Girl doll stuff. One lot I held back on was this Bitty Baby Valentine's Day Set. I only paid three dollars for it during the garage sale season. It included a hat, shoes, skirt and shirt all with little Valentine hearts all over. It even included a little mailbox for the Valentine's day cards to be delivered to. Looking to give myself a break from posting one more American Girl set during Christmas, I decided to hold this set in reserve. I figured why not wait 4-6 weeks later when buyers are thinking Valentine's Day? Since my inventory starts to thin out anyway during the Winter months, this would be something to post at just the right time of the year. So I took a picture of the clothes and waited.

As we entered the slower paced January season I got itchy to post the Valentine's Day clothes set. A few weeks ago I couldn't wait anymore! I posted the set on a seven day auction that ended with plenty of time for it to be shipped by Valentine's Day. My patience paid off, lots of interested buyer's watched and bid on the set. When the auction closed my three dollar investment went for eleven times what I paid....thirty three dollars!

So even Valentine's Day can tweak up your eBay sales when it's the right item! Happy Valentine's Day !
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cracking the code


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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