Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A tub full of money


I like a garage sale find that keeps on giving. Take a look at this plastic tub filled with metal diecast cars and trucks. Doesn't look like much right? Judging from their appearance, the kid who owned these must have had alot of fun with them. Many were either beat up, missing parts and/or caked with dry dirt. But despite their sad appearance, these old toys generated me a stream of excellent sales... all for an initial outlay of just two dollars!

I bought the cars from a family who were moving out of town. Their house was an old 1940's style cape, the kind with a detached garage set in the back of the property. Just like their house, the sellers seemed to like anything old and had a nice eclectic mix of antiques and collectibles for sale. I almost tripped over the tub of cars which was laying in their driveway. Looking them over, I could tell they were from the Sixties and Seventies. Old diecast cars and trucks can be big sellers on eBay, with plenty of baby boomers looking to collect the toys they played with as a child. Although these cars weren't exactly pristine, their crummy condition didn't matter. Many collectors use them for parts or restoration. I immediately picked the tub up and continued to peruse the rest of the sale. I then spotted an old Tonka metal tow truck. I grabbed the little tow truck and set it in the tub with the cars. Walking over to the seller, I asked her if she would take two dollars for the Tonka truck and cars. She gave me quick yes and I peeled off two George Washingtons.

Back at the ranch, I inventoried all the cars with an eye towards selling them in lots by brand. After getting lots of dried mud on my hands, I determined the cars were primarily Corgi, Matchbox, Hot Wheels and Tootsie. Once they were grouped and photographed, I began posting my "tub" auctions. The first to go live on eBay was the little Tonka tow truck. The truck got things rolling and sold for seven bucks. Not huge, but now I was up five big ones with lots of cars to go! Here is how the rest of the auctions played out:

(3) Hot wheels "Red line" cars.....$15
(10) Corgi cars, trucks & tires.....$35
(22) Matchbox cars......................$10
(6) 'Tootsie" tin cars.....................$11

If you don't have a calculator handy the total came to (drum roll please)....$78 dollars!

Now take another look at that picture of those crusty old cars. Would you think that pile of cars would total $78 dollars? That's what I call a tub full of money!
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Don't judge him

Jesse James, the famous bike builder, entrepreneur and all around dirty, rotten scoundrel has been in the news lately. James has what I am sure is a real page turner of an autobiography which he's been flogging in various media appearances. I watched him on CNN being justifiable grilled by Pierce Morgan. He looked like he would've preferred to have been subjected to a public stoning! Obviously, James is not real popular with the general public right now, especially after the stunt he pulled on his former wife and America's sweetheart, actress Sandra Bullock. But let's put all that judgemental stuff aside for one moment because you and I are here to make some money. Despite all Jesse James' shenanigans I can tell you one thing for sure...his shirt brand is hot stuff on eBay!

James has a line of shirts based on his West Coast Choppers bike shop called "Jesse James Work Wear". In my opinion they look like nothing more then the cowboys shirts the little kids use to wear back in the fifties. All they need to add is some rope braiding and a cowboy hat! But apparently these shirts are the hottest thing in biker fashion. When you find a Jesse James Work Wear shirt you'll know it. Typically, they are plaid or auto mechanic dark blue with his West Coast Choppers logo on the shirt and embossed on the snap buttons. There is also a huge Jesse James Work Wear patch about the size of a postcard sewn inside below the collar. Anytime I come across his shirt in the Goodwill Store my toe taps a little faster in my sneaker. These shirts are a guaranteed sale and will net you easy money.

The shirt seen in the picture was bought for $5.00 at a Goodwill Store. I turned around and sold it on eBay for $31 dollars. Overseas buyers love these shirts too. For reasons unknown, I get a lot of interest from Sweden and Denmark . My average Jesse James sale always seems to range right around the thirty dollar mark. Backing out the average thrift store price of five bucks, you're looking at a profit of twenty five dollars. Ain't bad right?

Yep, Jesse James is not winning any popularity contests these days...but his shirts are.
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Thursday, May 12, 2011

She who hesitates....


At a recent indoor community yard sale, I had a chance to exercise my keen garage sales skills to assist my wife in a purchase. The community yard sale was held at a big municipal gymnasium. I always like those indoor venues, you can hit many sellers at once with the added benefit of no rain to ruin things. For me, it was the kick-off to the spring yard sale season. Knowing my wife likes these indoor sales, I suggested she tag along and she was all for it.

Once we arrived at the gym we went our separate ways. I like to move fast and she is painfully slow and deliberate when shopping. I began my usual race down the aisles scouring for treasures to sell on eBay, while my wife looked for stuff to decorate the house. About ten minutes later we crossed paths and I noticed my wife was hovering near a seller and another shopper. I knew something was up right away. My wife had a worried expression on her face and seemed to be eavesdropping on this buyer and seller. Sensing a possible mini-drama, I went up to my wife and asked what was up? My wife told me in whispered tones that the seller she was watching was haggling with a potential buyer over a beautiful old stain glass piece. My wife thought it would look great in our kitchen window. To my wife's bemusement, the seller was asking only $25 dollars on the stain glass, then even lowered it further to just ten dollars in an effort to make the sale. Even with this super low price, the potential buyer was hemming and hawing while my wife stood nearby agonizing. The piece could easily fetch fifty dollars or more and yet the women was balking on the ten dollar price tag! As the minutes ticked by, the women told the seller she was going to call someone to discuss it further. That was enough waiting around for me. Seeing my wife stressing out while the other buyer procrastinated, I decided it was time to unleash my awesome garage sale skills!

My philosophy on garage sale protocol is this: if a buyer isn't holding the piece in their hands, well then it's still for sale. (Always a good garage sale habit to get into: if you think you want an item, pick it up and continue browsing.) In this case, the potential buyer wasn't holding the stain glass...instead she was off making a dumb phone call! (Sure lady, go phone your friends...the rest of us will wait while you discuss it further....not!) As far as I was concerned, that stain glass was up for grabs! I walked up to the seller and made my move, "I'll give you ten bucks for that stain glass piece" I said as the would-be buyer chatted on her phone.

The seller looked over nervously at the women on the phone, "Uumm, that lady over there is thinking about buying it." At this point I went in for the kill...I wasn't going to lose this piece. Holding out a crisp twenty dollar bill I said, "Ok listen, I'll give you twenty for it and I am standing here with cash in my hand while she's just talking on her phone".

Seeing the merit in this, the seller quietly took the twenty from my hand. As I picked up the stain glass piece the seller broke the news to the other buyer who turned around and gave me a sarcastic, "Thanks a lot." As I walked away with my stain glass I counseled her, "Hey you were on your phone, what can I tell you?" My wife was beaming proudly...she got her stain glass piece! I was glad too, now I didn't have to listen to her complaining to herself for missing this great deal. Instead it was a happy ride home with her repeatedly asking out loud, "Can you believe that lady couldn't make up her mind....and for ten dollars!?"

So now the stain glass hangs in our kitchen window. If and when I sell it, I think it will go for fifty dollars or more. In the mean time it looks great and comes with a funny moral to the story: don't be on your cell phone at a garage sale!
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

That looks old

Finding stuff to sell based on the simple fact that it "looks old" can work for you. You may not be able to tell who made the thing, where it's from, or what material it is. But most of us can look at something, rub our chin and think, "Hmmm, that looks old." Sometimes that's all you need to know to turn it into big dollars on eBay.

That was the case with these two model airplane kits. I came across them at a local thrift shop last winter and they definitely looked old. These kits were in the original cellophane wrappers. While the boxes were a little compressed, (common with old kits) they were still in nice shape overall. My guess was they dated back to the Sixties era. The thrift shop was asking five dollars a piece for each one. I picked them up and continued walking around the store. At the same time, I did a quick eBay search on my Blackberry while trying not to look too obvious. The models were made by a Company called Comet. Depending on the style of plane, they were seeing some decent bids around the twenty dollar range. That was good enough for me, so I bought them.

As I was paying for them I was forced to endure one of my little pet peeves...the seller commenting on what a deal I was getting! Don't you hate that? I sure do! The little old lady who was ringing me up just had to throw in her two cents. Implying they were priced too low she commented, "What, only five dollars? Gosh, these are really old." I forced a smile but was thinking, "Really? Am I suppose to pay more then what's on the price tag?" But I kept smiling and nodded. I later learned she may have been on to something.

Getting them ready for auction, I did some further eBay research on Comet airplane kits. The company made a huge variety of plane models. I couldn't find the two specific planes that I had bought, but I wasn't worried. Like the little old lady said, they were old. Since I wasn't sure these two planes would do well individually, I decided to sell them together. I thought the old adage, "Two is better then one" would work on this auction.

I don't know what it was-maybe the two together, or the style or that they were still in the cellophane wrapped boxes, but this auction turned out to be a big hit. At the close of the auction, my ten dollar investment turned into eighty three bucks! They were old.... and worth a lot of money!

I guess that little old lady knew what she was talking about.
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