Friday, December 28, 2012

Breakfast cereal can be a cheap investment strategy

Ever think about selling discontinued food products on eBay? The subject has been in the news lately with the demise of the famous Twinkies cupcake. After the company that makes Twinkies shut down, the little cakes started appearing on eBay and selling for crazy money.

There's other defunct food products selling on eBay too. If you want to talk about an awesome return on investment, search "vintage cereal box" on eBay. Vintage cereal boxes can sell for hundreds of dollars or more on the auction site. Check out this box of Fruit Loops from the 1970's! How crazy is that? You may notice that cereal boxes with colorful characters and pop culture references like a TV show, or celebrity give-away, seem to attract the most bids.

Crazy at it may sound, if you want to invest for the future, saving old cereal boxes could be a smart strategy. Just imagine for a moment if you'd saved all your Fruit Loop boxes from when you were a kid. Given that one just sold for almost a thousand dollars, a whole bunch of these could accrue into huge money! Who couldn't use a $1000 per/box in their later years? It could be enough money to buy a car or help pay for your kid's college! And what does it take to get started? Next to nothing-you're probably buying cereal anyway! Storage is easy too-flatten them out and they can be stashed almost anywhere! 
Dollar for dollar...a great investment!

In addition to cereal, there's other defunct food products that bring in decent money. You probably had all the these products in your refrigerator at one point or another. For example, do you remember "New" Coke?  It was a big deal when it came out back in 1985. I can remember trying it-to me it tasted just like Pepsi. But instead of drinking it, I guess I should have saved a few bottles as an investment! Here's the skinny on that failed soda, as well as other defunct food products:
  • New Coke - An unopened can recently sold for $40 on eBay. If you paid fifty cents for that soda can back in the 1980's, the $40 you made turned out to be a pretty good return on investment.
  • Post’s Waffle Crisp - Another discontinued cereal that currently averages $15 a box on eBay. 
  • Billy Beer - While lot's of people saved these ugly looking cans, a whole case recently sold on eBay for $22 bucks.  
  • Orbitz soda - This was a late '90s era soda that was discontinued. A case of five Orbitz bottles just sold for fifty dollars on eBay. 
  • Hi-C Ecto Cooler - A mid-ninties era juice drink, apparently associated with either X-men or the movie Ghostbuster. A used carton box just sold for $47 bucks. 
  • Surge: Coca-Cola's failed answer to Mountain Dew - A full can of this soda recently sold for $56 dollars on eBay. 
Not bad, right? If these examples don't make you start digging into the back of your kitchen pantry, I don't know what will! I am definitely going to stockpile cereal boxes. Once I fill up a big Tupperware container, I'll seal it up and mark "nest egg" on the outside! 

Have you ever sold a discontinued food product? If so, let us know in the comment section how you did.....

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Oh Christmas tree !

The Christmas selling season has come to a close. I came to a slow stop about a week ago, leaving time to ship all my items out before Christmas. I had a lot of great auctions including; sports jerseys, Lenox pieces, toys, some Harley Davidson shirts, blow molds and plenty of Christmas decorative stuff. I also unloaded a bunch of NHL hockey jerseys. I was originally saving the jerseys for auctions during the winter hockey season. But the NHL players have been on strike for months now, and it looks like the whole hockey season will be cancelled. Realizing this, I decided the Holidays could be my only opportunity to move my huge stockpile of jerseys. It turned out to be a good idea. I sold all but three jerseys, with prices ranging from $20 to $35 dollars. 

Need a base with that tree?
One of my more unique sales was this base for a ceramic Christmas tree. I found this base at Goodwill for $3 dollars. Like any fragile piece, bases like this usually end up broken, leaving a perfectly good tree without a stand. I posted the auction early in the holiday season, calculating it was right around the time when folks are pulling out their decorations. Once the decorations come out of the box, people remember they need to replace that broken base on the ceramic tree. My timing seemed to be about right. My Goodwill base received a bunch of bids and sold for $32 dollars. There's always somebody out there who needs a tree base as a replacement piece. If you see one-buy it!

How about a couple of lights?
But not every auction was a winner. In the interest of helping you avoid making the same mistakes I made, I'll also throw in some non-starters. In my last blog, I complained about the unimpressive sales of my ugly Christmas sweaters. The over saturation of these sweaters on eBay has dampened sales for many sellers. So unless you're paying only a buck or two, I would avoid them. Another holiday loser was this set of vintage Christmas lights. I thought they had a nice, old-school charm to them. Unfortunately nobody else seemed to think so. I listed them twice on eBay with no bids. Luckily, I only paid a dollar for the set, so no great loss. I'll probably hold them until next year, or sell them at my next garage sale-oh well!

Oh Christmas tree!
But despite a few no-sale auctions, the rest of my sales were as jolly as old Saint Nick! Nothing, however, topped my ultimate Christmas auction......this vintage aluminum "Pom-Pom" Christmas tree. As discussed by Becky in the excellent like-minded blog, Treasures in Thrifting Land, these trees are the Holy Grail of Christmas finds. Hugely popular and very rare, eBay bidders just go completely crazy for them! I lucked into my tree at a community yard sale. My heart skipped several beats when I spotted it sitting under the seller's table. It was in the original box with each branch gently wrapped in individual paper sleeves! The tree even came with the classic spinning color wheel, making it the total package! Spotting the ellusive tree, I nearly pounced on it as if it were going to run away from me! A paper tag taped to the box had the price written on it-$50 dollars! Not bad, but I am always looking to shave off a few bucks, so I asked the seller if she'd take forty for it? She agreed and after paying, the nice lady told me she would watch the box while I continued shopping. Since it's cumbersome to try to walk around with a huge box under your arm, I thanked her and left the tree behind the table.

Ironically, Mrs. Dude had set out on her own this particular morning, ending up at the very same community yard sale. (We rarely shop together due to our different styles. She's a slow motion shopper-out for a nice, leisurely excursion. I am a speed shopper-hustling through as many sales as I can in just a few hours.) Despite her casual pace, Mrs. Dude spotted the vintage tree I'd bought just twenty minutes earlier. After inquiring about the tree, the seller told Mrs. Dude that "some guy" had already bought it. Later, when I met up with my significant other back in our driveway, she asked if I was the "guy" who bought the tree? With much bravado, I pulled the box from the back of my truck and gave Mrs. Dude my most  obnoxious "How do you like me now?" pose, complete with arms crossed and cocky smirk on my face. Her questioned answered, she waved me off dismissively saying, "I knew it had to be you!" and walked away. The women is very hard to impress!  

As obnoxious and excited as I was, I still patiently waited until December to sell that beautiful Christmas tree. The wait was awful, sort of like buying a brand new car and having to wait months before driving it! But December finally came, and after painstakingly assembling the tree, I snapped a bunch of pictures and posted it on eBay. The long wait was worth it. The vintage Pom-Pom Christmas it's original box....with spinning color wheel.....sold for...wait for it.....wait some more....okay here goes.........$375 dollars!  Whoo-Hooo! Merry Pom-Pom Christmas tree to all!!!!

So I'll end the Christmas season on that happy, upbeat note! I hope some of this year's stories and tips made you smile and helped you make a few dollars for you and your family. Thanks also for following the blog and writing in and sharing all your great stories. As I say each year, we're all in this together!

 Merry Christmas and have a safe and prosperous New Year......Dude! 

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Ugly Christmas Sweater - I am not buying it!

This is an important news flash......the Dude is about to disavow an earlier stated opinion. A momentous occasion by any measure, because I rarely change my mind. (At least that's what Mrs. Dude tells me.) But I've had a change of opinion on a commonly found thrift store item and an obligation to pass this along to my loyal readers.

In a blog written about a year ago I praised Ugly Christmas sweaters, stating how they're a hot seller during the Christmas season. To illustrate this point further, I even told the true story of being accosted by a fellow Goodwill shopper who asked me if I'd seen any good Christmas sweaters in the store's racks? Well things apparently have changed in the year since I wrote that enthusiastic opinion, because this year my ugly Christmas sweater sales absolutely STINK, STANK, STUNK! Part of the problem is the growing popularity in selling these holiday sweaters. Check out this recent article I found:

 Christmas Sweaters: the Uglier, the Better!

Ugly Christmas sweaters are creating a small pre-holiday financial boon for thrift stores nationwide. And here in Reno they are flying off the racks.

"We collect them year round, because the real ones from the 80's are hard to find," says Kendra Crosby of Junkee Clothing Exchange in Reno. "We have pickers who find them for us in Los Angeles and send them here. And to keep up with the demand, we even buy plain sweaters we find and decorate them ourselves."

"I'm looking for a really ugly one," said Kelly Case, as she leafed through the racks. "It's a contest and so I've picked out two and am seeing which one will be the one here." She was considering two 80's era sweaters with holiday scenes. And then she settled on one with a three dimensional stuffed bear and a Christmas tree on it. "This is it!" she said happy to pay the $20 price for it.

And across town at the Assistance League of Reno's Thrift Store on Vassar, there are Christmas sweaters and even sequined evening jackets they can hardly keep in stock.

"The end of October and the first week in November we went through at least a rack and a half of them," said Helga Miller who is the Chair of the Thrift Store. "They are really popular and we have a lot of them."
See what I mean? Even the thrift stores are getting in on the act! Just like this Reno thrift store, my local Goodwill store also displayed their numerous ugly Christmas sweaters on a prominent rack in the middle of the store. But along with that special display came special prices. Most were priced at around ten dollars-way higher then your average ratty GW sweater found in the regular racks. I hate to admit it, but even the Dude got swept up in this ugly Christmas sweater gold rush. I bought several of those overpriced GW sweaters, hoping to at least triple my money during the holiday buying season. But it was not to be! Out of four sweaters I posted on eBay, only one sold. It received a single bid of $20 bucks! That was hardly the return I was looking for. Fearing that I would get stuck with the rest, I sold the remaining sweaters in one collective lot for $30, barley breaking even on my investment. My only conclusion-there are just too many sweaters available for sale, causing prices to drop. The old supply and demand theory works even with ugly Christmas sweaters!

Which is why I've changed my mind. From now on, I plan to exercise extreme caution when considering ugly Christmas sweaters. Any future purchases will be strictly sweaters that have actual blinking lights and tinsel intertwined in the fabric. I am only half kidding-the more outrageous the sweater, the better the chance you 'll have in making any serious money from it!

Of course, this is just one man's opinion. Maybe other folks have had a different experience? If you sold any ugly Christmas sweaters I'd be interested in knowing how you did? Maybe you agree with me or maybe you made a ton of money. If enough folks tell me they made lot's of money with ugly Christmas sweaters.....I'll retract my retraction!!!

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Cheap NFL Jerseys

The Christmas buying season continues at a fevered pace! Like the previously mentioned Ugg boots, another popular gift item I've been doing well with is NFL football jerseys. Even though the football season is winding down, there's plenty of folks looking to buy a jersey for someone in their family. It's no wonder some people prefer to buy a jersey on eBay then at the local mall. Did you know that a top quality NFL jersey can easily retail for well north of $100 bucks? It's crazy! With a little hard work and diligence, you can capitalize on this demand by finding many of these same NFL jerseys at your local thrift stores.

When buying football jerseys at the thrift store there's a few things you should look out for. Many times you'll consistently see a specific player's jersey in the racks and wonder why there are so many? When you noticed that happening, its almost always due to the fact that the player has been traded. A traded player's jersey instantly loses value once he's off the team. Who wants a  jersey for a guy who no longer plays for the home team? An example of this phenomenon is former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. When McNabb was the star quarterback for the Eagles, his jersey was worth its weight in gold! Once he was traded however, his jersey might just as well been used for a dust rag. Nobody wanted it anymore! The value and demand can drop that quickly!  If you find a jersey and you're not sure the player is still with the team, look him up on Wikipedia. There you'll find the player's complete NFL history. If you discover the guy has been traded, it's probably best to put the jersey back on the rack. However, if you find the player retired from football while still playing for that team, there's a decent chance his jersey will still attract bids. At that point you can always look up the jersey on eBay to determine if it's worth buying 

Cheap jersey sells for not-so cheap!
Keep in mind also that stitched lettering and numbers always trumps screened lettering. A stitched jersey is a sign of top quality. It's also what the NFL players actually wear on the field. When it comes to the gold standard in stitched jerseys, you can't do better then Mitchell & Ness. I occasionally find these jerseys in the Goodwill racks. The company produces a lot of "throwback" jerseys. If you're not familiar with the term, that's an old-school style jersey worn by a popular, but long-retired player. Examples of this would be the great Willie Joe Namath or Joe Montana. You can identify these jerseys by locating the fabric tag at the bottom indicating the year that player wore the jersey. If you find a throwback jersey consider yourself lucky-you just made money! I've sold a few of these great old jerseys on eBay for $50 to over $100 dollars! The jersey shown here is a prime example. It's a Mitchell & Ness jersey for the great Carl Banks who played for the New York Giants back in the day. I bought it at Goodwill for only $7 bucks. I turned around and flipped it on eBay for a "Gigantic" $125 dollars! That's what I call an eBay touchdown!

So although the NFL season is winding down, Christmas shoppers are still looking for cheap football jerseys. If you find a few at your local thrift store, post them on eBay as soon as you can.  You'll turn cheap NFL jerseys into big cash money!

How about you? Have you flipped any NFL jerseys bought for cheap? Leave your comment below....


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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Uggs on sale

Ugg boots are expensive. Typical Uggs will sell for $100 to $200 dollars at most of local malls, outlet stores or Amazon. Shoppers are willing to pay these prices because they're the hottest thing going in boots. In particular,  the high school and college kids can't seem to live without them. You may remember my previous experience with Uggs, when I fished my daughter's used pair from our trash can. She actually had the audacity to try to throw them away! While they were beat and worn, I still sold them on eBay for $32 bucks. Not bad for something that almost saw the landfill!

Uggs for cheap
Now that it's the Christmas shopping season, Uggs are even more sought after then ever. Used pairs of Uggs can fetch big cash dollars on eBay. I recently benefited from the Uggs craze. I bought these kid's Uggs at a yard sale, paying only five dollars for the pair. Can you believe that? I honestly can't understand how anyone could sell a perfectly good pair of Uggs at a yard sale for so cheap? Because the price was so low, I wondered if the boots were fake? Holding them in my hand, I closely examined them inside and out for any tell-tale signs of a counterfeit boot. Finally, I decided to just asked the women where she bought them? I explained to her that there were some counterfeits out there, so I just wanted to be sure. Mrs. Dude was with me that particular day and later told me she couldn't believe I asked the seller if they were real! I wasn't trying to insult the women. In this business you can't take any chances. The last thing I need is an eBay buyer whacking me with negative feedback because I sold them knock-off Uggs! Fortunately, the seller didn't get offended and reassured me they were genuine Uggs. She  explained further that she bought them for her daughter who had quickly grew out of them. This explained the excellent condition the boots were in. Now convinced the Uggs were real, I gladly handed the lady a five dollar bill.

As I said, Uggs are a hot seller on eBay. I knew the faster I got them on-line, the sooner I'd be paid. After a few photos showing the boot's upper, sole and inner liner, I posted my five buck Uggs on eBay. Just as I hoped, bidders went crazy for them. The Uggs topped out with a final auction bid price of $45 dollars. A good deal for the buyer and an even better deal for me!

If you are lucky enough to have a used pair of Uggs in the house, now is the best time to sell them. No matter what the condition-from brand new to old and worn, you will find an eBay buyer!

Have you ever sold Ugg boots on eBay? Share your story below in the comment section. 

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

That's no place for a Nativity scene !

Christmas inventory can come  from all different sources-garage sales, thrift shops....the weeds. Yep, I said weeds. That's not the name of some fancy new store like Express up at your local mall. I mean the actual weeds, as in weeds that grow wild out in open fields. A strange place to find inventory, but let me explain.

I am often tasked with taking Riley, our family dog out for his daily walk. If you have kids and a dog, you know how hard it is sometimes to get someone....anyone.... to walk the dog! Our kids are way too busy on the computer or cell phone to make time for poochy, so it often falls on me to take him out. I really don't mind because occasionally good things happen when Riley and I are out walking!

Riley: Sniffing out eBay finds!
Last summer Riley and I were walking along the edge of a vacant field. The field has no house on it, just a steel shed and box storage trailer rusting away out in the back of the property. As long as I can remember, nobody has been in the trailer or shed in years. But on this particular day, the trailer was wide open and two guys were cleaning it out. I don't know if the guys were "pickers" or just a clean-out service, but they were making a mess of things. Glass was breaking, metal was banging and stuff was flying out of that trailer. Despite the apparent mayhem, these guys seemed to have a system for culling through all the junk. Stuff they wanted to keep went into the back of their pick-up truck. Stuff they didn't want was tossed back into the trailer or thrown on the ground in a big junk pile. As the guys kept digging, I wondered what treasures might be inside that long locked trailer? My daydreaming was interrupted however by Riley, who pulled me along with other things on his mind. 

Several days later I was back out walking the same path with my trusty dog. As I walked by the old trailer again, I noticed the "pickers" had left some junk behind. There were rusty paint cans, cinder blocks and scrap metal left in a messy debris field. But something unusual caught my eye. Looking closer in the weeds and tall grass, I could also see two plastic leaf bags. Both had a figure peeking out through a rip in the bag. I pulled on the dog's leash so that he and I could investigate further. Crouching down to take a look, I discovered the bags contained Nativity scene blow molds. Specifically, inside were the camel and a Wise Man! It was obvious to me that the pickers had pulled both figures out of the trailer, tore open the leaf bags to look inside and decided they weren't worth taking. Instead, they tossed them into the grass along with the rusty paint cans and scrap metal. But I knew something about blow molds they didn't know. They might have been "junk" to the pickers, but to me they were plastic gold!   

After making this discovery, my gears were now turning. I figured I'd give it a few weeks to see if the guys would came back to clear out the junk pile. If not, the camel and Wise Man were coming home with me! Several tense weeks of dog walking then went by. With each trip I would anxiously glance at the blow molds in the weeds, much like Wily Coyote looked longfully at the Road Runner! This excruciating waiting game went on for several weeks  as the grass and weeds grew around the two leaf bags. After about a month passed I had enough! As Popeye use to say, "That's all I can stand-I can't stands no more!" I marched into the field like it was Walmart and I was looking for in-store items for sale. Picking up the two leaf bags left behind by the pickers, I walked out of the tall grass and headed home!

Arriving home with the Wise Man, camel and my dog,  I began the blow mold rehabilitation. Both were dirty and even had some crickets inside of them.  But with a little soap and water I got them looking spiffy! I believe in taking care of everything all at once, so after giving both a bath, I took some digital photos then placed them into storage until the holidays.

Once the holidays were upon us, I posted both on eBay. There are quite a few Nativity blow molds on eBay right now but that's to be expected. All the competition didn't hurt the bidding on my auctions. My rescued camel and Wise Man sold for $30 and $35 respectively. Since they were freebies, that was pure profit of $75!

Who would have thought I'd find Christmas inventory while walking my dog in a field?  Just another reason why this business is so much just never know where you are going to find your next treasure!

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

You can get cold feet walking through a Dept 56 Christmas Village !

Ah....the  joy of eBay Christmas shoppers. They flock to your auction listings and eagerly enter multiple bids, driving up the prices of your items. It's all good...until they get cold feet later and plead with you to withdraw their bid! Bah humbug!

A bidder can get cold feet in this village!
This exact drama sadly played itself out between myself and a waffling eBay bidder a few days ago. Earlier in the week I noticed one of my Department 56 Christmas Village pieces I'd listed went from no bids to $70 dollars overnight! To my happy surprise, it was a piece that initially attracted little interest. I'd started the auction with an opening price of $30, guessing it might sell for around $40. But overnight the bidding action had taken off. I busted with pride the next morning when I discovered it was sitting pretty at $70 dollars! Awfully good, considering I only paid $10 dollars for the piece at a garage sale back in the September. 

But then, like a cold snowball thrown in my face, I received the below email from the top bidder. Appropriately, I'll call her "Debbie Downer."
"I want to withdraw my bid. This is up to you. I will honor the bid if you do not agree. The person behind me is only trailing by $1.00. I will go along with what you say. Thanks."

If you've ever received an e-mail from a bidder who asks to withdraw their bid, you know what a bummer it can be. Her request that I cancel her bid showed I was dealing with an eBay rookie. Debbie didn't seem to know a bidder can retract their own bids-they don't need a seller to do it for them. Making matters even worse, the auction only had one other bidder. By withdrawing Debbie Downer's bid, the price of my Dept 56 piece could potentially revert back to the opening auction price. It's sort of like playing Jenga-pull a block out from the bottom and the whole tower comes crashing down! What was doubly frustrating was trying to figure out why Debbie Downer bid so aggressively in the first place? She drove the price up-then changed her mind a few days later! What's up with that? Overall, the situation made me dream of a day when eBay would crack down on buyers for pulling these kind of stunts! But alas, I know that day is never going to come!

Reading over her e-mail request, I was now in a quandary. If I let her off the hook my auction would revert back down to the initial starting price of $35. But if I refused to retract her bid and forced her to buy the Dept 56 piece, she could easily seek revenge by posting negative feedback. It was a Catch-22 scenario! While wresting with this dilemma I decided to do what any seasoned eBay seller would do.....stall for time! I wrote back the following:

"I am sorry, I am not sure what you are requesting? You want me to withdraw the bid that you entered?"

Her response was a little more in depth, revealing that Debbie Downer apparently did not carefully read my auction description. But to her credit she admitted she made a mistake, explaining she bid thinking the piece was new. (Despite my clear description stating it was pre-owned.) Personally I think the piece could easily pass for new.  However there are some extremely picky buyers who will find any little reason to criticize a piece-a tiny scuff, a mark on the ceramic, ect. If there's a minute flaw-they will try to find it!

Pondering what to do, I initially thought about rejecting Debbie Downer's request. I was hoping another bidder would come in and outbid her at the last minute. By doing this, Debbie would've at least served as a useful tool in driving up the price of the piece. However, after thinking about the Christmas spirit and all that holiday goodwill stuff that my Mother hammered into me as a youngster, I decided to let Debbie Downer off the hook. So like a good boy, I cancelled her bid and guess what happened? As predicted, the bid price deflated like air from a kid's balloon, dropping from the once soaring price of $70 back down to an earthly $30 dollars! Bah Humbug again! But I guess Mom would tell me it was the right thing to do at Christmas time, so uggh....whatever! Ultimately it all works itself out and I'll console myself with other great holiday sales, some of which I'll be blogging about in the near future.

How are your Christmas auctions going so far? Have you ever had a buyer get cold feet after placing a bid? If so, how'd you handle the situation?  

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving: Would you rather eat turkey or surf eBay?

This is a "Money in the Garage" public service announcement to all sellers! Today, we are one week out from Thanksgiving. I bring this to your attention because you may want to avoid posting any seven day auctions today. An auction posted today would end on Thanksgiving day. I suspect there will not be too many buyers trolling eBay that day. Most will be too busy eating turkey! Better to time your auctions to end over "Black Friday" weekend when buyers are thinking holiday shopping! Of course, you could also make the argument that everyone will be out at the stores, lowering the amount of buyers on eBay. But you have to start posting Christmas listings sometime, so for me it's "Game on" starting this weekend.

Instead of posting tonight, I plan to continue to take photos of my Christmas inventory. You'd probably agree that taking photos can be a lot of work! It gets exhausting laying stuff out, folding it back up, ect, ect.  I also use a small step ladder to get up higher when photographing clothing. I do this to avoid the angled view you see with many eBay pictures when taken from average eye level. But while the step ladder makes for a better photo, the up-down, up-down can get a little old!

Despite the workout, the photo shoot has to get done! I've been building up a nice little holiday inventory this year. Some of the stuff I've accumulated includes; Dept 56 Village pieces, toys, vintage Christmas trees, decorations, blow molds and new clothing with tags attached. Over the last week I've felt some self-imposed pressure to start a few of holiday auctions early. Every year I stress out, worrying I won't get everything listed in the crush of the next five weeks. Because of this, I've actually cheated a bit this year and listed a couple holiday items early. One these items includes the classic airplane pedal car seen in the picture. I posted it on Craigslist. This toy plane is a thing of beauty and should bring in a hundred dollars or more. Once I sell it, I'll share the story for all to enjoy.

Hopefully, the next five weeks will be busy and profitable for you! But before we completely plunge into the holiday season, there's one more thing I want to say.....have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 12, 2012

What's funky, furry and sells well on eBay? Osiris shoes!

You don't need to be an expert on everything in this business. For example, I recently made a great flip on an item I had no previous experience with. It was a great example of keeping an open mind when hunting for deals. 

I came across this particular score at my local Saint Vincent's thrift store. You may remember a few months ago when I was singing the praises of this recently remodeled shop. Ever since the store was re-done, it's produced some excellent deals for me. As an example, I found this sharp looking Under Armour golf shirt there. Under Armour golf shirts are a "must buy" if you see them. They consistently sell for $20 or more on eBay. What made the find even sweeter was I'd just sold the exact same style and color shirt a few months earlier for $30 dollars. When I found the identical shirt again for only $4 dollars it was a no-brainer. I grabbed it knowing some easy cash was about to be made again on eBay! To be honest, I am lazy when it comes to posting stuff on eBay. So since the shirt was identical to the previous one (except for size) I just re-posted my old eBay listing. I didn't even take a new photo-why bother? The only edit I had to make was the shirt size. That took me all of ten seconds. But once it was posted, I half expected a picky buyer to take notice that the photo showed a different size shirt. Luckily nobody seemed to notice and my "instant replay" shirt sold for $21 bucks. That was a quick and easy $17 dollar profit! That's the kind of luck I've been having at the new and improved Saint Vincent's thrift store!

So it's with this lucky streak at Saint Vincent that I recently found the below funky looking pair of "Osiris" sneakers. Up until that moment, I'd never heard of the company. The shoes were priced a tad high at $8 dollars, but they definitely stood out from all the others on the rack. Osiris was emblazoned in big letters across the tongue of the shoe. They even had a fur lining on the inside-you don't see that every day in a sneaker! I decided the shoes deserved further investigation. I discreetly broke out my phone and looked up Osiris sneakers on eBay. It's a good thing I did. I discovered that Osiris are a brand of skateboarding shoes that retail for upwards of $100 dollars a pair. Used pairs are nothing to sneeze at either, with many selling in the respectable range of $30 dollars on eBay. After thumbing through several completed listings, I was now a believer. I grabbed the big, bulky sneakers and headed to the cash register.

When I buy stuff, I like to quickly get out of the store with not too much chit-chat. But that wasn't happening this day. Tossing the shoes up on the check-out counter, the little old lady at the cash register proceeded to offer an opinion on my purchase, "Oh, I like these, what a nice pair of sneakers!" Now, if you follow my blog you know this is one of my pet peeves! Why is it that some thrift store employees feel the need to give you their unsolicited opinion on stuff you're buying? It's totally unnecessary. In this particular case, these crazy looking shoes are worn by young "skater dudes" with long hair and ripped jeans! I chuckled to myself over the idea that  this lady would like a pair of skateboarding shoes! But okay, I know what your thinking....she was just making small talk. I guess that's true. So despite it not making much sense, I just agreed with the lady and went on my way.

Once home, I did a little more eBay research on Osiris shoes. The more I looked, the more confident I became in my find. The added bonus seemed to be the fur lining inside the shoes. This was an extra feature not found in all Osiris shoes. With my research complete, I eagerly listed the shoes on eBay with a bold starting bid of $25 dollars. Turns out the little old lady wasn't the only person who thought the shoes were nice. I had four "Skater Dudes" bid against each other during the seven day auction. The "dudes" drove the final price up to an amazing $68 dollars! That was a sixty dollar profit on an item I knew nothing about until I stumbled across them!

Which brings me back to my original point. Keep an open mind when looking at stuff you're not familiar with.  Just like I did with the Osiris shoes, if you don't know what it is-look it up. You can learn something new every day in this business!

Do you have any "newbie" finds that you did well with? Share your story below......

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

A hurricane can't stop this Imaginarium train

I've been a little busy thanks to Hurricane Sandy. The hurricane's eye passed precariously close to the Moneyinthegarage studios. What a day it was! I can now scratch "standing outside in the middle of a raging hurricane" off my bucket list. Me and my loyal dog went for a walk in the middle of the storm. The power and fury were awesome! Fortunately, we only lost phone, cable and Internet at our house. (Which drove the kids nuts.) More importantly, the lights stayed on.

Like many other folks around here, I've been out helping Hurricane victims who really got walloped. These poor people are in bad shape. If you haven't done it yet, you should throw a few dollars at the American Red Cross. It's easy to do using your PayPal account.

Now that I am dry and warm inside the house, I'd like to share a great e-mail from a reader. Pam e-mailed me to say she'd bought an Imaginarium train table for $30 and was looking to flip it. Prior to posting it for sale, Pam asked what I thought she could get for the table? She sent me a photo and it looked even nicer then the table I flipped a few months ago. Being the eternal optimist, I told Pam she should ask $125 for the table. A few weeks later Pam sold her table. While she didn't sell it for my estimate of $125, she still made a nice piece of change. Check out Pam's flip....

I tried to comment on your train table but it kept saying I was typing in the wrong words to verify that I wasn’t a robot! Anyway, here is what I tried to comment:

Just thought I'd let you know I sold the table today for $100! I didn't get any calls at all the first week so I lowered the price to $100. I got a couple of callers that wanted me to take less than that. Yesterday I got a text from someone wanting to look at it this morning and they came and handed over $100, no questions asked! I know it's less than you thought I should get but the table is on sale at ToysRUs for $129 so I think I got a pretty good deal. I made $70! Thanks for the ideas you put on your blog! It helps me to know what to look for!

Imaginarium table

I've been in Pam's situation. Sometimes it's just better to take the money now, rather then store the table for weeks on end. As Rocker Tom Petty says, "The waiting is the hardest part." (The ToyRUs sale sure didn't help either!) But as we approach Christmas, selling a train table for one hundred plus dollars is just a matter of the right buyer showing up. Either way, I'd take a $70 profit any old time.

If you have any sweet scores, I'd love it if you'd pass along your story to me. We'll get them up on the site for all to benefit from. See you all soon......Dude!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mini Lamp Shades: hiding in plain sight

I like "plain sight" finds. This is the type of garage sale item that's right out there on the table for everyone to see, but most don't realize is a money maker. Any good garage sale picker knows the value of the obvious stuff like a Longaberger Basket, American Girl doll or a vintage Coca-Cola sign. Since everyone knows the value, good stuff like that usually gets snapped up quickly at most yard sales. But the "plain sight" stuff are those items that other buyers don't even notice because they seem so common. An example of this are the Coleman "Lil Oscar" coolers I blogged about recently. You see those coolers everywhere, so who'd think they sell for a lot of money on eBay? Well today's your luck day, because the Dude has another "plain site" item for you: Mini-lamp shades. I've sung the praises of mini-shades before but it's worth repeating.

Think about it. How many garage sales have you spotted a set of mini lamp shades? They're as common at yard sales as George Foreman grills and dry flower arrangements! You probably walked right by a set last weekend right? Unfortunately you may have missed out on some money. But a word of caution first. Before I get e-mails from readers saying, "Dude, you steered me wrong! My lamp shades sank like a rock on eBay!" Let me point out one very important thing. The common "Plain Jane" beige lamp shades do not sell well. It's the high-end style that's popular. Shades made with silk fabric, beveled sides and fancy beads are what buyer are looking for. So the rule of thumb is: the more ornate the shade, the more money you'll make!

Beads = Bucks!
Ugly but profitable!
Who knew shades were so hot, right?  But all you have to do is check out the retail prices of mini-shades at your local home decorating stores. Brand new shades can sell for $15 a piece at Target and $25 or more at Pottery Barn! Multiple that by five or six shades and you're talking a hundred dollars or more. A savvy buyer would do well to buy on eBay, instead of shelling out that kind of money. I didn't realize how popular mini shades were until I posted a set we had on our dining room lamp. I changed out the light, so the lamps shades became eBay inventory. I sold that set for $25 dollars. I was a believer after that sale! Check out the set in the top picture. I bought these shades for three dollars at a garage sale. (Three to five dollars seems to be the common asking price for mini-shades at most garage sales.) The bead set sold on eBay for an impressive $38 dollars!  The goth-like group seen in the bottom picture were picked up for a single dollar. I think they're kind of ugly, but what do I know? I later sold them on eBay for $21 dollars! See what I mean? That's pretty good money for something that's overlooked by most yard sale buyers.

Just a few hints when you're posting mini shades. Make sure to explain in your description how the shade attaches to the lamp. In most cases, the shade simply clips to the light bulb. But even though this seems obvious, if you don't explain it, buyers will e-mail you asking. Buyers also want to know the circumference of the bottom and top of the shade. For these reasons my photos usually show the inside of one shade, as well as ruler in the picture. By doing this, you'll save yourself from answering a bunch of e-mails asking for that information. I would also steer away from very plain mini shades. As I said, they're not worth the few dollars you'll make to list them. 

Now is really the best time to find and sell mini-shades. With Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, buyers will be looking for decorative items to spruce up their home for the holidays. So keep an eye out for mini-shades. They'll be hiding in plain site at most garage sales.

Do you have any "plain sight" yard sale finds? If so, let us know in the comment section below......

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Casper finds a friendly home for Halloween

Boo !
Halloween is fast approaching! If you have any pumpkins, witches or black cat blow molds, now is the time to list them on eBay. I've sold a couple of Halloween items during October. Check out this blow mold of a Halloween pumpkin with black cat. You've probably seen this classic decoration everywhere, right? Me too, I can remember as a kid seeing them in windows in my neighborhood when we went trick or treating. Right now, there's a ton of these currently selling on eBay. I bought this one for only two dollars at my favorite little thrift store. It recently sold on eBay it for a twenty dollar bill. That was definitely a treat!

Casper kicked to the curb
You may also remember me blogging about a "freebie" I found back in June. It was a large plastic ghost holding a pumpkin. As luck would have it, I was heading home from garage sales when I spotted him. He was left out at the curb along with some other garage item clean-outs including a couple bikes and a plastic sled. This was a no-brainer as to what I should grab. I had no room in the garage for bikes and no desire to go sledding. At the time, I'd been learning about the popularity of holiday blow molds. Suffice it to say, the right ones can sell for big bucks! Throw in the fact that the ghost was free and you can be sure he was going in the back of my truck. I stored Casper away until a few weeks ago when I listed him on eBay.

I could have listed Casper back in June, but there's two schools of thought regarding the right time to sell holiday items. In this case, the most obvious thing to do is list during the busy Halloween season when more buyers are looking. But there's a downside to this're not the only fish in the sea! Many like-minded sellers are listing their Halloween items too. In the case of my Casper, currently there are 15 identical ghosts just like mine for sale. While some are selling in the range of $20 to $30 dollars, others have no bids at all. If I had listed my ghost back in June there would have been a lot less sellers to compete against. Back then, I found only one similar Casper that sold for twenty dollars. But I decided to wait until October, calculating I'd be able to sell my ghost at a higher price. But when I finally listed my Casper on eBay, guess what he sold for? Only twenty five dollars! That's a measly five dollars more then the June sale. Based on this, you have to wonder if it's really worth holding on to an item in order to sell in-season?

It's a quandary for sure, but if I had to do it again I think I'd still wait until October. While making five more bucks isn't huge, selling out of season could mean no bids at all. A no bid auction is a waste of money and time. Unless you run a store, Ebay charges you for each listing. Usually it's tallied against your monthly allotted number of auctions. And if you've already gone over your allotment for the month, eBay will charge you full freight. Either way-you pay. That's why I don't like to take a chance on running a holiday themed auction out of season. While I was hoping my Casper would sell for more, I still made twenty five dollars. That beats a no-bid June auction any day.

Casper is finally home!
But I am getting too "wonky" about auctions. The important thing is that I made $25 dollars from a curbside trash pick. Plus the story has a happy ending for Casper too! My buyer was only 45 minutes from the Money in the Garage studios. The Dude did a total solid for his buyer and personally delivered Casper to his new home. How's that for customer service? The buyer's house was pretty easy to pick out....check out the impressive blow mold collection on her front yard! If you look closely, you can see I left Casper right on the front doorstep. As I pulled away, I am pretty sure he waved goodby to me. We kinda grew fond of each other...I rescued him from the curb and in return, he made me twenty five dollars! Now that's a Happy Halloween! 

How's your Halloween selling season going? Got any scary sales you want to share with your fellow spirits? Tell us your story below.....

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