Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A break in the weather

Over this past weekend, I had an unusual flurry of Craigslist sales. I sold a bike, two shortwave radios and some furniture. It was a long time in coming. The bike and radios were listed on CL for several months without any buyer interest. But during the weekend I received quite a few e-mail inquiries from potential buyers. By Sunday night all three items were sold! How do I explain this weird spike of quick sales? It could only have been one factor...nice weather.

Around my neck of the woods, January can bring lot's of snow and very cold temperatures. In fact, a year ago this past weekend, we had a 15 inch snowstorm! Fortunately that hasn't been the case this year. Lately the weather has been sunny with unseasonable warm temperatures in the upper fifties. That's practically a heat wave in these parts! It's this warm weather that brought out the buyers.

Exhibit "A" in my theory is the bike seen here. I bought this British made Phillips bicycle in the Summer. I paid the insanely low price of five dollars for it! I was hoping to make a quick sale, but it lingered on CL for months. My starting price was $125. But as the temperatures dropped outside, so did the price of the bike. I lowered it to $75 hoping to snag a buyer. While a few people tried to low-ball me, no legit offers came in. That was until Saturday, when I received three separate e-mails inquiring about the bike. The first potential buyer was a bike mechanic. I met him at a local restaurant parking lot so he could look it over. Tellingly, the first thing out of his mouth was, "How about this nice weather?!" My theory that good weather brings out buyers was being confirmed!

The bike mechanic went on to describe how he buys old bikes, fixes them up, then re-sells them. Hoping to just get the bike out of my garage, I told him he could have it for fifty dollars. He politely passed, saying he wouldn't be able to make enough money out of it. But before parting company, the gentleman gave me a few good pointers to increase the bike's resale value. He added that I should have no problem unloading the bike in the Spring. I figured the thing was heading back into cold winter storage, when I received another CL inquiry late Sunday afternoon. This fine gentleman drove over to my house with his wife in tow. They took an instant liking to the old bike and after some back and forth that would make the American Pickers proud, we agreed on sixty dollars! Like the Pickers, we even shook hands to seal the deal. That was a nice Sunday evening profit of fifty five dollars! Not bad for something I stored in the garage for a few months.

Further supporting my good weather theory, I had another fella buy two old shortwave radios on Sunday morning. I originally acquired the radios in a trade for ten dollars worth of electronic equipment. The shortwave radios were then listed on CL for over six weeks with barely any interest. But lucky for me, the warm weather brought out a serious radio collector. In preparation for the sale, I had the radios out in the garage and plugged in. The buyer showed up with his energetic dog jumping around in the back seat of his car. The big pooch barked from the car as his master fiddled with the radios. After a few turns of the radio dials, he gladly paid me my asking price of $70 for both. Gently placing the radios in his car, the happy buyer looked back at his loyal pooch and said, "Look boy...more radios!" A man, his dog and his radios...a true "guy" thing if there ever was one.

Last but not least, I sold some beautiful furniture over the warm weekend. This furniture also lingered inexplicably on CL for about a month. Although I was sure the pieces would sell quicker, it took a nice sunny weekend to finally get them sold. How I acquired this furniture is another interesting story. But I'll save that for another day.

So just as the spring weather brings out the first Robins, it also seems to bring out Craigslist buyers! Have you noticed this warm weather buying trend too? With Groundhog Day right around the corner, let's hope the furry guy calls for an early Spring so the sales continue!
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Can a garage sale find be returned? Absolutely!

Remember that blow torch thing that I bought last week for three big ones? It initially showed great sales potential. The seller told me it was a gift that she never used. I had no doubt about her claim, finding the torch was still factory sealed in the bubble wrap! I also spotted the remnants of a Bed, Bath and Beyond price sticker on the box. Here's the official description for the torch from Bed, Bath and Beyond:

Creme Brulee Torch Set

Don't wait until your next visit to a fancy restaurant for delicious gourmet desserts; make them right at home with this creme brulee torch. Torch allows you to caramelize the top of your creme brulee or even tarts without heating the filling. You can also brown Baked Alaska and other meringues, or heat and melt cheese for casseroles and lasagna. Torch has anti-flare flame and uses butane. Set includes one torch and four 3-ounce porcelain ramekins.

Sounds pretty promising right? With tax, the thing sold for about $22 dollars. I was hoping to get at least twenty bucks on eBay but there was one little problem-there were a multitude of them already listed. Reviewing all the listings, it seemed only half of the blow torches actually sold. The prices ranged in the meager range of $10 to $20 dollars. Throw in the eBay and Pay Pal fees, and I was looking at a pretty small profit. My little three dollar find was turning into a bust!

But as I always tell my kids, (when they are listening) there are no problems-only solutions! Rather then take a chance of making only a few bucks on the torch, why not return it to the store? The partially ripped price tag already told me it came from Bed, Bath and Beyond. A check of the store's website further confirmed the thing sold for $20. Since Mrs. Dude is Queen of Returns, I tasked her with the important job of making the exchange. I knew that without a store receipt, the torch was only good for a store credit, but that's a twenty dollar credit at a pretty nice store. Being a magnanimous hubby, I told my wife to exchange it for something she could use. I gave her one caveat though. I pleaded that she not waste this hard-earned find on lame stuff like a shower curtain or soap dish! She agreed and headed out the door with the unpopular blow torch.

As I said, Mrs. Dude loves doing returns. (I am pretty sure they have her wanted poster at the courtesy desk at Target) After making her usual store rounds, she came home with this brand new Sunbeam cordless electric mixer.
Sunbeam® Black Hand Mixer

Not the most exciting thing in the world, but her old mixer went Kaplooie over the holidays and needed replaced. Ironically, it was an exact "Even-Steven" exchange. The blow torch and the mixer were both $22 with the tax! So my three dollar garage sale find turned into a $22 product. I'd say that's a pretty good deal!

Do you have a garage sale find that you returned to the store for cash or credit? Let's hear about it!
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

On a snowy winter morning

What separates a fair-weather garage sale picker from the truly hard core? How about a little snow? This morning we received about two inches of very miserable, sleet and snow. The weatherman had been calling for a dusting, but changed the forecast to a hazardous mix of sleet and snow overnight. Naturally after many weeks of no garage sales, there were two rare winter sales being held this morning. Both Craigslist ads insisted they were going to have their sales, "Snow or shine! " Adding to allure, the one sale was in a very well-to-do neighborhood. I've found many scores there in the past, including the sweet Pottery Barn lemonade stand discussed a few stories ago.

So with the garage sale planets coming into alignment, I had several factors working in my favor. A snowy morning that would keep the amateurs home in their jammies. A sale at a "Richie-Rich" neighborhood promising good stuff. Plus my new secret weapon...Mrs. Dude's new, four-wheel drive Toyota Rav 4! (Just bought a couple weeks ago) As they say in the tennis world...Advantage-Dude!

I woke up at 7:30 this morning. Peeking out the bedroom window, I saw a couple of inches of snow on our unplowed street. I chuckled in anticipation...no snow was gonna stop me! Stepping over the cat doing her usual insincere "feed me" purr, I ran down to the computer to double check check Craigslist. Had my two garage sales been canceled at the last minute? Nope, no cancellations listed. These were some brave garage sale sellers! I grabbed my coffee and headed out. While I am still learning all the buttons on the Rav 4, I definitely know where the four wheel drive stick is. After sweeping the snow off the car, I lit up the four wheel drive and flew out the driveway! (I think my truckster heaved out a sad wimper as I left, but I'll make it up to her later)

Zipping down the road, I was on top of the world! Snow? What stinking snow? I plowed through like it was a warm spring day. Nothing could stop me now! Then I looked at the dashboard and my excitement turned to quick dread.....no gas! The little red gas gauge was literally below E! How would I've known it was empty? After all, it's Mrs. Dude's new baby and I hadn't been in the car all week. Mrs. Dude later informed me that she was "thinking" about fueling up on Friday, but the line was too long. Oh well! I lovingly explained without the least bit of sarcasm, (ahem) that there is a V-6 engine underneath the hood requiring fuel. It's this fuel which runs the engine, causing the tires to rotate, which in turn propel the vehicle down the road. So fueling up, while seemingly a minor insignificant detail, is really key to operating a gas powered automobile. But getting back to our main story, I was now in a slight pickle. Should I sacrifice the extra 20 minutes to divert and gas up? If so, would I risk losing some great buys at the big fancy house? I quickly weighed my options and decided to risk it. I figured if the car conked out, Mrs. Dude could always bring out the lawn mower gas can.

Arriving at the high-end yard sale, I was relieved to find two wide open garage doors. Inside sat the nice lady who bravely put on this rare winter sale. I greeted her with a gusty hello, as if I had just conquered Mt Everest. The first thing I wanted to know was super important...had any buyers arrived before me? She told me that one other insane person had been out. Not bad, but I was a little disappointed on not being first. I looked around and true to the neighborhood, she had some nice stuff. Stacked on a table were ten Wilton cake pans. The seller had collected Winnie the Pooh, Spiderman, Scooby-Doo, a Volkswagen and a bunch more. Making the deal even better, she actually kept most of the original cardboard labels that sat in the pans. She was asking two dollars a piece for each one. I offered her ten for all. Probably thinking I might be the only nut coming out to her sale, she accepted my offer. (I may sell the pans in one lot, making $30 to $40 for all.) Looking further, I also found a new in box, creme brulee torch with dish set. This is basically a cooking blow torch to melt cheese and other gooey stuff. I snagged that for only $3.00, (Should sell for $25 on eBay). I also bought two sweet Nash Skateboards for a buck each. They should easily sell for $20 each. Lastly, the seller gave me a small box set of Testors model paints for free. (I guess as a reward for just showing up.) These sets can go for around $15 on eBay.

After some friendly small talk about the weather, I headed to the second garage sale. I didn't see as much potential in this sale, so I first diverted to the gas station. This cost me a good twenty minutes, but I arrived at my next sale with a full tank of gas and no stress. The lady had a "Sold" sign on her very nice, log cabin style house. Being a big nosy-body, I asked if she was moving South? (Because around here, if your older and selling your beautiful home, your inevitably heading south.) She said she was, and like the amazing Kreskin, I ventured a guess as to her destination, asking if she was going to Florida or the Carolina's? She looked at me like I was the local soothsayer and confirmed it was South Carolina. Going for the easy joke, I pointed outside at the snow and said, "South Carolina? What and miss all this?" She got a chuckle at that and I started to concentrate on the business at hand. She had mostly glassware and other knick-knacky things. I did however find a vintage Ideal "Chrissy" doll in the original box. She wanted five bucks, but since I loosened her up with my lame joke, she agreed to come down to three. Not finding anything else that made my foot tap, I wished the nice lady good luck on her move and headed out into the snow. This second stop was worth the trip. The Ideal doll ranges in price from $20, to as much as $100 depending on condition. I figure I should be able to make at least $30 for my snow-day doll.

So with the four-wheel drive engaged, I boldly headed back home. Around my town, these winter yard sales are a rarity, so I was happy with the results. I spent a total of fifteen dollars for everything. (Sigh...not counting gas) Once everything is sold, I see no problem in making at least $150 from my winter finds. Not bad for an hour of four wheeling in the snow!
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Steampunk !

This site to passes along my garage sale success stories. But I've also learned some things form readers over the years. Jill wrote in about her Scooby-Doo find is a recent example. Another excellent tip came in just a few months ago. Site follower "We are Clamco" wrote in about a collectible genre not even on my radar: Steampunk. If you never heard of it don't feel bad-neither did I. Miss Clamco informed in the site's comment section that her husband sells reconditioned Nerf toy guns to Steampunk enthusiast. He buys the plastic guns at garage sales, then paints them up all steampunky, making nice money for his efforts. I was intrigued with this whole new geeky genre. It sounded like a huge market with potential sales written all over it.

Here's how Steampunk is described in Wikipedia:

"Steampunk is a subgenre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where STEAM POWER is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date."

Got that? If not, there are a bunch of movies depicting Steampunk fashion and machines. Foremost is the 1999 movie, "Wild Wild West" featuring Wil Smith. Watch that movie and you'll be completely schooled in the Steampunk genre. I'm a quick study, so armed with this new information I began thinking what I have that fits this niche market. I scurried to my garage and retrieved something that was totally Steampunk-an old pair of safety goggles. As with most junk I acquire, I had a story with this find. (Cue the back-in-time music)

A couple years ago, I was on vacation in a local beach town. Much of my extended family were there too, including my brother. One day after a few vacation cocktails, my brother and I felt the overwhelming need to ride our bikes around town. Zipping through the back alleys in this beach town, we came across an old garage that was being torn down. I immediately hit the bendix brakes, as did my bro. Out in the demolition rubble were buckets of old hardware that were clearly from an old timer's shop workbench. Much of trash contained old nails, screws and other old garage shop stuff. Even after imbibing in a few vacation cocktails, my well trained eye spotted an old pair of welder's safety goggles in the trash! These things had the old metal protective side covers, a leather nose bridge and thin pre-nylon age head strap...very old school! So I fished the goggles from the trash and with the encouragement of my brother and the aforementioned cocktails, I thought it would be a pretty good idea to wear the dorky goggles as we continued on our bike ride. (For the record, it takes little prodding...I would have worn them with or without the cocktails!) I am certain I looked pretty goofy, grinning from ear to ear and sporting my vintage welder's goggles. But I didn't care-I was on vacation! For the rest of the bike ride, my brother had some good laughs and I didn't get any bugs in my eyes!

Once home from vacation, I didn't have much use for an old pair of welder's goggles. That is until I learned about the Steampunk craze! I retrieved the old goggles from the garage and took some photos of them. I didn't bother cleaning them up, figuring the old dust and dirt gave them a nice aged character. After the photo shoot, the goggles went up for auction on eBay. Lucky for me, goggles seem to be one of the more sought after pieces of Steampunk. Currently, there are about 4000 Steampunk fashion items listed on eBay. Only a few of these items are true vintage goggles like mine. I further upped the ante by hyping the cool leather nose bridge and head strap. It all must have created some steamy interest....my trash-salvaged goggles sold for a $48 dollars! Long live Steampunk!

So thanks to Miss Clamco, Jill and other readers, this Dude has learned a few new tricks too. If you're familiar with any hot collectible genres, please let me know in the comment section below. I need this info before my next vacation bike ride!
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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Scooby-Dooby-Dough !

I am always looking for new garage sale finds to pass along to you. Reader's suggestions are always welcome and help us all continue to expand our knowledge base. Jill, who's a follower of this site, recently wrote to me about a little thrift store purchase that turned into big cash dollars for her. Jill say's she's new at the business, but we can all learn a few things from this so-called rookie!

Not long ago, Jill was at a small church thrift store that's only open on Saturdays. Because of the limited hours, it can be "hit or miss" finding good stuff at this shop. But on one recent visit, Jill found this group of small Scooby-Doo bean bang characters seen in the picture. These guys were in excellent condition with tags still attached! The whole gang of "meddling kids" included; Daphne, Shaggy, Velma, Fred and of course, Scooby-Doo. The thrift store priced the entire lot for only three dollars! Not knowing if the gang would sell on eBay, Jill was a little reluctant to buy the toys. I've been in that situation too, holding an item in hand and wondering about it's resale value. To help me decide, I'll ask myself the following: Can I at least sell the item for what I paid and get my money back? If I think the answer is yes, then I usually buy them.

In Jill's case she decided to go for it, paying the nice church ladies three dollars for the whole bunch. It was a smart decision on her part. Jill sold the Scooby-Doo bean bag dolls on eBay for $91....a profit of $88 dollars! As the big dog always proclaims......Scooby-Dooby-Doooo!

Who would think the Scooby market would be so good? Checking eBay, there's a fair amount of Scooby-Doo paraphernalia up for sale including an oil painting of Shaggy listed for one million dollars! I am not kidding- check it out...... I guess at that price the artist only needs to sell one! What's a bit more realistic however, is The Mystery Machine. The gang's groovy van can be found in the form of plastic toys, alarm clocks and even travel bags. Many of them seem to bring nice prices at auction. If you find a Mystery Machine at a the right price, chances are good you'll make money on it.

How about you? Like Jill, have you done well with any Scooby-Doo stuff? How about other TV cartoon characters? If so, write to me at MoneyintheGargae@me.com or comment below.

All this Scooby-Doo talk is making me hungry. Can someone toss me a Scooby-Snack?
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The New Year brings a new Ikea desk

Happy New Year and welcome 2012 ! I don't care what those Mayans said, I have a feeling it's going to be a great year. It's starting off pretty good for me. With the help of Craigslist, I just flipped a sweet deal on a Ikea computer desk. Let me fill you in....

After Christmas, Sonny Boy told me he would like to upgrade his computer desk. His desk was a decade old, L-shaped monstrosity. Still in the Christmas spirit, I agreed that he could use something more current. So to get some ideas, Mrs. Dude, Sonny Boy and I drove to our local Ikea store. After enjoying a nice lunch at their cafeteria, we sauntered down to the computer desks. Sonny Boy was in his glory as he walked back and forth, round and round, closely examining the variety of desks on display. After much pondering, he picked out a model with cool Ikea styling and a large surface area to accommodate his computer equipment. The price tag on the big desk was $200. Not bad, but a little prohibitive coming right after the Christmas buying season! We held off on making the purchase, deciding to paint and spruce up his room first. Once the room was painted, we would run back to Ikea and shell out the $200 for his desk. He was fine with this, so we left Ikea with a game plan.

Once we got home however, my garage sale genetics kicked in. I couldn't resist taking a look on Craigslist to see what kind of Ikea furniture was for sale. Typing "Ikea" in the CL search bar, I found the very first listing was for an Ikea computer desk. I clicked on the listing and guess what model it was? Yep, the very one Sonny Boy had picked out at Ikea earlier that day! Not only was it the same desk, but it came with a tall matching shelf and a small cabinet for the printer! The price for everything was $140...Sixty dollars cheaper then the model in the store! I quickly showed the listing to Sonny Boy. Although the color of the table top was different, he still liked it adding, "I am sure you'll get it for less!" Hmmmm......ya think?

The next morning I headed right over to the seller's house. Ironically, he had the furniture already outside in front of the garage-a good omen! In the classic young couple's dilemma, the twenty-something seller told me they just had their first baby. Now his wife wanted the big desk and shelf gone to make room for their bundle of joy. I offered the new dad $125 for everything. Since he was under direct orders from the wife to clean house, he gladly accepted. I guess that money should keep them in diapers for a few weeks!

I wasted no time getting the desk moved in. With the new year approaching it was, "Out with the old and in with the new." But before taking the old desk apart, I snapped a few pictures of the monster for resale purposes. With the help of Sonny Boy, the new Ikea desk slipped right into the old space and I anchored the tall shelf to the wall just behind it. The resulting desk set looked like a photo out of the Ikea catalog! I was crazy-proud of my purchase. For several days thereafter, I checked in on my son and his desk making inane comments like, "Boy, what a great desk!" and "Isn't that desk sweet?" Sonny Boy got use to my random visits and would quietly shake his head and continue his internet surfing.

But I had one more thing to do to complete the deal...sell the old desk. I posted an ad for the monster desk on Craigslist, listing it for $75. Mrs. Dude thought the price was too high. (But hey-who's the one running the big important website here?) It turned out my instincts were spot on...I received an e-mail from a buyer just a few hours later. The interested buyer was a young computer-hipster who showed up in my driveway the next morning and forked over of $75! I helped him load the old monster in his van and it was gone that quick!

So the computer desk circle was complete! To re-cap it went something like this:

Step One: Price new Ikea desk in the store for $200.

Step Two: Buy same Ikea desk on CL with extras for $125.

Step Three: Sell old computer desk for $75.

In the end, my total cash outlay for the new Ikea desk with shelf and cabinet came to fifty dollars. That's $150 savings when compared to the store desk alone!

Like I said, it's going to be a good year! Have you done any neat flips similar to this? Let us know below.....
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