Saturday, March 31, 2012

Don't be puzzled at the garage sales!

Feeling a little intimidated over the variety of garage sale items you can sell on eBay? It can be overwhelming trying to remember the multitudes of stuff; Coca-Cola, Pyrex, Tupperware, Nike, NorthFace...the list goes on and on! I know from experience it's hard to keep it all straight in your head. But I have an easy one for you to remember...children's puzzles.

Puzzles are easy to find at garage sales and just as easy to sell on eBay. Not just any puzzle though. I am not talking about those cheap cardboard types found in toy aisles from Walmart to Walgreens. Those are worthless on eBay. You want to look for those heavy 12" by 8" wood puzzles. Lucky for you and for me, these puzzles are a fairly common find at garage sales. For some reason, people seem to save their wood puzzles rather then trash or donate them. I am not sure why. Maybe it's a combination of sentimental reasons and their durability. Wood puzzles hold up under rough play and can last a long time. So even after kids outgrow their puzzles, they seem to linger around the house. Eventually however, these heavy puzzles wear out their welcome and Mom hauls them all out to the driveway for the yard sale. Pricing is usually a happy surprise, I typically pay in the range of a quarter to a dollar per puzzle.

When it comes to manufacturers, Playskool and Fisher Price wood puzzles always sell the best on eBay. Naturally, the older...the better. Occasionally, I'll find Playskool puzzles dating all the way back to the 1960's. You can easily identify the age of these puzzles. The year can be found printed on the bottom corner. Most of the older puzzles depict simple themes such as Mother Goose nursery rhymes. The older puzzles also attract a separate niche of collectors willing to pay more.

Buyers also love Disney or Sesame Street themed wood puzzles. Check out the group seen in the photo above. I found these ten puzzles at a garage sale last season. I paid a quarter for each, shelling out a major investment of $2.50! As you can see, all the pieces were intact and in nice condition. I sold them on eBay the exact way I found them-one big lot. Some sellers may disagree with this approach. You'll find on eBay auctions that list only one puzzle at a time. Unless you have a super-rare puzzle that will sell for major bucks, I think this one-puzzle per auction is a waste of time. Big "lots" bring "lots" of bidders, so throw them all in one auction! My lot was a great example of this, selling for a final auction price of $35 dollars! A puzzle profit of $32.50!

However, I do have some words of caution before you sell. Wood Puzzles are heavy. If you're not careful, postage for these doorstops can go sky-high! To keep your shipping costs at a reasonable price, sell only ten puzzles at a time. Ten standard size puzzles can squeeze inside a USPS Priority Mail medium flat rate box. (It's a tight fit but it can be done.) Shipping costs for the flat rate box is only $11.35. To prevent the box from blowing out due to weight, make sure to wrap a few bands of strong shipping tape around the outside.

So now you know puzzles can be an easy buy and sell. What kind of garage sale stuff have you found to be an easy eBay sale? Send me a postcard, drop me a line, stating point of view!
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Vintage Coca Cola Collectibles - It was some kind of sign!

Isn't it amazing me what people will practically give away at a yard sale? Particularly stuff that even the average "Joe" should know is valuable. Take this old Coke sign for example. If you lived in a cave for a few years, you might still realize this sign could be worth a few bucks, right? Coke is one of the most collectible products in the world. Despite this, I guess some folks don't always get the memo. Check out how I scored this sign...

About a year ago, I was out on my very first garage sale stop of the morning. As I pulled up to the house, I took note of a lot of interesting "man cave" stuff in the front yard. Included in the guy stuff was this enamel Coca-Cola sign, which was just laying in the grass. It was a classic Coke sign, measuring four feet long and a over a foot wide. Jumping out of my truck, I zoned right in on the sign and grabbed it! My first instinct told me it could be a reproduction. I figured there was no way I found a classic Coke sign this easily! But after some close examination, I started to believe it was, as the old commercial said; "the real thing." It had some age to it, and there were some small serial numbers in the bottom corner.

At this point, you may be wondering why I didn't just ask the seller if the sign was real? While that seems like the obvious thing to do, I don't like asking that question. Asking a seller if an item is genuine, can be tantamount to telling him to price it way-high! Garage sale picking is like a game of poker-you never show your cards! In fact, when asking for a price, you should act like you're practically bored with the item. It's as if you're doing the seller a hugemongous favor by taking the piece of junk off their hands! When the seller sees you're not getting all excited over his item, there's less of a chance he'll overprice it.

Putting on my Lady Ga-Ga poker face, I looked over to the seller. He was still busy bringing even more stuff out of his garage. Finally getting his attention, I asked what he wanted for his Coke sign and braced for his response. He gave me a quick glance and said, "Give me twenty for it." I was a little shocked! I thought even if the sign was a reproduction, twenty bucks was still a good deal! Knowing a good price when it's lobbed to me, I quickly peeled off a twenty dollar bill and scooted off with my latest, greatest find!

After I arrived back to the Moneyinthegarage studios, I did some internet searches and verified the Coke sign was authentic. It harkened back to the late Fifties-a perfect vintage era. Now it was time to make some money! On any given day you'll find thousands of Coca-Cola signs listed on eBay. Many sellers ask big money for their signs with a fixed price listing. These same signs will just sit on eBay forever, due to the high price. I don't like to go this route. My philosophy is to get things sold quick! To do this, I like a good, old fashion auction. In an auction, the market determines the final sale price. Keeping with my free market philosophy, I listed the old Cole sign at a below-market price of only $50 dollars.

Once the auction started it became obvious people like their Coca-Cola. My sign saw immediate bids and watchers. (That's why auctions are cool. It's like playing the state lottery-everyone thinks they have a chance to win!) For the entire seven day run, the Coke sign ticked steadily northbound. On the seventh day it $168 dollars! A pretty good haul for only a twenty dollar investment!

My Coke auction did great. But while I like the auction format, other folks favor fixed pricing. What do you prefer?
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Another freebie listing offer.....

Another eBay one day free listing has been announced. I just received this in my mailbox tonight:

List Auction-style FREE
Plus, add Buy It Now FREE
carrot 1-day Seller Special: March 22
carrot More free listings, on top of the 50 you already
get per month

carrot Get your items in front of millions of eBay buyers

I find these freebies are a good opportunity to try to sell some of those stinkers that closed without bids. I'll tweak these auctions, lowering the price, shipping costs or both.

Here's another "Dude" tip that works great during the eBay freebie special. If you find you are pressed for time tomorrow and can't sit down to create listings for new items, then just post all your old stinker auctions. When you have some time over the weekend, completely edit them into a new auction for a new item. Even if a day or two has passed, you'll still created a free five day auction for a new listing! It's worked well for me, hopefully you'll do well too!

What do you think of these eBay freebie specials? Leave a comment below....
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Happy Saint Patrick's Day !

It's a great day for the Irish! I am proud of all my ancestors, but on this particular day, especially proud of my great grandmother Jane Fitzgerald. She came over to this country in the late 1800's from Ireland and worked as a housekeeper. I'd like to think maybe she recited this little Irish saying which I'll pass along to you....

"May you live as long as you want,

And never want as long as you live."

In honor of the Irish high holy day, I am re-posting this Irish themed Garage sale flip. Enjoy it with your cabbage, ham and green beer!

So last year I was at a community yard sale in the parking lot of the local supermarket. As I walked along on that warm Spring day, I encountered a first for me...a life size wood carved leprechaun! He should look familiar if you are a football fan. Officially known as the "Fighting Irish" Leprechaun, he's the often seen mascot of Notre Dame University. But I just called him Lucky! This guy was huge, over five feet tall and all hand carved. The owner of the supermarket had him positioned by the deli counter inside his store. After the supermarket received a face lift, old Lucky was put up for sale at the annual yard sale.

My timing was perfect, a young stock clerk had just hauled him outside to sell. I asked the kid how much for the big guy. The kid, apparently not checking with his boss said, "I dunno, twenty five?" I actually hesitated for a brief moment due to Lucky's size. How would I ship him? But my moment of doubt quickly vanished as I came to my senses. I thought for only twenty five, if I couldn't sell him I could always attach the mailbox to him and put him out on the curb! I peeled off the cash and had the stock clerk help me load him in my truck. As I left, another buyer asked me how much I paid for him. When I told him the crazy-low price he grimaced and looked pained. He was clearly bummed that he missed out on this deal.

Once I got Lucky home my young son nearly freaked out, wondering what the heck I brought home? I explained he was basically like the old Wooden Indians that sat out in front of Cigar stores. He looked at him like a weird stranger intruded into our house. I can't blame my son for being apprehensive about Lucky. The big guy had a constant scowl on his face and looked pretty mean. I placed Lucky in the family room where he kept an eye over my son as he watched Sponge Bob. With his constant looming presence, Lucky got to be a regular member of the family. Needless to say, Mrs. Dude was not thrilled. Her daily question to me was, "When are you going to sell that thing?" She was not bonding with old Lucky!

I decided the big guy was best sold on Ebay over Craigslist. I wanted as many people to see him as possible, especially those rabid Notre Dame fans! I originally started him with a "Buy it Now" price of $300. Due to his size there would be no shipping-it was pick-up only. I was pretty confident that a Fighting Irish football fan, or just a good Irishman would really want this fella as a conversation piece.

After about a month, two hard-core Nortre Dame fans bought Lucky. They co-owned a vacation condo near the University and headed up to Notre Dame on football weekends to root for the Irish. Lucky would find a new home at their condo. They paid me $225, a good deal for the buyers and a two hundred dollar profit for me. Could I have sold him for more? Probably, but because he was so unique it would have taken time to find the right buyer. With an offer of $225, I decided it was time for Lucky to move out of my house. So Sonny Boy and I transported the big guy to an agreed upon meeting point. (I charged them an extra $20 for transporting Lucky) When the buyers drove up you never saw two happier guys.

As we headed back, my son admitted to me that he was going to miss good old Lucky. I took the moment to teach him a little lesson about Dad's hobby. I began,

"Son, our house is sort of like animal shelter...but for stuff. Dad brings stuff home to stay with us for a short while. But while the stuff is fun to enjoy, at some point it has to move on to be with their rightful owner. See? Sort of like a dog pound!"

He looked at me skeptically, not sure if I was pulling his leg or being serious. (It was a little of both actually.) I tried to end on an upbeat note,

"But don't worry-even though Lucky is gone, you never know what new, cool stuff Dad will bring home for you to enjoy!"

That explanation seemed to satisfy him and we continued our drive home. Either way, I was $200 bucks to the good, so I was pretty satisfied. It's nice when I can combine making money with good parenting!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!.....McDude

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My little pony

Not long ago, I stopped by my local St Vincent thrift store on a Saturday morning. I've been going there for years and usually find something good every few visits. Not a great track record, but with no Saturday garage sales it's any port in the storm, right? The store is undergoing a huge renovation. The back and side walls are being blown out, making it much bigger and roomier. Judging from the amount of shoppers usually in the store, the construction loan should be paid off in no time at all! On this particular Saturday, I made a small purchase to help pay down the building loan. It turned out to be a worthwhile contribution for me!

With all the construction going on, this store is a crowded adventure. I maneuvered through the tight rows of racks, heading for a quick look in the children's section. It's located in the back of the store with all the kid's clothes and toys mashed together in the same small space. Looking down on the floor, I spotted a toy horse in the original package. This horsey was just sitting on the floor, destined for some little kid to accidentally boot it or worse, step on it! I rescued the toy from it's doomed fate on the floor and gave it a good look over. While the price tag was only four bucks, I wasn't overly impressed with the toy. So I placed it safely on a shelf and walked away. After a few more minutes of looking around the crowded store, I wisely circled back to re-consider the horse toy.

Toy horses are fairly common at garage sales and thrift stores. Many are generic cheapies, as easy to find as a McDonalds happy meal toy. But you can't be too quick to judge when considering a toy horse. There's a whole group of manufactures who's equestrian toys are seriously collectible. Although I am aware of this high-end horse market, I still had no idea if my find was any good. Flipping the package over and over in my hands, I wondered to myself, "Is it a cheapie or a keepie?" I began to evaluate the total package looking for clues. Finding the manufacturer's date, I discovered the horse was nearly 15 years old. An older toy still in the package is always a good sign! I then reached for my cell phone to look up the horse on eBay. I typed in the manufacturer's name (Empire) and the toy's title exactly as it appeared on the package. My search turned up a bunch of Empire toy horses, but nothing identical to mine. This fruitless eBay search is a common dilemma. If you come across this problem here are some "Dude" theories developed over time:

Dude's Theory # 1: The item can't be found on eBay because it's complete junk and has no value.


Dude's Theory #2: The item can't be found on eBay because it's a rare collectible and few are available for sale.

Obviously, I was hoping my toy horse fell under the second theory. With a price tag of only four dollars, I decided it was worth betting it was a rare find. I did have one concern about the toy however. Apparently, the package had been opened and resealed. I found a tell-tale piece of scotch tape and a staple strategically placed to re- seal the package. Not a promising sign, since a toy that's been opened is less valuable. But I decided to overlook this little problem. Let's face it, taking chances on thrift store finds is part of the fun!

I posted the Empire horse with a starting auction price of $9.99. In my description I made it clear the package had been resealed withe tape and a staple. Shortly after posting the toy horse, I received the below e-mail from a collector in England.

Hi there,

I've been after this particular Grand Champion for as long as I can remember - what a fantastic find! I was wondering if you would be happy to ship to the UK, and if so, how much postage would cost?

The buyer's reference to my "fantastic find" told me I had something special. I told her I would definitely sell overseas and she immediately entered her bid. I was now off to the races! Adding to auction adrenaline, I continued to receive other e-mails from overseas buyers asking for international shipping. Naturally, I said yes to all of them! As any good auction house knows, the more bidders you have in the game-the higher the price will go!

As my little horsey galloped down the final stretch of the auction, it was clear this little guy was very collectible. During the final seconds of the auction the price kept rising in multi-dollar increments! My horse blew through the auction finish line at an incredible $76 dollars! Considering I originally thought it was just a common toy horse, it did pretty darn good! (The horse was purchased by an eager domestic buyer, saving me the trouble of international shipping.)

How about you? Have you ever found something that seemed "common" but sold for great money? Tell us about in in the comment section below, or send me a picture and story at!
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Go fish!

Spring weather is moving in and it's time for fishing season! Around these parts, trout season starts around the first week of April. An annual spring ritual, it' s a time when eager fishermen prepare to hit the creeks and rivers looking to catch a few rainbow trout. As a sometimes fisherman myself, I can tell you half the fun of fishing is the preparation. I like to bust out my fishing gear, clean out the tackle box, untangle the lines and set up new hooks and rigs. It's all part of the fun! There's an excitement in the air as the season approaches. It's like a fever that won't break until you make that first cast into the creek!

You can take advantage of this "fever" by selling fishing gear. I've had pretty good luck selling fishing related stuff over the years. When I am at the garage sales, I always look for tackle boxes with plenty of lures and rigs inside. One of the hottest items to sell on eBay, eBid or Craigslist is tackle boxes. (Check out my blog piece from about a year ago) Because old tackle boxes are usually chock full of gear, they're often the first thing to get snapped up by buyers at a yard sale. Many contain lures that can be sold off individually or in small groups for big cash dollars. The older and more intricate the lures are, the higher the value. If you see an old tackle box and want to invest the time and money, you can do very well with them.

But you may find tackle boxes and gear are a little too much to deal with. If so, there's something a little less complicated to sell-fishing vests and shirts. They're a "must-have" for many fishermen. The serious trout or fly fishermen needs the handy fishing vest when standing in the middle of the creek. When it's time to fix a line or bait a hook, who wants to trudge back to a tackle box to retrieve gear? The properly stocked fishing vest stows all needed lures, rigs and baits within easy reach!

Fishing vests and shirts can usually be found mixed in with the Men's shirts at your local Goodwill Store. While you won't find them every time you visit Goodwill, they do show up consistently in the racks. Take a look at this fishing vest that I found at my local Goodwill store. It was brand new and only cost me $4 dollars! I can't remember the name brand, but I am not sure it mattered. When buyers have the "fever" they like to bid no matter what! The fever was burning hot for this vest. It sold for a $45 dollars....a pretty good catch for only four bucks!

What kind of "hot" spring season items do you sell? Share the fever with us!
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Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Saturday afternoon with Daughter

I had lunch with with my daughter on Saturday. Our lunch together was great. But not only did it cost me a few dollars, it also cost me a vintage Tonka toy truck too! It's all part of thrift store shopping, where sometimes timing and luck is everything. My daughter was witness to the whole thrift store drama, watching with amusement as I stressed over the Tonka truck. But while she thought it was funny, I didn't think it was quite so hilarious at the time!

It all started out on a lazy, rainy Saturday morning. It was the kind of day that most people just want to stay home in their jammies and do nothing all day. But that's for wimps, not us hard-core thrifters. So with a little cajoling, I convinced my princess to tag along with me as I hit a couple of thrift store shops. I think it's good for Daughter to see her Dad in his natural element. It's sort of like when family members sit in the audience on that TV show, "Dancing with the Stars" to show their support. (Less TV cameras and millions of viewers. But other then that, it's exactly like it!) It's also good training for daughter, as she shows great promise in being thrifty. In fact, while she was looking in her purse on Saturday, I took note of a bunch of fast food coupons tucked inside. Feeling all proud of my princess, I exchanged fist punches with her and said approvingly, "That's my girl!"

So with my apprentice in tow, we headed out to the thrift stores hoping to score some deals. The first store we stopped at was a complete bust for me. Although my daughter bought, or rather I should say, I paid for three books for her. It was noon by the time we left the store and listening to my growling stomach, I unwittingly made a poor strategic decision. I decided to stop at the nearby Dunkin Donuts for quick lunch. It was a good idea at the time. We had a nice Father/Daughter chat over lunch, gossiping and laughing about family and friends while the rain fell outside. After about a half hour, we headed out to to our next thrift store stop. As we drove along, I shared some of my thrift stores strategies, while Daughter graciously pretended to take me seriously. Arriving at out next thrift shop, I opened the door for princess. That's when the drama began. As we entered the store, I came face-to-face with a missed opportunity! There standing before me was a big guy clutching a vintage Tonka Jeep toy truck he just bought. I stared at the truck like the proverbial cat looking through the window of the fish store! Just about any old Tonka truck will make you money on eBay. This truck was an older model with all metal parts. While newer ones with plastic parts do well too, the vintage all metal models are very collectible. If you find an old Tonka truck at the right price, buy it!

Unfortunately in my case, I couldn't buy this Tonka because it was under the big guy's arm! I continued to shop, pretending to be all cool and uninterested while still watching the big guy with the Tonka. I was hoping he would change his mind and put the Tonka back on the shelf. But alas, it was not to be. He'd already paid for the truck and was walking out the door! I watched glumly from behind the shirt rack as he left. Realizing that our half hour side trip for lunch just cost me a vintage Tonka truck, I made a fist, gritted my teeth and blurted out, "Dunkin Donuts" in frustration! Princess chuckled, immediately recognizing I was channeling Jerry Seinfeld, when he angrilly yells out the name of his hated neighbor Newman.

Now I don't know about you, but when I experience a "just missed it" opportunity it can definitely mess with my head. After the big guy left, I really tried to concentrate on shopping and forget the Tonka, but it wasn't happening. The toy was in my head and not leaving! To further torment myself, I asked the lady behind the cash register how much the Tonka sold for? She rolled her eyes and told me it was priced at only two dollars! I almost screamed out in pain! In one final knockout punch to my pscyhe, the thrift store lady added, "That truck will be on eBay by tonight!" Arrrrghhhhhhh!

That was pretty much it for for me. I went over to my daughter looking for a sympathetic ear to gripe to. I complained to her how the truck was now in my head and ruining my concentration. Daughter laughed and tried minimize the situation, " Seriously Dad, how much could that truck have sold for on eBay?" I began blabbering on, recalling that some of my Tonka trucks sales averaged around fifty bucks or more! Daughter would have been in her rights to slap me across the face and yell, "Snap out of it Dad!" Instead, she employed one of her college psych course lessons, advising me to just put it out of my mind and keep on shopping.

Now if you've ever been in a similar situation, you know this can be a very vulnerable moment for the thrift store shopper. Oftentimes, you overcompensate for the loss and desperately try to find another great score in the store. Sort of like a baseball player in a batting slump, you end up swinging too hard at the next pitch and strike out! Realizing this, I tried to exercise extreme caution as I continued to shop. After a little more looking, I did find a a vintage cigarette lighter for five dollars. Not a Tonka truck, but still something I should be able to sell for a profit of twenty or more. As we left the store, I looked around the parking lot for the big guy with the Tonka. He was long gone, probably already at home posting his truck on eBay!

So I guess if Daughter and I hadn't stopped for lunch that Tonka truck would have been mine. But while I like to beat myself up over a missed opportunity, you know what? The big guy can have his Tonka truck. I'd rather have a lunch and quality time with my princess any old day off the week. You can't put a price on that right? : )
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