Sunday, April 29, 2012

First stop: American Girl Dolls for sale

This may seem obvious but here goes...American Girl Dolls sell for a lot of money! I know what you're saying, "No kidding Dude, tell us something we don't know!" Ok, so maybe you already know American Girl is super collectible and can make you big money. But judging from one of my garage sale excursions, it seems not everyone is aware of this obvious fact.

It began on a chilly garage sale morning in the Fall. Heading out my street, I barely had time to take a sip of coffee when I stumbled across the first yard sale of the morning. It was literally 100 yards from my street on a small Cul-de-sac. The three houses on the street were having a "Multi-family" yard sale. These are always promising, particularly if the "Multi" part is accurate and not just one lone family. Pulling up the street, I realized I was an early bird. As the old saying goes, "early bird gets the worm!"

I was still waking up when I noticed something strange at the kid's toy table. Tossed amid all the kiddie stuff, were three dolls that looked vaguely familiar. Although they seemed out of place, the dolls had all the signs of American Girls dolls.  I was a little thrown off because I'd never seen American Girl stuff mixed haphazardly in with average toys like puzzles, books and board games. In my vast garage sale experience, people who sell American Girl are keenly aware of their value and display them in a place of honor at their garage sale. This is normally directly in front of the seller and her cash box. It's a safe and secure spot where she can keep an eye on both! Another common display technique is the high up spot on a shelf behind the seller. That's so you can't easily pick the doll up and handle it like it was some kind of trashy Bratz doll! Either way, it's the seller's subconscious way of saying in effect, "I bought these beautiful dolls for my daughter and I paid a lot of money for them!"

So given that most seller's are very conspicuous in displaying their American Girl dolls, I was a little unsure these three motley dolls were the real deal. Seeing the mom nearby, I picked up one of the dolls asking, "Are these, um, what's it called? American.....?" The women looked up and finished my sentence, "Yeah, they're American Girl dolls. There's some extra clothes in a separate box too." She pointed to a box which had five outfits inside. I flipped the doll around and kept up my act, "Oh yeah, my daughter likes these dolls." (Technically true, although my college age daughter doesn't actually play with dolls anymore). Having voiced my justification for buying dolls, I asked the mom how much? She walked over to to me-almost always a bad sign as it means they're going to put some serious thought into pricing. But not in this case, the mom just casually threw out a number, "Give me five dollars for each doll and two dollars for each outfit."   

I am pretty fast on the uptick when it comes to basic math. So without even the aid of fingers and toes, I quickly added up the total in my head...a paltry $25 bucks for everything! No need to negotiate on this deal. Once I paid up, I dashed back to my truck in yet another walk of shame: a guy and his dolls! But who cares? A bunch of American Girl Dolls for only twenty five dollars is worth any funny glances!

The dolls went into storage for a few months until the Christmas selling season.  By waiting just a few months, I knew I could "super-size" my eBay auction prices. The wait paid off. The three dolls sold for an average price of $62 per doll. The outfits were sold individually, netting me another $100. All in all, I made just shy of $280 on a $28 dollar investment.  Even a math-challenged dude like me can figure out that's ten times my original investment!

I am still amazed by that score. On the first stop of the day I drove 100 yards and made over $250 bucks. I wish every find was that easy!  Have you ever scored a great deal on your very first garage sale of the day? Tell us about it.....

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Disney World on the cheap

I  know I am being a little obsessive on the subject, so this will be my last thought for now on Disney souvenirs. (Really, I promise.) While at the garage sales this past Saturday, I stopped at a very busy house that was attracting a lot of shoppers. The entire family seemed to be involved with this sale from grandmother to grandchildren. These folks have a garage sale about once or twice each year, so I've been to the house multiple times. I wasn't really expecting to find anything great, but since the weather was nice and it was my last stop, I thought I'd check it out anyway.

Looking around, it seemed like any good stuff was long gone. Then I spotted something that I am pretty sure I've seen around Disney World...a 16 ounce travel coffee cup. It looked brand new-like it just came off a store shelf at Disney. Emblazoned on the side of the cup was Mickey, Donald and all the other characters. Just above Mickey's ears was a silhouette of Cinderella's castle. Below the castle it read, "Celebrate Today! Disney Parks!"

I grabbed the plastic mug and showed it to the grandmother for a quick price check. She quoted me a very non-Disney price of one quarter. Talk about cheap-the only thing you can use a quarter for at Disney is when you toss it in a "wishing" fountain! I gave the nice lady her quarter and happily headed back down the driveway with my slightly late, Disney vacation mug souvenir.

Reading the fine print on the side, I discovered these cups are sold at all the Disney Resort properties. Once you pay for the cup, you get free re-fills at the resort beverage fountains. My kid's had Disney re-fill cups on our previous trip. (I swear they almost put the restaurant out of business with their constant trips to the soda and hot cocoa fountain.) While this cup is not one of the fancier travel mugs you'll see in the Disney shops, I am sure something similar in the park would be priced at around $12 dollars or more. What would you guess? Not a quarter, that's for sure.

Just another example of why you go to Disney for the rides, but buy your souvenirs when you get home!

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Friday, April 20, 2012

I Care Bear very much!

I have officially joined the "Care Bear" band wagon! I've had a some experience with these toys in the past, having sold a group of five little bears for $24 a few years back. But reading up on this vintage toy, I learned these guys continue to do well on Ebay. Knowing this, I placed Care Bears in my mental Rolodex hoping to find a few more while out on the hunt.

It didn't take too long before I hit pay dirt. While at Goodwill a few months ago, I spotted an employee rolling out a shopping cart full of merchandise for the shelves. From a distance I could see a clear plastic bag with some big colorful toys inside. I quickly hustled over to the cart and peered in. At first glance, it looked like a mish-mash of toys. Not sure what I was looking at, I held the bulky bag with both hands and eyeballed it like a gold prospector looking into his pan. Inside the bag I could make out a few Care Bears and a big white castle. Boo-Yah! It looked like I had a definite Care Bear score!

I then began searching for the price tag and was even more pumped when I found it.... just $1.99! At that point, the big plastic bag never saw the store shelf: it was coming home with me! Hyper excited over finding the Bears, I concealed my new found treasure from prying eyes by draping a shirt over the plastic bag. Sounds a little goofy, right? But C'mon, was my Mom crazy just because she always thought she left the stove on after leaving the house? (Ummm...well, on second thought.) But seriously, we all have some OCD tics. Concealing my finds happens to be mine! My excuse is I am driven by a crazy combination of paranoia and competitiveness. I don't want any any other shoppers in the store to see and learn from my finds. (Plus, I feel stupid walking around with a kid's toy under my arm.)  But I digress....

Once I arrived back at the MoneyintheGarage laboratories, I opened up the bag and poured all the pieces onto my photo table. Looking over the various turrets and pieces, I began to worry that the castle was incomplete. Missing pieces equals less bidders. I furiously began to locate each turret, matching them to the appropriate tower. After matching up the turrets, towers and other pieces, the castle was all accounted for. (I am not gonna lie, it's kinda fun assembling a toy castle.) My particular Castle also had working lights and music, all of which I later trumpeted in my item description. I was now a "Go" for the auction. I positioned the five Care Bears in front of the castle and snapped some photos. I posted the auction almost as quickly as I snatched the bag from the Goodwill shopping cart!

If you check completed eBay listings for Care Bear Castles, you'll see most are in the "green" with healthy sold prices.  These toys are as close to a "sure thing" on eBay as you're going to get! You'll also notice that like most toys, the more pieces you have with the set, the higher the bids. My auction was right in there with the best of them. My two dollar bulky bag sold for a bulky $51 dollars! I now really care for these bears!

So keep your eye out for anything Care Bears. If you've had  similar scores with these little guys let us know.

Dude's Note: Make sure you Pinterest my site for your friends..Thanks! : )
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Monday, April 16, 2012

I actually bought something new!

Back from a Disney vacation and slowly  getting back into the swing of things.  Needless to say, the Disney parks are amazing. What's equally amazing is the amount of money that must be spent in those souvenir shops! For example, I was told by a Disney employee that the Downtown Disney store rakes in upwards of a half million dollars per day! Are we still in a so-called recession? Nothing Mickey Mouse about that kind of money! 

As I wandered around some of the park's gift shops, I was overcome with the commonly shared thought of many a garage sale picker-the "I can buy it cheaper at a yard sale" syndrome. We've all been there. It's that pesky voice inside your head developed from years of attending yard sales. How can you not think this way? At garage sales, you'll find expensive Disney stuff happily purchased for full-blown Disney park retail. Now that same piece of expensive plastic is relegated to a driveway blanket and priced for pennies on the original dollar. Seeing this over and over again, you can't help but get inoculated against paying Disney retail!

It even hit me on our last day in Disney World-an always vulnerable time when most tourists open their wallets for one last sentimental purchase. In our case, we had just finished watching the awesome fireworks over the castle. As the crowds were surging for the exits, we decided to stop to look in the shops on Main Street one last time. Mrs. Dude kept insisting I buy a Disney shirt, pointing out pricey $40 dollar polo shirts with Mickey embroidered on the chest. I nearly broke into a cold sweat as I resisted this last minute buying pressure! But despite Mrs. Dude's insistence, I couldn't stop thinking that I've seen a million of those polo shirts in the Goodwill Store. The price there isn't $40,  it's 4 ! So why would I buy an expensive shirt in the park when I can grab one for much less? Mrs. Dude rolled her eyes, insisting that I had to buy something as a memento of the vacation.  Finally worn down by all the pressure, I buckled and settled on a "distressed"Disney baseball cap. I figured that even if I could find the same hat at Goodwill I would never buy it there. Who wants to wear someone's used hat? Even the Dude is a little skeeved by that notion. So I shelled out a whopping $20 for my Disney cap. In addition to the cap being a nice memento, it also serves a very practical purpose. I'll wear it on Saturday mornings at the garage sales!

Now just to set the record straight, I am not "'Cruella de Vil" when it comes to spending the dough! Although I may be garage sale thrifty, I won't let it spoil the family's fun. The kids pretty much bought what they wanted, Fortunately for me, they didn't go crazy on my debit card. The Vinylmation Disney figures seem to be the biggest seller with all the kids, including mine.  (I'll need to watch out for those things at the garage sales.)  Overall, I am not exactly sure how much the family spent in those Disney shops, but frankly it's probably best that I don't know. Ignorance is bliss!   

Do you ever get the "I can buy it cheaper" syndrome when on vacation? Have you spotted something you knew could be scooped up for less money at the garage sales?  Tell me your thrifty vacation story....

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Spring break......

I am a little off-kilter this week. Nothing bad, just totally distracted due to a family vacation we are taking in a few days. This vacation has taken me out of my normal routine...can't go to garage sales or thrift stores. I ended my auctions days ago and have nothing left to mail out. I can't even post eBay listings! (Since I would be away when they close and unable to ship stuff.) It's a weird feeling having my eBay business temporarily closed. But I guess getting  out of your daily routine and enjoying yourself is what vacation is all about. 

Due to this pending trip, the MoneyintheGarage website will also be quiet until I get back. (Although I may try to "Tweet" when the need arises.) If you are wondering where I am heading, this re-post should give you an idea. And if you happen to be in the park and overhear some wacky guy attempting to negotiate the price of a souvenir on Main Street, please come up and say Hi to me! 

Happy Easter and Happy School Spring break to you all...I'll see you when I get back!  

If you follow my blog, you know I am high on Disney products. Some time back I talked about a Disney Cinderella Castle I bought for a few bucks and sold for $60 on eBay. With Halloween fast approaching, I currently have auctions running for a few Disney children's costumes I picked up over the Summer. With all the Moms looking for Halloween outfits for their kids, I am certain my Disney costumes will see plenty of bidding action. So whether it's costumes, toys or DVDs, Disney products are often the gold standard when it comes to garage sale finds.

Above is a classic example: a Walt Disney World Monorail set. I recently bought this for ten bucks at a garage sale. Let me tell you something very important. If you are at a garage sale and see one of these sets you should make a bee-line for it. If you have to knock a few people out of the way to get to it - go ahead and do it! Don't worry, the person you knock over will be fine. Your actions will be justified because these sets are gold on eBay! Disney theme park monorail sets can't be purchased at Target or Wal Mart; they are sold exclusively at Disney properties and on their website. So if a collector wants a set, they either have to buy a theme park pass, find the Disney website or bid for one on eBay! On average I find a Disney monorail set about once or twice a year at the garage sales. These sets are battery operated and run around on an oval track. Just like the real Monorail, a voice welcomes you to Disney World as it glides along. I can't believe folks unload them at their garage sales! They cost big bucks in the park and are a fun Disney park memory.

When I brought this set home I took inventory to make sure it was all there. Turns out it was missing about three pieces of tracks. I was bummed, less track could mean lower bidder interest. But looking at other sets on eBay, I noticed that collectors also buy them to add to existing sets. So selling a set with a couple missing track pieces is no biggie. Posting my set, I stated in the description that it was missing track. I then
-->sat back and watched the Disney "magic" take place. As I hoped, the missing track didn't seem to hurt my auction. Like the actual monorail, my set moved along nicely with bids all week. At the end of it's run the set pulled into the station at $81 dollars! Ironically, this was a few bucks more then the last "complete" set I sold.

So keep an eye out for these sets. If you list one on eBay, make sure you point out the color of the monorail cars. Apparently some colors are more collectible then others. I always state the color in the auction listing title. While your at the garage sales, look for other "Disney Park exclusive" products. For example, some of the various theme park pins are hot too. Let me know if you have sold a "hot" Disney product. If it's Disney... it's gold!

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