Sunday, July 29, 2012

Coleman isn't just for camping

Just like Dad's, only much cleaner!
Not long ago I was researching vintage lunch boxes on eBay. It's no secret an old lunch box can fetch big money at auction. But I inadvertently found another unexpected item that can also bring in big dollars. Skimming through the listing photos for lunchboxes, something familiar caught my eye. I clicked on the listing and thought for a moment someone had snuck into my garage and helped themselves to my Coleman cooler! The listing was for the exact Coleman "Lil Oscar" cooler I've had for years. It was identical right down to the orange lid. My Coleman dated back to the Eighties and was originally my Father's. He would pack it with sandwiches for our summer fishing trips. Looking over the picture, it dawned on me that I'd uncovered another "who would have thunked it?" eBay listing!

My interest now piqued, I began to do some further eBay research. I typed in "Lil Oscar Coleman cooler" and was met with over 40 completed listings. The coolers come in two sizes; 8 and 16 quart. The 8 quart model can hold a six-pack and sandwich, while a 16 quart model can pretty much hold a big family picnic lunch. Looking at completed eBay listings, I found that well over half the coolers had sold. Some of the 16 quart models sold for over $40 dollars! In fact, they're so in demand that someone sold a green lid alone for ten bucks! Can you believe it? I couldn't, mostly because I still see these coolers everywhere: tailgate parties, picnics, ect.

One reason Lil' Oscar coolers are so popular is their durability. If the Mayan's turn out to be correct and the world goes Ka-Boom this December, all the Lil' Oscars will survive! They'll be laying scattered amongst the charred ruins-a little black and sooty but intact! The clever design and bright lid colors also make them a stand out choice. The lids fit nice and snug inside the lip of the cooler. Flip the lid over and you have multiple beverage holders molded into the plastic...very convenient!

In addition to my Dad's, I've owned several other Lil Oscars over the years. I use to have a nice 16 quart Lil' Oscar that was great for many soccer games and picnics. But a few summers back, my daughter took it to a concert tailgate party. Sadly, that Lil' Oscar cooler never made it home. Daughter claimed to have lost it at the concert. Looking back now, I wonder if someone just walked off with it while daughter wasn't looking? But more realistically, Princess probably had one too many wine coolers and forgot it! Either way, I was bummed that it went missing. But fortunately, Mrs. Dude found a replacement Lil Oscar at a garage sale for just three bucks. But I learned my lesson. Next time Princess needs to borrow my cooler, I am directing her to the Dollar Store for a cheap styrofoam model!

Big coolers sell in the forty dollar range. (If your kid doesn't lose it)
But before you start buying every Lil' Oscar Cooler you see at the garage sales, here's a word to the wise-condition is everything. The coolers that see big prices are usually in very good to excellent condition. My advise would be to pass on any cooler that looks dirty and grubby. AVoid coolers that look like they've been on too many father/son fishing trips. And if you do buy a few Lil Oscar coolers, keep one for yourself.  Pack a lunch and something cold to drink for your next outdoor activity, like say......going to garage sales!

Did you ever own a Coleman Lil' Oscar cooler? I'll bet you did...tell us your "Lil' Oscar" story below....  

Igloo MaxCold Cooler - 150qt - Coolers

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Monday, July 23, 2012

When garage sales go bad........

Because I live, breathe and dream garage sales, I recently discovered this letter to the editor on our favorite topic. It's a totally legitimate letter sent to a Mid Western newspaper.  In it, the writer is complaining about the terrible buyers who attended her mother's garage sale.  It had me scratching my head for several reasons. Check it out......

Shocking behavior at garage sale

MIDLAND – My 93-year-old mother decided to hold a garage sale and advertised it in one of the local papers with a start time of 8 a.m.
I was not able to get there until 7:45 a.m. Imagine my shock when I saw not only a street full of cars, but wall-to-wall people inside the house. There were also areas clearly marked “Off Limits” with signs that had just as clearly been ignored.
I realized there were people in the basement where they should not have been. Upon checking, I discovered that several valuable antique items were missing. These were things my mother would never have parted with, so we know they were not sold in error, but were taken in the mass confusion when she made the mistake of letting people in who were knocking on her door at 7:15 a.m.
The most important pieces were family items: my grandfather’s wooden spool potty chair and an upholstered square organ stool. Also gone was a Beatty washtub stand that was in excellent condition, and numerous antique bottles. I hope whoever took them feels proud of robbing an elderly lady.
I called Midland police, and they said they would likely send someone around to talk with my mother. When I called her later, she said they just talked to her on the phone and basically said, “Thanks for letting us know.” No visit to ask for descriptions or anything.
To say I am disappointed is an understatement.

A Beatty washtub stand went missing!
Now first off, if your mother is 93 years old should you really be allowing her to have a garage sale without some supervision? Maybe mom is spry for her age, but at 93 how sharp can she really be? Running a garage sale isn't easy for anyone, especially a women just seven years shy of the century mark. The daughter also complained about buyers who showed up early and took advantage of her mom by buying stuff that wasn't for sale. But unless you've never held a garage sale in your life, you should know "early birds" will show up at the crack of dawn. In reality, the daughter should have been at her mom's house a good hour before the start of the sale. Lastly, finding the situation a little out of control, the daughter called the local police. What are they suppose to do? Arrest people for coming out to an advertised garage sale? It's too funny! Seems this letter only proves the daughter messed up for not keeping a better watch over her mom.  

Lot's of sellers can quickly get overwhelmed when buyers overrun their garage sale. But it doesn't help matters when poor old mom is "home alone" and trying to run the sale.  Have you ever had a first hand experience like the above? If so, tell us what happened.....

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sewing machines, Bernina embroidery equipment and other stuff I know nothing about...

Have you ever been to a sale and find the seller has taped a printout of an eBay listing as a comparison for an item they're selling? Don't you hate that? The seller is basically saying, "This thing is worth X amount of dollars and if you don't believe me, you can read this eBay listing!" Most of the time I get turned off to these blatant attempts to justify prices through eBay. My attitude is, "This ain't's a garage sale!" Ebay comparisons also leave little room for negotiation. The buyer thinks they've made their case through eBay and dig in their heels. But while I loathe most eBay comparisons, there's an exception to every rule. This is that exception.   

Bernina Embroidery Module
Some months back, I was doing my usual loop-de-loop through a local thrift shop when I spotted a bulky piece of sewing equipment. For the record, you could take my sewing knowledge and pour it into a small thimble and it wouldn't even fill it. In fact, pretty much the only thing I know about sewing is that a thimble is used! So with little to go on, I stared at this particular sewing equipment like the first caveman puzzled over the creation of fire. Although I didn't know it at the time, I was looking at a Bernina Embroidery Module. The Bernina company is based in Switzerland and manufactures very expensive, high-end sewing equipment. An embroidery module connects to an existing Bernina sewing machine when doing intricate embroidery work. All this useful information I learned later. In the thrift shop I had nothing. However fortunately for me, the kind ladies at the thrift shop had printed out an eBay auction for a similar model and taped it to the unit for sale. The listing showed a Bernina embroidery module that sold for, now get this....$350!  Despite this incredible documented price, the thrift shop was only asking a paltry $40 for their model!

The useful thrift store printout!
You may be as confused as I was. If a similar model sold for $350, why was the thrift shop only asking $40? I am guessing because without the actual sewing machine, they couldn't test the unit out to see if it worked. Trying to wrap my head around the huge price difference, I read the eBay listing print out. (That's the actual printout in the photo.) The unit in the listing had a few extras things the thrift store model didn't have, including a carrying bag and some embroidery hoops. Being a natural skeptic, I did some fast research on my phone to determine what Bernina equipment was selling for on eBay. Sure enough, much of the equipment was selling for big money! Processing all this information including the potential payoff, I decided to roll the dice on the embroidery equipment.

My thrift store find went up on eBay a few days later. I couldn't wait to see if it would bring the kind of cash most Bernina equipment seemed to fetch. After a seven day auction the thrift store listing was spot on. My Bernian embroidery module, the thing I didnt even recognize when I walked into the store, sold for a whopping $305! I sure don't resent those eBay "comparison" printouts anymore!

But even though the auction was over, I didn't start counting my money. The deal isn't complete until the buyer receives the item and says they're happy with it. In this case, the buyer was on the other side of the country in California. That's a long way for a sensitive piece of equipment to travel through the postal system and arrive intact. So I carefully packed the bulky equipment, shipping it parcel post with insurance and tracking. Using the USPS tracking website, I watched and worried as it traveled coast to coast.

Maybe I jinxed myself by worrying! Over the following week, I watched in horror as my $300 score made it all the way to California, then inexplicably make a detour back east, stopping for a breather in Nashville Tennessee! I am not kidding! The buyer, seeing the same thing I was witnessing through the USPS website, started to get cold feet and suggested I refund all her money. I don't give up that easy though-not for $300 bucks!  I stalled her, saying it was probably just missorted and would be turned around and sent back to her in California. To my relief, USPS tracking showed it slowly moving west again and after a few more days, it finally showed up at the buyer's home. The buyer happily e-mailed me back to say the embroidery module arrived and worked fine! (Whew!) I let out a huge sigh of relief and counted my $305 dollars!

That embroidery module find had a little bit everything...highs, lows and some new gray hair! But it all worked out in the end. So keep an open mind when sellers use those eBay comparison printouts. There's an exception to every rule!

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Guys love their lawn and farm tools !

It's a relentless search finding inventory to sell on eBay and Craigslist. Garage sales and thrift stores are a primary source, but there's often another equally good source: your own house. I've talked about this in previous blogs. Many of us are oblivious to potential things we can sell from the house because we bought them for personal use, not as eBay inventory. But after a while, we don't use the stuff anymore and it goes into storage collecting dust. I am no exception to this phenomenon, often overlooking items right under my nose, or in a recent case, over my head!

As you might imagine, my garage has a lot of "stuff" in it. Like many guys, I am a big believer in hammering a nail into the wall, then hanging some junk on said nail. I operate under the theory that the more things I get off the floor, the better my chances are of actually parking a vehicle inside the garage. One of the things I had hanging on the garage wall was a Scotts "Speedy Green" rotary spreader; those bright green buckets on wheels used to fertilize lawns. Back in the day, I was a lawn care addict. The Scotts' "4-step" fertilizer program lawn was my religion and I would dutifully apply each bag of fertilizer down as decreed by Scotts. I would conclude each lawn application with a borderline OCD ritual, carefully washing down my spreader with a bucket of warm soapy water. Although a little over the top, this bathing ritual kept my $75 investment as clean and shiny as the first day I bought it.

But after years of following this routine, it got a little old. So I dropped the my lawn care drudgery, buying a simple $12 hand held rotary spreader. These small spreaders operate like your grandmother's flour sifter-just crank the handle and the fertilizer flies out the bottom! A quick walk around the yard spinning the little crank and the job is done! No hassling with the big spreader and more importantly, no big clean-up production! The hand held model was an easy rinse off in the laundry room sink. Having found this simple alternative to fertilizing my lawn, the Speedy Green went into storage on the garage wall, ignored and largely forgotten.

The spreader was a permanent fixture on the wall until recently, when I looked up and took notice of it. It dawned on me that I could turn the thing into some nice cash! Although spring would have been a better time to sell a spreader, I figured there were plenty of guys who still would be fertilizing right through to fall. I removed the Speedy Green down from it's high perch and took some photos of it in the backyard. Capitalizing on my cleaning obsession, here's how my Craigslist ad read....

Scotts EZ Spreader Fertilizer Broadcaster - $25

Cleaning out the garage and this has been hanging up on the wall for a few years now. My lawn isn't that big, so I switched to a hand held spreader. This spreader is in very good condition. Back in the day, I would actually wash this down with car wash soap after each use. Because of that, the hopper bin is nice and clean.

Notice how I worked in the term "hopper bin" in my ad? Guys love throwing around farming terms whenever we get the chance. It makes us feel all agrarian when we can use "hopper bin" in a sentence!  Truth be told, I think most guys have a secret desire to be a farmer. Don't most third grade boys list farmer as a career choice, right behind policeman and fireman? That's why we buy riding lawnmowers and tractors, even if we have postage stamp size lawns! I am a prime example. Although I rarely use them, I own two shovels, a "sod-buster" rake, hoe, a steel rake and not one, but two wheel barrels. (Garden size and heavy-duty size.) Heck, I even have an old steel pitchfork with a wood handle that I bust out every spring just to shovel mulch! I eagerly look for reasons to loan it out to my buddies on my suburban street, insisting they use my pitchfork. They gladly except it too, reverently holding the pitchfork in their hands like it's a vintage baseball bat used by Babe Ruth! I am telling you...guys love farm tools!

So although it's more a lawn tool then a farm tool, I knew my Scotts spreader would sell quickly. Listing it on Craigslist, it sold in just a few days for my asking price of $25. I met the buyer in a store parking lot, giving him the run down on how to use it, and of course, proudly pointing out the super clean hopper bin! He was rightfully impressed and didn't dare negotiate me down off my price. A few hours after the sale, I received the following e-mail from the buyer:

                 "Good doing business with you; the spreader's in great shape!"

Now seriously, how many buyers actually write back to the seller after the sale is made? That's what I call a satisfied customer!  I sent him back a nice reply, wishing him many happy seasons of lawn care.

So just as I did with my lawn spreader, you should search high and low around the house for overlooked things to sell. Don't forget those lawn and garden tools and always be sure to clean out the hopper bin!
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Sunday, July 1, 2012

The 4th of July: freedom, family picnics and frisbees!

In my occasional effort to bring you seasonal themed flips, I scoured my photo library of sold items to come up with this little beauty-a vintage Frisbee! You're probably thinking, "Dude, how'd you get a Frisbee out of the July of 4th holiday?" Well, hear me out. The 4th of July holiday means picnics and besides eating burgers and dogs, what other fun things do you do at at a picnic? How about pull family and friends away from the picnic table for a good game of wiffle ball, croquet and oh yeah, tossing a Frisbee? I know, it's a little bit of a stretch but it's the best I can come up with right now.

Now before you run out and buy every Frisbee you see at the garage sales, let me clarify a few things about these popular toys. You want to keep an eye out specifically for vintage Frisbees' in the original packaging. The disc seen here was made waaaay back in 1980. (I survived the Eighties and have the dorky photos to prove it, although I am thinking of burning them all!) As you can see, this Frisbee was in the original packaging and came with an instructional manual. Hard to believe you'd need an instruction manual to toss a Frisbee. But believe it or not, there are folks out there who take their competitive Frisbee tossing seriously, playing in competitive games like Frisbee "golf". Naturally, these Frisbee aficionados also collect classic vintage discs like the one seen here.

I bought this disc at a garage sale for a one dollar bill. If it were not for the fact that it was in the original packaging, I would have walked right by it. The cardboard was a little crinkled, but still in pretty good shape with nice bright graphics. The disc, packaging and manual made the Frisbee the "total package" and a good prospect for an eBay auction. I posted the Frisbee and wasn't disappointed. The Frisbee sold for $22 dollars. A pretty good profit on just a four quarter investment! While that was a good flip, check out this vintage sealed Frisbee. Wow, not too shabby!

So this 4th of July, be careful which Frisbee you bring to the picnic-you could be tossing around an expensive piece of plastic!

Have you sold any recent Summer themed items? Let us know about it.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July........Dude!

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