Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Back to school with a Pearl snare drum

Making money flipping a garage sale find can be fun! It's even better when your buyer is just as excited about your find too. Case in point, about four weeks ago I happened upon a garage sale not far from my house. As I pulled up, it looked like a loser to me. There were a lot of new fabrics, curtains and similar stuff. From the seller's garage sale description, I learned she had an "on-line" store. (Most likely eBay). She had recently closed her business and was liquidating everything via her yard sale. Since I am not into fabrics and curtains, I figured I'd take a quick look and get on my way.

Glancing around the merchandise, my low expectations were confirmed and I started to head back down the driveway. I slowed down however when I spotted a black carry-on bag underneath the table. I recognized it was a bag for a musical instrument. Kneeling down to unzipper the bag, I discovered a bright, shiny snare drum inside. School band season immediately jumped to mind! Having been through the middle school band years with my own kids, I knew these instruments are expensive. I also knew that with the new school year only weeks away, parents would soon be scrambling to buy their child an instrument.

Excited that I actually found something good amidst all the boring fabrics, I asked the seller how much she wanted for the drum? The woman was not a morning person. Her eyes were only half open and she seemed mildly annoyed that I was making her think so early in the morning. She glanced over at me and mumbled, "I dunno... $30 dollars?" It seemed her response was more a question then a definitive statement, so I came back with a counter offer of twenty dollars. Probably thinking she was only dreaming, she groggily agreed. I quickly paid her before she could wake up and realize she'd just given away a $150 snare drum kit for a twenty dollar bill! My fast escape was aided by the bag's convenient telescopic handle. I popped it open and quickly rolled the drum down the driveway to my truck.

I later learned my twenty dollar find was a 14" inch "Pearl" snare drum kit. In addition to the drum, the bag contained a chrome plated stand, drum sticks and a practice pad. The drum itself was near perfect with almost no signs of use on the skin. The chrome plated drum stand was shiny and looked like new. Naturally, I bragged about all this in my Craigslist ad. I also mentioned  that Pearl snare drum kits retail for $150 in many music stores. Initially, I listed the drum for $125. But after a few days with no serious interest, I dropped the price to a hundred dollars. Shortly thereafter, I received several inquiries, including a lady willing to drive over two hours to pick it up. Unfortunately, I guess her spirit was willing, but her car weak because she never showed up. I later received a text from her blaming her no-show on car problems. A typical Craigslist "almost" buyer.

Fortunately another Mom contacted me the very next day. She did show up-with her middle school son in tow. This kid cracked me up. He was wearing a "rock n roll" t-shirt and grinning from ear to ear. He even greeted me with a  friendly, "How are you?" which always impresses me. I told him I was just fine, then showed him and his mom the Pearl snare drum. I could see right away that mother and son both liked it. Opening up the bag, I asked the future drummer, "Nice right?" He gave me a enthusiastic "Yeah!" For fun I added, "The only downside is you'll have to practice every day!" His mom answered for him saying, "Oh, he's okay with that. When he's famous you can  brag you sold him his first drum!" I agreed and told the budding "Ringo" that maybe I should get his autograph right now! At that, I snapped open the telescopic handle in dramatic fashion and told the middle schooler to take his kit for a spin. He proceeded to carefully walk the bag around my driveway like a kid with a pull toy! His Mom smiled approvingly, then handed over five neatly folded twenty dollar bills to me. As his mom packed the kit into the back of her SUV,  the young fella continued to grin like Alice's Cheshire cat. As they drove away, I was happy the kid ended up with my snare drum. Of course, the $100 in my pocket made me feel pretty good too!

Yet another great ending to an awesome garage sale find. I made an impressive $80 dollars, mom got a good deal and most importantly, the kid rolled away with the snare drum of his dreams. A win-win for all involved!

Have you scored any musical instruments? If so, now's the time to sell them. Share your story below.....


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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I'm back talking Rubbermaid products

Boy, that was weird! For several days my site was down, along with thousands of others while Google did some kind of "maintenance" on their Blogger site. I won't even begin to figure it out. But with my son's help, I was able to get back on-line today. So a big thanks goes out to him. He has plenty to do with his own internet business endeavors and took time to get my site up and running. Good job, my man! ; )

While I was away, I came across a thread pertaining to a lady who bought a Rubbermaid laundry basket at a local yard sale. Check out her effusive comments on making this find....

"This weekend I was very pleased to find a Rubbermaid "Hiphugger" laundry basket in superb condition. My old (20 years plus) no-name-brand laundry basket was falling apart at both handles and along one side making laundry more of a chore than it should have been.

Under the edge of a table at the yard sale I spotted the nice large laundry basket still with the original paper label showing no signs of wear in the bottom of the basket. There was no price marked on it. The two people who were having the sale laughed. They had stuck it under the table after they used it to store pillows. I thought they didn't want to sell it, so I started to put it back under the table where I found it. Then they said, "If you want it you can have it for $1."I did not try to negotiate a lower price (I have "some" sense of decorum). I happily paid the dollar, took hold of the laundry basket, and pranced all the way back to my car with it "hugging" my hip. LOL"

This lady's obvious joy over something so mundane as a laundry basket got me to wondering. Could I be missing something here? Are Rubbermaid products a hot item we all should be looking for at the garage sales? Turns out, the answer is a definite maybe!

I began my research by looking up Rubbermaid "hip hugger" laundry baskets. I discovered that while they are a quality product, you won't get rich flipping them on eBay. A brand new hip hugger laundry basket can be bought at Sears for about $12 dollars. Don't get me wrong, everyone could use an extra laundry basket that costs only a dollar. But when it comes to Rubbermaid, there are better items to look out for at the garage sales.

Cruising through all the Rubbermaid listings, I found that large, five gallon gas tanks bring in decent money. Tanks in clean, excellent condition can sell in the range of $50 to $70 bucks! Apparently, they're sought after by lawn guys, landscapers and other businesses that need to bring their fuel right to the job site. Another Rubbermaid winner is the  refrigerated travel coolers you plug into your car's cigarette lighter. These handy little mini-fridges can sell for as much as $80 on eBay.  Under the "who would of thunk it?" category, if you ever have reason to come across a big Rubbermaid custodial cart, commercial trash bin or medical cart-scoop it up! Not a common yard sale item for sure, but you may be able to find them at a "going out of business" sale or when a company is looking to clean house. If you score one of these carts, expect to sell it on Craigslist or eBay and earn a hundred dollars or more! Ok, so maybe you won't find a big Rubbermaid cart any time soon, but how about a more common microwaveable food container set? Find one of these and you're looking at $60 bucks in your pocket!

So while that lady who bought the laundry basket may have been overly excited about her find, she did demonstrate that lots of people like Rubbermaid products. If you're at a garage sale and spot a Rubbermaid product, it's at least worth a quick eBay look-up on your mobile device. You just never know-the right Rubbermaid stuff can be flipped into big cash dollars.

Have you made money flipping Rubbermaid or similar products?  Share your story with us in the comment section.    

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

American Girl Dolls for sale

Huge puddle ain't stopping me - there's a garage sale down that street!
It rained on Saturday morning. A very ill-timed rain, considering the previous holiday weekend was a complete bust for garage sales. Prior to the arrival of rain, this weekend's sales were looking promising. There were about a dozen garage sales beckoning all over town. Then it began to rain. But that's what separates the fair weather garage sale fan from the true hard core! I toughed it out and came up with some pretty decent items...some of it due to the rain!

My first stop was a VFW flea market. Typically, VFW posts have older members participating. I love the kind of things senior citizens sell. Tools, fishing gear, old radios-you just never know what you'll find on their table. (See my blog: Stop the truck-that guy has white hair!) When I arrived at the VFW, some sellers had already draped clear plastic tarps over their table anticipating rain. I guess the thunder rumbling off in the distance was a pretty good clue. About the time I stepped out of my truck a light drizzle began to fall...followed by a monsoon! Boy, oh boy, you should have heard some of those VFW seniors grumbling and cursing the skies! One seller, apparently talked into staying by her hubby, began scolding him like he was a schoolboy. As the rain picked up, she began yelling at the poor old timer, " I knew it all along...this is ridiculous! Let's go home!" Without a word, the hapless fella began sheepishly tossing their merchandise back into his car.  I chucked to myself-that poor guy was probably going to hear griping and complaining all the way home.

With the rain still pouring down, I ran into the VFW hall to check out the lucky sellers who had tables inside. However after looking around and finding nothing, there was no reason to hang around. (Except maybe to stay dry.) The rain began to slow down, so I made a mad dash to the truck and consulted my garage sale map.

Although the morning was looking pretty bleak, I had an idea. The previous night a women had posted the following Craigslist ad :

HUGE Yard sale-American girl! Sat. 9/8/12 from 8-2

Date: 2012-09-04, 8:59AM EDT

Tons of American girl merchandise. Clothes, furniture and more for your dolls. Kitchen appliances, furniture, toys, bakeware, costumes etc....Please stop by from 8-2.

Uggh! I cringe when I see a Craigslist ad like that! It blabs to the whole world that there's awesome stuff at this garage sale. In this case, super collectible American girl dolls! Sure, I know the lady wants to encourage buyers to show up-but that doesn't help me out! Have you ever seen a dog when they spot a squirrel? That's how I and every collector react when reading a CL ad like this. My ears perk up, I start jumping up and down...I may even begin drooling! Now imagine twenty more people just like me, all chasing that same squirrel-that's a lot of barking and drooling! 

Recognizing this problem, I tried to give myself an edge the night before. I e-mailed the lady, asking if I could come over to look at the American Girl stuff. This was probably the umpteenth e-mail she received making the same "sneak peak" request.  The lady batted away my plea with the following response:

"I have kind of a huge mess in my living room with everything for the yard sale, tomorrow would really be easier."

Dang! Not one to give up that easily however, I tried one more tactic. I asked how much she wanted for a doll? Theorizing that if she responded with a insanely low price, say $5 to $10 bucks per doll, I'd offer her $100 for the whole kit n caboodle. If I could pull that off, I'd be able to swoop in and buy all the dolls before my competition even had their morning coffee! A great idea except for one problem-the seller came back with a lofty eBay-like price of $50 per doll. With that, I figured the deal was done before it could even get started. She was way too overpriced for me to make any decent money. That was, until the rain interceded.

Rainy day find!
After leaving the rainy VFW post, I began thinking again about that American Girl seller. Her garage sale was only 15 minutes from the VFW, so I headed over to see if she was open for business. Pulling up, the lady still had her stuff out. It was all covered with clear plastic tarps, but I could see two American Girl dolls and some furniture through the foggy plastic. As I jumped out of my truck, the seller came out of her house with umbrella in hand. Making small talk about the crummy weather, I eyed the dolls which were "Addy Walker" and "Molly McIntire". I pretended to be oblivious to the doll world, asking if the dolls under the plastic were American Girl?  She confirmed what I already knew, adding that despite the rain, she'd already sold a few of the dolls. It was now time to put my "rainy day" discount theory to the test. I asked her how much for the remaining two dolls?

Now most people might think rain is a bad thing for garage sales. While that may be true for sellers, rain can be a very good thing for buyers! A rainy day can force sellers to drop their prices due to the low buyer turnout. That's exactly what happened in my case. Upon asking the lady how much for the dolls she sighed, "Well, with this rain I really don't want to bring everything back inside. How about ten for each doll?" 

The rainy day discount had taken affect! Just the night before she had quoted me $50 bucks per doll. Now she had lopped off forty dollars per doll due to the rain! I said okay to her price and peeled off a twenty dollar bill. As I handed over the money, she grudgingly added, "That's the deal of the morning!" I nodded in agreement, but little did she know I've scored American girls dolls for a measly five dollar bill! 

I wrapped up the dolls in a plastic bag to keep them dry. While still there, I also bought a Bitty Baby changing table for five dollars. Bitty Baby tables usually sell on eBay for about $25. If I see my usual profit on that table, I'll have made back the twenty dollars I spent on the dolls-a perfect buy/sell symmetry! After arriving home, I consulted my photo library of sold eBay items and verified that about two years ago, I flipped an Addy Walker doll for $50. I also sold the outfit separate from the doll, which netted me another $24. Given that, I expect to sell my rainy day Addy and outfit for around $75. Hopefully, I'll earn about the same for the Molly McIntire too. Not bad for a twenty dollar investment!  

So for a day that originally looked like a wash out, things actually turned out  pretty darn good. The moral of the story is this-Don't let a little precipitation slow you down. A rainy day garage sale can be excellent for buyers!

Have you made some great deals in the rain? Close your umbrella, shake off your raincoat and sit down to tell us your story!    

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hosting a garage sale and it's aftermath

The Labor Day weekend is upon us! The holiday is considered the unofficial end of summer and for me, the beginning of  prime-time garage sale season! It's now a twelve week dash that concludes around the Thanksgiving weekend. Throughout Saturdays in the fall, I try to accumulate boo-coo inventory to carry me through the off-season. Hopefully, I'll find some good scores to pass along to you.

Speaking of Labor Day weekend, I found only one neighborhood yard sale on Saturday. Initially it showed some promise. It was located in a nice suburban neighborhood with lot's of young families. Young families means kid's toys, like the aforementioned Bumbo seats, American Girl dolls, Lego's and more! However there were a couple problems with this sale. Upon arrival, I realized the neighborhood just hosted a big yard sale back in the Spring. Worse yet, it seemed like the same houses were participating! That's not to say you can't get lucky at a repeat sale, but how much good stuff could these folks have left? In most cases, you're dealing with the crummy leftovers from the previous Spring garage sale. So the odds were not looking very good!

The second headache I faced was the enormous crowd that came to the sale. Since it was the only neighborhood sale for miles around, everyone and their uncle seemed to show up. On a normal fall weekend, this same crowd of pickers would be dispersed all over town. Instead, everyone had converged in this one neighborhood! I knew it was going to be bad when, pulling into the neighborhood, I spotted a fellow picker who apparently beat me to a nice jogging stroller. It was taunting me from the back of his truck! I can normally count on flipping a jogging stroller for $50 to $75 dollars. But in this case, all I could do was groan and wonder how much profit I missed out on? That stroller turned out to be an omen-I came home with absolutely nothing!

With this kind of poor quality garage sales taking place in August, I figured I might just as well hold my own. So a few Saturdays ago, we did just that. It was a great opportunity to clean out my "Hoarders" basement. Plus it's always fun mingling with neighbors and like-minded pickers. Our total profit for the day was $180 dollars-not a bad morning's work! But once the sale was over, Mrs. Dude grew exasperated with all the unsold clutter left in the garage. She strongly encouraged me to haul the leftovers down to the local Goodwill collection center. The center is five minutes from my house. It's a former gas station converted to a "collection only" operation by Goodwill. Located at a busy intersection, the place rakes in an incredible amount of donations. Saturdays are particularly busy, as people seem to clean house and drop stuff off all day long. One of these days I intend to take an early morning photo of the place, followed by an evening photo later that same day. You'll be amazed at the accumulation of stuff that piles up in just eight hours!

Recognizing that Goodwill isn't in dire need of my garage sale leftovers, I decided to hold off on making a donation. I still had one more trick up my sleeve to squeeze a few more dollars out of the stuff. With the garage sale over, I tossed the remaining items in the back of my truck. This included books, framed pictures, VHS tapes, toys and lots more. Once in the back of the truck, I took a few digital photos of the collective heap. I then posted an ad on Craigslist with the title, "Truckload of house contents for sale." Notice that I didn't use a pejorative title like, "Leftover Yard Sale items"? That would surely be the kiss of death-nobody is interested in leftovers. So instead, I use the intriguing "house contents" title. Hey, I am not's all "contents" that came from inside my house! Sounds much more enticing that way, doesn't it?

My "house contents" ad was posted just hours after the close of our garage sale. Feeling the pressure from Mrs. Dude, I needed the stuff sold ASAP! My starting price was $40 dollars, and while I got  few nibbles, no buyers showed up on my doorstep. Several days went by with no sale, so I lowered the price down to $25.  Boom!....that must have been the correct "price point" because e-mails began rolling in. The very next day, a women showed up and we crammed the "house contents" into the back of her Honda CRV. She left a happy lady and I was $25 dollars richer! In the grand scheme of things, who knows what great stuff that extra $25 bucks might buy me?

So the garage sale and it's aftermath worked out pretty well. How about you? Do you have any tricks to squeeze out a few more dollars out of garage sale? Give us your ideas below....  

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