Friday, December 28, 2012

Breakfast cereal can be a cheap investment strategy

Ever think about selling discontinued food products on eBay? The subject has been in the news lately with the demise of the famous Twinkies cupcake. After the company that makes Twinkies shut down, the little cakes started appearing on eBay and selling for crazy money.

There's other defunct food products selling on eBay too. If you want to talk about an awesome return on investment, search "vintage cereal box" on eBay. Vintage cereal boxes can sell for hundreds of dollars or more on the auction site. Check out this box of Fruit Loops from the 1970's! How crazy is that? You may notice that cereal boxes with colorful characters and pop culture references like a TV show, or celebrity give-away, seem to attract the most bids.

Crazy at it may sound, if you want to invest for the future, saving old cereal boxes could be a smart strategy. Just imagine for a moment if you'd saved all your Fruit Loop boxes from when you were a kid. Given that one just sold for almost a thousand dollars, a whole bunch of these could accrue into huge money! Who couldn't use a $1000 per/box in their later years? It could be enough money to buy a car or help pay for your kid's college! And what does it take to get started? Next to nothing-you're probably buying cereal anyway! Storage is easy too-flatten them out and they can be stashed almost anywhere! 
Dollar for dollar...a great investment!

In addition to cereal, there's other defunct food products that bring in decent money. You probably had all the these products in your refrigerator at one point or another. For example, do you remember "New" Coke?  It was a big deal when it came out back in 1985. I can remember trying it-to me it tasted just like Pepsi. But instead of drinking it, I guess I should have saved a few bottles as an investment! Here's the skinny on that failed soda, as well as other defunct food products:
  • New Coke - An unopened can recently sold for $40 on eBay. If you paid fifty cents for that soda can back in the 1980's, the $40 you made turned out to be a pretty good return on investment.
  • Post’s Waffle Crisp - Another discontinued cereal that currently averages $15 a box on eBay. 
  • Billy Beer - While lot's of people saved these ugly looking cans, a whole case recently sold on eBay for $22 bucks.  
  • Orbitz soda - This was a late '90s era soda that was discontinued. A case of five Orbitz bottles just sold for fifty dollars on eBay. 
  • Hi-C Ecto Cooler - A mid-ninties era juice drink, apparently associated with either X-men or the movie Ghostbuster. A used carton box just sold for $47 bucks. 
  • Surge: Coca-Cola's failed answer to Mountain Dew - A full can of this soda recently sold for $56 dollars on eBay. 
Not bad, right? If these examples don't make you start digging into the back of your kitchen pantry, I don't know what will! I am definitely going to stockpile cereal boxes. Once I fill up a big Tupperware container, I'll seal it up and mark "nest egg" on the outside! 

Have you ever sold a discontinued food product? If so, let us know in the comment section how you did.....

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Oh Christmas tree !

The Christmas selling season has come to a close. I came to a slow stop about a week ago, leaving time to ship all my items out before Christmas. I had a lot of great auctions including; sports jerseys, Lenox pieces, toys, some Harley Davidson shirts, blow molds and plenty of Christmas decorative stuff. I also unloaded a bunch of NHL hockey jerseys. I was originally saving the jerseys for auctions during the winter hockey season. But the NHL players have been on strike for months now, and it looks like the whole hockey season will be cancelled. Realizing this, I decided the Holidays could be my only opportunity to move my huge stockpile of jerseys. It turned out to be a good idea. I sold all but three jerseys, with prices ranging from $20 to $35 dollars. 

Need a base with that tree?
One of my more unique sales was this base for a ceramic Christmas tree. I found this base at Goodwill for $3 dollars. Like any fragile piece, bases like this usually end up broken, leaving a perfectly good tree without a stand. I posted the auction early in the holiday season, calculating it was right around the time when folks are pulling out their decorations. Once the decorations come out of the box, people remember they need to replace that broken base on the ceramic tree. My timing seemed to be about right. My Goodwill base received a bunch of bids and sold for $32 dollars. There's always somebody out there who needs a tree base as a replacement piece. If you see one-buy it!

How about a couple of lights?
But not every auction was a winner. In the interest of helping you avoid making the same mistakes I made, I'll also throw in some non-starters. In my last blog, I complained about the unimpressive sales of my ugly Christmas sweaters. The over saturation of these sweaters on eBay has dampened sales for many sellers. So unless you're paying only a buck or two, I would avoid them. Another holiday loser was this set of vintage Christmas lights. I thought they had a nice, old-school charm to them. Unfortunately nobody else seemed to think so. I listed them twice on eBay with no bids. Luckily, I only paid a dollar for the set, so no great loss. I'll probably hold them until next year, or sell them at my next garage sale-oh well!

Oh Christmas tree!
But despite a few no-sale auctions, the rest of my sales were as jolly as old Saint Nick! Nothing, however, topped my ultimate Christmas auction......this vintage aluminum "Pom-Pom" Christmas tree. As discussed by Becky in the excellent like-minded blog, Treasures in Thrifting Land, these trees are the Holy Grail of Christmas finds. Hugely popular and very rare, eBay bidders just go completely crazy for them! I lucked into my tree at a community yard sale. My heart skipped several beats when I spotted it sitting under the seller's table. It was in the original box with each branch gently wrapped in individual paper sleeves! The tree even came with the classic spinning color wheel, making it the total package! Spotting the ellusive tree, I nearly pounced on it as if it were going to run away from me! A paper tag taped to the box had the price written on it-$50 dollars! Not bad, but I am always looking to shave off a few bucks, so I asked the seller if she'd take forty for it? She agreed and after paying, the nice lady told me she would watch the box while I continued shopping. Since it's cumbersome to try to walk around with a huge box under your arm, I thanked her and left the tree behind the table.

Ironically, Mrs. Dude had set out on her own this particular morning, ending up at the very same community yard sale. (We rarely shop together due to our different styles. She's a slow motion shopper-out for a nice, leisurely excursion. I am a speed shopper-hustling through as many sales as I can in just a few hours.) Despite her casual pace, Mrs. Dude spotted the vintage tree I'd bought just twenty minutes earlier. After inquiring about the tree, the seller told Mrs. Dude that "some guy" had already bought it. Later, when I met up with my significant other back in our driveway, she asked if I was the "guy" who bought the tree? With much bravado, I pulled the box from the back of my truck and gave Mrs. Dude my most  obnoxious "How do you like me now?" pose, complete with arms crossed and cocky smirk on my face. Her questioned answered, she waved me off dismissively saying, "I knew it had to be you!" and walked away. The women is very hard to impress!  

As obnoxious and excited as I was, I still patiently waited until December to sell that beautiful Christmas tree. The wait was awful, sort of like buying a brand new car and having to wait months before driving it! But December finally came, and after painstakingly assembling the tree, I snapped a bunch of pictures and posted it on eBay. The long wait was worth it. The vintage Pom-Pom Christmas it's original box....with spinning color wheel.....sold for...wait for it.....wait some more....okay here goes.........$375 dollars!  Whoo-Hooo! Merry Pom-Pom Christmas tree to all!!!!

So I'll end the Christmas season on that happy, upbeat note! I hope some of this year's stories and tips made you smile and helped you make a few dollars for you and your family. Thanks also for following the blog and writing in and sharing all your great stories. As I say each year, we're all in this together!

 Merry Christmas and have a safe and prosperous New Year......Dude! 

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Ugly Christmas Sweater - I am not buying it!

This is an important news flash......the Dude is about to disavow an earlier stated opinion. A momentous occasion by any measure, because I rarely change my mind. (At least that's what Mrs. Dude tells me.) But I've had a change of opinion on a commonly found thrift store item and an obligation to pass this along to my loyal readers.

In a blog written about a year ago I praised Ugly Christmas sweaters, stating how they're a hot seller during the Christmas season. To illustrate this point further, I even told the true story of being accosted by a fellow Goodwill shopper who asked me if I'd seen any good Christmas sweaters in the store's racks? Well things apparently have changed in the year since I wrote that enthusiastic opinion, because this year my ugly Christmas sweater sales absolutely STINK, STANK, STUNK! Part of the problem is the growing popularity in selling these holiday sweaters. Check out this recent article I found:

 Christmas Sweaters: the Uglier, the Better!

Ugly Christmas sweaters are creating a small pre-holiday financial boon for thrift stores nationwide. And here in Reno they are flying off the racks.

"We collect them year round, because the real ones from the 80's are hard to find," says Kendra Crosby of Junkee Clothing Exchange in Reno. "We have pickers who find them for us in Los Angeles and send them here. And to keep up with the demand, we even buy plain sweaters we find and decorate them ourselves."

"I'm looking for a really ugly one," said Kelly Case, as she leafed through the racks. "It's a contest and so I've picked out two and am seeing which one will be the one here." She was considering two 80's era sweaters with holiday scenes. And then she settled on one with a three dimensional stuffed bear and a Christmas tree on it. "This is it!" she said happy to pay the $20 price for it.

And across town at the Assistance League of Reno's Thrift Store on Vassar, there are Christmas sweaters and even sequined evening jackets they can hardly keep in stock.

"The end of October and the first week in November we went through at least a rack and a half of them," said Helga Miller who is the Chair of the Thrift Store. "They are really popular and we have a lot of them."
See what I mean? Even the thrift stores are getting in on the act! Just like this Reno thrift store, my local Goodwill store also displayed their numerous ugly Christmas sweaters on a prominent rack in the middle of the store. But along with that special display came special prices. Most were priced at around ten dollars-way higher then your average ratty GW sweater found in the regular racks. I hate to admit it, but even the Dude got swept up in this ugly Christmas sweater gold rush. I bought several of those overpriced GW sweaters, hoping to at least triple my money during the holiday buying season. But it was not to be! Out of four sweaters I posted on eBay, only one sold. It received a single bid of $20 bucks! That was hardly the return I was looking for. Fearing that I would get stuck with the rest, I sold the remaining sweaters in one collective lot for $30, barley breaking even on my investment. My only conclusion-there are just too many sweaters available for sale, causing prices to drop. The old supply and demand theory works even with ugly Christmas sweaters!

Which is why I've changed my mind. From now on, I plan to exercise extreme caution when considering ugly Christmas sweaters. Any future purchases will be strictly sweaters that have actual blinking lights and tinsel intertwined in the fabric. I am only half kidding-the more outrageous the sweater, the better the chance you 'll have in making any serious money from it!

Of course, this is just one man's opinion. Maybe other folks have had a different experience? If you sold any ugly Christmas sweaters I'd be interested in knowing how you did? Maybe you agree with me or maybe you made a ton of money. If enough folks tell me they made lot's of money with ugly Christmas sweaters.....I'll retract my retraction!!!

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Cheap NFL Jerseys

The Christmas buying season continues at a fevered pace! Like the previously mentioned Ugg boots, another popular gift item I've been doing well with is NFL football jerseys. Even though the football season is winding down, there's plenty of folks looking to buy a jersey for someone in their family. It's no wonder some people prefer to buy a jersey on eBay then at the local mall. Did you know that a top quality NFL jersey can easily retail for well north of $100 bucks? It's crazy! With a little hard work and diligence, you can capitalize on this demand by finding many of these same NFL jerseys at your local thrift stores.

When buying football jerseys at the thrift store there's a few things you should look out for. Many times you'll consistently see a specific player's jersey in the racks and wonder why there are so many? When you noticed that happening, its almost always due to the fact that the player has been traded. A traded player's jersey instantly loses value once he's off the team. Who wants a  jersey for a guy who no longer plays for the home team? An example of this phenomenon is former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. When McNabb was the star quarterback for the Eagles, his jersey was worth its weight in gold! Once he was traded however, his jersey might just as well been used for a dust rag. Nobody wanted it anymore! The value and demand can drop that quickly!  If you find a jersey and you're not sure the player is still with the team, look him up on Wikipedia. There you'll find the player's complete NFL history. If you discover the guy has been traded, it's probably best to put the jersey back on the rack. However, if you find the player retired from football while still playing for that team, there's a decent chance his jersey will still attract bids. At that point you can always look up the jersey on eBay to determine if it's worth buying 

Cheap jersey sells for not-so cheap!
Keep in mind also that stitched lettering and numbers always trumps screened lettering. A stitched jersey is a sign of top quality. It's also what the NFL players actually wear on the field. When it comes to the gold standard in stitched jerseys, you can't do better then Mitchell & Ness. I occasionally find these jerseys in the Goodwill racks. The company produces a lot of "throwback" jerseys. If you're not familiar with the term, that's an old-school style jersey worn by a popular, but long-retired player. Examples of this would be the great Willie Joe Namath or Joe Montana. You can identify these jerseys by locating the fabric tag at the bottom indicating the year that player wore the jersey. If you find a throwback jersey consider yourself lucky-you just made money! I've sold a few of these great old jerseys on eBay for $50 to over $100 dollars! The jersey shown here is a prime example. It's a Mitchell & Ness jersey for the great Carl Banks who played for the New York Giants back in the day. I bought it at Goodwill for only $7 bucks. I turned around and flipped it on eBay for a "Gigantic" $125 dollars! That's what I call an eBay touchdown!

So although the NFL season is winding down, Christmas shoppers are still looking for cheap football jerseys. If you find a few at your local thrift store, post them on eBay as soon as you can.  You'll turn cheap NFL jerseys into big cash money!

How about you? Have you flipped any NFL jerseys bought for cheap? Leave your comment below....


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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Uggs on sale

Ugg boots are expensive. Typical Uggs will sell for $100 to $200 dollars at most of local malls, outlet stores or Amazon. Shoppers are willing to pay these prices because they're the hottest thing going in boots. In particular,  the high school and college kids can't seem to live without them. You may remember my previous experience with Uggs, when I fished my daughter's used pair from our trash can. She actually had the audacity to try to throw them away! While they were beat and worn, I still sold them on eBay for $32 bucks. Not bad for something that almost saw the landfill!

Uggs for cheap
Now that it's the Christmas shopping season, Uggs are even more sought after then ever. Used pairs of Uggs can fetch big cash dollars on eBay. I recently benefited from the Uggs craze. I bought these kid's Uggs at a yard sale, paying only five dollars for the pair. Can you believe that? I honestly can't understand how anyone could sell a perfectly good pair of Uggs at a yard sale for so cheap? Because the price was so low, I wondered if the boots were fake? Holding them in my hand, I closely examined them inside and out for any tell-tale signs of a counterfeit boot. Finally, I decided to just asked the women where she bought them? I explained to her that there were some counterfeits out there, so I just wanted to be sure. Mrs. Dude was with me that particular day and later told me she couldn't believe I asked the seller if they were real! I wasn't trying to insult the women. In this business you can't take any chances. The last thing I need is an eBay buyer whacking me with negative feedback because I sold them knock-off Uggs! Fortunately, the seller didn't get offended and reassured me they were genuine Uggs. She  explained further that she bought them for her daughter who had quickly grew out of them. This explained the excellent condition the boots were in. Now convinced the Uggs were real, I gladly handed the lady a five dollar bill.

As I said, Uggs are a hot seller on eBay. I knew the faster I got them on-line, the sooner I'd be paid. After a few photos showing the boot's upper, sole and inner liner, I posted my five buck Uggs on eBay. Just as I hoped, bidders went crazy for them. The Uggs topped out with a final auction bid price of $45 dollars. A good deal for the buyer and an even better deal for me!

If you are lucky enough to have a used pair of Uggs in the house, now is the best time to sell them. No matter what the condition-from brand new to old and worn, you will find an eBay buyer!

Have you ever sold Ugg boots on eBay? Share your story below in the comment section. 

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

That's no place for a Nativity scene !

Christmas inventory can come  from all different sources-garage sales, thrift shops....the weeds. Yep, I said weeds. That's not the name of some fancy new store like Express up at your local mall. I mean the actual weeds, as in weeds that grow wild out in open fields. A strange place to find inventory, but let me explain.

I am often tasked with taking Riley, our family dog out for his daily walk. If you have kids and a dog, you know how hard it is sometimes to get someone....anyone.... to walk the dog! Our kids are way too busy on the computer or cell phone to make time for poochy, so it often falls on me to take him out. I really don't mind because occasionally good things happen when Riley and I are out walking!

Riley: Sniffing out eBay finds!
Last summer Riley and I were walking along the edge of a vacant field. The field has no house on it, just a steel shed and box storage trailer rusting away out in the back of the property. As long as I can remember, nobody has been in the trailer or shed in years. But on this particular day, the trailer was wide open and two guys were cleaning it out. I don't know if the guys were "pickers" or just a clean-out service, but they were making a mess of things. Glass was breaking, metal was banging and stuff was flying out of that trailer. Despite the apparent mayhem, these guys seemed to have a system for culling through all the junk. Stuff they wanted to keep went into the back of their pick-up truck. Stuff they didn't want was tossed back into the trailer or thrown on the ground in a big junk pile. As the guys kept digging, I wondered what treasures might be inside that long locked trailer? My daydreaming was interrupted however by Riley, who pulled me along with other things on his mind. 

Several days later I was back out walking the same path with my trusty dog. As I walked by the old trailer again, I noticed the "pickers" had left some junk behind. There were rusty paint cans, cinder blocks and scrap metal left in a messy debris field. But something unusual caught my eye. Looking closer in the weeds and tall grass, I could also see two plastic leaf bags. Both had a figure peeking out through a rip in the bag. I pulled on the dog's leash so that he and I could investigate further. Crouching down to take a look, I discovered the bags contained Nativity scene blow molds. Specifically, inside were the camel and a Wise Man! It was obvious to me that the pickers had pulled both figures out of the trailer, tore open the leaf bags to look inside and decided they weren't worth taking. Instead, they tossed them into the grass along with the rusty paint cans and scrap metal. But I knew something about blow molds they didn't know. They might have been "junk" to the pickers, but to me they were plastic gold!   

After making this discovery, my gears were now turning. I figured I'd give it a few weeks to see if the guys would came back to clear out the junk pile. If not, the camel and Wise Man were coming home with me! Several tense weeks of dog walking then went by. With each trip I would anxiously glance at the blow molds in the weeds, much like Wily Coyote looked longfully at the Road Runner! This excruciating waiting game went on for several weeks  as the grass and weeds grew around the two leaf bags. After about a month passed I had enough! As Popeye use to say, "That's all I can stand-I can't stands no more!" I marched into the field like it was Walmart and I was looking for in-store items for sale. Picking up the two leaf bags left behind by the pickers, I walked out of the tall grass and headed home!

Arriving home with the Wise Man, camel and my dog,  I began the blow mold rehabilitation. Both were dirty and even had some crickets inside of them.  But with a little soap and water I got them looking spiffy! I believe in taking care of everything all at once, so after giving both a bath, I took some digital photos then placed them into storage until the holidays.

Once the holidays were upon us, I posted both on eBay. There are quite a few Nativity blow molds on eBay right now but that's to be expected. All the competition didn't hurt the bidding on my auctions. My rescued camel and Wise Man sold for $30 and $35 respectively. Since they were freebies, that was pure profit of $75!

Who would have thought I'd find Christmas inventory while walking my dog in a field?  Just another reason why this business is so much just never know where you are going to find your next treasure!

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