Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cyber stalking Coleman coolers

The yard sales were slim pickings over the Memorial Day weekend. Incredibly, I  only found one to go to. The Craigslist ad was enticing though, talking about a lifetime of treasures from a "neat-nick" mom who was moving south. The description caught my interest, particularly the idea of a "neat-nick" who was moving. The Craigslist ad had a brief list of things up for sale, but I wondered what other good stuff Mrs. Neat-nick might be selling? I often ask myself this question and can tell you from experience....there is a way to find out.

With the help of Google and other Internet sources, you can sometimes identify stuff to be sold at a garage sale before ever showing up in the driveway. While some folks might call it cyber stalking, I call it just doing your homework! Take for example the Neat-nick mom who's CL ad stated she was moving. Typing her home address into the Google search bar turned up a link to her home's real estate listing. Clicking on the listing, I found numerous photos of the exterior and more importantly, the interior of the house. From there I could check out how she decorates her home and the quality of her furnishings. As I clicked through the photos, I could tell she really was a "Neat-nick" with some pretty nice stuff in her house! I continued to page through real estate photos, picking out items I hoped she'd be selling at her garage sale. One was some camping gear I spotted in a picture of the garage. Kind of creepy but hey, that's the age of the Internet for you!

With my internet research complete, I arrived at Mrs. Neat-nick's sale at the 8:00 AM start time. I was greeted with a crowded street of fellow yard salers. Normally you don't see that kind of congestion at one sale, but clearly the lack of any additions sales drove everyone to Neatnik's house. The street was crowded, but I pulled the truckster into a safe spot and hustled up the driveway. The first thing I spotted was the Coleman camping equipment I'd seen in the garage picture. It included a camp stove, lantern, heater and pots, dishes and clever folding legs used to support a stove or cooler.
All this for under $30!
Neatnik's husband was assisting in the sale, so I asked him how much for camping gear? Mr. Neat-nick quoted me a price of $25 for everything. If you've read my previous blogs on Coleman camping gear, you know the stuff can fetch nice money on eBay! Knowing that, I really couldn't argue with Mr. Neat-nick's price. But naturally I still countered with $20 anyway and Mr. Neat-nick accepted without a blinking an eye. (That's the great thing about people who are moving-they usually don't care about making a ton of money on their stuff. They just want it sold.) I slipped Mr. Neat-nick a twenty dollar bill and continued to look around his driveway.

I then turned my attention to a vintage Coleman cooler sitting on the opposite side of the driveway. Old steel Coleman coolers can sell for huge bucks on eBay. One in near pristine condition just sold on eBay for $200 dollars! How crazy is that, right? If you grew up during the Sixties or Seventies, you probably saw a Coleman cooler at every summer picnic! Many didn't survive, rusting out and eventually being replaced with boring plastic coolers. (Some of which now sell for decent money too.) So once I spotted this rare "Ice Blue" Coleman cooler, I pretty much made up my mind it was coming home with me. Although a little dusty, it was still in great condition and looked like it would clean up nicely. Moving in for the kill, I asked Mr. Neat-nick how much he wanted for the big cooler? He looked over at me and responded in the form of a question, "Ummm, how about ten bucks?"

Now I'll admit ten bucks is a pretty good price, but like any good garage sale picker, I am not taking the first quote. I opened up the cooler and mentioned to him that the plastic tray was missing. With this flaw now pointed out, I hit him with my counter offer of five dollars. Chuckling that I'd "got him" on the missing tray, he agreed to accept five bills for the cooler. But he added a "rider" to the agreement-if he could find the original tray the price would go up to eight dollars.

All three trays still here!
That deal was fine by me. I knew having the original tray would only add to the cooler's value. Mr. Neat-nick then went inside his house and began the search. After only about five minutes he came back out with not only the tray, but the original water container and the deep bin! With those awesome additions to the cooler, I gladly forked over another three dollars. It worked out to one dollar for each additional piece-a no-brainer and great price! I left the sale spending a total of $28 dollars for Coleman gear that could potentially sell for several hundred bucks. Not too bad considering it was the only sale of the morning!

A thing of beauty!
Once home, I had some cooler cleaning to do. With a Memorial Day picnic scheduled at my house, I decided my Ice Blue Coleman cooler was going to have it's official coming out party. On the day before the party I lovingly washed the cooler and trays down using a combination of car wash soap and dish washing liquid. After rinsing the soap off the cooler, I stepped back to admire my work. It turned out beautiful! So nice in fact, that I took over a dozen photographs of the cooler for the blog, as well as any future eBay auction. On the morning of the picnic, I loaded the cooler with 40 pounds of ice, along with mass quantities of soda, water, wine coolers and beer. As an added touch, I decided to position the cooler on the sturdy Coleman Stove folding legs also bought at the garage sale. Looking spectacular on it's Coleman legs, the big cooler was center of attention at the picnic! Adding to the hype, I continual pestered family members, proudly asking what they thought of my new cooler? Everyone agreed it was awesome and most added I'd be nuts to sell it!

Despite my growing attachment to the cooler, I haven't decided whether I am posting it on eBay or keeping it. Given it's excellent condition, I am certain it could sell for a ton of money and would probably rival the $200 Coleman cooler auction mentioned above. For now, it's drying out in the garage. But I can't has a very good chance of seeing many more picnics in my backyard!

This summer make sure you look for vintage Coleman coolers at the garage sales. Great for eBay flipping or your family picnics!

Have you bought and sold any vintage Coleman coolers or similar gear? Share your story below.....


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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Old Town Canoe on sale !

Despite my thrifty nature, I don't always sell every single thing I find at the garage sales. Some stuff is just too good to re-sell. I've had more then my share of keepers like a Keurig coffee maker, tools, clothes, etc. A few years ago I came across a really big keeper. It was an Old Town canoe and get this....I found it in the trash! (In case you're wondering...yeah, it even floats!) Finding this incredible keeper was all about being in the right place at the right time!

The story began on a dark, cold winter evening. I was in full "Lazy Sunday" mode; loafing around the house and watching television. But the relaxation would soon end when Mrs. Dude returned from her weekly trip to the local Target store. As she carried in the first of many red and white Target bags, she casually remarked, "In case you're interested, I just saw a canoe out at the trash." This was huge! So huge in fact that I am amazed at how casually Mrs. Dude threw out this monumental news. In retrospect, maybe she was acting low-key in the hopes of keeping me calm? Mrs. Dude knows how crazy I get over a good trash pick, particularly when it's something as insane as a canoe! But it was about to get more insane when Mrs. Dude then added, "Oh by the way, it sort of looks like an Old Town canoe."

It takes a lot to move me off the couch on a cold Sunday evening, but this news hit me like a thunderbolt! I jumped up and sprang into action! If you're wondering why, it's because Old Town canoes are the Cadillacs of the lakes...the Harley Davidson of the streams...the Apple computer of....well, you get the idea. They're the very best canoe on the market. Oh yeah and one more thing....they cost a lot of money! 

So while Mrs. Dude was calm and non-chalant over the canoe...I was the complete opposite! With lots of lakes and creeks in my area, I knew a canoe was not going to stay out at the curb for very long. Jumping on one leg as I tried to slip a boot on the other, I told Mrs. Dude that we had to get that canoe right now! Mrs. Dude was not thrilled with the idea of joining me on this recovery mission. It was dark and cold outside with a few of inches of frozen snow on the ground. (The kind of depressing mid-winter night that causes people to Google Florida trips and Caribbean cruises.) Giving me one of those, "Do I really have to go?" looks, Mrs. Dude suggested I grab one of the kids and use my truck to retrieve the canoe. Imagining my canoe slipping away, I pleaded with her, "No, No, No...we don't have much time! It'll be gone by then!" Seeing that I was getting hysterical, Mrs. Dude let out a sigh and grabbed her keys. We headed out into the darkness, Mrs. Dude as the driver and me once again serving as ninja trash picker!

Although our destination was only a few minutes away, I worried that some like-minded picker would beat me to the canoe. Seeing another person pick up that canoe would have crushed me emotionally for weeks! But as we pulled up to the house, I was relieved when the canoe was still there resting in the snow. I instructed Mrs. Dude to pull up alongside the canoe, thereby establishing our rightful claim by reason of proximity. The house where the canoe was located was for sale. Jumping out of the van, I heard people talking in the garage. Quickly looking the canoe over, I confirmed it was definitely Old Town! Looking further, I noticed the bench seat was broken in half and the plastic bow cap was missing. Other then that, it looked darn good!

Still unable to wrap my head around the fact that an Old Town canoe was out in trash, I decided to check with the homeowner. The owners were busy in their garage packing moving boxes. The wife stood up to talk and I sputtered excitedly that I just happened to be driving by and was wondering if the canoe was being thrown away? She confirmed that it was, explaining they were ditching the canoe to avoid the hassle of moving it. Still thinking there had to be some kind of catch, I asked her if there was anything wrong with the canoe? She explained that although it floated, the canoe had been damaged after washing down a creek in a rainstorm. The extent of the damage? The broken bench and missing bow cap I'd spotted.

Great for family excursions and keeping firewood dry!
That's all I needed to hear. The "damage" was fixable as far as I was concerned. I thanked the lady and headed back down the driveway. Mrs. Dude was warm and cozy inside the minivan as I popped open the rear hatch and began folding down the back seats. The winter wind blew through the van and I detected some  incredulity in Mrs. Dude's voice when she realized what I was trying to do. Glaring up at the rear view mirror, she yelled back at me, "You're going to put that thing in here? It's not going to fit!" But it was too late, I was already inside the van pulling the canoe behind me. I must have had that crazy trash-picker look in my eye because Mrs. Dude then tried reason on me, "Hold on...let's go home and get your truck!"

Using my truck would have made more sense. After all, a truck has something called a "bed" which is designed to transport large items, like say....a canoe. But as I wrestled the 15 foot behemoth into narrow confines of the mini-van, I explained to Mrs. Dude there was no way in God's green earth I was leaving without the canoe. I knew that if I left it, even if it were for just a few minutes, I'd never lay eyes on that canoe again!

So we stayed put and with each yank and grunt, I slowly pulled the canoe into the van. It was a miracle I didn't throw my back out! I finally stopped pulling when my backside was up against the front dash of the mini van. It was a dicey situation to say the least. Had Mrs. Dude floored the gas, both me and the canoe could have flown right out the back! But it was a risk I was willing to take. After bracing myself and gripping the back of the canoe, I asked Mrs. Dude to begin the slow drive home. With my body jammed up against the front dash it was an uncomfortable ride for me. In fact, I am pretty sure my rear end changed the radio station every time we hit a bump! After a few minutes and a couple of station changes, we made it safely home.

Despite all the challenges involved, my trash picked canoe was well worth the effort. While the canoe had some minimal damage, it was remedied with some easy repairs. I tore out the busted seat and replaced it with a wood seat cut out of scrap wood. I then ordered a replacement bow cap from Old Town that snapped easily in place. After total repair costs of around $50 dollars the canoe looked great. I also saved a ton of money when compared to buying a new canoe. The exact 15 foot model I salvaged from the curb sells for $1500 dollars at LL Bean!  Not too shabby, right? Since making the repairs, the canoe has been on many family excursions down local creeks and lakes. Like I said, some finds are definitely worth keeping!

What kind of awesome "keepers" have you found? Tell us all about it in the comment section!

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cheap Nike & Adidas running shoes

At the garage sales there are certain items I'll buy up without any hesitation. As long as the price is right, it's the type of stuff I can easily re-sell it for way more money then I paid. If you follow my blog recently, you know I have an ever expanding list. Among my "sure thing" items are; American Girl Dolls, Pottery Barn, Carhartt coats and jackets, Under Armour Golf shirts and Harry Potter Legos  just to name a few. Today I want to pass along another "must-buy" item: new sneakers still in the box.

In previous blogs, I've talked up the value of certain vintage sneakers, but today I am singing the praises of brand new sneakers! They can be running shoes, basketball shoes, or whatever, just as long as they are a major name brand and new in the original box! If you rack your brain for a minute, you probably remember seeing a pair of new sneakers in the box at a yard sale. I don't know what it is, but when folks clean out their house in preparation for a yard sale, many come across at least one pair of new sneakers to sell. It could be running shoes they bought but didn't fit right. Or maybe they were a Christmas or birthday gift and they couldn't stand the color. There's even the classic New Year's resolution purchase. This is the person who buys running shoes with the best intentions to start "working out" in the new year. Unfortunately they never quite get around to it. Whatever the reason, I love it when I see brand new shoeboxes at a yard sale!

However, it's not always easy finding those shoeboxes. Searching for them at a yard sale is something like looking for water in the desert. Just when you think you've found a pair, it turns out to be a mirage! The problem is folks also use shoe boxes to store their junk collections. More then once, I've excitedly pulled the lid off a shoe box only to find worthless stuff like old curlers or clothespins inside. It can be a major bummer!

Adidas running shoes for cheap!
But despite the false alarms, the search will ultimately pay off when you finally find a new pair of sneakers! Take this awesome Adidas running shoes for example. I found these last Fall at a busy family garage sale. When I opened the Adidas box, I knew I had a pretty good score on my hands. With tags till attached to the shoes, it was clear the shoes had never been worn. They looked like they were fresh from Dick's Sporting Goods! The shoes were priced at ten dollars. This was a little rich for my blood, so I went to speak to the Mom about a possible price reduction. Mom was busy bouncing between her kid's, neighbors and other customers. I finally got her attention, asking if she would take five dollars for the shoes? Mom thought about it for a moment, but then decided to Pow-Wow with her husband on the price. Telling him that I was offering five bucks, Dad got visibly annoyed and mumbled in exasperation, "Five bucks? They're brand new!" I could see this guy was going to be trouble.

He was right of course-they were brand new. But this was a garage sale in his driveway-not the Footlocker store down at the local mall! Dad's reaction told me he could be a major impediment in landing the deal. When dealing with these awkward moments, I've found the best way to diffuse the situation is to respond with the following statement, "Well....I just don't know if they will like them." This should be said with a sense of bewildered indecision-as if you're not even sure if you want to buy them, much less pay full blown asking price! (For maximum effect, it helps to be scratching the top of your head when saying this.) Throwing out this innocent remark can help the seller understand your predicament. Why would anyone overpay for sneakers if "they" might not like them? Now of course, "they" might mean you're referring to your son or daughter...or you might not. In my case, when I say "they" I am usually referring to my eBay buyers! The point you're trying to make is that you're taking a risk in buying the sneakers. This little power of suggestion can help nudge the seller towards your way of thinking. It worked on the annoyed Dad. After I made that remark, he grudgingly agreed to sell the Adidas running shoes for my offer of five bucks!

The psychological warfare now behind me, I arrived home and looked up this particular style of Adidas shoes on eBay. I learned that similar Adidas shoes were selling for as much as $80 dollars! Hopefully I was going make just as much. I didn't list right away though. I deciding to wait until the holidays to sell my Adidas shoes. A brand new pair of running shoes makes a great gift and always attracts more bids during the holiday season. Once the holidays rolled around, I posted the shoes at auction. My five dollar Adidas shoes ended up selling for $65 dollars!

Just another "sure-thing" as far as I am concerned. Make sure you add new sneakers (still in the box) to your growing list of yard sale "must-buys"!

Have you sold any new sneakers or shoes? Tell us about it in the comment section below......    

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A "new" Lego set found suspiciously cheap !

 I've been around the  block a few times when it comes to wheeling and dealing at garage sales. All those years have taught me you take your chances on anything you buy out there. Sellers will sometimes stretch the truth, or even downright lie when trying to sell you something. So I've come to expect the fact that some people may occasionally try pull a fast one on me. But it's important that I point out I specified in grownups. Last week I had an experience that was a little different. For the first time in my garage sale picking career, I was snookered by a kid! Talk about embarrassing!

What a new Lego set looks like
This juvenile larceny took place at a typical suburban garage sale. Mom, Dad and their three kids were all participating in the sale. As with many family garage sales, the kids had their separate little table. Most of the kid stuff was junk, but then I eyed a large Lego box sitting on the table.  Removing some toys resting on top of the box, I spotted a price tag of $5 dollars. You could tell from the scribbled handwriting it had been written by a kid. Picking up the box, I noticed one lid was still factory sealed, while the opposite end was closed with a bunch of scotch tape.

This box had my full attention. Lego sets such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and Indiana Jones can sell for big bucks on eBay. A few years back, I made close to $200 dollars on a sealed Harry Potter Lego set. This set was a fire engine truck called "Creator Fire Rescue." Though not as popular as Star Wars or Harry Potter, if it was unopened with the pieces still sealed in packs, it could be a money maker. But I needed to know the story on the suspicious looking taped lid. I hoped the box had been briefly opened then resealed, leaving the inside untouched. Either that or the set was "used" and someone was trying to keep the pieces from falling out. Summoning up my best investigative garage sale skills, I shook the box. There was no messy sound of loose parts rattling and sliding around inside. With too much tape to remove, the easiest thing to do was just ask the seller. The family was scattered throughout the driveway. Asking no one in particular, I blurted out loud, "Is this Lego set new?" At that, the Dad summoned over his son, who I guessed to be around twelve years old. Still shaking the box to listen inside, I asked the young man, "Hey buddy, is this new?" The kid stared long at the box, then glanced up at me, "Oh yeah, I never played with's new." I thought it was a little strange that a kid wouldn't play with a Lego set, but some kids are fickle. Who knows-maybe junior just didn't like fire engine sets? The kid seemed sincere enough and how can you not trust an innocent looking twelve year old, right? Satisfied it was new, while also not wanting to doubt the young man's personal integrity, I peeled off a five dollar bill and handed it to the budding aluminum siding salesman....ummm kid.

After a few more yards sale stops, I headed home with some decent scores including my brand new Lego set. A few hours later, I prepped the Lego set for an eBay photo shoot. Normally when I open a new set I know exactly what to expect. Lego sets contain pieces that are packaged in clear plastic packs. When listing on eBay, it's important to show all those packs so buyers know what they're getting. In order to show the packs-I needed to open the box. Using my trusty penknife, I carefully removed the multiple strips of scotch tape that sealed the box lid. With the tape removed, I eagerly peered inside looking for the much anticipated plastic packs. But when I squinted into the box my heart dropped. Either Lego had radically changed how they pack their sets......or I'd been snookered!

The Lego pieces were not factory sealed inside neat little packs like I expected. Heck no....this was a more like Dixie cup packaging instead! All the parts had been dumped into individual plastic party cups. These cups were then stacked and wedged in long rows inside the box. (This explained why I didn't hear a lot of loose pieces when I shook the box.) Like a college kid cleaning up after a frat party, I poured out the half filled cups like so much stale beer. Once the cups were all poured onto the table, I could tell it wasn't even a complete set! Larger parts like tires and base pieces were missing. Making matters worse, there was dog hair mixed in with the pieces. You might imagine this could be a minor gross out factor to a potential buyer! On the bright side, I rationalized that maybe that kid didn't fib to me after all. Perhaps he told me the truth and really didn't play with the set. Judging from all the K-9 hair, it was probably his dog who opened the set! Yeah that's was the dog see? But whether it was Fido or the kid, it was going to now cost more time and labor in cleaning up this not-so-new set. With this disappointing discovery, the set's value had gone from a potential of around $60 dollars on eBay, to maybe $5 to $10 as used "parts" lot. So much for new!
My "new" Lego set!

Oh well, live and learn right? Even though the kid got me, it was partly my own fault. Despite the kid's innocent assurance that the set was new, I still should have looked inside. I am more amused how the youngster scammed me with his poker face bluff. The kid has a future playing championship poker in Vegas some day!  That's how it goes at the garage sales-win some...lose some. But jeez...if you can't trust a kid, who can you trust?

Have you ever been snookered on a yard sale deal? (If so, I hope it wasn't by a kid!) Tell your story in the comment section below....

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