Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! I have a pretty weird, (but funny) garage sale story I've been saving for this time of year. It involves what I thought was a vase, but turned out to be something very different. It proved you can find some scary things at a yard sale!  

About two years ago, I rolled up to a garage sale being held by an older couple. As I've said many times, I love yard sales held by senior citizens. Older folks usually have vintage and interesting things for sale. This sale initially didn't look all that good, but my blurry eyes spotted what looked like a bright, colorful baseball themed vase. On the front of the vase was the Philadelphia Phillies logo. Because of it's uniqueness and color, the vase stood out from it's lonely spot in the driveway. Adding more interest to the vase was a Post-It note with the words "free" written on it. Looking over the vase, it seemed to be in perfect, brand new condition. On the top of the vase was a plastic bubble containing an actual baseball. I wasn't sure why you need a baseball on top of a vase, but the thing piqued my interest. Being a Phillies fan, I decided to take the vase and figure out what to do with it later.  My conscience wouldn't let me take such a nice freebie for nothing though, so I reached into my pocket and pulled out a dollar. Holding out the sawbuck, I walked over the elderly gentleman running the sale and told him I wanted to pay him something for the vase. As I handed him a dollar, the old fella peered over his glasses and gave me a strange look. This odd reaction had me scratching my head, but I chalked it up to the fact that some folks just ain't as friendly as yours truly. Later on however, I figured out why the old timer gave me the look!

Arriving home from my garage sale rounds, I unloaded my finds for the day. The Phillies vase really had me curious, so I set it on the back of the truck's tailgate and gave it a thorough going over. The vase was topped off with a heavy metal lid that unscrewed. The lid contained an actual baseball inside a plastic dome. On the front of the vase was a small plaque area that looked like a place to engrave a person's name. Sitting on the tailgate with the vase now in my lap, I pondered this weird configuration. As I put together the various clues, it slowly began to dawn on me what this thing was...and it freaked me out! It wasn't a flower vase at all. It was a cremation urn used to intern the ashes of the dearly departed!  In this case, it was intended for a "die hard" Phillies fan! I've bought some weird yard sale stuff in my life, but this was down-right spooky! No wonder the seller gave me a funny look. He must have thought I was nuts!

It's a vase?!?
With this spooky realization, I was now panicking! What if there were ashes inside the urn? How do you dispose of someone's ghostly remains? I nervously shook the urn and listened closely. I couldn't hear a thing...but does someone's ashes make a sound anyway? Still unsure if someone was inside, I decided there was only one way to find out...I had to open the urn up and take a look. Pretty creepy, but I knew it had to be done. With my head turned slightly away, and one eye closed to minimize the shock of what I could discover, I slowly unscrewed the heavy lid. I was dreading what I might find. Who wants to come face-to-face with someone's ashes? Making the process even weirder, the steel lid made a very appropriate, but creepy, metal scratching sound. It was as if I were opening a crypt! After a few more turns, the lid finally came off. The moment of truth had arrived. As I peered inside the thermos-like container,  I let out a huge sigh of was clean as a whistle!

With this ghostly problem now passed, my next dilemma was to figure out what to do with a baseball cremation urn? Would anyone buy something so weird? Jumping on my computer to do some research, I was shocked at what I found. Apparently there's actually a demand for some hard-core baseball fans to be forever united with their favorite team. In fact, there's an urn for every major league baseball team...who knew, right? The urns are sold on various funeral supply websites, with some listed for as much as $700 dollars! I couldn't believe it! That's a lot of money to store your ashes in what's basically a fancy thermos! 

My next dilemma was selling the urn. While I have to admit it felt a little creepy, I wasn't about to keep the thing! But at the same time, I also didn't want to take advantage of anyone who wanted the urn for their dearly departed...that's just bad karma! So I listed the urn on Craigslist for an extremely reasonable price of fifty bucks. Even at this low price, I wasn't very hopeful the urn would sell. Realistically, how many folks are looking for something as strange as a baseball themed cremation urn? But surprise...I actually found someone! A guy contacted me saying he was looking for a Phillies cremation urn...and he needed it quick! His father-in-law had just passed away and the funeral was being held in a few days. The departed was a huge Phillies fan, so his son-in- law thought a Phillies themed urn would be a fitting tribute. Adding an additional heart warming touch, the son-in-law planned to have all the grandchildren sign the baseball that sat atop their Pop-Pop's urn. Having shopped for an urn on-line, the son-in-law realized what a great price I was giving him. He was so appreciative, he decided to pay me an extra $25-bumping the price of the urn up to 75 dollars! Pretty good, considering I originally thought the thing was a flower vase! After we made the deal, I drove home chuckling to myself. I actually made a very nice profit and helped someone out by flipping a cremation urn! You can't get much weirder then that!

I won't even bother to ask if you have ever flipped a cremation urn...what's the chances? So I'll leave you with that creepy garage sale story and wish you and yours, a safe and Happy Halloween!   

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Geico Insurance, Nissan Versa and yard sales..perfect together!

In a sort of good news/bad news story, last week my son totaled his beautiful little 97 Honda Civic. Unable to negotiate a sharp turn on a wet street, the Honda slid across the slick road and crashed straight into a telephone pole. Airbags were deployed and pieces of the front end flew everywhere! Luckily, Sonny Boy was securely buckled in, and other then being shook up and a little sore, he was uninjured. As I later told him, that little Honda Civic took the brunt of the hit, saving Sonny Boy from serious injury!

So you're probably wondering what possible good news could come out of this? Well at the risk of sounding like a television commercial, I have accident coverage through Geico Insurance, including collision coverage on the 97 Honda. It's lucky that I did. In a few days I'll be receiving a check in the mail from Geico for way more then I thought the car was worth! The sting of the accident was further reduced when I learned Geico Insurance will cover the cost of a rental car until we buy a replacement vehicle. In fact, after Mrs. Dude got off the phone with the folks at Geico Insurance, our phone was Enterprise Rent-A-Car inviting us to come down to pick out a rental car. It was pretty amazing! Those constant Geico lizard commercials can be annoying, but right now I am liking that little green guy! (At least until I see what they do to my future rates.)

Nissan Versa Note - great for yard sales!
After learning about Geico's rental car policy, Sonny Boy and I headed down to Enterprise Rent-A-Car. We picked up a 2014 Nissan Versa Note. I warned Sonny Boy that this could be sending him the wrong message....crash a car and get a fun little 2014 Nissan to drive around in! He told me that he didn't look at it quite like that, but the kid has taken a liking to the Nissan Versa. He even hinted that we should buy it! I have to agree with him, it's a great little car to tool around town in. Naturally, I took it out yard sailing on Saturday and had a blast driving it! After spending the morning darting from sale to sale, I've learned there are huge benefits to yard sailing in a small car. Maneuverability is the foremost advantage. Garage sales are synonymous with heavy traffic and tight parking spots. With the little Nissan Versa, I was zipping in and out of tight spots with ease! While I love my truck, it's a lot easier maneuvering a small car like a Nissan through busy suburban streets. Don't get me wrong, once I return the Versa to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, I'll go back to my good, old truck. But I can definitely see the benefits of owning a small, fun car like a Nissan Versa!

A big IKEA table fits! 
You would think that one possible setback to a small car would be limited cargo space. But this wasn't an issue in the Nissan. As an example, I finally bought that table I've been looking to wrap packages on. I've been on the look-out for one since my table story from back in the summer. At long last, I finally found a nice IKEA table at a garage sale on Saturday! The seller charged me ten bucks for it. At first, I thought I would need my truck to haul the six foot table. But instead, I just dropped the Versa's back seats and the table easily slid into the back of the car! It was awesome! With the back seats folded down, I had almost as much cargo space as in my truck. Continuing my crush on the little car, I piled in the entire family to head to nice restaurant over the weekend. We had Mrs. Dude and two young twenty somethings sitting comfortable in the back seat with no problem. It was a blast for all!

The Versa also brought me some good luck. I found plenty of good garage sales and bought a lot of stuff! Part of my motivation is the realization that the garage sale season is winding down. As we approach Halloween and Thanksgiving, the sales will become fewer and fewer. Now is the time to buy, buy, buy to build up enough inventory to get through the winter! So that's what I did-packing the Versa with various garage sale treasures. Since I had so much fun in it, I am hoping Geico doesn't pull the plug on me, and I'll get to keep the car for at least one more Saturday. Either way, both Sonny Boy and I are gonna miss that little car when it's time to return it to Enterprise Rent-A-Car!

Vintage Shortwave radio
In addition to the IKEA table, another solid gold find was the shortwave radio seen here. This was found at a garage sale advertised on Craigslist that specifically listed shortwave radios for sale. This grabbed my attention immediately. I love to flip old radios and usually make nice money doing it. Because of this, I made it my first stop of the morning and scooped up this vintage Realistic Shortwave radio for ten dollars. I should have no problem flipping it for around $60 on eBay. I also bought a few other items from the guy, including a five gallon plastic gas tank. Other bloggers have pointed out an active eBay market for these old gas tanks, so I am going to test the waters. Naturally, I'll report my findings here on the site.

So the Fall is turning out to be quite eventful around here....good news and bad news.  Hope your Fall garage sale season is going well and is accident free. Most importantly....don't forget to wear your seat belt! And if you are in the market for a great little car-definitely consider the new Nissan Versa!

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Pier One Imports Outlet Store deals

Over the last few years I've shared some great stories regarding my favorite little thrift store. I've made some incredible scores at this shop, including expensive sewing equipment, a genuine railroad crossing sign and other awesome stuff. Lately tough, finding good deals at the store has become harder. Part of the problem is Dana, the store manager. She continues to price items based on comparisons with eBay listings. The women is killing me! Stuff that use to be priced at no more then five bucks, now is priced at over $20! For example, Dana recently priced a vintage Fisher Price school house and toy airplane at twenty dollars each. In the past, each would have been reasonable priced at five bucks. But because Dana got a little crazy with the eBay comparisons, the overpriced toys  sat on the shelf for nearly a month. When they finally disappeared, it was only because Dana grudgingly cut their prices.

But despite the higher prices, the little thrift shop is still one of my favorite stops. Not long ago the shop produced yet another outstanding treasure...a beautiful dining room table with six chairs. For me, the timing could not have been more perfect. Mrs. Dude has been bugging, I mean, suggesting that we buy a new table and chairs for the kitchen. We even went to a few furniture stores to do some comparison shopping. But being a thrifty dude, I was not loving the hefty
Pier One furniture in the thrift store...incredible!
price tags on many of the sets. Most ranged in the area of $1500 dollars. That's a lot of dough!

So after seeing the high price of dining room sets in the stores, imagine how my heart skipped a beat when I discovered a beautiful dining room set at my favorite thrift store! The set was like the one seen in the photo on the right. The dark wood table and six heavy chairs were in great condition and exactly what we were looking for. There was only one little problem...the set was sold! Oh the agony!

Mourning my loss, I ran my hand over the table's dark wood grain. As I did, Dana gave me the back story on the set. It had been donated by a women who'd recently been divorced and decided to clean house. She and her ex-hubby had purchased the set from Pier One Imports. Torturing me further, Dana told me the set had been out on the sales floor for two whole days before some lucky lady finally bought it! Hearing this, I was crestfallen and wondered why I hadn't stopped by the shop sooner? But the final crushing blow was the selling price.....only $200 dollars!!! Based on my window shopping with Mrs. Dude, I would estimate this set sold for around $1200 at Pier One Imports. It was unbelievable! Finding such a great deal was better then having a Pier One discount coupon in your pocket!

In this business, nothing is more painful then missing out on an incredible find. Pier One furniture is quality stuff, on par with Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel. Haunting me further was the fact that even though it was sold, the table was still on the sales floor. A small paper "sold" sign was taped to the table top. A sold sign on a beautiful piece of furniture is really a cruel taunt to fellow thrift store shoppers. Why can't they move the sold stuff in the back of the store where it can't torment us? In this case, I ignored the sold sign, asking Dana if she was absolutely sure the buyer was coming back to pick up the set? Unfortunately, Dana assured me the lady was coming in just as soon as she could arrange transportation. I took the news with a big sigh, accepting the fact that this was one awesome deal that got away!

Although the grand prize had already been claimed, I was able to come up with a decent runner-up prize. Regaining my composure, I noticed Dana was carrying a large collection of BeyBlade toys onto the sales floor.
BeyBlades..$8 into $80!
If you are not familiar with them, BeyBlades are glorified spinning tops that do battle with each other as they spin in a plastic stadium. They consistently sell well on Ebay, and the more BeyBlades you have in a lot, the more money you'll make. I'd be a lousy poker player, because when Dana walked by me holding the Bey Blades, I could barley contain my enthusiasm. Pointing to the BeyBlades, I blurted out, "How much for those?" My outburst may have worked in my favor though. Dana didn't get a chance to research the sets on eBay. Instead she shrugged her shoulders and quoted me a price of eight bucks. Knowing the popularity of BeyBlades, I didn't quibble over her price. 

Although the BeyBlades could hardly make up for missing out on the Pier One dining room set, the plastic toys did ease my pain a little bit. My eight dollar purchase turned into an $80 dollar sale on eBay. Ironically, my BeyBlades sale would have covered nearly half the cost of that beautiful dining room set! All of which goes to just never know what awesome deals you'll find in the thrift store. That's why I keep going back!

Have you ever scored some nice furniture at a thrift store or garage sale? Feel free to brag in the comment section below.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

My Baby Blue Coleman Cooler

Back in June, I bragged about a vintage 70's era Coleman cooler I snapped up for only eight bucks. You might remember the story. The cooler was in pristine condition and even came with it's original three piece inserts-a tray and two freezing containers. Old Coleman coolers can sell for a lot of money on eBay, so I knew I had a nice score. But after a little cleaning up, I sort of got attached to my baby blue cooler. I even put the cooler to work, using it for a Memorial Day picnic at my house. Once the picnic was over however, I was conflicted over whether to keep the cooler or sell it.

Initially there was some definite waffling on my part. On the one hand, you just don't find these coolers everyday. My baby blue Coleman was super clean and in near perfect condition. And when it comes to beverages and food, the cooler can keep it all ice cold for several days. On the other hand, this Coleman could make me a lot of money if I sold it. I even asked readers what they thought I should do? A few folks suggested I keep it, while others advised me to take the money and run! It was a nice problem to have, but still a dilemma! It took about a month to decide, but something happened at that picnic that help me make up my mind.

As I mentioned previously, I used the Coleman cooler at my Memorial Day picnic. During the festivities, I saw a glimpse of the cooler's possible future...and it wasn't good! My nephew, who's twelve years old
My Baby Blue Coleman Cooler-gone but not forgotten!
and loves baseball, decided it was time to warm up his pitching arm during the picnic. Only instead of using baseballs, he conveniently found something else to cubes from my Coleman cooler! Fortunately, he didn't throw any at the cooler. But I watched in agony as he kept opening and closing the cooler's lid to retrieve ice cubes. You're probably thinking that Uncle Dude was just being  a curmudgeon, but it was driving me crazy! Like most twelve year olds who do things that make no sense, my nephew didn't just grab a bunch of ice cubes all at once. Nope... the rascal would grab a single ice cube from the cooler and hurl it like Nolan Ryan into my back yard. Then he would begin the process again...and again...and again...and...well, you get the picture! This went on forever and I cringed with each squeaky opening of the cooler's lid. Maybe I am paranoid, but every time my nephew threw the lid back, I envisioned some doomed fate for my beautiful cooler. It also didn't help that I had the cooler sitting on Coleman camping stove legs bought at the same garage sale. The legs were sturdy, but with a kid going in and out of the cooler, you just never know. My nephew didn't realize it, but he helped Uncle Dude make up his mind. The cooler was getting sold!

Because the cooler had come with the original insert pieces, I had two opportunities to make money. The cooler would be one sale, while the three piece set would be sold separately. The cooler was way too big to be shipped, so I decided to sell it on Craigslist. While I may have been able to make a few more bucks using eBay, I knew the high shipping cost would be too prohibitive. It was a decision I
An original Coleman three piece set = $$$
didn't regret. After listing the cooler on Craigslist, I found a twenty something kid who paid me $75 dollars for the cooler. With that out of the way, I listed the cooler's three piece inserts on eBay. The pieces would be easy to mail, and by using eBay I could get more eyeballs on the auction. In my listing description, I played up the opportunity for a Coleman collector to buy all three original inserts in one auction. This seemed to appeal to folks. The three piece set sold for $56 dollars! Not bad for three hunks of old plastic!

Combined I made $131 dollars on my original eight dollar investment. Even better, I no longer had to worry about a nephew, niece or even a drunk uncle breaking the cooler!

Hopefully someone in your family hasn't broken your Coleman gear...or any of your other finds! Share your story in the comment section below.....

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