Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Christmas sales are complete and the inventory shelves are empty. Overall, it was a pretty good season with some awesome flips. Hopefully, you did well too. I'll save the stories for later, because it's time to enjoy Christmas. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

The garage is closed for now....Merry Christmas!

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Don't tell North Korea, but The Interview movie poster will make you rich!

MoneyintheGarage News Flash:

For immediate release: The Interview movie poster will make you rich! (If you can find one.)

As has been reported all over the news media, Sony Pictures completely surrendered and yanked the movie, "The Interview" for release on Christmas day. In addition, all movie lobby posters and advertising have been taken down. Naturally, some shrewd eBay sellers have taken full advantage of this media event. They've recognized a huge buying frenzy has been created for anything associated with this controversial movie. Click on The Interview movie poster to see how much money one eBay seller recently made.

The movie poster now brings big bucks!

Wow! Just a few weeks ago, this was your average, run-of-the-mill movie it's gold! This trend is no fluke. Checking other recently closed auctions, many Interview movie posters are now selling for $300 dollars a piece!

If you know anyone who works in a local movie theatre, you'd be wise to ask them for a few of these. It might also be smart to take a peek in the trash dumpsters located behind your local movie theatre! As demonstrated in some of my recent blog pieces, it wouldn't be the first time money was thrown in the trash! If you happen to score a Interview movie poster, let us know how you do. Oh and one more thing...change your computer passwords...often!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas sales are good!

So here we are in the middle of the Christmas selling season. With the holiday just weeks away, the inventory is flying out of MoneyintheGarage corporate headquarters! Just like last year, I've pretty much sold all the Christmas inventory I stockpiled for the season. It's amazing how you can save your Christmas themed stuff all year and it's cleared out in just a matter of weeks. That's what's awesome about listing this time of year...everything sells! Here's a few Christmas themed items I've flipped so far this holiday season...

Last of the inflatables
The last of my holiday inflatables went out the door last Saturday. It was a cool looking Santa I purchased back in the fall for five bucks. Although it didn't come in the original box, it still had a lot going for it. The thing was huge, standing 8 feet high with the big guy sitting on top of a lighted Christmas train. This big, jolly Santa seemed like a winner to me, but surprisingly, it took a long time to sell. I ended up getting $35 dollars for him on Craigslist Not bad, but much less when compared to my other holiday inflatables sales which averaged fifty bucks a piece. While I could have held firm to my original price of fifty, I didn't want to take the chance of getting stuck with Santa. Finally, a buyer came along and offered me $35 dollars. With the holiday season over in just a few weeks and the potential of having to store Santa for an entire year, I decided to take the guy's offer. This particular customer may get my "clueless buyer " award for the year. As I handed him the rolled up Santa, the buyer looked at me and said, "Okay, how's it work?" This seemed like a dumb question to me, but since I am always customer friendly to anyone willing to pay me $35 for nylon fabric, I patiently explained the following complicated procedure...plug him in! The buyer seemed to be satisfied with this extremely technical advise and went on his way. (I sure hope he didn't forget my instructions once he got home!)

Elf from where?
In another memorable Christmas sale made last week, I sold this two foot high elf dutifully holding up a serving tray. Guess where I acquired him? A trash can! I was driving through a neighborhood last week, when I spotted this guy with the base sticking out of a curbside trash can. Naturally, I circled back and grabbed him. Since he was in perfect condition, I didn't even bother to clean him up. Once home, I immediately snapped a photo and posted him on our local Facebook Yard Sale group. (I added the candle for ambiance.) My trash-picked elf sold in just ten minutes for a twenty dollar bill! Unbelievable, right? I have no idea what possesses people to throw away perfectly good stuff? But as long as they do, I'll be watching their trash cans!

Don't forget to remove the price tags!
About two weeks ago, I made a major score with this train set. I found this big Bachmann set at my local Goodwill store, paying $35 for it. Over the years, I've had some good luck with train sets at Goodwill. This year alone, I've score three very cool sets. But this set was a real doozie! When I got it home, I was stoked to find the set had never been opened! Everything was sealed, right down to the conductor figure who was still in a plastic baggie! I made sure I bragged about this "pristine" unopened set in my Craigslist ad. Since there's no better time of year then Christmas to sell a train set, my Bachmann set got snapped up in just a few days. A dad bought the trains for his young son, paying me $125 big ones! I met the guy at my local Dunkin Donuts. I had a brief awkward moment when I realized there were still a couple of Goodwill price tag stickers on the back of the box. As I pulled the box from my car, I stalled by making small talk while at the same time, feverishly scraping the stickers off with my fingernail. Dad didn't seem to notice, but after counting my $95 profit, I reminded myself it's always smart to remove all the Goodwill stickers prior to selling. After all, it's never good for your buyer to discover you charged him four times the price on the box! Like I said...awkward!

That's a few highlights so far. I'll share more once the Christmas selling season calms down. For now, it's time to get back to posting and selling. How's your holiday selling season going so far? Share some of your personal bests in the comment  section below.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

How to buy Lego sets for less money

With the leaves off the trees and the thermometer dropping to sub-freezing temperatures, I can now make this official "Dude" Pronouncement. (Clears  throat) The garage sale season is now over! Yep, put a fork in it. Folks are now planning for the holidays, not hosting a garage sale. You won't see me shedding a tear though. For the next five months when the clock strikes O-seven-hundred, I won't be springing out of bed like a maniac. Nope, I'll be rolling over for a few more Zzzzzzs. That's one of the few things I enjoy about the weather turning colder! For me, the end of yard sale season is much like baseball or football season ending. It gives the player some much needed time off for the three R', relaxation and recovery. Otherwise, just like a highly trained athlete, a yard sale picker will burn out. If that happens, yard sale picking stops being fun and turns into drudgery. Who wants that? Not me! So for now, I am going to enjoy my time off on Saturday mornings.

Keep it? Sorry kiddo, ain't gonna happen. 
The season effectively wrapped up last week with just three sales. Two were listed on Craigslist, while the third sale seemed to be a last minute, "let's throw one together" type
deal hosted by two families. This last minute sale was a doozie and ended my season with a big bang! When I rolled up on the house, the sale didn't look like much. But as I started looking around, I came across some pretty great bargains. Things started off well right off the bat when I eyeballed a vintage NES Nintendo set in it's original box. The guy only charged me five bucks for it. I've scored a few of these Nintendo NES sets in the past and can usaully count on making some nice cash. Check out this set I flipped a few years ago for $50 bucks. Since then, prices have gone even higher. A recent Nintendo NES set sold for over hundred bills on eBay. I am guessing I'll sell my set for about the same. Not too shabby for a five dollar investment on a crisp Saturday morning in November.

After I took it home, I stashed the Nintendo set in my garage. Not surprisingly, my Sonny Boy happened to be walking through the garage when his eyes locked in on the set. I knew this was trouble! Like most 18 year old "Pepsi Generation" kids, he then suggested I keep the set so he could have some fun with it. It's a good thing I wasn't sipping coffee at the moment he made this crazy remark, because I am pretty sure some would have come out my nose! I mean, Seriously? After all these years, he should know his old man a little better then that! As I once taught him many years ago, these "things" are just visiting our house. They stay a short time...then I find them a good home. (While getting paid for it.) But even though he should know my selling philosophy by now, I wasn't taking any chances. Just to be on the safe side, I hid the Nintendo set down in the basement...out of site...out of mind!

The right sets will make you big cash money!
In addition to the awesome Nintendo NES system, I snagged a few other items that will make me a some decent bucks. But the "piece de resistance" was a large Lego set I found. I laid eyes on it as the mom was walking it out of the garage. She set it down on a blanket in the yard, and following Lady Ga-Ga's advise about keeping a poker face, I casually walked over to it. The set was untouched and complete in the box. I was really hoping it was a Star Wars or Harry Potter set. Alas, it wasn't. Instead, it was a Lego commemorative anniversary set from about ten years ago. Not to brag, but when it comes to Harry Potter Lego sets, I've knocked it out of the ballpark several times! In fact, I've gone upper deck on some, selling a few for over $200 hundred bucks! While I had no idea what a commemorative set would be worth, I did know it's pretty hard to lose when flipping any Lego set in the original box.

I asked the mom how much she wanted for the set? She hemmed and hawwed as she thought about the price. For a yard sale picker, this is the most sensitive, high drama moment in a transaction. Those tense, awkward seconds waiting for that very important make-or-break number. If you've been in this situation, you know these can be agonizing moments. Sort of like time standing still. With the Lego set, the mom struggled for what seemed like an eternity as she pondered a price. Since it seemed like she was experiencing a brain freeze, I decided to help her along by throwing out a number...five bucks. You might think that's low, but at least it broke Mom's brain freeze-she accepted my offer! I peeled off a fiver and walked the
Boom....pop...kaboom...last score of the season!
huge set back to the truckster. But the real fun began when I got home. I looked up my newly acquired Lego set on eBay and was met with a huge surprise. The special edition Lego set I scored for five, sells in the range of $350 to $500 dollars! How's that for ending the yard sale season? Sticking with my baseball analogies, it's sort of like a big, fantastic fireworks display after a long ballgame! Boom, Pop, kaboom! You gotta luv it! Even though it should turn into huge money, I haven't listed it on eBay yet. But I plan on doing so very soon, taking full advantage of the Christmas buying season. For now, it sits near my computer where I look over and admire it. Kind of like owning a winning lottery ticket that hasn't been cashed yet. When I do sell it, I'll be sure to feature it here on the blog.

How's the yard sale season going for you? Is the season over, or are you still going strong? Give us your story in the comment section below....

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Who needs Walmart when you have a sure thing?

It's time once again to discuss another example of finding the illusive "sure thing" at the garage sales. Ahhhh yes, the sure thing! You know what I mean. In fact, you're probably smiling now just thinking about it. Nothing beats it, right? If you're like me, you get a garage sale "high" you when you find the sure thing. It's that special item you confidently know will earn you big bucks on Craigslist or eBay! In past blogs, I've gushed over various sure things including; jogging strollers, Legos, Coleman camping gear, baby gates and American Girl dolls. All stuff that's a stone-cold lock to make you big money! Well, I am happy to report this Dude's "sure thing" list has now grown with a new addition.

NOT this type of bike rack.
Are you ready? (Now would be a good time for a drum roll.) It's two rack! No, not those big metal monsters you use to chain your old Schwinn to at school. No, I am actually referring to the type that attaches to the back of a car so you can take your bike on trips. Not very exciting, right? Maybe not, but I can tell you those contraptions have earned me some serious dough over the last few years! Let me explain how the lowly bike rack made it on my sure thing list.

A few years back, my brother asked me to look for a bike rack for him. After many vacation trips hauling his bikes down the Jersey shore, his old bike rack had fallen apart. I told him I'd keep an eye out and shortly thereafter found a used "Thule" bike rack for only $40 bucks. Although it may sound like a lot of money, this was actually a pretty good deal. Thule bike racks are the most popular on the market and don't come cheap! Even at Walmart, where prices are suppose to be discounted, Thule bike racks sell in the range of two to four hundred dollars. That's a lot of dough for some metal tubes!

Thule Bike rack-buy low, sell high!
The Thule bike rack I found was a "hitch" style, meaning it plugged into a trailer hitch below the bumper. Feeling all proud that I'd scored my brother a highly desired Thule bike rack, I called to tell him the good news. But it turned out that my yard sale find was a big swing and a miss! Unfortunately, my brother didn't have a trailer hitch on his car, so my rack was of no use to him. He needed the "trunk" version which rests on the car's trunk and bumper to support the bike rack. I was bummed that I bought the wrong type, but got over it pretty fast when I realized I could flip the bike rack on Craigslist. A few days later, I posted my Thule bike rack on Craigslist for an impressive $100 bucks. It quickly sold at my full asking price! That's when it dawned on me....there was money to be made flipping bike racks!

Saris bike racks sell too!
Since then, I've always had bike racks on my BOLO list. While you won't find a bike rack every Saturday, you will come across them occasionally. Make sure you stick with the name brand racks, not some cheap, no-name brand. As my little story demonstrates, you'll never lose buying a Thule bike rack. On average, I snag them for five to ten dollars and sell them for $50 to $100. There's a few other brands that will make you money too. Recently I came across this space age looking bike rack by Saris. I paid ten dollars for it and flipped it on Craigslist for $50. Had I listed it on eBay, I could have potentially made $75 or more on it. But with it's big, bulky shape, I didn't want the hassle of finding a large box and dealing with all the related shipping costs and fees. It was much easier to go with Craigslist. I made a quick forty dollar profit and moved on to the next deal. You gotta love it!

From jogging strollers to Thule and Saris bike racks, the yard sale "sure thing" list gets longer and longer! What's your list of "sure thing" yard sale finds? Share them in the comment section below....

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Make money with Facebook !

Here's a word of warning for all my like-minded yard sale flippers. Are you on Facebook? Have you joined a yard sale group? Are you addicted to it? This topic has been bandied about by my fellow bloggers in recent months. At the time I read all the comments, I had no idea what the big fuss was about? Then a few months ago, Mrs. Dude joined not one, not two...but three Facebook yard sale groups! Holy cow...we both got hooked like a couple of Breaking Bad ice addicts! Like any good junkie, we've had some highs and lows, but keep coming back for more of the stuff!

Lots of Facebook groups out there!
I ain't gonna lie. There's a lot to like about joining a Facebook yard sale group. Instead of having to leave the comfort of your home to go sourcing for inventory, the stuff comes to your home computer. An abundant, steady stream of stuff, both good, bad and ugly flowing down the FB newsfeed. It's an awesome raging river of merchandise that never ends. For example, I was blown away by the amount of Ugg boots, Coach purses and Vera Bradley purses that constantly show up on my local Facebook yard sale group. Admittedly, some of the stuff is priced way too high to make any money flipping. But it's there for the picking if you're fast on the mouse.

Being fast on the mouse is not the only skill you need when surfing an FB yard sale. It's also important to be "ever vigilant" and check the feed often. You just never know when something good is going to pop up in the newsfeed. This can be good and bad, because you can become a bit obsessive as you scour that feed constantly. When something good pops up, you have to act quickly to be the first to claim "dibs" on it. A quick post to the comment section proclaiming "interested" will lock it down for you. The beauty of claiming it first is this: it gives you some time to research it, before you actually buy it. There's been a few times when I grabbed dibs on an item, then quickly dumped it after doing some eBay research on it's value. As I said, all this obsessive FB news feed checking can become very addictive and distracting if you're not careful. You'll know if you have a little "problem" when you're not on-line. You may find yourself trying to concentrate on other matters when all of a sudden you become distracted, wondering if you're missing something good on Facebook? And you'll know you got it really, really bad when you refuse to take your eyes off Facebook on Saturday afternoons or Sunday evenings. That's when the steady stream of listings turns into a raging river! A few weeks ago, Mrs. Dude and I went on a little weekend get-away. While out and about, guess who kept checking the Facebook yard sale group? Not was Mrs. Dude! I pointed out to her that even if she scored something good, we were away from home and couldn't pick it up. She kept checking anyway! But that's how bad the "fever" gets when you're a member of a Facebook yard sale group.

On a positive note, Mrs. Dude has been selling a ton of household stuff like costume jewelry, clothing and decorative items using the local FB yard sale group. (Mostly small stuff not worth selling on eBay due to fees, shipping, ect.) She's become pretty good at it and uses the "porch pickup" method. Buyers retrieve the item off our front  porch, leaving the money under the welcome mat. There's literally no face-to-face contact. I usually know when she's made a sale. The dog runs to the front door and starts barking when a buyer stops by to pick up an item. Next thing you know, Mrs. Dude is pulling a ten or twenty dollar bill from under the welcome mat. It's really a beautiful thing!

Apple Ipod on Facebook!
As always, my FB participation is all about finding good stuff to re-sell on eBay or Craigslist. So far, I've done good! I bought this Apple Ipod on FB for ten bucks. It's an older model, but Apple geeks still want them. It sold on eBay for $92! I also scored a garden windmill in the original box. I've had some past experience flipping garden windmills. A few years back, I blogged about flipping an old windmill for $75 dollars. The one I just found on Facebook is new/old stock in the box. I paid $15 for it and expect to easily sell it for more then a hundred bucks-all thanks to my local Facebook yard sale group!

So Mrs. Dude and I have just barley scratched the surface on the FB yard sale groups. But don't be overly concerned that we've turned into Facebook junkies. Mrs. Dude has already dropped one yard sale group she deemed unworthy, proving we can break the habit. Well, sort of, we're still on two other FB groups. In fact, I better go check them now. It's been a while since I last looked at the newsfeed, so I am starting to get the shakes!

Are you in a Facebook yard sale group? Share your flips and FB addictions in the comment section below....

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Halloween ideas that sell!

Now that we're in October, it's time to finish selling off any remaining Halloween items you might have laying around. I started early. My Halloween inventory went up on eBay way back in the July. Starting early is always a good idea if you don't want to get stuck with smiling pumpkins and skeletons staring at you for an entire year, not to mention the royal pain of storing big, bulky Halloween decorations.

A Halloween idea! Sell em on eBay!
My Halloween sales began in July as a trickle. I posted one eBay listing at a time to get things moving and to free up space in the MoneyintheGarage warehouse. I began with this huge pumpkin inflatable. Most yard inflatables are made by a company called Gemmy and can sell for big bucks in the stores. If you snag one at the right price at a yard sale, they can be excellent flips on eBay. I bought the pumpkin seen here at a yard sale back way back in June. In fact, I actually bought five holiday inflatables from the same seller that day. I paid $10 dollars for each one. They included three Halloween pumpkins, one Thanksgiving turkey and a snowman. But while you can make a lot of money flipping yard inflatables, it also can be risky business. The main problem? You may get  stuck with one that doesn't fully inflate. Usually this is because of a hole somewhere in the fabric. The dead giveaway is when your inflatable refuses to stand straight up after plugging in the fan. Who wants a saggy pumpkin on their front yard, right?

But while it's wise to test out an inflatable before paying, I rarely do. If it's cheap enough, I fork over the dough and go! Most of the time, I'll snag a holiday themed inflatable for around five to ten bucks. In the case of the five inflatables I bought in June, the seller promised me they all worked. He even told me that if any of them didn't inflate, I could return them. With that money back guarantee, I forked over $50 big ones and hoped for the best.

Obviously, you always want to test out an inflatable prior to re-selling it. Once it's fully inflated, you can also snap some photographs for your Craigslist or eBay listing. In the case of the five holiday inflatables, I decided to test all of them on a hot summer day in July. Take it from me, there's nothing stranger then the sight of a huge Halloween pumpkin or Frosty the Snowman on your front yard in July! To avoid calls to the police from my neighbors, I test out my inflatables in the backyard away from prying eyes. There is one neighbor I can't hide from. He lives right next door and can't help watching my antics in full view. But he's grown accustom to seeing me photograph all kinds of weird, wacky garage sale finds in my back yard. In fact, I was in the middle of inflating one of the giant pumpkins when he wandered outside and looked over. I waved at him and yelled, "Happy Halloween!" He just waved back, shook his head and walked back inside his house.

Halloween decorations sell for big bucks!
Once the testing and picture taking was completed, I packed all five inflatables back into their boxes and stacked them on my inventory shelf. Noticing that five inflatable boxes can take up a lot of space on the shelf, I decided to take a shot at selling them early. I began by  posting the eight foot high Jack-o-lantern for a Buy-it Now price of $65  plus shipping. Before the month was out, a buyer snapped it up! Feeling lucky, I then posted what I though was my crown jewel of all the inflatables-a combination pumpkin, turkey and scarecrow. I listed the trio for a BIN price of $65 dollars. These guys were quickly snapped up too! Keeping my streak going, I posted my final Jack-o'-lantern in September for $50 plus shipping. He sold just as quickly. At this point, all of my Halloween inflatables have been sold and shipped. In total, I made $180 bucks on a $30 investment! I still have the Thanksgiving turkey and the snowman waiting in the wings! If I can keep up the pace, I should make around $275 dollars on all five inflatables. That's pretty good money for spending fifty bucks at a June garage sale!

Have you sold any yard inflatables? How'd you do? Share the score in the comment section below...    

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Batman phone

Old telephones are one of my favorite garage sale items to flip. Not just any dusty, old phone though. I am talking about those classic telephones the phone company use to "lease" to customers back in the day. The Bell phones are a "must-have" for many collectors who use them as an accent piece in their home. Not only do they look good, but you can actually make a phone call on them! Making a telephone call on an old Bell phone just feels good. The click, click, click of the rotary dial. The heaviness of the handset when you hold it. They're solid, substantial and always dependable. There's no doubt when you're talking on a Bell phone, the person at the other end hears you loud and clear!

Ma Bell phones were built to last!
The old "Ma-Bell" phones were manufactured by Western Electric and were built to last. In fact, I still have a Western
Electric wall phone from the house I grew up in. It's in the classic "avocado green" color that was all the rage back in the Seventies. I can still picture my mom sitting at our kitchen table every day and talking to her sister on that phone. The phone finally came down off the wall after my father made some kitchen renovations. Prior to Bell's breakup, the phone would have been returned to the phone company. But this was long after, so I grabbed it for future use. Some years later, I hooked it up in my basement adjacent to my workbench. Keeping my mom's tradition going, I would endlessly yap away on it. I still have that phone today, although it's been disconnected and relegated to the closet. But I keep telling myself that one day I'll hook it up again. While it's unlikely that I will, I am definitely not going to sell it. How could I possibly get rid of my mom's telephone, right?

I am not the only one who has a deep, abiding affection for the old Bell Phones. Lot's of people like them. Even upscale retail stores like Pottery Barn sell knock-offs of the old Bell phones. But nothing beats an original, so when I see them at a garage sale, I buy them. You have to be somewhat selective however. For example, black rotary dial phones are aways a winner. You can usually snag one these phones for around five bucks at the yard sales. Flipping them on eBay will typically earn you around thirty to fifty dollars. Beige or "bone" color phones are a different story however. They seem to attract only lukewarm interest on eBay.

The cool!
But in my overall experience, the most sought after color is the red Bell phone! Red phones are a rarity at yard sales, so it's the old supply and demand theory at work. Because there are fewer red phones available, prices on eBay are higher. All that makes sense, but I also have another theory as to why red phones are popular. Many of us baby boomers vividly recall that Commissioner Gordan always used the red "Batphone" to summon Batman for help! That's the real reason for the red phone's popularity! Yes, I am 100% certain that's why people seek out red rotary phones! Most definitely it was Batman! What's that you say? My pathetic Batman fixation, which I've clung to since youth, might be clouding my thought process? Very well then, ummm, (clears throat) okay, let's just go back to red phones are really, really hard to find.

Whether it's the red Batphone or other popular colors, I am always on the lookout for vintage Bell phones. Not long ago, my quest paid off at a moving sale. The seller had tons of boxes spread out in his driveway. Buried inside one of the many boxes, I found Bell's illusive red wall phone. I pulled it out and asked the buyer how much? He quoted me two dollars and I didn't even dicker with him.

After cleaning up the phone with some Windex, I posted it on eBay with a starting bid of $20 dollars. By the end of the first day, the phone had already reached $25 bucks. Not a bad start, considering there were still six days to go in the auction. But then things got even better. I received an e-mail from a potential buyer who begged me to end the auction immediately. In return, he offered to flat out pay $130 dollars, plus shipping for the phone! Normally, I don't like ending an auction early. Instead, I prefer to let the bidding run it's course and let competing bidders decide the price. I usually feel bad about canceling bids. It sort of feels like your pulling the rug out from underneath bidders. But I didn't feel bad this time. For one thing, I've kept track of many of my previous sales and know that I've never made $130 on a single phone. By continuing the auction format, I didn't see any chance of even approaching $130 in bids. In fact, the guy may have been able to buy it for less if the auction continued! So I had to jump on the guy's offer right away. Realizing this would be fast, easy money, I knew what had to be done. The auction was shut down! (Sorry eBay bidders, no hard feelings-business is business.) Once cancelled, I immediately re-listed the phone for a Buy-it-Now price of $130. Within minutes of posting the BIN auction, the guy bought my phone! Just that fast, I turned two dollars into $130 dollars...a new personal best for me!

Bell phones all in a row!
The following day the phone was in the mail to the buyer. It arrived at his mailbox two days later. The guy loved the phone!
We exchanged several e-mails, mostly from the buyer thanking me for selling him the phone. In addition to his extreme generosity, the buyer turned out to be a great guy. He explained that he collected old Bell wall phones and had almost every color except red. That was until he found my auction. The red model finally completed his collection. He even sent me a photo proudly displaying all his phones on the wall. He pointed out that every single one of his phones actually work! Can you imagine what that sounds like when a call comes in? All heck breaking loose!

If only every garage sale flip could be that sweet. A huge profit and a grateful buyer. What more can you ask for in a phone? I mean, other then maybe calling Batman on it?

Have you ever flipped an old Bell phone? If so, which model and how'd you do? Share your story in the comment section below...

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Vintage industrial furniture

Ever hear the expression, "Pay it forward?" Basically, it means to do a good deed for another person. Then that person, in turn, does a good deed for the next person down the line. A few days ago, I paid it forward to a fellow yard sale picker. Instead of keeping a hot yard sale lead for myself, I passed it along to a fellow picker. The lead should turn into an awesome flip for the guy. I got to be honest though, my gesture wasn't totally altruistic. The guy had just bought two rusty old stools from me! So he paid me... then I paid it forward! Confusing, but here's the story:

A few Saturdays ago, I was wrapping up the garage sales for the day when I spotted an unexpected sale on the way home. The sale hadn't been advertised on Craigslist, so this almost always means less buyers and more stuff! I was feeling burned out from the long morning and actually debated whether to stop. Usually I lean on the rationalization that arriving at a garage sale late in the morning means the good stuff is already gone. But after finding so many late morning scores in the past, how could I not stop? So I stopped and guess what happened? Yep....SCORE!

Pulling up to the house, I immediately felt a good vibe. The sale was being run by an old timer. This always increases the odds of finding old, valuable stuff. This theory proved true again, when I found two vintage industrial metal stools. Old industrial furniture are hot sellers on eBay. Prices can go sky-high, but most come in at around fifty to a hundred dollars depending on the piece. The two stools I found met all the major criteria-very sturdy metal construction with just the right amount of patina to give them "character." The History Channel's American Pickers show often spotlights industrial furniture. American Picker's Mike Wolfe is completely obsessed with the stuff, buying anything from old factory shelves to light fixtures, chairs and stools. Basically, anything rusty or gritty that came out of an old factory or warehouse. One of the reasons industrial furniture is so popular is it represents a time when America was the undisputed manufacturing powerhouse of the world. A time when most things bought in this country were proudly stamped, "Made in the USA."

The metal stools I found were clearly made in the USA. They said so right under the seat! Grabbing one in each hand, I walked over to the old timer to see about a price. Unfortunately, he was engrossed in a conversation with a neighbor. I don't know about you, but when sellers get wrapped up in conversations with neighbor, friends or buyers, it can be an annoying situation. Should you patiently wait until they're done yapping, or just jump in and interrupt? Sometimes interrupting can be your only option, otherwise the jib-jabbing can drag on forever!

In the case of the old timer, I decided to quietly wait until he was done talking with his neighbor. The conversation mercifully ended after a few more minutes. Turning his attention towards me, I asked him what he wanted for the two stools? He grinned and gave me the old, "Waddya gimme for em?" Now I have to admit, at this point I was a little cranky. It had been a long, hot day and I had just waited patiently while the old fella yapped it up with his next door neighbor. Feeling a little sour, I low balled him, offering just five bucks for the pair. To my surprise, he smiled at me and said okay. Suddenly, I was feeling much better! After paying him, he laid out the back story on the stools. They dated back to the 1940's and were from an old firehouse. I was pretty happy with this last minute find. Not only did I score two vintage industrial stools, but the firehouse story made them even cooler!

The great thing about flipping old industrial finds is you don't necessarily have to clean them up. The grittier and "sweatier" they are, the better. When it comes to this stuff,  the old Billy Joel song fits perfectly..." I love you just the way you are!" After some light dusting, I sat the stools in front of my garage doors and photographed them.  Here's how they looked on my Craigslist ad:

   Vintage Firehouse Industrial Steel Stools - $100 

Great looking pair of vintage Toledo-style industrial metal stools. These stools are two feet high. The concave seats measure one foot across. (Very comfortable to sit in.) I acquired these from an old timer who told me they came out of a local firehouse. He estimated they date back to the 1940's or thereabouts. Nice industrial detail to these, check out the angled legs and fluted feet. They don't make them like this anymore!      

 Looks like a winner, right? Well, yes...and no. As much as I admired these two stools, the buyers were not exactly beating my door down. One thing I learned is Industrial is hot in many upscale, big cities. But if you don't live near those cities, then you're not going to get the calls. While I could have posted the stools on eBay, the shipping would have cost me around $80 for each stool. So I stuck with Craigslist and waited for a buyer. After several weeks of posting, then reposting, a buyer came along and offered me $50 for both. I countered with $75, but he wouldn't budge, explaining that after cleaning them up, he planned to re-sell them for $50 each. His explanation seemed legit, so I put up the white flag and told him to come get them. After all, turning five bucks into a fifty bucks ain't so bad!  

Paying it forward with a Facebook find
When the buyer picked up the stools, I realized he was a kindred spirit and a pretty good guy. We began trading garage sale flipping stories. He shared one incredible story about buying a huge lot of old trains for twenty dollars and flipping them for $900! (I am working through a train lot too. Will share that story at a later time.) After trading a few more stories and getting paid, I decided to pay it forward with my new buddy. Knowing that the guy had an interest in industrial, I gave him a lead I'd found on a local Facebook yard sale group. It was an old Industrial cart offered for $30 dollars. He jumped right on the lead, contacting the seller and buying the cart later that day. That evening, I received an e-mail from the guy thanking me. I told him that us yard sale pickers have to stick together! So it worked out pretty well for both of us.

Have you flipped any Industrial finds? Share your flip in the comment section below...

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

How to host a yard sale

August continues to be a rough time of year for a yard sale picker. As mentioned in a previous blog, the garage sales have really dropped off. Although I have no scientific data to back this up, I think this summer has seen the fewest number of garage sales in a long time. The last few weeks have been particularly brutal, with only two to three sales each Saturday. What's a yard sale picker to do? In my case, I decided to stop whining and take matters into my own hands. If you can't find any yard sales, have one of your own! This decisive action was strongly encouraged by Mrs. Dude, who's been harping, ummm, I mean suggesting, we hold a sale to get rid of some stuff.

Stuff piles up fast!
After several non-starters due to rain, family events and other things that typically get in the way, we finally had our yard sale last Saturday. While we had a bunch of things from around the house to sell, much of our merchandise was made up of what I call my eBay "stinkers." This is yard sale or thrift store stuff I bought, but could not get sold on eBay or Craigslist. Hey, it happens! Even though I've honed my skills pretty well, once in a while this Dude gets stuck with junk I just can't sell. When I do, I usually conclude the item is a "stinker" and relegate it to a junk pile in the corner of my basement. Since it's been about 16 months since our last yard sale, the stinker pile has gotten big! I am sure more rational people might get rid of the stuff by donating it to Goodwill. That would be the easiest thing to do, but as the old saying goes, "In for a penny, in for a pound." In other words, I already paid for the stuff, so I might as well make a few nickels and dimes by selling the junk at my yard sale!

As a professional yard sale picker, I know a thing or two about running a sale. I begin by posting my sale on Craigslist early in the week, then reposting it every other day to make sure folks see it. It helps to put in a few teasers in the ad too. Mentioning good stuff you're selling like old furniture, old records, trains and other goodies brings the buyers out. In addition to my Craigslist ad, I post the all-important yard sale signs around town. This time out, I chose a very bright, very purple poster board. This ugly purple could be spotted a mile away. If you follow my blog over time, you'll notice that crummy yard sale signs are one of my biggest pet peeves. They can be too small, illegible and/or drooping over. Since these signs help buyers get to your sale, they should be clear, concise and easy to read! In my case, I keep it simple. My signs look like this...




Brief and to the point. When you think about it, how much more information can a person process when flying by a sign at 40 miles per hour? You don't need the hours of operation or the date. That's all useless information. Keep it simple and just point them in the right direction. (That's what the arrows for.) On Friday evening, I made a bunch of purple signs just like the above and with Sonny Boy's help, tacked them up around town.

After the first influx of pickers
On Saturday morning we opened at about 7:30. I was in no hurry to open up, but Mrs. Dude dragged me out to the driveway before I even had breakfast! (She's quite the taskmaster!) Surprisingly, we didn't get hit with a big influx of early birds. The ones that did show up early were pickers like me. I am sure when they pulled up to the house their eyes lit up. Our tables were packed with lots of colorful merchandise like old Fisher Price toys, wood puzzles, plush toys and other yard sale eye candy. To the untrained eye, it looked like the garage sale mother lode. Making it even more attractive, I priced most of the stuff cheap, no more then three bucks for any one item. It was funny to watch the pickers scoop up stuff I had no luck selling on eBay. One guy had his arms crammed with stuff from my reject pile. I got a chuckle out of his buying enthusiasm. If the guy could find a way to make money on my eBay stinkers, more power to him!

eBay stinker...this time.
After the first wave of pickers left, the tables looked a little bare. That's when you have to reposition stuff to fill in the empty gaps on the table. You don't want incoming buyers to think all the good stuff has been picked through. I made adjustments as the morning proceeded and even dug more stuff out of the house to sell. Stuff was selling quickly, even the the eBay stinkers. For example, I had some old newspapers for sale. I bought these 1980's era papers in a weak moment about a year ago for five dollars. I previously had some good luck selling old newspapers on eBay. There was a big difference however. My previous newspapers were much older. Apparently few people are interested in newspapers from the Eighties era. These dust collectors were impossible to sell on Craigslist or eBay! Fortunately, I found a buyer for them at my yard sale. A guy paid me five bucks for them...exactly what I paid for them a year earlier.

We were busy with sales like that all morning. As they day wore one, it was satisfying watching the eBay stinkers thin out and transform into dollars bills. While we didn't sell everything, we got rid of a lot of stuff. All in all, we made over $200 bucks at the yard sale! Not bad for a morning standing in my driveway. For now, the money went into the piggy bank. Mrs. Dude is looking to buy a new kitchen table, so we'll use the cash towards that big ticket item. Best of all, I was able to clear out that annoying pile of eBay stinkers that accumulated in the corner of the basement. Now the corner is completely empty...for now!

How's the summer wrapping up for you? Have any good yard sale hosting stories to tell? Share them in the comment section below.

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Reality television...all at your local Goodwill store!

These are trying times for a garage sale picker. With many folks on vacation and the weather being hot, August is always a slow month for yard sales. The last few weeks have been particularly slow for me. I've found a few yard sales here and there, but it's been tough going. This hasn't slowed down my sales, however. I am still doing well with the few good pieces I've found. Shopping the local thrift shops has helped a lot. I've found that even though yard sales have gone cold, the action is crazy at my local Goodwill store. Although, not in a way that you might think, more like reality TV crazy! I'll get to that in a minute. First, check out this great summer time score....

Coleman Cooler 
Everyone knows I am a big Coleman guy. About a week ago, I found this awesome Coleman "Steel Belted 54" cooler at the local Goodwill store. Although it had a crack on the bottom corner, overall it was in pretty nice shape. Most importantly, the inside was clean as a whistle. It was tagged for only six bucks. This was a lower price then many coolers I've found at the yard sales! Even the cashier lady was impressed with the cooler, marveling over the condition and cheap price. With summer winding down, I decided I'd better sell it quick. Big coolers like this are always best sold on Craigslist. Reason Number On: No shipping costs. If I sold it through eBay, shipping for such a large item would be brutal! I've been burnt on the big items before, with my buyers invariably being on the West Coast. Since Money in the Garage corporate headquarters is situated on the East Coast, this always means higher postage costs!

To avoid all this, I sell the really big stuff exclusively on Craigslist. Following my usual practice, I listed the Coleman cooler under Craigslist's sporting goods equipment section for $75 dollars. About a day later, a nice lady e-mailed me asking if I would take $50 for the cooler? Of course, I countered back at $60 and she agreed!. We met that evening and she greased my palm with three crisp twenty dollar bills! I am no math major, but that's a pretty good return on my six buck  investment. Six turned into sixty...try getting that return at the local bank!

Coleman burner stove
In addition to the nice profit, I am always a little extra giddy when I successfully avoid using eBay. Imagine if I had sold the cooler on eBay. With a sixty dollar sale, eBay would have taken a nice bite out of my profit. As a quick comparison, I recently sold this portable Coleman camp stove for $51 dollars. ( I paid $5 for it at Goodwill.) After I charged $10.50 for shipping, eBay grabbed six bucks in final value fees. Crazy, right? That's 12% of my sale going into eBay's pocket! In the case of my Coleman cooler, my entire profit went straight into my pocket instead. Not to mention avoiding the drama of eBay's new and insane, "defect" policy. No worrying about some dopey buyer sabotaging your hard earned seller rating. With Craigslist, you'll never see, and more importantly, hear from that buyer again!

Better then a reality TV show !

Speaking of drama, I witnessed quite a scene the other day at my local Goodwill store. Two customers were arguing about some merchandise. It was like watching a reality television show! I should have pulled out my iPhone, because it would have been a real YouTube moment. Voices were raised and a fight almost broke out, as the man accused the women of taking an item out of his shopping cart while he wasn't looking. The guy got louder and louder, jabbing his finger in the women's direction. The women acted confused, claiming that she didn't know what the guy was talking about. (I had my doubts over her act.) Finally, when it looked like a boxing match was just about to break out, a Goodwill employee got in between the two and told the man to leave the store. The employee began yelling at the guy, "You're a grown man, now don't be yelling at this lady! Get out of my store now!" At that, the guy backed off and stormed out of the store. Crisis averted, thanks to the Goodwill employee stepping in.

I have to say these little shows are not that unusual in my local Goodwill store. On another recent visit, I was patiently waiting in line to pay when an angry women in front of me began arguing with the store manager. She was demanding a refund on a dress she had bought. Now if you know anything about Goodwill, you know the store has a strict "No refund" policy. While it's pretty much a cardinal rule at Goodwill, this didn't stop the angry lady who was now holding up the line. She insisted on a refund for her dress, claiming it was torn when she bought it. (If true, she should have looked it over carefully prior to buying it.) The manager calmly attempted to explain the Goodwill refund policy, but the lady was having none of it. Looking slightly possessed, the women glared at the manager, telling her in a low, scary voice that if she didn't get her money back, she would start screaming and creating a scene right there in the store. Seeking to avoid what promised to be a major hullabaloo, the manager wisely gave in and refunded the women.  Another drama averted and not a moment too soon. These little dust ups are better then watching a reality television show...shouting, screaming and finger pointing...all happening at a local Goodwill store near you!

How's the summer  treating you? Any drama scenes playing out at your local thrift store lately? Share the story in the comment section below....

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

American Pickers Danielle & Mike are a bad influence on me!

They say watching too much television can really influence a person. For me, watching too much of American Pickers on the History Channel has definitely influenced my garage sale purchases...and not always in a good way! I love watching the show and have learned a thing or two about what to buy. But prior to the show hitting the airwaves, my buying habits trended towards small-ish items to flip; shirts, toys, collectibles. Pretty much anything I could fit inside a USPS Priority mailing box. But since the arrival of American Pickers, I've noticed my buying tastes have grown much bigger! Not a bad thing, but unlike most of those sellers on American Pickers, I don't have a barn or warehouse to store my stuff in. As a result, it's getting a little crowded in my basement and garage. If this keeps up, my house will look less like the American Pickers' shop, and more like a house on the Hoarders show! Here's some of the bigger stuff I've come home with lately. Some have turned into pretty good flips, others...ehh, not so much.

STOP in the name of American Pickers
Here's an example of a American Pickers influenced purchase-a genuine STOP sign. Think about it-who among us does not need a STOP sign? Everyone should have one! It can be posted in your driveway to prevent visiting company from driving straight into the garage! Either way, at only five bucks it was a deal. (Would you believe a brand new STOP sign can sell for over $75 bucks in industry catalogues?) The American Pickers were on my mind when I scooped up this sign. The stars of the show, Mike Wolfe, Danielle Colby-Cushman and Frank Fritz, are always on the lookout for old traffic signs and related automobile paraphernalia. Although this sign wasn't nearly as old as the signs found on Pickers, I figured someone could use it in an industrial setting or hang it up in their man cave or garage. Although the sign was large, storing it wasn't a problem. Traffic signs are made to be out in the elements. For six weeks of occasional rain and hot summer sun, the STOP sign sat on the side of my house until it sold on Craigslist. After a month and a half, a young guy finally bought it, paying me $25 dollars for the sign. He told me he intended to convert the sign into a table. A creative use for a street sign and a twenty dollar profit for me!

At the very same garage sale where I bought the STOP sign, I also came across this old metal bird feeder.
Would Danielle buy this feeder?
The weathered, primitive look of the feeder caught my eye. It was another American Pickers type purchase. Like the guys always do on the show, I speculated as to who would end up buying this old piece. Since there are plenty of bird lovers and folks who like anything primitive, I concluded there would be a buyer for the big and bulky feeder. I listed it on eBay using an auction and it sold seven days later for twenty five dollars. My only concern was the shipping costs since the heavier the item, the higher the postage costs. If you're not careful, you could undercharge and get left holding the bag on some postage. I charged a reasonable shipping cost for the heavy feeder, but also caught a break when the buyer turned out to be only a few hours away from MoneyintheGarage corporate headquarters. Like the sign, I made another twenty dollar profit.

Steamer trunk-not worth the trip! 
But alas, not every one of my American Pickers influenced buys can be a winner. I bought this awesome looking steamer trunk in my local Goodwill store. When I came across it, I thought I had a definite winner. The vintage piece had all the makings of a classic steamer trunk seen in the movies. It oozed old world charm, including weathered travel stickers from a defunct cruise line, wrap-around ribs and a classic aged patina. In my mind, it was the total package and I gladly shelled out sixty big ones for the honor to take it home. I am pretty sure Danielle Colby or Mike Wolfe would have bought this trunk. But sad to say, we all would have greatly overestimated the popularity of old steamer trunks...or at least this old steamer trunk. Starting with a pie-in-the-sky price of $175, the old trunk languished on Craigslist for nearly two months. Over the weeks and months, I slowly dropped the price, finally throwing in the towel at fifty bucks. That's ten dollars less then what I paid for it! But after lowering the price to fifty, I finally received my one and only e-mail from a buyer. I met the young mom at the local CVS pharmacy and loaded the trunk into her car. Although it turned out to be a small loss, I was just happy to get rid of the monster. I will say that had the trunk been deeper, it would have sold for a much higher price. But what can you do, right? Even the American Pickers get burnt once in a while.

Overall, not a bad record with my American Pickers style buys. I have a couple of more big items currently sitting in the garage that should turn into major flips. Big money or not, I am under some pressure to get the stuff sold. Mrs. Dude wants her parking space back before the winter snow returns!

Got any American Pickers type stuff that you've sold lately? Share the story in the comment section below.....

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fisher Price & Tonka Trucks for sale

Yard sale sellers can be all over the map when pricing their stuff.  Some set their prices based on what they originally paid for an item. If they paid a lot, then they think they can sell it for a lot. Other sellers are under the delusion that certain items are highly collectible and jack up their price accordingly. A few consistent examples I've found are; Hess Trucks, Barbie "collectible" dolls, comic books and baseball cards. What sellers don't realize is this mass produced stuff can be found at many garage sales. Hess trucks and Barbie collectible dolls are a dime a dozen around my town. When it comes to modern baseball cards, the market is saturated. There are way too many cards for too few buyers. But good luck trying to explain this to some yard sale sellers.

Not every Tonka is worth big $$$!
I came across a lady with this high-priced mind set at a recent yard sale. Only in her case, it wasn't Barbie dolls or Hess trucks. Instead, it was an overpriced Tonka truck. Not every Tonka is worth big money, particularly the newer versions. It's the older Tonka toys that fetch the high dollars. How can you tell if they're old? Look for all metal parts on the toy. New Tonka trucks use more plastic, particularly in the under chassis. In the case of the lady's Tonka, I found plenty of plastic parts, so I knew it was fairly new. But even though it was newer, I was still interested at the right price. I asked the lady what she wanted for the Tonka? But before she gave me a price, she stated the obvious, informing me it was a Tonka truck.

Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate a teachable moment as much as the next guy. But I already knew it was a Tonka truck...and not just because I am a seasoned garage sale picker. No, it was actually the famous yellow paint and the large letters spelling out "Tonka" on the side of the truck that pretty much gave it away! But having now informed me of what I had in my hands, I waited for the seller to whack me with a high price. That's a consistent trait with sellers who feel the need to announce the name of the item back to you. That's exactly what this lady did, proudly stating she wanted thirty bucks for the Tonka. But since plastic Tonka trucks are barley worth half that, I just nodded and quietly put the overpriced Tonka back on the table. I continued to look around her table hoping to find something she didn't overprice. Soon enough, I found it.

Fisher Price Western Town
As I turned away from the table, I practically tripped over a brightly colored Fisher Price box sitting on the ground. I picked up the box and checked it out. It was a vintage Fisher Price "Western Town" set. I've made some nice money on Fisher Price sets, mostly flipping the more commonly found family house, the school and parking garage sets. Since the Western set is much harder to find, I had a hunch it might do well on eBay. The set contained a jail, cowboys and indians, horses, wagon and a stage coach. The box was a little damp from being outside, but other then that, it was in pretty nice condition. I decided to work the damp box to my advantage. Picking up the box, I asked the seller what she wanted for the set? I added that even though the box was wet, I was still interested in it anyway. She pondered the damp box for a moment. More importantly, unlike the Tonka, she did not announce the name of the toy back to me! Instead, she quoted me a price of only three bills...much more reasonable then her Tonka toy prices! I handed her three dollars and grabbed the (slightly damp) Fisher Price set.

The wet box turned out to be a non-issue and was practically dry by the time I arrived back at MoneyintheGarage.Com Headquarters. A few hours sitting in the back of my truck on a warm spring day will do that. After a little dusting, I set up the Cowboys and Indians for their eBay photo shoot. Having never flipped this particular set before, I was anxious to see how my three dollar investment would do. Turns out, it did great. After a seven day auction run, the set sold for $64 bucks! (Buyer paid shipping.)

That's what I mean about sellers and their prices-all over the map! In the case of my Tonka lady, she way overpriced the Tonka truck and waaaaay underpriced the slightly damp Fisher Price set. You gotta love those type of yard sale sellers...inconsistent and unpredictable!  What's some of the commonly overpriced stuff you've seen at garage sales? Share your examples in the comment section below.....

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A box of highs and lows

Talk about a roller coaster ride! Recently, I found a box of toy cars at a garage sale that generated some great eBay flips for me. But a few other toys from this same box ended up biting me in the backside. Let me share the ups and down of the story.

A few months back, I walked up to a garage sale in one of the local suburban neighborhoods. There were lots of toys and household stuff all lined up along the edge of the driveway. Towards the top of the driveway, I spotted a big box filled with small die cast cars. This grabbed my attention since I am always on the lookout for original Hot Wheels cars from the Sixties. The early Hot Wheels are called "Redlines" and are sought after by baby boomers. It's no kid games when it comes to these Hot Wheels. Many can sell for huge bucks! (The Redlines refer to the red sidewall on the car's tires.) Seeing some older looking cars in the box, I asked the seller if he had any old Hot Wheels? His response hit me like a ton of bricks! Apparently there had been a few old Hot Wheels in the box, but a buyer had grabbed them an hour earlier. Despite hearing this bad news, I kept a calm demeanor and began searching through the box anyway.

Lucky for me, my diligence paid off. The previous guy had missed a few! They weren't in the greatest condition, but I know from experience collectors will still pay decent bucks for almost any Redline. I asked the seller how much he wanted for the cars? He gave me a slightly annoyed look and pointed to the word scrawled on the side of the box which read "Free." Since I am not totally mercenary, I told the guy I'd give him five bucks and take the entire box. With nothing left to negotiate, the guy took my fiver and I tossed the box in the back of my truck.

Redline Hot Wheels - banged up, but still worth $$$!
Redline Hot Wheels can be a sweet eBay flip. While it's rare that I find Redlines, when I do, it's always guaranteed money. Searching through the box back at MoneyintheGarage headquarters, I discovered a total of 14 vintage Hot Wheels. Since some cars are worth more then others, I carefully researched each car on eBay and came up with a game plan to sell them. Because of it's value, I decided to sell a Volkswagen  bus all by itself. The resulting auction earned me $26 dollars. I was off to a good start! Next, I auctioned off two VW bugs. These earned me an additional $21 dollars. Finally, I auctioned off all the remaining, slightly shabby, Hot Wheels in one lot. These guys netted me $28 dollars. Collectively, I made $75 bucks between all the auctions. Pretty good, right? I was on an emotional high! But little did I know, my next sale would soon bring me crashing down to earth!

Looking at the remaining car and trucks, I decided there were no big moneymakers left in the box. The toys all looked like common type stuff, including Matchbox cars, some larger plastic cars and a ton of smaller plastic cars. Content that I'd already made all my big money, I decided to sell the rest in one big lot on Craigslist. I posted a few pictures and listed everything for a twenty dollar bill.

Big bucks hiding in plain site!
With over a hundred cheapie cars for sale, I figured it would take some time before I unloaded this box of junk. But after only a day, a buyer reached out to me. In retrospect, maybe this should have been a sign that something was up. The guy told me he wanted to buy all the cars for his kid. But when we met in the parking lot of my favorite Dunkin Donuts, he changed his story, claiming he was really only interested in two trucks in particular. Pulling the two larger trucks from the box, he asked me if I would just sell them? Since I'd already listed the whole lot for $20, I offered the trucks to him for five bucks. Thanking me profusely, he quickly handed over five bucks. He continued to jabber on and nervously reached into his pocket and handed me another five dollar bill. Being the Honest Abe, I told him he'd already paid me. I then braced myself for some possible bad news and asked why the trucks were so special? He sheepishly admitted that the trucks were "collectible" and pointed to the lettering across the top of the windshield which read, "Stomper". I began to get a sinking feeling.

See the Silver & Camo trucks? Yeah, big bucks!
As he thanked me again for selling him the trucks, I put on a brave face. He then jumped back in his car with the Stomper trucks. I, of course, immediately jumped into my truck and feverishly typed "Stomper" into the eBay search bar on my phone. As the buyer pulled away, I got my answer. Many vintage Stomper cars and trucks can sell for over fifty bucks...Dohhh! The tables had just been turned...the hunter had just become the hunted! Realizing I may have let a hundred bucks slip through my fingers, I exited my truck and began banging my head on the hood. Well, not really...but I wanted to!

Looking back, I really can't beat myself up too much over this missed opportunity. Even if I had noticed the word "Stomper" over the window, I am pretty sure I would have concluded it was decorative and not the actual name of the toy brand. In fact, I'll never really know what those trucks could have sold for on eBay. But I know one thing for sure..they were worth more then the five bucks I got for them! Hopefully, this hard learned lesson will pay off for me in the future.

Have you ever been "schooled" like yours truly? Share your story below.....


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Sunday, June 1, 2014

How I save on Keurig Coffee Makers

Recently, I found myself at my favorite little thrift store and once again came across another great score. Walking along the shelves, I spotted a Keurig coffee maker. But it wasn't your average kitchen countertop Keurig. Nope, this was a heavy duty model usually reserved for offices and business. Dana, the store manager, had priced this special Keurig model at $25 bucks. Not a bad price, considering similar models sell for well over $200 bucks new. I was definitely interested, but a bit nervous about spending $25 big ones for something that might not be working. Not wanting to take any chances, I did what any smart thrift shop picker might do. I decided to plug it in and test it.

Grabbing the bulky coffee maker, I walked to the back of the thrift shop where my buddy, "Sarge" volunteers his time. A former Vietnam vet, Sarge has his own workshop in the rear of the store where he makes repairs to donated items. Usually when I check in on Sarge he's tinkering with some donated item. Other times, he's taking a well-deserved snooze in his chair. The little guy likes to put me to work too, often asking me to help him move furniture when he spots me. Fortunately he cut me a break this day. No heavy lifting was required! With coffee maker in hand, I stuck my head around the corner of the partition that separates Sarge from the rest of the store and asked him if I could plug in the coffee maker? Sarge loves company, so he gladly welcomed me back to his kingdom.

Being invited back to Sarge's work area is a special treat. The main reason I enjoy it so much is because he reminds me of my grandfather and his basement workbench. Like my grandfather, Sarge's bench is neatly organized with lots of little drawers and shelves for all his tools. On one shelf he has an AM radio that's always playing oldies while he works. On another shelf sits a fluorescent lamp shining down on Sarge as he tinkers away. Above the bench on the wall is a cross and an old framed photo of President Kennedy. The President looks down on Sarge as the old veteran makes his repairs. I guess it's a guy thing, but I love hanging out with JFK and good old Sarge at his workbench.

My conversations with Sarge almost always follow the same pattern. He begins by proudly showing me something he's repaired. Usually it's a vacuum cleaner, stereo or boom box. He then tries to convince me that the repaired item is something I just can't live without and urges me to buy it! My response is always the same. No matter what the thing is, I compliment him on fixing it. I then tell Sarge that's although it's really nice, I already have one. (Whether I do or not.) I wrap it up by assuring Sarge his repaired item will sell quickly once it's put out on the shelf. I am not sure if Sarge realizes I give him the same old lines, but he always seems to enjoy our give and take.

Back at the workbench with the Keurig, Sarge showed me where I could plug in the coffeemaker. We also filled the tank with some water. I then turned on the Keurig and while the screen lit up, nothing else happened. As President Kennedy watched from high on the wall, Sarge and I proceeded to fiddle with the Keurig, but to no avail-the thing wasn't working. But even though the coffeemaker looked like a dud, I was still interested. I knew there was a chance Keurig might replace the broken coffee maker if I called their consumer hotline number. As I ran all my options through my head, Sarge called over Dana, the store manager.  It was time to negotiate with her. Telling Dana that the Keurig didn't seem to be working, I asked her if she'd sell me the broken coffeemaker for five bucks? To my surprise, she agreed with no hesitation. With that, I unplugged the coffeemaker, told Sarge I'd see him later, and headed to the front of the store to pay.

If you don't know already, I am big a fan of Keurig coffee makers. I've blogged about these great machines several times in the past. So once I got my office version Keurig home from the thrift store, I really, really wanted it to work.  So much so, in fact, that I decided to give it one more try at home. Setting it up on my kitchen counter, I plugged the machine in and hit the brew button. Guess what happened? Yep, the dog gone thing actually worked! Don't ask me how it happened, because I have no idea. Maybe President Kennedy threw down some Irish luck at me as I was leaving the store? Whatever the reason, the thing was now operating perfectly fine. Needless to say, I was ecstatic! The Keurig now had the potential to earn me some major bucks! With that in mind, I wasted no time posting the miracle Keurig on eBay.

Lo and works!
Keurig coffeemakers are big sellers on eBay. Many used models sell in the range of $40 dollars. Large office versions sell for even more. How'd mine do? The Keurig that miraculously decided to start workinng after  leaving the thrift store sold for $120 dollars! And to give you an idea of how well my luck was going with this Keurig, I'll blow your mind with one more piece of incredible happenstance. You can imagine how hard it is to package a big, bulky Keurig for shipping? Well, not for me. I actually found an empty Keurig coffee maker box for the exact same model in the local school recycling dumpster! I often visit the dumpster to retrieve boxes for shipping. Obviously the school must have purchased the same model and tossed the box with it's packing material in the dumpster! With the recovered box, I just slipped my Keurig inside, slapped a shipping label on it and sent it on it's way. The buyer probably thought it was the originally box for the coffee maker. It sounds unbelievable, but I swear it's true!

All in all, it was a pretty lucky thrift store flip! But that's what makes it all worth while, right? Have you flipped a Keurig or other coffee maker? Share your story in the comment section below. Meanwhile, I think I may go visit Sarge at his workbench. Who knows what I'll find there next?

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Trash to cash....again!

Once again, my neighbor has come through for me! If you read my blog back in January, you'll remember the story. For reasons unknown, my neighbor doesn't want to donate his household goods to Goodwill or hold a garage sale. Instead, my neighbor takes perfectly good stuff he no longer needs and kicks it to the curb for trash pick-up. He's done it so often that I am beginning to think he's messing with me. Maybe the guy gets a chuckle out of seeing me go head first into his trash can? Well let him laugh, because whatever his reasons for throwing away good stuff, the guy is making me some coin!

Are you kidding me? 
Ironically, it wasn't long after I posted my last blog piece about his throwaways, when the guy was at it again. As I drove down the street, I saw something big, bright and colorful sticking out of the top of his trash can. Slowing down to take a closer look, I realized it was a baby exersaucer. If you're not familiar with them, the saucer helps a baby "exercise" by standing in a harness and safely rocking in place. I know from experience that these big hunks of plastic are a fairly common sight at garage sales. Because of that, I wasn't thinking it had a whole lot of value. But with a good track record of flipping my neighbor's trash into cash, I was willing give the baby saucer a shot. After all, who can turn down a freebie sitting right across the street? Not this dude, that's for sure! So just as I did in my previous trash runs, I waited until the cover of darkness to salvage the saucer.

At around 9 PM, it was go-time! Not just for me, but for my dog too! I figured if anyone spotted me, I'd look like I was just out for a nice walk with my dog. After Poochy did his business, we discreetly walked up to the treasure...I mean, trash can. I am not gonna lie....I was pretty slick. With one hand holding Poochy's leash while using my head to keep the lid open, I yanked the saucer out of the trash can. It was now mine! Walking quickly back across the street, I learned something very important - baby saucers are kinda hard to carry with one hand! Making matters worse, as I grappled with the saucer, a neighbor drove down the street. His headlights lit me up like a spotlight, and I could only imagine what he was thinking. Probably something along the lines of, "Why is that dude walking his dog and carrying a huge baby saucer? I felt like an escaped convict in a prison break movies when the big spotlight hits him - so busted!

Soldiering on, I sheepishly nodded at my neighbor as he drove past, then hauled the saucer into my house. Taking a close look at it, I discovered it was an Evenflo "Triple Fun" Exersaucer. Despite the fact that it was in the trash, the saucer was in excellent condition. Using Google's "shopping" search engine, I found tons of listings for the saucer, ranging from Amazon to Walmart. Just about all the sites were selling the saucer for over a hundred dollars! However, there was one small problem. An arched wire with hanging animals was missing! I then remembered that in my rush to pull the saucer out of the trash can, there was something bright and colorful hidden underneath it. It had to be the arch! What good was an Exersaucer without it's arch? There was only one thing to do - I had to go back for that arch! Armed with my flashlight, I snuck back across the street and opened the trash lid. Shining the flashlight into the can, I spotted the missing arch and grabbed it! My Saucer was now complete!

Now that I had everything, it was time to see how much dough I could make. As I've done with past Craigslist ads, I copy/pasted the catalogue description to save me time. Why re-invent the wheel when you don't have to? Check out the listing....

Evenflo Triple Fun Exersaucer ! - $40

EvenFLo Exersaucer in very good, clean condition. Retails for $100 in Target. Below is the catalogue description:

The Evenflo Triple fun Exersaucer offers 11 fun learning activities that help your baby achieve important developmental milestones. Rocking, spinning and bouncing actions strengthen your little one's leg, back and neck muscles. Fully loaded with toys and activities, this height-adjustable exerciser converts to a playmat and activity table. Take With Me Toys transfer to other Evenflo items, and the seat pad removes for easy cleaning. With its Life in the Amazon theme, this colorful entertainer is sure to keep Baby engaged.

Lots of fun for your little one...Hurry before it's gone!

As mentioned earlier, I've spotted many an Exersaucer at the thrift stores and garage sales. Generally, I've ignored them, thinking they're not big sellers. But I may have to re-think that in the future. A few days after posting the exersaucer, I sold it for my asking price of $40 dollars. If you're keeping score, that's a total of $120 dollars pulled from my neighbor's trash over the last several months! Crazy, but true!

Have you sold a baby Exersaucer? If so, how much did you make? Share your flip in the comment section below.  

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