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 behold...it 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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