Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Of bikes and men.

The yard sale season chugs along with a few decent scores by yours truly. At the same time, I've also had a few strikeouts, including this past Saturday, when I missed out on what would have been the score of the week. It was one of those sad stories most yard sale pickers have been through. In my case, I carefully planned out my Saturday morning stops, but ended up making a costly miscalculation. I decided to make a community yard sale in a suburban development my very first stop of the morning. Upon arriving there, I discovered only a few houses were actually participating. Making matters worse, the few houses open for business were offering mostly newer kiddy toys. Not exactly what I am looking for when it comes to flipping eBay stuff. After wasting approximately a half hour trying to find some decent sales, I finally gave up the ghost and headed to a garage sale located on the other side of town. Walking up the driveway, I spotted a Panasonic Shortwave radio tagged for five dollars. These days, a quality shortwave radio can make you some serious bucks, so I was pretty psyched when I spotted the Panasonic. But as I bent over to pick up the radio, a big guy standing nearby uttered those dreaded words all yard sale pickers hate to hear.  “Sir, I just bought that.” Ouch! It was like a dagger to my heart! Hearing that, I released my death grip on the prized radio and lamely complimented the guy on his find. Then with head hung low, I slowly walked back to my truck empty handed. Being a bit of a masochist, I decided to torture myself further and look up the radio on eBay. Imagine my depression upon discovering the radio would have earned me at least $150 or more on eBay. Double ouch! It’s at this point when I began to mumble to myself in disgust. If ONLY I had decided to go to that garage sale first, rather then the stupid community yard sale...the radio would have been mine! A major bummer that could have ruined my day, but as Rocky said in his last movie, “It ain't about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit....and keep moving forward!” He’s right. So after taking that hit, I am moving forward to focus on the positive. (Thanks Rock!)

Take this vintage bike for example. About a month ago,
Sears bike before...
I rolled up to a yard sale being held by a 30-ish guy who’s father had recently passed away. The son told me he had traveled up from his Florida home to settle his Dad’s estate. This was the reason for the yard sale. Like the missed shortwave radio, an earlier visit to his sale probably would have netted me some pretty sweet finds. However, there was still a vintage bike left for sale. The bike was from Sears and dated back to the mid-Sixties. Although it had some surface rust and was dirty, it was was still in decent shape for it’s age. The son explained his Dad was the original owner. In fact, dangling from the handlebars was a string envelope containing the Sears warranty and paperwork to prove it. With nothing much left at the sale for me to buy, I decided this overlooked bike could turn out to be a decent score. After a little back and forth with the son, I bought the bike for twenty bucks and headed home.

When you’ve been at this game as long as I have, you develop a few “clients” who can be easy go-to buyers. One of my clients is a guy named Tony-a retiree who likes to restore and flip old bikes. Tony is a great guy and really knows his stuff when it comes to vintage bikes. Once I got the bike home, I immediately texted him to see if he’d be interested in buying it. It took a few hours for Tony to get back to me, but by late afternoon he was pulling up to my house to check out the bike. Slowly walking up my driveway, he apologized for not responding to my text right away. He explained he’d been enjoying a nice, mid-afternoon power nap. Now fully refreshed, Tony gave my bike his professional evaluation. Right off the bat, he told me he was not a buyer. He sheepishly admitted that at the behest of his wife, he was not looking to add any more bikes to his extensive inventory. Instead, he suggested I clean up the bike myself and flip it. He gave me a few tips, suggesting I remove the basket from the handlebars and clean up all the chrome with some steel wool (SOS). With his encouragement, I agreed to give it a shot. We shook hands and Tony reminded me to send him pictures once I had cleaned the bike up.

...and after.

It took a few weeks, but on a nice hot summer day I
pulled out the garden hose and went to work on the bike. After applying the SOS steel wool pad to the rims and handlebars, the old bike’s chrome began to shine. I then stole dishwashing liquid off of Mrs. Dude’s kitchen sink to gently wash the bike frame. In less then an hour I had the bike sparkling! With some extra effort and time, I could have even applied some car wax to the bike frame. But it was pretty hot outside, so I decided to pass on the extra work involved with a “Wax-on...Wax-off” process. Besides, the bike was looking good with just an hour of effort. I texted a few photos of my handiwork to Tony and he agreed! The bike was now ready for re-sale. I then rode the bike over to a local school field for a photo shoot. It was beautiful sunny day and the photos of the now-cleaned up bike really popped against the green grass and blue sky! Excited to see how my restoration would do, I posted the bike on Craigslist for $125 dollars. Two days later, I had a buyer in my driveway admiring the old bike. After some negotiating, I agreed to take $100 bucks for the bike. While I was hoping to get more, I always believe in the old "a bird in the hand is better then two in the bush” adage. But my profits were not limited to the bike sale alone! I later sold the original metal basket for five bucks on Facebook. Lastly, the original  bike warranty papers are on target to net me around $30 dollars on eBay! Taken together, I made over a $100 dollar profit and brought a dusty old bike back to life! That’s what makes this business so much fun!

That’s one ugly bike! 
And since we’re on the subject of bikes, here’s one I flipped a few years ago. I bought this ugly duckling at Goodwill for six dollars a few years ago. Not exactly on the level of a Schwinn, or even a Sears, this bike was a some sort of no-name brand. But it caught my eye, and at only six bills, how could I pass it up? Back then, I was not into cleaning up bikes for re-sale. In fact, short of sand blasting, I doubt there was much I could have done to get this old clunker to shine. So it went on Craigslist “as-is”. But as ugly as it was, the old bike did find a home. A gentleman offered me fifty bucks for it with one condition-that I deliver it to his house. Since I am always up for a drive, I tossed the bike into my truck and rolled it right up to the guy’s doorstep! He handed me fifty big ones....not a bad profit for a six dollar investment!

How’s your sales going? Flip any bikes or other modes of transportation for fun and profits? Share your story in the comment section below!





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