Monday, July 9, 2018

How to turn trash into cash!

As you may have noticed, my blog entries have slowed down quite a bit. No major reason, other then I am a bit lazy, combined with a corresponding lack of garage sales to talk about. I can understand my laziness in blogging, but I don’t quite understand the lack of garage sales. Just a few years ago, I’d easily see an average of eight or more sales on any given Saturday. Now? Two or three...if I am lucky. As mentioned in previous posts, I believe some of this drop off can be attributed to folks using Facebook to sell their stuff, rather then hosting a real yard sale. It’s just a lot easier to take a picture of an item and post it on the FB, then to do all the hard work involved with running a yard sale. But I won’t let this drop-off get me down. I am still holding out hope the yard sales come back with a vengeance in the Fall. In the meantime, there’s still sources like thrift shops, dumpster diving and Facebook. Here’s some great examples of stuff acquired through those sources. Best of all....non of these items cost me a dime !

Wrigley field brick relic
Back in the fall of last year, I took a family trip to Chicago. A great city with plenty to do, but what this Dude wanted to do most of all was see Wrigley Field, the home of those Chicago Cubbies. The baseball season had just ended, so the ballpark was closed. But my family and I walked around the outside, snapping pictures and admiring the beautiful, old stadium. Making our way around the park, I noticed a big construction dumpster out by the front entrance. Apparently, Wrigley was undergoing some major reconstruction. Never one to shy away from a good dumpster, I proceeded to climb up the dumpster and peer in. Inside the dumpster were broken bricks from the iconic stadium! At that, I reached in and started collecting various pieces. As I did, Mrs. Dude rolled her eyes in disbelief, while my sons chuckled and shook their heads. Now, had I been a local, I probably would have tried to completely empty that dumpster of Wrigley Field bricks. But alas, I was in a travel status. There were only so many bricks I could take home with me. So I loaded up what I could for the trip back. Once I got guessed it. I sold several of my salvaged Wrigley bricks on eBay for $15 bucks a pop!  While I didn’t make nearly enough money to cover our trip to Chicago, it did help pay for some of their famous deep dish pizza!

Come and get it! 
When not climbing into dumpsters, I find that scanning Facebook also continues to be a nice source of freebie inventory. That’s what happened with the garden shed seen here. This is was what I would describe as an emergency “Come and get it” listing. It usually occurs when the people moving out of their house need the stuff removed super fast, usually because the new homeowner doesn’t want it on the property. That was clearly the case with this shed. The owner was going to settlement on the house the next day. He listed the shed on the Facebook for free with one proviso: it had to be picked up that very day. It was a quiet Sunday evening for me with nothing to do, so I hustled right over to pick it up. The shed slid perfectly into the bed of my truck and I was back at my home before Mrs. Dude even noticed I was gone. So confident was I of quickly selling the shed, that I didn’t even bother moving it from the back of my truck. Using the original photos the seller had posted on Facebook, I had the shed up for sale on Craigslist that same night. A couple days later, I sold the freebie shed for $35 bucks!

And this too! 
A more recent Facebook freebie was scored just a few weeks ago. A Facebook member listed a boat/canoe hand trailer in our local yard sale group. Like the shed, it was a “Please come get it now" type listing. With my local town and surrounding area loaded with lakes and streams, I knew I could easily find a buyer for the boat trailer. I jumped in my truck and found the trailer left at the curb. Like a member of a Nascar pit crew, I leaped out of the truck, dropped the gate and muscled the heavy trailer into the back bed. The homeowners were in their garage watching my crazy fire drill. I gave them a thank you wave, slammed the tailgate shut and jumped back in the truck.  All told, the pick up probably took all of sixty seconds! Once home, the old trailer sat on the side of my house for a few weeks until I got back from summer vacation. After vacation was over, it was time to list the trailer. It took a few weeks, but I found my buyer. Meeting me at local Wawa convenience store, the would-be sailor told me he wanted the trailer to transport his pedal boat. After hoisting the trailer into the back of his truck, he gladly paid me $25 dollars for my freebie find. As he pulled away, I strolled into Wawa and treated myself to a hotdog and an ice cold Coke...a nice little summer reward for my efforts!    
Ikea shelves curbside

Lastly is a freebie find obtained by sheer dumb luck. Some months back, I was out on my usual Saturday morning yard sale runs. It was a particularly non-productive morning for me. I struck out at each and every garage sale I stopped at. Annoyed and frustrated, I made my way home, cutting through a neighborhood to take a shortcut. As I drove down a residential street, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There at the curb were two huge Ikea wood shelves. Taped to the shelves was a big, bright sign which read, “FREE”! With nothing to show from my other morning efforts, it seemed like a consolation gift from the garage sale gods! I backed the truckster up to the shelves and stacked them, one on top of the other. Pulling away with my new found treasure, I couldn’t believe my luck! If I hadnt taken that random shortcut, I never would have stumbled upon the shelves. By doing so, I salvaged what would have been a fruitless Saturday morning yard sale day! The shelves went up for sale on Craigslist later that afternoon. A few days later, they sold for fifty dollars. An awesome, and pretty lucky, "trash to cash" find!

Do you have any awesome freebie finds? If you do, we’d all like to hear about it. Shout about them in the comment section below.

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Making money selling stuff around the house

It’s been an interesting winter, weather-wise, but spring has finally arrived in my neck of the woods. I like all four seasons, but the cold, crisp weather of late winter is one of my favorites. In addition to the flowers poking up in the garden, the yard sale season also begins to come alive around this time of year. You can be sure I’ll be checking Craigslist to see when the first sales are announced. In the meantime, I’ve been continuing my mission to clean out the house for an eventual move. I am definitely making progress. Over the holidays, my sonny boy went up into the attic to bring down our Christmas decorations. When he climbed back down the steps, he commented on how empty the attic looked. If my kid notices, I must be making an impact! Here’s a few examples of some long stored items that moved on to new owners....

Schwinn bike in my  attic.
Followers of my blog know I've taken an interest in flipping old bicycles. That trend started with this vintage boy’s Schwinn bike that’s been in my attic for years. I inherited this bike from my father, who I am sure, bought it at a flea market many decades ago. My father never used the bike, so it didn’t have any sentimental value to me. After holding onto it for over thirty years, I knew it was time to let it go. Using Craigslist, I sold the Schwinn to a vintage bike flipper (Tony) for $30 dollars. After the sale, I kept in contact with Tony. He told me later that he cleaned the bike up, flipping it for about double what he paid for it. Not a huge profit, but still decent money. As mentioned, I have Tony in my cellphone contacts. Anytime I come across a vintage bike, I always offer it to him first. If decides he doesn’t want it, he’ll usually give me some valuable advise on flipping it myself. Making friend and great contacts like Tony is part of the fun of this little hobby.

Another attic relic was this uncut sheet of Canada Dry soda cans commemorating the 1974 Philadelphia Phillies. Back then, my father worked as a machinist for the American Can Company and would occasionally come home from work with special edition collectible cans. Some of them would commemorate important historic events like the country’s Bicentennial, while others would memorialize local sports team. The Phillies sheet was big and unwieldy, and if your weren’t careful, you could cut yourself on the tin metal edges of the sheet. At the time, I thought the sheet was pretty cool and I stored it in my parent’s attic until I moved out. Like the Schwinn bike, the tin metal sheet followed me through my adult life, moving from one home to the next. Recognizing that after 40 years, I wasn’t doing anything with the sheet, I finally sold it to a Phillies collector for $60 dollars. The story has a funny ending. Back in December, I attended my family’s annual Christmas party. While the family enjoys some adult beverages and digs into various crockpots, my cousins will usually get around to picking my brain on the value of collectibles they own. On this particular festive occasion, while Santa (Cousin Tom) handed out gifts to the kids, my cousin Fran began telling me about a 1974 Philadelphia Phillies soda can sheet he owned. He wondered out loud, saying he couldn’t recall where he got the sheet from and also what it might be worth? Remembering that his father and my dad were pretty tight, I told him I knew exactly where he acquired the sheet. There was no doubt in my mind that my dad must have given him the sheet back in 1974. I went on to tell him that I had the exact same sheet and just sold it for sixty bucks!  My cousin was amazed I was able to come up with some instant provenance on his treasured soda can sheet, solidifying my reputation as the family expert on all things collectible!

Cold blast from the past!
Going from the attic to the basement, here’s a sale I got a good chuckle out of...a little air conditioner dating back to around 1986. I bought it at Sears paying somewhere around $125. Back then, we lived in small row home with no central air conditioning. This little guy went in the front bedroom window and did a nice job keeping the room ice cold on those hot summer nights. A few years later, we moved to a home with central air, so the little Sears unit went in storage in our basement. As the years went on, I'd occasionally dig it out for emergency use when our central air went on the fritz. But after installing all new HVAC in the house, I decided the little an emergency backup unit was no longer needed. I posted it for sale on Craigslist and amazingly, my 30 year old air conditioner sold for $25 dollars! (In the middle of winter no less.) How great is that?

Apple TV box for sale
Last on my list is this Apple TV digital HD media streamer, or as I like to call it...that Apple box thingy. About a year ago, my sons talked me into
upgrading our old Apple TV box to the latest model. Now if it were up to me, I would be perfectly happy getting by with one of those cheap digital antennas you see advertised on late night TV commercials. As far as I am concerned, cable is just one big ripoff! But instead, I folded like a cheap tent, shelling out a hefty $150 dollars for the latest, greatest Apple TV box. After my sons installed the new version, they told me I might be able to re-sell the old Apple box for a few bucks. They were right. The three piece package, which included the box, remote and power cord, went for $50 bucks on eBay; a nice return that made the Apple upgrade a little easier on my wallet.  

Not bad, right? As I said, I’ve made a pretty good dent unloading a lot of clutter around the house. I am not done yet, so if it’s not nailed down, it will probably end up on eBay! How about you? Have you made any money flipping stuff that was just gathering dust around the house? Share your story in the comment section below....

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Check out these low, low prices on electronics!

Here we are in the throes of winter. It’s cold outside, but a good time to warm ourselves with memories of thrift shop and yard sale scores. For this winter time review, I thought I’d discuss some sweet electronic finds and flips.  Although potentially lucrative, electronic sales can be risky business. From burned out light bulbs, to acid encrusted battery compartments, there’s always potential problems with electronics. For that reason, I am very choosy when buying tech items. But if chosen wisely, the payoff can be pretty good. Here’s a few examples:

It’s electric...boogey, woogey!  
Remember electric typewriters? Since the advent of desktop computers and printers, they’ve mostly become a thing of the past, but can you believe there’s still buyers out there for them? It’s true. I’ve flipped a handful of old-school electric typewriters over the last few years. One model, the Smith-Corona SL-600, keeps surfacing in some of my local Goodwill stores. Weirder still is the fact that I often find this model in pristine condition in it's original packing material and box. I am not sure what the story is, maybe folks buy them and never get around to using them? For whatever reason, if it’s mint condition in the original box, I am a buyer. The typewriter seen here set me back eight dollars. I turned around and flipped it on Ebay for $50. This particular model was pretty basic, but more sophisticated typewriters with spell check features can bring in even more money. A word of caution however: make sure you charge enough for shipping. Typewriters are big and heavy. If you are not careful in calculating a shipping rate, postage could cost you big money.

Turn them into big money!
Switching from work related stuff to actual fun stuff, the market for good quality turntables can be very good. I’ve made some excellent flips selling "old school" turntables. There’s plenty of Audiophiles who still prefer to listen to their music on “vinyl” rather then downloaded tunes. I am by no means an audio expert, but I do know that direct drive is preferred over belt driven tables. The model seen here fits that description; a Dual DC-9, direct drive turntable. I bought it last fall at a yard sale. The seller was asking $25 dollars. While she claimed it still worked, she admitted she hadn’t actually used it for years. My usual negotiating tactic is to point out that if it didn’t work, it could run into serious money trying to repair it. The seller was a tough cookie, and we went back and forth until she finally agreed to let it go for $17 dollars. When I got it home, I tested it out. To my untrained ear it seemed to be functioning fine. Ultimately, I knew that even if there was a minor problem or two, it wouldn’t make or break any potential deal. Most collectors know they are going to have to do some tinkering with an old turntable anyway. I decided to skip an eBay listing and use Craigslist instead. I wasn’t about to mess with the shipping hassles that go along with an eBay sale. A few days later, a serious vinyl guy came by to take a look at it. He pointed out a few flaws that only an Audiophile would see, but handed over $75 dollars for it anyway.

Flipping answering machines is a calling .
As mentioned earlier, buying older electronics can be risky, but why not remove any risk by flipping something new in the box? Often referred to as "New/Old stock”, you just can’t beat flipping  vintage electronics that are sealed in the original box. Not long ago, I came across a new/old stock Panasonic answering machine in the original box at a local thrift shop. The price was right at only eight dollars. Like electric typewriters, there are buyers who prefer the old style answering machines that use little cassette tapes.  While my answering machine looked near-new, it can be tricky to determine whether devices like an answering machine have ever been put to use. But being the crack flipper that I am, I look for a few tell-tale clues. One; does it show any signs of dirt, dust or wear?  If it’s been used, most devices will have some dirt or smudges on it somewhere. Another clue is the packaging. If the devise has never been used, the components should all be tightly nestled in the styrofoam packaging. A big tell-tale sign are the wires and plugs. If the wires appear to be neatly factory packed and bound together with little twisty ties, there’s a very good chance the device has never been removed from the box. My Panasonic answering machine met all these criteria, making it an easy decision to buy. Since it was new, I only needed a few quick pictures for the listing. I posted one showing the outside of the box and another showing the answering machine still cradled in the styrofoam. That seemed to do the trick. A day after it was posted, the Panasonic sold for a "Buy it Now” price of $50 dollars. You got to love that!

Old school boomboxes are booming business!
Speaking of Panasonic, check out this big old, Panasonic boom box from back in the day. I found this monster at Goodwill a few months ago. The store manger told me he had just put it out on the floor, adding that he personally tested it and it worked great. I decided to see for myself and began playing around with the radio’s different features. Other then being a little dirty and dusty, the radio seemed to work fine and sounded awesome. At only seven bills, the boom box was ridiculously priced. Adding to the deal, the manger had loaded six brand new “Mad D" batteries in the back. (The batteries alone probably cost seven bucks!) Old school boom boxes are bringing in seriously crazy money on eBay's auction website. In fact, the older, bigger and more bells and whistles they have...the more dough they bring in! My Panasonic boom box had a lot of those features going for it. Not one to pass on a sweet deal, I grabbed the heavy radio and marched it right up to the front counter. Once back home, I did my best to clean up the dust and dirt with some paper towels and my always dependable bottle of Windex. After cleaning it up, I posted the boom box on eBay for a ten day auction. At nearly a week and a half, this would provide plenty of time for buyers to find it...then drive up the bids. The strategy worked. My Panasonic boom box topped out at $153 dollars...nice !

That’s a quick look back at a few of my recent electronic finds and flips. You have any similar scores to share? Go ahead and post them in the comment section below.    

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