Monday, March 6, 2017

On the Upswing, I Hope

Contrary to what my bank account and sold listings show, I’m still alive and kicking, and trying to make money at this thrifting game.

Suffice to say, it’s been slow over the past year, and especially over the last couple of months.  Call it my season of discontent, if you will. Despite the unseasonably warm weather, pickings have been slim this winter with Saturday forays typically yielding very few sellable items.  Even though both Ella and I know that this downswing is typical, it doesn’t ease our concerns because bills never take a holiday.

Thankfully, the dam burst a little on Saturday.

Despite the aforementioned unseasonably warm weather lately, it was cold on Saturday morning, with the temperature hovering just above freezing as we pulled up to our first sale of the day.  The yard was full of stuff, and after a cursory glance for books, a habit that I really need to break, I noticed a table full of football stuff.  A closer look showed that the table held a Dallas Cowboy collection with bobble heads, action figures, and assorted other boxed and unboxed collectibles.  Unfortunately, the items had been left outside overnight and were covered with a fine layer of frost.

I looked around some more, and came back to the table.  It was nagging at me.  “How much for the football items?” I finally asked out loud.  A gentleman walked over and inquired as to which item I was interested in.

“All of it,” I said, figuring that I couldn’t/wouldn’t afford it, but also knowing that it never hurts to inquire.

“How about $50?” he said.

“Sold,” I said. Ella paid the man, and then we loaded everything into the van.  I still really didn’t know what I had purchased, but I was too cold to really care at that point.

One of our next stops yielded a large collection of large new in box die-cast cars, which cost me $40.  Between the two stops, our van was full.  After a few other sales, and before we headed to a nearby city for even more sales, we unloaded all the items into our warehouse.

We pulled into a church sale, and I was amazed that I found a box full of automotive and race car repair books, including one that scanned at $300.  I then spotted three boxes of paperback Star Trek novels, and inquired as to the price.  After a quick negotiation in which I overbid myself on purpose (They asked for $2 per box, and I volunteered $10 for all three), we paid $15 and headed to our next sale.

The remaining sales were hit and miss.  Late morning had turned to early afternoon, and both Ella and I were tired.  We debated going to one additional sale in another nearby city, and eventually decided to head that way.

We pulled into the estate sale around 2:30 p.m.  It was fairly picked over, obviously, but no one it seemed had touched the two media towers full of Christian CDs. Did I mention that there were about 300 of them? I started scanning, and had pulled out a small stack that were worth pretty good money.  Looking at the shelves of CDs yet to be scanned, I wondered how much all of them would cost.  I asked, and after a quick negotiation, I loaded both wooden media towers, and all the CDs into our van for $100, which left me a whopping $14 in my pocket.

Unbeknownst to me, Ella had been trying on clothes, and had a small stack of nice jeans and tops.  I also had picked up a cool racing jacket, and a new with tags pair of men’s pants.  Our total bill came to $119, which was $5 more than we had.


Ella happened to search her pockets, though, and pulled a $5 bill that she had kept as change from a previous sale.  As we drove home, we realized that between us, we only had about $1 in quarters left.

On Sunday morning, we started triage on all the CDs, separating the good (sellable) from the bad (non-sellable).  We had time to list a few, but we still have many left to get online.

Early afternoon, we went to the warehouse.  While Ella started straightening the stuff in the warehouse, I started working in the office, looking through all the football stuff that we had picked up on Saturday.

Turns out, someone really loved the Dallas Cowboys.  I need to research and price the items, but the signed Roger Staubach mini helmet complete with certification of authenticity should bring more than triple what I paid for the whole lot.  I’m not sure what the oversized Super Bowl ring will bring, nor do I have any idea about the assorted Danbury Mint items.  To make the lot a little more personal, I also found several small photo albums complete with photos of the previous owner’s trip to Dallas.  If it had not been so cold on Saturday morning, I might have talked to the seller for a few minutes.  Sometimes the story behind the items makes them a lot more interesting.

The Star Trek books included complete sets of various novels, most of which are penny books individually but sold together should bring a nice profit, especially since I only paid $10 for all of them.

By the time I had finished my inventory triage, Ella had almost completely transformed the warehouse from a mess into a functional area in which we can actually walk.  She’s an organization whiz, and I think I need to buy her an ice cream for her efforts.

Looking ahead to what I hope is a busy yard sale season, the annual Peaches to the Beaches sale starts next week, and, as usual, we’ll take two small road trips on Friday and Saturday to grab some goodies.  With spring in the air, I hope that the overall quality of sales on Saturdays picks up as well. 

Have a great week everyone.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Catching Up

Hundreds of my readers have asked me why I am not blogging much anymore.  OK, maybe not hundreds, but definitely tens of my readers.  OK, it was only Ella that asked, but the answer is that I do most of my writing at work, but my duties have changed, and I have less “free” time to put digital pen to paper.  C’est la vie.

Of course, just because I am not writing doesn’t mean that stuff ain’t happening. 

For the past several weeks, Ella and I have been fretting because her “geek tool,” also known as her Dell PDA with Socket scanner, was missing.  We use our “geek tools” to identify sellable media, and we’ll need both of them when the local book sale opens its doors this week.  Thankfully, though, I finally found it this morning buried in a tote of other stuff.

Crisis averted.

Speaking of the book sale, I’ve written many blogs over the last couple of years trying to convey the excitement of the first day, which is dominated primarily by book dealers, like me, from all over the state.  I both dread and anticipate it, and always breathe a sigh of relief when it’s over.  However, the sights, sounds and fistfights over $200 textbooks (OK, I made that one up) make it the social event of the bookseller season.

Sales have been lackluster across the board for us lately.  Thankfully, yard sale season is in full bloom, and we are traveling 100 plus miles each Saturday sourcing inventory.  This past Saturday, I spotted four huge boxes full of vintage caps at a sale.   They were tagged $.50 each, but the woman in charge said they would let them all go for $25.  I saw a John Deere cap, and figured I could probably get my money back just on that one cap, but still offered only $10 for the lot.   The woman’s husband, to whom the caps belonged, happened to be walking up, and said, “Sold!”

Once I got the caps home, I was unhappy to find that most of them, including the John Deere, had dry rotted, and were falling apart.  I did manage to salvage a few, including this Gilley’s cap, which sold on the same day that I listed it for $15.  Even with the free shipping, I recouped my investment, and still have some to list and sell.

For you Northerners or non-lovers of country music, Gilley's was a honky tonk bar founded in 1971 by country singer Mickey Gilley in Pasadena, TX. It was the central location in the 1980 movie, Urban Cowboy.  This is the second time that I have found and sold a Gilley’s cap, both to the same collector who always leaves this note:

Hi. I'm a collector so please let me know if you have any more Gilley's, Urban Cowboy, Johnny Lee's Club, Nesadel Club or Frontier Hotel Las Vegas items, maybe we can make a deal.

So, keep Gilley’s merchandise in mind as you are out thrifting.

Over at the antique mall, keeping our three booths stocked has become a headache at times.  We sell mostly small items, both antique and collectible, but finding such merchandise is hit and miss, given the competition in the area.   Our routine is to find stuff on the weekend, price and tag on Monday through Wednesday, and then merchandise the booths on Thursday evening in time for the Friday and weekend crowds. 

Ella, bless her, does most of the grunt work (i.e., printing stickers and tagging items), while I am in charge of figuring out prices.  My biggest fear is to price something valuable too low, leaving money on the table.  Case in point, we found a pair of nonworking, heavy wind-up table clocks for $5.  I couldn’t find a maker’s mark, and really had no idea of their value.  So, since they didn’t work, I priced them at $20 each.  We took them over to the antique mall, put them in one booth, and then went to work on our second booth.  When we doubled back to the original booth, the clocks were gone.  They sold in less than 15 minutes.  While we obviously made money on the deal, I imagine that we could have made more if I had exercised a little more due diligence.

And that’s another issue, making money.  Some months, of course, are better than others, while other months leave us on the edge of our seats as to whether or not we will make rent.  Just making rent is not being successful, although I am always happy not to have to pay any more to the mall.

Our warehouse is a mess right now, mainly because we don’t have a lot of time to devote to it.  Ella planned to have a yard sale out of the back last month, but the threat of rain postponed it.  She tentatively is planning to have one Memorial Day weekend.  Now, I know some of you think that holiday weekends aren’t great for sales, and I won’t argue that point.  However, Ella’s rationale, and I see some merit in it, is that since there will be fewer sales that weekend, more people will come to ours to get their weekly thrifting fix.  Plus, we’ll have a lot of cool stuff.

We’re still attending auctions when we can, although our local auction house has closed.  We now have to drive at least an hour to get to the nearest one on Saturday evening.  After spending at least four hours on Saturday morning driving to sales, the prospect of spending another two hours (there and back) in the van isn’t very appealing.  Still, I know that auctions can provide interesting inventory, both for online sales and our booths, so I really have to stop being so lazy.

To wrap up this overly long post, I’d like to remember Prince, one of the few pop stars who understand the thrifting lifestyle.  May we all find raspberry berets, the kind you find in a second hand store.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Great Gatsby

No, this blog isn’t about the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  OK, maybe it is, but only in a peripheral way.   It’s about the teacher who sat at the front of the class, and read the book to his largely disinterested students.
Reverend G. Lewis Wright.
I called him Mr. Wright.  My younger brother called him Professor Wright.  I had no idea that he was a minister.  I was in the 10th grade, pretty much self-centered (like most teens), and bored out of my skull as Mr. Wright droned on and on about Jay Gatsby.
So, I used his second period class as a glorified study hall.  My best friend Jim shared the class with me, and he had Ms. Echols’ social studies class during first period; I had the same class third period.  I would quiz Jim on what happened during his class, getting detailed notes about pop quizzes, etc.  It was a good arrangement for me. I got an A in Mrs. Echols’ class; Jim got a C.
But, I digress.
I guess that something must have sunk in because I somehow got an A in Mr. Wright’s class, and never really thought about the man again until Saturday.
The house was in a fairly affluent part of Macon, close to my alma mater, Northeast High School, and the estate sale sign beckoned as Ella and I pulled up.  You know, true estate sales are fairly intimate.  You get a peek into someone else’s life, and as I walked in and saw the bookcases full of literature and religious books, I should have known, or at least figured out, that the owner, or former owner as the case may be, was a teacher.
The shelf full of Northeast High School yearbooks should have been a clue as well.
I didn’t, though.  I was too focused on what I could scavenge from the house. Self-centeredness never really goes away, does it?
As I wandered into one of the bedrooms, I came face to face, figuratively, with a picture of Mr. Wright.   I was … honestly, I don’t know what I was, other than mad at myself because I couldn’t remember his name.  I could remember exactly where I sat in his class, and had a clear mental image of him sitting on his stool reading, including the look on his face and the sound of his voice. But I could not remember his name.
Oh, the picture had a price tag of $10, but Saturday was half-price day.  Yep, all of his treasured family photos were 50 percent off.
I asked a sale worker for his name, and kicked myself when they told me.  Of course, it was Mr. Wright.  Why hadn’t I remembered?  Of course, it had been 37 years, so I deserve some slack, don’t I?
Armed with that bit of knowledge, and despite protests from Ella that we needed to get a move on, I made a circuit through his house again, really looking at things, and trying to build a memory of the man who spent 35 years of his life trying to teach unappreciative students.
I learned that he liked music, especially classical.  He had a large collection of Reader’s Digest collections, including books and CDs.  He had a fair amount of travel DVDs.  He also was an amateur photographer, with a large collection of old cameras.  He also had taken, over the years, hundreds of photos with his students, all of which could be had for a bargain basement price on that day.
As Ella and I got to our van, I decided that I wanted to snap a picture of that framed photograph of Mr. Wright.  I hurriedly walked back up the hill to the house, only to discover that the photograph had been taken off the wall.
I was disappointed, but as I left the house, I hoped that both the photograph and Mr. Wright himself were in a better place.
RIP, Mr. Wright (1933-2015).

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Welcome to Warehouse 13

With much trepidation, I signed the lease tonight, and now we're the proud renters of a genuine warehouse that I've affectionately nicknamed Warehouse 13.  Here are a couple of pics.
Our new storefront

It looks big, but will fill up fast
Ella is all smiles in the office area
Ella, ever the organizer, already has started planning what goes where.  I guess that's why she's the brains, and I'm just the muscle.

As we get it sorted out, I'll post additional photos.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Back by almost popular demand

Yeah, it’s been awhile, and, thankfully, reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.

I last blogged way back in July, and while I’d like to say that I’ve been too busy, or, at least, busier than normal, to put electronic pen to paper, I can’t.  I simply stopped writing because I lost my passion for it.  I literally was tired of all things Amazon and Ebay.

Of course, I couldn’t stop selling; I do like to eat, and we desperately need that roof over our heads.  However, I could stop reading and writing about it.

So, I did.

I had no idea how long my self-imposed digital exile would be, but the longer it went, the easier it got.  Days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months, and despite being asked repeatedly by Ella, my biggest fan, to write something, I wouldn’t.  Or maybe I couldn’t.  To be honest, there’s not much difference between the two.

Of course, it didn’t help that I sprained my right arm in late August, which made typing difficult. After broken ribs in August 2014 and a hurt arm (among other bumps, bruises, chipped tooth and broken glasses) in August 2015, Ella says she is going wrap me in bubble wrap during August 2016.

One of my New Year’s resolutions, admittedly a couple of days late, though, is to slowly re-integrate myself into writing this blog.  John, owner of the Big Peach Antiques Mall, paid me the ultimate compliment the other night, saying that he liked my style of writing, and that he missed reading it. Usually, I’m not big on accepting compliments, but it truly was an “aw shucks” moment, and while driving home, I realized that I missed writing it, too.

Now that I’ve explained my absence, it’s time to move forward, and I can think of no better way of doing that than by looking backward.

In early August, Ella and I participated in the World’s Longest Yard Sale, starting in southern Ohio, and working our way back to Georgia.  We had spent almost a week with Ella’s relatives in Zanesville, Ohio, attending several auctions, and almost filling our van with good “stuff” before we even hit the road to the sale. 

If I had a trailer and a bit more money, and maybe a little more derring-do, I would have bid on, and probably won, the tricked-out Harley-Davidson motorcycle that was auctioned off in Amish country.  It went for about $5000.  Since we had limited room, we had to restrain ourselves, and bid only on smaller items, knowing that we had approximately 500 miles of sales left before we got home.

After wearing out our welcome with the relatives, we headed out on Thursday morning, the first day of the sale. We were both excited to see what treasures we could find, but when rain began pouring down, our spirits weren’t the only thing that was dampened as we tried to dodge the raindrops at various sales in northern Kentucky.

On Friday, the rain had stopped, and the day was overcast, which was a good thing.  Still, in the large fields turned into impromptu flea markets, mud ruled the day, and we began skipping such sales in favor of sales on firmer, and dryer, ground.

Saturday dawned sunny and hot, making us wish that the rain had stuck around.  Pickings also were slim, as most of the good stuff already had been snapped up, and the stuff that remained was overpriced.  Still, we found a few items, and finally made it back to Georgia by late Saturday night.

Overall, it was a successful trip.  We found media, small antiques, highway signs, and assorted odds and ends. The van also was literally full, with every little nook and cranny filled, thanks to a “please take anything you want … we’re tired of looking at it” sale on Saturday afternoon.  Ella loves freebies.

I’m not sure I want to make the trip again, although Ella is itching for a repeat. We already have preliminary plans to be a dealer again at the Memphis Film Festival in June, so another week-long excursion barely two months later might not work.

The rest of the year was pretty boring, including a disappointing library book sale in September.  Usually a good source of inventory toward the end of the year, rain forced organizers to move it inside, which greatly restricted how many books they could put out.  We found a few things, but quickly grew tired of literally pushing our way past other dealers and readers.

I also learned late last year that our main competition for media in the area was having a difficult time financially.  They are a single income couple who supplement that income with Amazon sales, much like Ella and I do.  After the husband lost his job, and struggling to make it on Amazon earnings alone for several months, they had to move out of their apartment into a rented RV camper. 

It made me think that there but for the grace of God go I, and I doubled my resolve to continue to diversify our income, including sourcing for our antique booths more aggressively.

Speaking of our booths, they are doing fairly well.  Neither Ella nor I have a lot of experience with actual antiques, so we have resorted to the “let’s cram as much as we can in, maybe something will sell” philosophy.  I have learned, though, that Disney “stuff” is a pretty good seller, while Christmas “crap” isn’t.

It’s good that Disney sells, too, because we bought a large lot of Mickey items from a collector back in November.  It wasn’t his best merchandise, but it was two van loads full, and I have no doubt that I will recoup my $150 investment, even if it’s just one Goofy plush at a time.

We also had a “ginormous” three-day yard sale in early November, and unbelievably made close to $1000.  My Fitbit said I logged close to 35,000 steps on the first day, and close to it on days two and three.  By the end of each day, I was walking like Fred Sanford (kudos if you actually know who that is). 

Looking forward, Ella and I are both excited and justifiably nervous about our next endeavor, which is the renting of an actual warehouse.  It’s not big, just 1200 square feet, but it is a significant monthly expense.  The warehouse has a 400 square foot “store front,” and I’ve cleared it with the landlord to hold occasional yard sales there.  So, it becomes a pseudo thrift store in addition to much-needed storage.

With our house full, our guest house full, and our storage unit full, we had to do something, and short of not buying, which we cannot do, this, to me, was the next logical step. 

Not only will it provide some room to breathe, literally, but also it will allow me to turn our guest house back into an actual guest house, and perhaps recoup some costs by renting it out.  

I’ll post pictures of the warehouse in my next blog.

It’s finally turned cold here in Georgia, so yard and garage sales are few and far between.  Thankfully, I have much stuff to list, and undoubtedly will find more as we move our backlog to the new warehouse.  Along those same lines, Ella, in the midst of her annual inventory of our online stock, is finding items that for some reason aren’t even listed.  Getting those items back into inventory will be a priority.

Have a productive week everyone.