Monday, June 24, 2013

Does this Truth Machine Work?

I asked that question of a seller as I held up one of her items, a Truth Machine (Voice Stress Analyzer) for $2.  I could see the wheels turning in her head, debating on just how to answer.

“Tell the truth,” I said, “or I’ll hook you up to your own machine.”

Laughingly, she said that when she used it, it gave her a false negative.  The answer was just humorous enough for me to purchase the item.

Unfortunately, that was the lone bright spot of another Saturday, another day of mundane yard sales.  I wanted to stay in bed, but Ella, in her infinite wisdom, dragged me out and about, not quite kicking and screaming, but close.  As usual in these cases, I’m glad she did, even though it wasn’t quite a five-star day.

We showed up way too early for an 8 a.m. sale, and the seller stated in no uncertain terms, quite loudly, that the sell would start at 8, no earlier.  Fair enough, I thought, and came back minutes before the sale was to start, only to find people carting away items already, which really irritated me.  My irritation faded quickly, though, when I found a few good items.

Bought for $3, selling for $60
Bought for $3; selling for $75
Bought for $2; selling for $59.99
The rest of the morning was spent traveling from sale to sale, finding a few odds and ends, but no real home runs.

Later Saturday evening, we again went to the local auction, hoping for a repeat of two weeks ago when I found some nice collectible items.  Most of the items, though, were of the yard sale reject variety from one seller, and fruits, vegetables, and canned/boxed goods from the second seller of the night. No collectibles, but we did walk away with a huge cantaloupe for $3, three giant cucumbers for $2, and two jars of bacon and cheese flavored spaghetti sauce. 

Sunday was spent listing, listing, listing, and I finally hit a milestone of 400 items in my Ebay store.

I did have some good sales through the week, including this one:

I found this book at the recent Friends of the Library sale for $.50.  It had been overlooked by the hordes of locusts, I mean sellers, mainly because it was small, and didn’t have an ISBN.   It looked sellable to me, though, and upon further research, I couldn’t find another copy anywhere.  So, I listed it for $29, and sold it with best offer for $20 within a day or so.

The moral of the story is to never judge a book by its cover, or lack of an ISBN, or interest from other sellers.

Keep cool and stay busy everyone.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Let me look at your chest.

Such were the words of Johnny Crawford, also known as Mark McCain from the Rifleman TV series in the 1960s, directed at Ella as she stood in line for his autograph at the Memphis Film Festival in Tunica, MS, last week.

To be fair, Ella was wearing a snazzy Grizzly Adams t-shirt (co-designed by me and Ella), but the innocent inappropriateness of the comment amused me.

I do that all the time, I quipped.  My purposely suggestive retort went over the "star's" head, but it cracked up his younger assistant.

Rifleman's "Mark McCain" would have been taken
to the woodshed for his comment about Ella's chest
Johnny Crawford, on the other hand, enjoyed interacting
with the fans
The 67-year-old Crawford was just one of many former TV cowboys in attendance at the three-day festival, which also featured Dan Haggarty (Grizzly Adams), Duncan Regehr (Zorro), and Tim Considine and David Stollery (Spin and Marty).  The daughter of Clayton Moore (The Long Ranger) and the son of Guy Williams Jr. (Zorro, Lost in Space) also showed up to talk about their famous parents.

Ella and I last attended the annual event in 2011, and I wasn’t real keen on returning because, frankly, to me, the trip was boring.  It was a long drive to the Memphis, TN, area and there really wasn’t much to do after you got the stars’ autographs.  This year, though, organizers moved the festival to Sam’s Town casino in Tunica, MS, which at least promised the lure of losing my money on video poker and getting plied with free drinks in the process.  Speaking of drinks, Ella usually has one drink per year, but this year, she had two Sex on the Beach cocktails while playing the slot machines.  Unfortunately, while the drinks might have loosened Ella up, the machines held tight to our money.

Before we left home, Ella had compiled a list of thrift shops along the way, so we turned the trip into sort of a working vacation.  It made the long trip even longer, but I managed to snag a few sellables along the way.

I also decided to pay close attention to the dealer room at the festival.  During our last visit, I snagged a CD signed by two of the stars for $20, and sold it for $200.  This year, I didn’t have any such luck, although I am pressuring Ella to let me sell the Bonanza/Ponderosa collectible toy (est. value: $150) that she found.  She is resisting.

While in the dealer room, I also shifted gears from potential buyer to potential seller, and I tried to talk shop with as many of the sellers as I could.  Many travel from festival to festival, apparently making a decent living from overpriced (my humble opinion) western collectibles, books, DVDs, CDs, photos, curios, etc. One dealer spoke freely about buying her items wholesale, even going as far as giving me the name of the company, and that she did so well during her first festival that she decided to go whole hog, so to speak, and to attend as many as she could.

Of course, this set my entrepreneurial wheels in motion, and Ella and I discussed renting vendor space next year if we can accumulate enough western and/or cowboy stuff.  Vendors pay $120 per table, so it’s not an expensive proposition, and with a room full of excited buyers freely spending their money, it could be a nice little one-time money maker, or even a ticket to a new ongoing revenue stream.

On the home front, sales were almost non-existent because I put all my listings, including Ebay, on vacation.  However, I did accept two best offers while still on vacation, so it wasn’t a total financial washout.

This week, Ella will continue categorizing the kids books, and I need to get all my auction collectibles from two weeks ago listed.  As usual, too little to do and too much time.

Wait a minute, reverse that.

Have a productive week.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Outside my Southern Comfort Zone

To coin a phrase from a Brad Paisley song, I went outside my Southern Comfort Zone on Saturday at an “estate” auction.  It was the first auction that I’ve attended as a “picker,” and I learned a valuable lesson.  Never, ever go to an auction with a wallet full of cash because you just might spend most of it.

My first “win” was a table full of new NASCAR (Dale Jr., for fans) T-shirts, hats, key chains, etc., for $16.  It was an impulse buy, since as the aforementioned song says, not every Southerner is a NASCAR fan.  I’m not real excited about this lot, but it got my feet wet, and got Ella excited about bidding.

I then bid on and won a new in box Coca-Cola Barbie for $8.  I had priced it at $22 on Amazon earlier, and knew I could make a decent profit at that price.  However, the owner of the Barbie wanted $15, nullifying my bid, before countering at $12.  I declined.

Next, a vintage Radio Flyer tricycle rolled out, and I bid and won at $18.  The seller, however, nullified my bid again, countering with $20. I begrudgingly accepted it, hoping I could recoup my purchase price.

Much junk was auctioned off before the next item that I really wanted came up.  It was a large display box full of small collectibles, including some sterling silver pieces.  I won the bid at $66.  I also won a huge jewelry box full of watches (some vintage) and other pieces of jewelry for $95.  I got into a bidding war with another buyer, and while Ella had a good time bidding for me, I probably overpaid for that particular lot.

All told, I spent about $250, which was about $250 more than I had planned to spend.  It was a fun evening, however, and even though we spent much of it swatting at June bugs and hoping the auctioneer wouldn’t think we were bidding, we’ll probably attend again once I save some money.

Otherwise, the weekend was pretty routine. Yard/garage sales on Saturday morning were plentiful, but fairly uninspiring, and I probably wouldn’t have crawled out of bed had Ella not wanted to go.  Still, I found a few sellable items, including some high-priced new toys.

For the past week, Ella has been trying to organize and categorize all the kids books that I bought from the retired teacher.  I knew there were a lot of books, but had no idea there were so many until Ella had them all spread out in our great room.

This photo was taken from upstairs looking down into the great room.
Her goal is to group them, type them in, and take pictures so all I have to do is list them.  It’s a huge, boring job, and I’m thankful that Ella does this kind of work for me.

Speaking of Ella, tomorrow is her birthday.  I won’t say how old she is, obviously, but she still looks as young and beautiful as the day I met her.

Have a great week everyone.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Flying Butter

In my latest lot purchase, there were so many small, thin children’s books that it was just too impractical and time consuming to scan every one of them. After all, most Scholastic-type books, while certainly informative, rarely are worth more than a buck or two, usually a lot less.

My perception changed, though, when I grabbed me some “Flying Butter.”

No, I’m not talking about aerially mobile dairy product.  I’m referring to a 23-page children’s book that “uses wacky illustrations and simple text to introduce readers to the concept of compound words.”  I just happened to scan it, and was astounded by what it is selling for on Amazon:

Why anyone would pay that price for a children’s book is beyond me, especially since there is a library binding edition for considerably less (OK, $500 less).  However, it has an Amazon Best Sellers Rank of No. 1,829,845 in Books, which is not great, but does show that a copy has sold.

Now, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, so I know that this price is certainly an aberration, or a result of repricers gone mad.  There are buyers, however, with more money than brains who purchase things like gold-plated staples ($175) and luxury Frisbees ($305). Therefore, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, although it should be, that some rich parent will splurge on their little pampered Einstein, and if they are going to spend the money anyway, it might as well be on my copy.  So, I listed it at a competitive, yet still grossly expensive, price.

Will it sell?  Probably (or definitely) not, but it doesn’t matter. The cost of the book was nothing, it costs nothing to list it on Amazon, and I’ve got nothing but time to wait for just the right (i.e., “rich”) buyer.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Monday, June 3, 2013

An educational experience

After much procrastinating, I finally wrote the check, so to speak, for a cap/camper top for my truck, and it was installed on Friday afternoon.  Barry’s Bookmobile was officially on the road, ready to haul all manner of yard sale bounty.  I’m very cynical about things, though, and given how slow both sales and scouting had been lately, I hoped that I would be able to put the cap to good use real soon to justify the expense.

I didn’t have to wait long.

Saturday morning dawned with a plethora of sales, but even with several churches in the mix, scouting was slow, and while I was thankful for what I had found, I was hoping for a big score.  We then arrived at the sale of a “retired teacher.”  Ka-ching.

Boxes of books lined her driveway, a large table held all manner of educational games, and a flatbed trailer contained even more books.  Needless to say, I got to work.  Most of the books were for children and young adults, but were in excellent condition.  I also found and scanned several boxes of teacher resource books.  All told, I spent $45 for a small but lucrative stack of educational materials.

I then had a talk with the retired teacher.

My first question is always “what do you plan to do with all of this if it doesn’t sell?”  As expected, the answer was “donate it.”   Now, donating to charity is always noble, and you do get a tax deduction.   However, cash in hand usually trumps any deduction, so after a little more small talk, I casually asked, “how much do you want for all the books and educational material?”

She wasn’t quite ready to sell out, so I left her my card, certain that I would hear from her later that afternoon when yard sale exhaustion set in, as well as the realization that she would have to move the books since no charity would pick up on the spur of the moment.

As expected, she called a couple of hours later.  Now, in negotiations, it’s always to your benefit to let the other person name the first price.  She asked for $400.  I was thinking more $150.  She countered with $300.  It was still too much for me, so I thanked her for time, and was about to hang up.  She then suggested $200.  I told her that I would be there in about 30 minutes.

When I arrived, she started negotiating again, making comments about how she knew I was going to sell the books, and that I would make good money even at $300.  I was prepared to walk away at that point, and let her know as much.  She then countered once again, asking $250.  It was $50 more than I wanted to spend, but I really wanted to try out my new truck cap.  So, reluctantly, I agreed. 

Then, the fun began.

While I knew there were a lot of books (thankfully, they were in boxes), I had no idea that they would fill up the back of the truck, the back seat of the truck, the passenger seat of the truck, and every nook and cranny in which I could stick an individual book or game.

It literally took me and Ella all day Sunday to process the truckload.  There weren’t many individual “homerun” books, but many, many series of books (both educational and popular reading) and lots of games (most used, but a few new).  I know school just ended for the year, but it’s never too early to start thinking about the fall semester, and these books, I hope, will be perfect for both parents and teachers.

Of course, the only problem is finding the time to list them all.   OK, so that’s not the only problem.  Another pressing problem is listening to Ella gripe, rightly so, about the clutter in our house. 

I guess having inventory to list is better than the alternative, though.

Speaking of inventory, I’ve had a few good sales, including this one:

I also finally sold another lunch bag.  I bought a bunch of them on clearance at K-Mart for $.99, thinking they would sell fairly quickly.  Unfortunately, they’ve been hit and miss.

The week ahead as always looks busy.  I’m thinking that I should lay off scouting for a while to get caught up.

Nah, that’s no fun.