Tuesday, July 30, 2013

“I am not accussing u”

Actually, the buyer was “accussing” me.  He accused me of pulling the old bait and switch on this auction item:

Here is a transcript of our messages:

Customer: I will pay Wednesday that's when I get paid. is that okay?

Me: That's fine. Thanks for letting me know. Just to make sure, you do know these are backer cards, and not the DVDs, right?

Customer: no I didn't. I want dvds so im going to have to decline on paying. I guess I didn't notice that please do a cancel transaction report. thanks

Customer: Please cancel this purchase. I thought I was buying the dvds. I am not accussing u but I am pretty sure I read dvds and you could have changed the auction before u accepted the offer. That is my assumption.

Me: I will be more than happy to cancel the sale. However, to set the record straight, I had no need to change the auction after you committed to buy. It was and is for the backer cards as clearly stated in the title and the description. In fact, the description clearly states "NOT THE ACTUAL MOVIES OR DVDs."

I purchased the backer cards from a Blockbuster that was going out of business, even though I had read that customers sometimes confuse such mini-posters with the actual DVDs.  Since I read the title and description before buying anything, I figured my customers would as well.  I guess I was wrong.

Speaking of being wrong, I guess I am also wrong to expect customers to know their own address.

“Hello, i was wondering if i could change the address to where my package was delivered? I accidentally entered the wrong one.”

I received this seven days after the package had been shipped.

Ah, dear customers, we love you, but why do you have to be so stupid?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Because I’m tired

One of the drawbacks to getting older, at least for me, is that I get tired easier, and as I approach my 50th birthday, I find myself reminiscing about a particular conversation that I had with my Dad when I was in my 20s.

“Why do you go to bed so early,” I asked him one evening, about 9 p.m., when he pulled himself out of his easy chair and announced his intentions to hit the sack. “Because I’m tired,” he said.

Flash forward close to 30 years later, and I finally understand. Most nights, including weekends, I live by the adage of “early to bed,” and usually Sunday is the only day that I don’t practice the “early to rise” part of the expression. Unfortunately, it hasn’t made me healthy, wealthy, or wise quite yet.

Speaking of being wise, I wish I was smarter about a lot of things in this business that we call thrifting. Case in point, included in the lot of western/cowboy memorabilia that we recently purchased were several autographed items, several of which I believe are one of a kind.

I found this autograph first. It’s a Lone Ranger creed inscribed and signed by Clayton Moore.

Now, signed Lone Ranger creeds are a dime a dozen on Ebay, but this one has turned out to be special. First, it’s also an Amoco collectible. Clayton Moore appeared in commercials for Amoco’s “Silver” gasoline back in the 80s, so it’s obviously some kind of promotional tie-in. I’ve learned from American Pickers that oil company collectibles are hot, and a search on Terapeak confirms that Amoco items have a decent sell-through rate.

My only concern was that the creed was inscribed to someone name Gordie. Even if he is a “plenty good kemo sabe,” I still had no idea who he was … until I found this photo in our stash.

Yes, that’s the Lone Ranger unmasked, plus Lash LaRue and a fellow named Gordie Peer. For non-western fans, Lash LaRue was another popular western star from the 40s and 50s. He even taught Harrison Ford how to use a bullwhip for the Indiana Jones movies.

Gordie Peer was still a mystery, though. After some research, I discovered that Gordie Peer was, and still is, a master western showman who taught Lash LaRue how to use the bullwhip, and even taught Clayton Moore how to draw his pistol.

Another quick search on Terapeak showed only two photos of Gordie Peer for sale over the past year. Neither sold, but, then again, neither were signed either. A website that specializes in autographed merchandise does have an autographed Gordie Peer picture, though, for a whopping $499.

I know that memorabilia is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it,  but, surely, an autographed picture of Gordie Peer and two of his most famous students would be worth at least as much, maybe more if I include the signed/inscribed Lone Ranger creed. 

To help price those two items, plus the rest of the pictures and other memorabilia, Ella has been sending scans and pictures to a western fan email list of which she is a member. Members not only have been giving pricing estimates, but also have been sending “I want that” emails. I still don’t know about prices yet, but it’s good to know that much of what we bought has actual real-world value. 

Now, if only I can convince Ella that she doesn’t need to keep everything.

However, Ella says, "They're mine, all mine!!!!"

Monday, July 22, 2013

“This is going to be hard”

On Saturday morning, Ella and I took off not too bright and way too early for Cleveland, TN, to pick up the final load of our western memorabilia. The goal was to hit a few yard/estate sales before loading the truck with the cowboy stuff.

It was a good plan, but true to our luck lately, the few sales that seemed promising turned out to be busts. Our final stop, a so-called estate sale, did yield a surprising find, though.

During discussions with the former owner of the western memorabilia two weeks ago, we learned that he had sold a collection of western knives. Obviously, the knives would have been ours had we responded to the Craigslist advertisement a little sooner. C’est la vie.

On Saturday, though, at the so-called estate sale, I saw a collection of, you guessed it, western knives in a small display case. The set of 18 knives, which featured images of movie and TV cowboys, was priced at $125. The seller, noticing our interest, told the story of picking the knives up from a local man who had a huge “man cave” dedicated to western memorabilia, and that the knives were the only thing that he would sell. It would have been a more interesting story had Ella and I not just purchased the entire contents of that “man cave.”

Still, I wanted the knives, but $125 was fairly steep. The seller countered with $100, which, he said, was what he actually paid for the knives.

The only other interesting item at the estate sale was a vintage set of toy cowboy guns in a Gunsmoke/Marshall Dillon gun belt with matching holsters. Given our goal of finding “wow factor” items for our vendor’s booth at the western/cowboy film festival next year, and given that Buck Taylor, who played Newly O'Brien on Gunsmoke, will be at the festival, it seemed to be a perfect find.

Unfortunately, it too was priced at $125, but the seller said he would let it go for $100 as well. I really didn’t want to pay $200 for both items, so I took a page out of the American Pickers’ book, and bundled the two items, and actually got a decent price. Vintage collectibles are still a little out of my league, but I think I can double my money on the items.

We headed home after loading the last of the western memorabilia, which consisted 6 large boxes of VHS tapes, two life-size cardboard stand ups (John Wayne and Hopalong Cassidy), and one large box of framed western pictures.

Of course, I had to unload the truck at home, and our house, which already had boxes from the first haul, was bursting at the seams. Little did I know that it was going to get worse on Sunday.

Late Saturday night, while surfing Craigslist, I found a listing for 1000+ DVDs, including boxed sets, westerns, and science fiction. I responded to the listing, then went to bed.

Late Sunday morning, the owner of the DVDs responded, and Ella and I went to look at the DVDs that afternoon. 

“This is going to be hard,” the owner of the DVDs said while talking about selling them.  “Maybe not,” I responded as I started scanning the titles.

To make a long story short, we got back home with 1400 or so DVDs in the back of the truck.

I know, I’m crazy, but, hopefully, crazy like a fox. To me, it makes sense to buy in bulk, especially given how slow scouting has been recently. Still, it’s become like stuffing a watermelon in a banana peel as we move all this inventory into our house, and we are constantly shuffling boxes around, and stepping over piles of books, DVDs, etc.

I really don’t think I need to buy anything else for the foreseeable future, and I plan to stop scouting until the house looks a bit less like a hoarder’s habitat.

On the other hand, though, I still have my eye on all those clearance toys that are about to be reduced further.

Have a good week everyone.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Best Ebayer of all time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s not a title that I claimed, but one that was thrust upon me by an overly exuberant seller.  I was feeling mighty proud until I noticed that he/she leaves the same feedback for many buyers.


Of course, “bummer” also adequately describes the state of my business right now, thrifting-wise and sales-wise. Thanks to an unusually wet summer, yard sales have been widely scattered, much like the thunderstorms that seem to hit every day.  Sales, too, have been widely scattered, which I also blame partially on the rain since I can’t acquire fresh inventory.

And in an ironic juxtaposition, the thrift stores have been dry of good sellable inventory.

So, I’m calling this season the “summer of my discontent,” to paraphrase Shakespeare very badly.

Despite my literary whining here, though, I have stayed busy.  I still haven’t completely listed everything that I got from the retired teacher, plus Ella and I are both listing, sorting and storing the western memorabilia lot.  We’ve even attended several auctions, hoping to chance upon that rare collectible that will either let us retire, or at least help tide us over until the next Amazon disbursement.

In the midst of this economic downturn, I’ve also hit upon an idea, thanks to some timely inspiration from Ella, that potentially could increase our profits next year when we have a vendor’s booth at the Memphis Film Festival.  It requires some further research, though, and, unfortunately, a sizable outlay of capital when our balance books already are tipping precariously toward the red.

Ella keeps saying that you have to spend money to make money, and while I don’t disagree, it’s hard to watch the money go out without an equal amount coming in, or at least a steady stream, or, heck, even a noticeable trickle. This unequal distribution of assets almost makes me glad that my Star Trek lot buy apparently has fallen through. Almost.

Despite the dark clouds hanging over Georgia lately, both figuratively and literally, there have been a few rainbows (OK, so I’m stretching my rain metaphors), both in sales, and in semi-lucrative finds.

I finally sold the crown jewel of my inventory, my first edition Billy the Kid book.  I couldn’t find another copy online anywhere, so I had listed it high ($1000) with best offer.  Despite running different promotions, it has languished in my special collections bookcase for several years.  A few sellers have made silly best offers ($5), but I finally got a serious offer yesterday, and negotiated a bit higher.  Sadly, the final selling price wasn’t near my original asking price, but it will go a long way toward the aforementioned “sizable outlay of capital.”

In the “Ella finds a gem and doesn’t let me forget about it” department, she grabbed this new Harry Potter Clue game at a recent yard sale.  Despite not having the low price, I’m confident that it will sell.

I also pulled this western book out of the memorabilia collection to sell online.  Again, I don’t have the lowest price, but I think my copy is best value.

Speaking of which, I know that low price sells much of the time, but lately I’ve been thinking about the concept of “best value.”  At my day job, we compete for contracts from the Government, which stresses that low bid doesn’t necessarily win the job.  The Government bases their decision on several factors, including cost, experience, and risk.  I think that concept translates well into our selling world, as many consumers are willing to pay more to sellers with better descriptions, better pictures, and, of course, better feedback.  There’s simply less risk involved, even though it may cost a few dollars more.

As for this weekend, Ella and I again are trekking north to pick up the last load of our western memorabilia.  Ella also has researched some yard sales and flea markets in the area, so Saturday promises to be a very long day.

Have a productive weekend everyone.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hi-Yo, Silver!

Saturday was a long, exhausting day. 

It started as usual, for me, at 4:30 a.m. After dragging Ella out of bed, we hit the road at 6:15 for our nearly four-hour road trip to look at a Western memorabilia collection that was for sale near Chattanooga, TN. It was a pleasant enough drive, mostly overcast, and only raining intermittently. Ella had researched a few yard sales near the collection, but the rain, or threat thereof, apparently put the kibosh on sales in the area, which, as it turns out, was a good thing. Why? Because our truck ended up being full, with barely enough room for Ella.

Russ, the owner of the collection, met us at the door when we finally arrived, introduced his wife, Kathy, and then took us to his Western Man Cave. Yes, that’s what he called it. I should have taken a picture, but didn’t think about it, but suffice to say it was decorated to the hilt. The walls even had Western Scene Setters, thin plastic printed backdrops. Needless to say, I was impressed, but I think Ella, who is actually the Western buff, was speechless.

The room held every conceivable type of Western item, from movies (DVDs and VHS, probably close to 1000); books; comic books; John Wayne memorabilia (knives, life-size cardboard stand-up, clocks, etc.); CDs; knick knacks; lots and lots of pictures (some signed); six Montana Silversmith sculptures (none of which I can find on the website, so I think that they must be retired); and even an authentic pair of chaps. Russ then took us to his garage, where he had more pictures on the wall, and in boxes.

My favorite item was a framed Lone Ranger Creed, signed by the masked man himself, Clayton Moore.

Speaking of the Lone Ranger, has anyone seen the new movie?  Ella and I saw it on Thursday, and while it had many flaws, it wasn’t as bad as many people are making it out to be. And as my brother said, the last 30 minutes redeems it.

Anyway, after settling on a price, we proceeded to box everything up, and load my truck. Once again, every nook and cranny was filled with something. Unfortunately, not everything could fit, so we have to go back and get the rest.

The heavy rain started just minutes after we got everything loaded in the truck, and continued much of the way home, making driving very slow and dangerous. For once, southbound traffic through Atlanta was smooth; northbound into Atlanta, however, was backed up for miles.

The one bright spot on the drive back was stopping at Popcorn Haven, which boasts 250 flavors of popcorn. I had selected Hot Cheddar as my flavor, and the clerk, with a concerned look on her face, asked me if I was sure.

“I thought I was,” I said hesitantly. She then gave me a sample. It was hot, but not too bad. I eventually decided on half Hot Cheddar and half Southwest Jalapeno. Ella picked Snickers-flavored popcorn.

I unloaded the truck once we got home, and once again our house looked like a disaster area.  OK, more of a disaster area than normal. Ella and I spent Sunday sorting, organizing, taking pictures, and listing. We still have several boxes of DVDs taking up space in our kitchen. 

It’s going to take time to get back to our version of normal.

We now have a good foundation for our planned vendor booth at next year’s western film festival, and we can spend the next 11 months refining our wares, and worrying more about display than inventory.  I will have to keep an eye on Ella, though, to make sure she doesn’t claim any more of the Western stuff.

As usual, it’s going to be a busy week.

Friday, July 5, 2013

“Somebody stop me”

That line from the Jim Carrey movie, “The Mask,” keeps resounding in my head as I stand upon the precipice of buying yet another large, room-filling collection.

First, a little back story.

Back in June, Ella and I attended the Memphis Film Festival, where I became intrigued with the idea of having a vendor booth next year, and selling “western stuff,” for lack of a better term.  The booth price is reasonable, and it seems like an semi-easy way to make a little money while letting Ella attend the festival again.  Of course, the only  problem is inventory, of lack thereof.

So, in our infinite wisdom, we started scrounging around on Ebay, looking for penny auctions with no bids, and cheap or free shipping, as a means to build up a respectable stash of western goods.  It’s a good strategy, I suppose, but what I really needed was to buy a western memorabilia collection.  However, the “Deep South” where we live is about as far from the “Old West” as you can get, so the chances of us finding such a collection, without traveling across country, is pretty slim, right?

Cue the foreshadowing.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, the answer is “no.”  I found an extensive western collection for sale just a few hours’ drive from our house, and we’re checking it out tomorrow.

I’ll provide more details about it once I see it, but the owner claims to have hundreds of books, DVDs, VHS tapes, photos, clocks, John Wayne stand-ups, knives, comic books, native American items, etc.  Sounds like exactly what we need, but the larger question looming in my mind as I contemplate this potential purchase is, “where the heck would I store it?”

As I’ve written before, our house has turned into a warehouse, and we are still dealing with boxes and boxes of educational material acquired in May from the retired school teacher, not to mention boxes and boxes of merchandise acquired from yard sales.  It’s comforting to have so much to sell, but it’s nerve-wracking to see the mess day in and day out.

So, with this large, space-consuming buy looming in front of me, I’m questioning the wisdom of our path.  One voice in my head thinks that I am an idiot for even considering it, while another voice is quoting Thomas Edison, saying, “we often miss opportunity because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

The bottom line is that we will view the collection, and probably will buy some, most, or all of it, and worry about storage issues later.  Ella, the western buff, will be in charge of organizing it, and I will add it to my ever-growing list of things to deal with.

Oh, did I mention that I have my eyes on a 1,000 piece Star Trek and Star Wars collection?

Somebody stop me … please.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tool Man going, going, gone

It wasn’t a good Saturday night at the auction for the seller that I nicknamed Tim the Tool Man.

To be fair, the auction in Byron isn’t a big production, with usually no more than 10 to 15 buyers, and while “good stuff” can be bought occasionally, yard sale castoffs at yard sale prices seem to be the norm.

Tim the Tool Man brought “good stuff.”  He was an official clearance dealer for Home Depot, and had spread out an assortment of new tools that would make Tim Allen grunt with pleasure.  Unfortunately, he wanted good prices for his good tools, but the audience wanted bargains.  As the night progressed, he grew more and more agitated as he begrudging sold some items at auction prices, and refused to sell others.

Finally, he decided he was going to take his ball and go home, and loaded up his tool trailer and left. 

I really can’t blame him, because he repeatedly said he was selling the items at less than he paid for them.  Still, I firmly believe that if you put your items up for auction, you need to sell them for the final gavel price, so to speak.

Earlier Saturday, Ella and I hit a yard sale that at first glance appeared to be a bust, but then the seller said that everything was a dollar.  Well, now, that was a horse of a different color.  Here are a few items that I got for a measly buck each:

The only other bright spot of the morning was a small estate sale.  We got there late, but it was still crawling with buyers, and I didn’t have much faith that I would find anything of value.  I was wrong, thankfully, and was able to walk away with several good items, including this new in package Facial-Flex Facial Exercise System that I purchased for $2, and sold within hours for $33 on Amazon.

Speaking of Amazon, I also sold a two-volume set titled The First and the Last and Adolf Galland: A Pilot's Life in War and Peace for $173 on Saturday.  Sales also were good on Ebay over the weekend, with several items from my recent lot buy from a retired schoolteacher selling:

Best Offer price was $50

I’ve almost made my money back on that lot, and I still have at least 14 boxes to list.  With school just around the corner, I really need to get busy, or busier, as the case may be.

As usual, too much to do and so little time.  Thankfully, all the rain we are having is keeping me inside listing Ebay stuff, and not outside mowing.   Our dogs, however, don’t seem to like squatting in the tall grass, so I guess I have to take care of that soon.

I hope everyone has a fun Fourth of July on Thursday!