Monday, August 19, 2013

The Rovin’ Collector

If it’s Saturday, it must be raining in Georgia.  Yes, it rained again on Saturday, ruining most yard/garage sales in the process.  Thankfully, there was an estate sale relatively close to my house, so the three intrepid thrifters (me, Ella, and newcomer, Duc) dodged the raindrops, and paid a visit to the Rovin’ Collector.

I found his business card in one of the books

I’ve mentioned before that estate sales tend to make me sad because you are pawing through the remnants of another person’s life.  This particular sale was a “living” estate sale, which meant that the Rovin’ Collector is still alive, and since it was at his house, and the sale was in his basement and garage, I could only imagine him watching out the window as his prized collectibles were sold off piece by piece.

Obviously, the Rovin’ Collector was a dealer, and I heard snatches of conversation about how he traveled extensively buying and selling.  His collection spanned almost every conceivable category, from Coca-Cola memorabilia to railroad artifacts to boxes and boxes of vintage campaign buttons.  He had Avon bottles; Civil War uniforms and bullets; signed and framed autographed photos; Scouting stuff; cigar boxes; old tools; and baseball cards.

It was awe-inspiring, and an Ebayer’s paradise.

None of the items were yard-sale cheap, though, except for the books.  I’m not talking about his collectible books, which were numerous. I’m talking about his books about collectibles, which were priced anywhere from $2 to $5 each, and no one in this Ebayer’s land of milk and honey was paying any attention to the money that was staring them in the face.  Almost no one, that is.

After casting wistful glances at much of the inventory, I settled in front of his five-shelf bookcase.  Many of the books did not have ISBN numbers, which made my PDA scanner useless, and my scouting painfully slow as I went book by book, shelf by shelf, many times having to look up books on my smartphone.  Duc finally then joined me, guarding my nice pile of “gems,” and watching me intently, obviously trying to learn more about our “family business.”

I left with approximately 20 books, and Ella had found a collector’s western magazine, which is destined for our booth at the film festival next year.  She wanted a signed John Wayne photo, but the $75 price tag gave me pause.  Now, an original autograph from The Duke can bring close to $200, but I had no idea if it was an original, or a reprint.  Reprints only bring $10 to $20.

While in line, I learned that Sunday would be half-price day, so we decided to come back the next day.

On Sunday, the sale was even more crowded, so I headed back to the books.  I picked up about six more books that I had missed.  Ella grabbed a couple of vintage Avon aftershave bottles with a western theme.  Unfortunately, the John Wayne photo was gone.

When all was said and done, I had picked up 26 books, which I have listed for more than $1300.  Granted, they are niche books, but with Amazon, they just sit until they sell at no cost to me, unlike Ebay’s monthly per item fee.

A few books can certainly add up
The moral of this story is that even if you are surrounded by top quality, sellable merchandise, always look at the books. Oh, and don’t let a little rain scare you away.

Monday, August 12, 2013

First day of school

Ella and I survived our first weekend with our new exchange student, Duc (pronounced Duke) from Vietnam, and we watched him board the school bus this morning for his first day of high school in America.

They grow up so fast.

Of course, not everything was smooth sailing, especially late yesterday afternoon when we realized that Duc didn’t have the appropriate clothes for school. The school system has a dress code of khaki-type pants and solid color Polo-style shirts, and Duc, who had studied the school’s website before coming to the U.S., assured us that he would be in compliance.

On Sunday, though, he mentioned to Ella that he would be wearing jeans to school. Uh oh! So, I spoke with Duc, asking him to show me his outfit for Monday morning. He had picked out jeans and a striped button down shirt. In fact, all he had were jeans, with not a khaki in sight, and upon further conversation, we learned that he had no idea what “solid color” meant.

We obviously had to rectify this situation, so we did what every good thrifter does. We went to the local Goodwill, which has a nice selection of clothes. Duc was able to pick out three new looking shirts, but because he is so slim, we couldn’t find any pants. So, we went to the mall, where he found several pairs of appropriate khakis.

Our first parenting crisis averted.

Earlier on Sunday, Duc helped me cut the grass, which seems like no big deal, except that he had never pushed a lawn mower in his life. After several starts, he managed to get the hang of it, but I don’t think that he liked getting “itchy.”

Duc helped me beat back the jungle on Sunday; it was his first time cutting grass
On Saturday, Duc went to yard sales with us, then we attended the Battle of Byron (a local community event), and ended the day at the local auction, where I think Duc enjoyed listening to the auctioneer, but ultimately was bored.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to work too much on my online business this weekend, other than the few yard sales that we attended on Saturday. Duc did help me pack my sold items, though, and I think he enjoyed that a lot more than cutting the grass.

Ella and I don’t have children, so it’s odd to have someone in the house now. We’ve had to make a few adjustments, not the least of which is providing three square meals a day to a hungry teen. Speaking of food, Duc was not impressed with our microwaved “boil in the bag” rice. I guess we will have to drag the rice cooker out, and learn to use it.

Over the next year, I hope we can introduce Duc to the joys of living in small town America, something that he has never experienced, and something that we sometimes forget. For example, waiting for the bus in the dark this morning, Duc noticed that he could actually see the stars in the sky, something that he couldn’t do in Hanoi.

As I pointed out a few constellations to him, I realized that such moments are the real reason that he is here.

It’s going to be a good year.

Monday, August 5, 2013

98 tubes of sunscreen

No, I am not preparing for a year at the beach, although that wouldn’t be such a bad idea. The aforementioned sunscreen was part of my purchase at the auction on Saturday night. The seller originally tried to sell the tubes separately, but had no takers. He then offered them as a lot, and after a few half-hearted bids from another buyer, I snagged the 98 tubes for a piddling $7.50. 

Thankfully, no one else realized the potential Ebay value, and I listed three separate lots of 24 tubes for $45 each. I may have to adjust my pricing eventually, but I think it was a worthwhile investment.
Earlier in the day, at 7 a.m. to be exact, Ella and I strolled into a church/cancer benefit sale that filled up the church’s gym. Ella happened to see the advertisement on Craigslist under the “Community” section, rather than the usual “Garage Sale” section. After spending at least 30 minutes grabbing goodies without running into another buyer, I began to think that Ella might have been the ONLY person to notice the advertisement. I decided to mention the ad placement to the couple running the sale, but only after scouring the tables one more time.

I may be compassionate, but I’m not stupid.

It turns out that the sale was a benefit for their daughter, who had cancer, and the church had volunteered the use of the gym, and church members had donated the items. The couple seemed thankful for the information, and Ella and I walked out having spent $42, including $6 for this case of official USSSA softballs.
After a few hit and miss stops, we happened to pass by a church that was having a sale. We stopped, of course, and found a few items. Two doors down, another church was having a sale, so we slammed on brakes again. What is it with these churches that don’t advertise?

Overall, Saturday was a decent day, and I even heard my phone ka-ching several times, which is always a happy sound.

Sunday morning was spent packing weekend sales, which included a bunch of DVDs from the lot we purchased a couple of weeks ago. All told, I’ve sold 51 DVDs for a grand total of $486, which is more than half of what I paid for the whole lot. I still have about 900 to sale, and $414 left before I at least break even.

We pick up Duc, our Vietnamese exchange student, on Thursday. While I am somewhat excited, I hope he doesn’t think he is walking into an episode of Hoarders upon entering our house. The local exchange program coordinator says to treat Duc as part of the family, rather than a guest, which means that Ella and I get a helping hand both with the household chores and our Amazon/Ebay business. 

By the way, I checked Craigslist late Saturday afternoon, and the church never did change its ad. I hope they had other buyers after we left.