Monday, December 15, 2014

All the right junk in all the right places

Because you know I'm all about that booth,
'Bout that booth 'bout that booth, no trouble
 I'm all about that booth,
'Bout that booth, no trouble
 I'm all about that booth,
'Bout that booth, no trouble
 I'm all about that booth,
'Bout that booth.
With apologies to Meghan Trainor for tweaking her lyrics, I’ve had that little earworm in my head for days now, and after spending way too much time shopping for and working on our antique booths, the lyrics just sort of morphed into a relevant little ditty.
I spent a surprisingly busy mid-December weekend humming that tune.   On Friday, Ella and I went to a health-food/vitamin store that was going out of business.   We had visited the store a week or so ago, but prices were still too high for me as a reseller.   This week, though, the owners, in a last ditch effort to rid themselves of merchandise, had “make an offer” signs on everything, including the books.
While Ella perused the essential oils, I scanned every book in the store, and found a tote full of good sellable items, and made an offer of $20.  The owner countered with $30, and we split the difference at $25.   I’ll easily sell them for at least 10 times that amount.
We also went to a few sales on Saturday morning despite the cold.  We didn’t have much luck, but did get intrigued yet grossed out by the pizza in the back of the car at one sale.  Yes, whole unboxed pizzas in the backseat of the car.  There were about 10 of them, some with slices missing, most whole, though.  I wanted so bad to snap a picture, but with the owners standing right there, I thought it would be rude.
We hope our table sells before Christmas; if not,
we'll store it until next year
Our last stop was a little antique shop that had advertised a sale on Craigslist.  Ella had spotted a table with elf legs in the listing’s pictures, and wanted to take a look.  As it turns out, the table was a retired Dept. 56 Krinkles Patience Brewster display table with a $350 retail price tag, and a $300 antique shop price tag.  A quick Ebay search showed that the table was actually selling between $200 and $600 online, so the antique store price wasn’t unrealistic, just out of our financial comfort zone.   However, the shop had all Christmas items at 75 percent off, and after a little discussion, we walked out with the table for an amazing $75.  It went into our antique booth the next day for $275.
Later Saturday, we headed to an auction about an hour down the road.  The ad on made it look like an auction of Coca-Cola merchandise, but they only had the collectibles on display for an auction in January.  Irritated by the perceived bait and switch, we still managed to bid on and win a few sellable items.
Sunday was spent packing Ella’s Christmas boxes for relatives, and packing my weekend sales.  With today being the busiest mailing day of the year, I’m not looking forward to dragging all five big boxes to the post office this afternoon, even if they do already have postage on them.  I hate standing in line.
Since Christmas is only 10 days away, I fully expect online sales to slow down now, and what sales I do have, when possible, I’ll bump up to Priority just to make sure they make it by the holiday.
Unless something extraordinary happens, I won’t be blogging again until the first week in January.  So, I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and/or happy holidays, depending on your level of yuletide cheer or political correctness.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

You snooze, you lose

I woke up to this message from a potential Ebay customer:
Would you do a "best offer" on this and let me pay you $50 now? That's all I can spend. Please let me know. Thanks!  Clint :)
Clint was referring to my Mattel Electronics Vintage 1977 Football Game with instructions that I had listed last week for $60.  I decided that it was too early in the morning (4:30 a.m. Eastern time) to quibble over $10, so I changed the Buy It Now price to $50, and sent Clint an email.
Within minutes, the game sold, and I figured Clint had been waiting by his computer for my answer and subsequent price reduction.  I happily packed the game, and took it to the post office on the way to work this morning.
I loved this game as a teen
Three hours later, I received this message from Clint:
Well I guess literally if ya snooze ya lose. I went on ebay first thing this morning to see if you messaged me yet and saw that eBay item number 301414143159 had been sold. If the buyer of that Electronic football game flakes out on paying, please let me know. I'll pay promptly. Thanks!  :)
I was momentarily confused, and logged on to Ebay to see just who bought the game.  Apparently, Jennifer from California was up either real late or real early (1:30 a.m.), depending on your point of view, and grabbed the vintage toy, and I didn’t notice the difference in names when I printed the postage.
Sorry, Clint.
I had the exact same hand-held game in the late ‘70s, and while it’s relatively common to see them at yard sales, it’s rare to find both the original box and the instructions.  Even without a box, these games sell for decent money, so always pick them up.
Speaking of vintage, I write occasionally about my love of old technology.  I grabbed this slide ruler at an estate sale earlier this year for $1, and it finally sold.  I tried one time to figure out how to use it, but decided that using a calculator was less trouble.
I still can't use a slide ruler
I also sold two new in package Betamax videocassettes.  If you are old like me, you will remember the format war between VHS and Beta in the 1980s, which was won by VHS.  Even though the last Sony Betamax was produced in 2002, apparently someone still needs tapes.

Someone still wants Beta tapes
Another BOLO that I run into occasionally is a Minnie Mouse cake pan from Wilton. I found this one buried in a pile of other less valuable cake pans at a recent church sale.  I found Mickey, which doesn’t sell for quite as much, and I kept digging until I found Minnie.
Minnie is still hot stuff
Sales have definitely picked up, and I’ve begun spending most of my evening and early morning hours packing items, not that I am complaining.  Given that mailing deadlines are fast approaching, I’ve begun using Priority Mail for most items, even if it means losing a buck or two on the transaction.
After all, there are only three weeks before Christmas.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

No, that’s MY Little Pony

Throughout the year, Ella accumulates thrifted items to bestow as holiday gifts to her out of state family, and it’s a holiday ritual for me to complain not only about helping to wrap all the presents, but also about shipping the multitude of boxes to Maryland and Ohio, the cost of which usually outstrips the value of the presents contained therein.
Still, it’s a family tradition for Ella, and far be it for me to stand in the way of her holiday cheer.  However, as her designated wrapper, I get to see first-hand all the junk, I mean goodies, heading out of state, most of which I have no memory of Ella picking up.
Case in point, on Thanksgiving, she handed me a My Little Pony toy in a faded and slightly crushed box that needed wrapping.  After checking it out on Ebay, I told Ella that her niece was not getting that vintage pony.  It sold within a day for $60.
I had to steal this My Little Pony from Ella
In other toy news, most people have an over-inflated sense of worth regarding their precious Barbie collection, and try to price them accordingly.  I was in a thrift store last week, and saw an unusual Barbie priced at $20, which is way more than I usually pay for dolls.  It was pretty, though, so I checked it on Amazon, and was amazed to find prices north of $100.  Naturally, I picked it up, and it sold for $100 yesterday to a customer in France through Ebay’s Global Shipping Program.

Aine was too pretty to pass up
I visited the same thrift store the next day, and saw another Barbie in the same series, and thought, cha-ching!  Unfortunately, it was worth less than the $20 price tag.
Talk about fickle.
Overall, sales have picked up considerably since last week across all venues.  Or course, it helps that I actually had time to list over my four-day holiday weekend. 
Over at the antique mall, our booths are doing fairly well, too.  In November, we sold $827 against a rent of $468, for a net gain of $359.  With both booths bursting with holiday items, toys, and collectibles, we hope the coming weeks will prove fruitful as well. 
In other booth news, after humble beginnings (small booth) in the spring and an ambitious land grab (large booth) in late summer, we are expanding into a little nook of a booth, perfect for books, and, if I have my way, all things geeky (my input) with a feminine touch (Ella’s input, obviously).  It’ll be a work in progress in December, unfortunately, but since it only adds $68 to our monthly rent, we hope it more than pays for itself.
Weekend yard/garage sales have pretty much dried up around here so I’m hoping our Grasshopper and Ant philosophy that turned our house into a warehouse will keep our coffers full until the new year.
Happy sales everyone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Being thankful for Mom’s potato salad

I know, potato salad is a pretty odd thing for which to be thankful, but on this Thanksgiving eve, I’m feeling nostalgic as we prepare to celebrate another turkey day.
With only three members of the family (me, Ella, and Jimmy, Ella’s brother) in town, we plan to eat at the local Golden Corral around 10:30 a.m. before the restaurant gets too crowded.  It’s not very sentimental, but it’s cheaper, and we avoid the big mess in the kitchen.  Lack of leftovers is a bummer, though.
Growing up, however, Thanksgiving was a big day in our house.  With Mom and two grandmothers preparing food, it was inevitable that the little fat kid that I was would be underfoot in the kitchen, stealing bites of food here and there, and trying to sample as much of the meal as possible before we actually sat down to eat.  Since Dad didn’t like turkey, and my Grandma Fair only ate “hog meat,” ham was the meat of choice, and was served with homemade dressing; snap or pole beans with potatoes; collard greens or turnips; rutabagas; fried cornbread; jellied cranberry sauce, and, of course, the aforementioned potato salad, my favorite.
Mom would peel, dice, and boil the potatoes, and then mix them up with a wonderful concoction of mayonnaise, onions, celery, boiled eggs, and some sweet pickle relish.  She used a big metal bowl for mixing before gently spooning the salad into a serving dish.  Without fail, she would always leave me a little in the bottom of the bowl to sample, and I would do my best to get every last bit of the good stuff before handing the bowl off to be washed.
I was piddling around in our guest house last week, looking through the kitchen cabinets, and actually found that bowl.  It looked smaller than I remember, though.  I considered taking it home, and preparing the dish as best as I could remember, but realized that it just wouldn’t be the same.
I absent mindedly put the bowl back in the cabinet, lost in the memories of holidays past, and realized how thankful I was not only for what I had, but also for all that my parents had given me, and how they had prepared me, as best they could, for life beyond the thunderdome of childhood.
Still, what I wouldn’t give for one more taste of Mom’s potato salad on Thanksgiving from that big metal bowl.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A day only hardcore thrifters could enjoy

Saturday was a four church sale day, and would have been fun had it not been so cold and windy.  I’ve asked it before, but who is crazier, those who have yard sales when it’s freezing, or those who attend these cold events?
Of course, opportunity often comes with adversity, and despite winds that literally were blowing items off tables, we managed to score some good finds.  It truly was a day that only hardcore pickers could enjoy, or endure.
The first church sale started at 7 a.m., and has a history of letting shoppers in early.  Since it is an outside sale, both Ella and I knew it would be miserable trying to scout not only in the 37 degree weather and wind, but also in the dark.  We may be hardcore, but we’re not stupid.  So, we opted to bypass that church until later in the day, hoping that there would be something left.  
We therefore started our day at an 8 a.m. inside church sale that also featured a small book sale.  The book sale netted some good finds; the actual yard sale, less so.   It was pushing 9 a.m. by that time, so we rushed over to another church sale that was just setting up outside.  I immediately found the media table, and the teens kept bringing over bags of books and DVDs.  We filled a large tote full of boxed DVD sets, individual DVDs, and a bunch of Amish romance series books, bound with string to keep individual sets together.  We paid $20 for the tote, plus a few other odds and ends.  With the wind and cold biting at us, we were proud to make it back to the truck with our extremities intact.
We visited a few miscellaneous sales before pulling up to the next church sale, which thankfully was inside.  We found a few things, and we partook of the bake sale.  
We finally made it to the sale that started at 7 a.m., and it was still cold.  I could only imagine how it must have felt earlier.  I found a few things, but the wind and cold made looking uncomfortable. 
So much for being hardcore.
There were a few sales in a neighboring town, so we headed that way, stopping at a sale in a restaurant parking lot.  Thankfully, it had warmed up a bit, making the wind less of an issue.  Ella found a new in shrink-wrap puzzle, then another, then another.  I love picking up puzzles, but this was insane.  We ended up with 70 new puzzles at $1 each.  That’s a lot of money, but the ones that I scanned were worth in excess of $10 each, so I figured we’d do OK.
We made a few more stops that netted little, so we decided to call it a day, at least as far as the yard sales were concerned.  Later Saturday evening, we went to the local auction, and picked up a few items, most notably several “pigs in a poke” boxes.  A “pig in a poke” at an auction is a sealed box that is auctioned off as is.  You have no idea what is in the box.  Ella is a sucker for such things, and we ended up with three boxes, one of which had junk, and two of which had fine china from Japan, or at least that’s what it said on the bottom of each plate and cup.   Other than putting it in our antique booth, I’m not quite sure what to do with it.
On Sunday, believe it or not, there was another church sale that started at 9 a.m., and, of course, we were there.  We didn’t find much, but it did get me up out of bed, and in a working mood.  The rest of Sunday was spent listing and packing.
Over at the antique mall, our booth total for October was a respectable $742 against a rent of $468 (both booths), for a “profit” of roughly $274.  We had no sale of any item over $30, which proves the adage that “smalls” make your rent, but “bigs” make your profit.  On a positive note, DVDs continue to be a good seller for us (35 sold).
On the online side for October, we sold 157 items across all venues (Amazon, Alibris, Half, and Biblio), with Amazon leading the way.  On Ebay, we had a paltry 17 sales; I so need to revamp my store.
I had thought that this weekend would be relatively easy (i.e., no significant sales).  Already, though, two church sales and at least one institutional sale have been advertised.  With Thanksgiving on the horizon, such sales should taper off.   As they say on Game of Thrones, winter’s coming, and much like the proverbial ant in the parable, I hope we have squirreled away enough resources. 
Have a good rest of the week.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Well, that didn’t last long

The plan was to sleep late on Saturday morning, and spend the day listing, doing chores, and maybe cooking food instead of eating out.  You know, normal people stuff.
But no ….
I cracked first, by going to the book sale on my lunch hour on Friday.  I’m glad I did, because even though the sale had started the night before, apparently it went dealer free until I got there.  It was difficult lugging a big box of books through the mall while trying to keep my large Chick-fil-A sweet tea from spilling, but I managed to get to my truck with dropping either one.
Saturday morning, I did get to sleep late, staying in bed until around 7 instead of my usual 4:30 wakeup time.  Ella got up soon after, and as we both sat at our respective computers, perusing Craigslist, I could feel our resolve slowly melting.  By 8:30, we were out the door, determined to hit only a few sales, and to come back home. 
We were late getting to the church sale, but managed to find some good booth material, including two huge framed and signed Macon Cherry Blossom Festival prints for $1 each.  The Cherry Blossom Festival is Macon’s big spring party.  The rest of the sales were hit and miss, yielding only assorted items, including some Disney comic books and a hand-made Mickey Mouse quilt that will go in our booth next month.
By noon, we were at the book sale again to take advantage of the “fill a box for $5” sale.  I started out with two banana boxes, but as they got filled up, Ella paid $5 for another box, which also quickly got filled.  My idea was to fill the boxes to overflowing, but the nice sale lady sternly pointed out that I needed another box for the books falling out of my first three boxes.  So, I meekly handed over another $5.  Still, we got four huge boxes of books for $20, some of which will go online, and most of which, including many, many cookbooks, will find their way to our booths.
Seven hours later, after eating lunch, and ensuring the 25% off sale signs were in place at both Barry’s Bonanza and Ella’s Eclectic Emporium, we made it home. Best laid plans aside, it was a semi-lucrative day. Obviously, though, nothing got listed.  Later Saturday evening, we went to the local auction.  With only three bidders, it didn’t last very long.
On Sunday, I again was up at 7, and promptly began working.  I listed both Ebay and Amazon items until just after noon.  Ella and I then had to go straighten our storage unit to make room for other stuff, and to bring Christmas items toward the front for easy access.  I found a case of small blue M&M ornaments/toppers that I purchased at a church sale early in the spring for $10.  There are at least 200 of these little guys, which sell for at least $5 each online.   Have I ever mentioned that I love M&Ms?
The rest of Sunday was spent listing, and finding room for all the books purchased on Saturday.
So, the weekend wasn’t a total loss, although the listing on Sunday barely put a dent into all that I need to get online.  Whether I could make a living doing it, I don’t know, but I do know that I literally could make a full time job out of thrifting.
My most noteworthy sale of the weekend was a small lot of Veronica Mars DVD box sets.  It didn’t sell for much, only $25, but it did generate a weird query from a potential buyer.  He wanted to know if the discs buffered during playback.  I wasn’t quite sure what he meant, but I assured him that they were factory DVDs, and should play fine on a standard DVD player.  He again questioned if the any of the discs buffered.  By now, I was getting a bad feeling about this buyer, thinking that no matter how perfect the discs were, he would find some fault.  So, I blocked him.  Thankfully, another buyer picked them up soon after.
Too many questions led me to block a potential buyer
This weekend marks the last major sale that I have on my calendar, and while other sales may pop up, with the weather turning colder, it should slow down enough that I can spend some quality time listing, and not getting jittery about missing out on the good stuff.
Stay busy and productive, and make sure you have plenty of candy on hand for the little beggars on Friday.

Friday, October 24, 2014

61 days and counting

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev'rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five-and-ten, glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow
As both an online and pseudo brick and mortar merchant, I already can feel the pressure that the silly season brings, and my internal Christmas clock tells me that my window for listing is diminishing rapidly even though it’s not even Halloween yet.
Walking through local stores doesn’t help, either, because many of them already have decked the halls thanks to the power of full-time employees, while in the multiverse of Barry’s Books (Amazon, Ebay, and two antique mall booths), it’s just me and Ella, and I’m only part-time.  I’m used to the pressure of listing on deadline, but this year we not only have to merchandise the two booths, but also decorate them as well. None of it is hard work, but the sheer volume leaves me feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Thankfully, Ella has a plan, at least for the booths.  The goal is to move much of the everyday merchandise out on or around November 1 (after a week-long 25 percent off sale), and to move the Christmas decorations, toys, and our Disney stuff in.  As for online, I’m trying to squeeze in quality listing time between doing everything else. 
Speaking of Christmas, the U.S. Postal Service has published its "mail-by" dates. To ensure that holiday mail and packages are delivered in time for Christmas, the post office recommends the following mailing/shipping deadlines:

Dec. 2: First-Class Mail International
Dec. 2: Priority Mail International
Dec. 10: Priority Mail Express International
Dec. 15: Standard Post
Dec. 17: Global Express Guaranteed
Dec. 20: First-Class Mail
Dec. 20: Priority Mail
Dec. 23: Priority Mail Express
Notice that the first deadline is just over one month away.
Sales lately have been lackluster, although Amazon picked up a bit after I listed a bunch of books several weekends ago.  Ebay has been slow, as usual, which I attribute to not having the time to list enough items.  One sale that I did have, though, was interesting, at least to me.  I sold my last box of Silicone Pad Scar Treatment that I purchased on clearance from Kmart (sniff, sniff … I miss Kmart already) to a buyer from Spain through Ebay’s Global Shipping Program.  The buyer paid $14.99 for the item, and then paid an additional $17.94 to have it shipped overseas.  She really must need that treatment.

I hope this product actually works for the buyer ... she paid a bunch to get it
This weekend, Ella and I decided to concentrate on what we have instead of going out looking for more. Of course, this left me with the jitters as I skipped a small book sale last night.  I might have to cheat, and scan some books during my lunch break today.
Have a lucrative weekend, everyone.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bye, Bye Blue Light Special

Earlier in the summer, Kmart announced that it planned to close our local store.  This decision didn’t surprise me, but did cause me great anguish, seeing as how not only was the store a honey hole of inventory at times, but also it was my go-to place during my lunch break (walking laps around the huge store was quicker and better than going to a gym); a Thanksgiving location for cheap 2-liter Pepsi bottles; and a post-Christmas stop for half-price wrapping paper and decorations.

Kmart tried to get rid of everything on Sunday
Sunday marked the store’s final day, and Ella and I spent four hours (yes, four hours) finding bargains that only got better as the day progressed.  Women’s and children’s apparel was already at 90 percent off, and Ella spent much of the time in the dressing room trying on $.50 to $1.00 outfits.  I walked around the store, picking up odds and ends, and watching the jewelry department, which was at 80 percent off, a real bargain that was going to get better.  I also tried to talk myself into buying two gallons of Little Caesars Crazy Bread Sauce ($27.00) from the closed location inside the store, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with that much sauce by the December expiration date.
Around 1 p.m., Kmart announced that the ladies in the jewelry department wanted to go home, and that all jewelry was at 95 percent off.  I made a beeline for the counter, along with most everyone else in the store.  When the overwhelmed clerk finally got to me, I looked through the display case, saw the leftover gemstone necklace and earring sets (regular price $99, sale price $4.95) and the remaining body piercing sets (regular prices $19.99 to $24.99, sale prices $.39 to $1.25), and told the clerk that I wanted all of them.  In the meantime, Ella had picked out several pairs of earrings and an earring/necklace set (regularly prices $399+, sale prices roughly $15 each).

My cost for 68 pieces of jewelry was $199.63.  Total savings, as can be seen on the receipt, was a crazy $3557.75.
The rest of the items in our cart, consisting mostly of Ella’s clothes, rang up at 95 percent off as well.  It was both amazing and sad at the same time.
Before leaving, we also purchased a rotating, lockable jewelry display case ($55) for our antique booth to go along with our rolling shelf system ($100) that we had picked up on Saturday.
Speaking of Saturday, Ella and I rushed to a local mega-church’s adoption fundraiser sale before 7 a.m., only to find a fellow thrifter already on site working the tables.  A few minutes later, our main competition for media showed up.  For a while, we were all stumbling over each other looking for bargains.  Finally, though, Ella and I were the last ones there, and we found a few overlooked treasures, and some great items for our booth.
The rest of the morning was hit and miss, mostly miss, but we did find enough to make the time worthwhile.
Later in the day, we worked our two antique booths, watched “A Million Ways to Die in the West” on DVD (don’t waste your money), then paid too much to walk through a local haunted trail.  The trail was well done and spooky, but the organizers needed a bigger cast of monsters.
As for today, I hope everyone is having a good Columbus Day, and remember that the post office is closed in commemoration of Christopher's arrival in the Americas.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fair’ly exciting

I left work early yesterday so Ella and I could attend the Georgia National Fair, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary. 

The fair is a lavish event, with rides, exhibits, livestock shows, and, of course, the wonderful fair food that usually smells a lot better than it tastes. As we walked around, however, I had a feeling of déjà vu, and realized that everything is and was the same from the previous year, and the year before that, and probably the year before that. The local magician occupied his usual spot; the climbing wall hadn’t moved; the RVs and portable buildings were back to back; and the exact same food vendors were in the exact same spots. Bacon was big on the menus this year, which made me wonder if the losers from the racing pigs exhibit, also in the same spot, ever leave the fair alive.
Bored juggler didn't bother
dressing well for his performance
Oh, some of the shows had changed. Free shows included a juggler, who looked bored, and couldn’t ring the make-shift KFC bucket with his rubber chicken canon no matter how hard he tried. The Wild West Show had morphed into the SwashChucklers! Comedy Pirate Show, but I could tell it was the same actors on the same set, only painted in a pirate theme.

Also, the Fifth Dimension played on the center stage to a large crowd, but if anyone was expecting Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., the original stars of the group, they were disappointed. Only one original member graced the stage, but they did a decent version of “Up, Up, and Away.”

Paid concerts featured Lady Antebellum and Jennifer Nettles. Sales for Nettles’ Saturday concert have been so poor that they gave away pairs of tickets to military personnel.

Don’t get me wrong, fair organizers do a bang up job, but there was no sense of excitement like I used to get when I attended the Georgia State Fair as a child in Macon.

Now, that was a fair. It was THE fair in the state, and had been since the late 1800s. Yes, that’s right … it moved to Macon’s Central City Park after the Civil War. According to legend, the kazoo was developed in Macon, and was introduced at the Georgia State Fair. Local school children even got a holiday on the first day of the fair.

I can still remember the thrill of crossing the 2nd Street Bridge on the way to the fair, and seeing the Ferris Wheel in the distance. Dad worked in the dispatch room for the Macon Police Department, and ensured local traffic officers paved the way for the 18-wheelers carrying the fair’s signature rides to enter the park. For his efforts, he was usually awarded a Golden Pass, which functioned like an all-you-can-ride armband. He would just show the pass to the ride operators, and my brothers and I rode for free.

Sadly, though, the creation of the state-sponsored Georgia National Fair, held in October as well, forced hard times onto the privately run Georgia State Fair, which moved to spring to avoid the competition. Central City Park also got a reputation for being unsafe, another nail in the fair’s coffin, and finally the fair folded its Macon tent for the last time, and moved to the Atlanta area, where it just concluded its yearly run on Sunday.

I know my perceptions as a child are different than my perceptions as an adult, and I know that the Georgia National Fair is a superior fair to the Georgia State Fair. Still, it would be wonderful to walk the sawdust midway again; to be scared to ride the Bullet, and settle on riding the Avalanche instead; to win a stretched Coca-Cola bottle; and to feel the excitement in the air as only a child can.

Because I was out chasing memories and eating overpriced fair food last night, I didn’t get to pack my day’s sales, which stressed me out a little when I got home late. However, watching Ella enjoy her $5 ice cream cone while “pirates” made corny jokes, and thinking how much Mom would have enjoyed hearing “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by the Fifth Dimension, made it worthwhile.

Hopefully, though, I won’t have to explain it to my customers.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Best laid plans ...

It was a simple plan.  Church Sale A opened at 7 a.m., or so we thought, and every other sale, including Historic Macon’s annual flea market and Church Sale B (just a half mile away), opened at 8.  The goal was to sweep into the 7 a.m. sale, be out by 7:30; beat a path to the flea market just in time to avoid standing in line and walk right in; and then backtrack to Church Sale B. 

Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and this plan went downhill fast since the advertisements were wrong, and Church Sale A actually didn’t open until 8.  So, after standing in line (yes, there was already a line at 6:50 a.m.) past the presumed 7 a.m. opening, we found out the discrepancy, did a quick mental travel time calculation, and decided to head over to the flea market, about 20 minutes away.

Naturally, there was a line to get in, and we were at the back, with Ella shivering in the 45 degree weather.  When the doors finally opened, the crowd slowly filtered in, and after wandering around in disappointment for about 20 minutes, finding only a few things, we headed to Church Sale B.  I made a beeline to the media section first, and found a series of eight Dungeon & Dragon type novels priced at $5 each.  Three of the books scanned for in excess of $50, and the remainder scanned for less than $10. So, I only grabbed the three pricey ones.  Just out of curiosity, I asked the person in charge, a sweet looking little old lady (sorry, senior citizen) if the $5 tag was the actual price, and she said yes, since the books were practically new, and sold for more than $20 online.  She then said she would make me a deal if I wanted all eight. I like deals, and asked her how much for all eight. After some dithering, she finally settled on $16.50 for all eight.  Ka-ching! Then, she made me feel guilty by hugging me and thanking me for coming to the sale.

Finally, we made it back to Church Sale A, and while there were still shoppers, the place had been pretty much cleaned out.  Again, I made a beeline to the media room, which looked pretty much untouched.  Obviously, any other early pickers didn’t subscribe to my “always check the books” motto.  I found several $100+ books on electrical engineering, and a few CDs and DVDs.

Finally, back on track, our next stop was a sale promising collectibles and comics.  It was around 10:30 a.m. by this time, and as we walked up, I saw a plethora of comic books and various action figures.  Of course, everything had non-picker friendly price tags, and after chitchatting with the seller, I found out that he was an Ebay dealer.  Swell, I thought.  I then saw a box of classical CDs, and scanned a few, figuring they were all penny CDs.  To my surprise, several came up worth decent money, and the seller offered the whole box for $30.  I countered with $20 (the price of one of the scanned CDs), and we finally settled on $25, including the Tinkerbell toy that Ella had picked up.

Figuring we were running out of time, we bypassed several smaller sales, and headed 20 miles up the road to Church Sale C just in time for everything going to half price.  They still had lots of books, and I managed to snag a few sellable ones.  We thoroughly scoured the sale, and wound up spending about $30 for the books and various other knick-knacks that Ella and I picked up, including a bucket of antique drill bits to match my antique drill that I picked up on Friday night.

We stopped at a few sales on the way home, but the law of diminishing returns (i.e., the later it gets, the fewer bargains to be had) was in full effect.  Both me and my wallet were tired anyway. 

We had decided to skip the local auction that night, but after reading its ad on, we had to go.  Last week, in an attempt to lure some buyers, the auctioneer offered free coffee.  Ella told them that if they wanted to entice her, they had to offer free Pepsi.  Of course, they were offering free Pepsi this week, so we felt obliged to go. We were determined to sit on our hands the whole night, but managed to spend about $20 anyway.

On Sunday, I listed the five boxes of books purchased last week; total selling price for all the books was more than $2400. I then listed the classical CDs, and later we took a few items to our booth. By 7 p.m., I was packing the weekend’s sales, and by 8 p.m., I was collapsed on the couch.

Looking forward, there is at least one good sale each week for the next month.  After that, it goes downhill until spring.  Hopefully, like the proverbial ant and grasshopper story, we have accumulated enough stuff to have a good Christmas season, and to last the winter.

Chat with you next week, same Bat time, same Bat channel (and if you understand that reference, you are as old as I am).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why didn’t you write a blog today?

Ella asked me this on Monday, and my reply was that I didn’t have anything to write about. Oh, I can write about almost anything, but I have a hard time putting pen to paper, figuratively, when I don’t think it’s germane to the spirit of this column and/or at least moderately interesting to all three of my loyal readers.

To help alleviate my writer’s block, so to speak, Ella suggested a couple of interesting weekend topics that might make good reading, so here goes.

We attended a book sale/flea market on Saturday, and I got five boxes of good sellable books.  While I perused the stacks of books, Ella swept into the flea market area looking for quality stuff.  An annoying volunteer was keeping up a running narration on a loud speaker, and mentioned that several of the Star Wars items from the flea market had already been snatched up.  I figured it had to be Ella in possession of the Force-related items, and I was right.  Good girl.

After that sale, we attended another fall-festival type event, and I had my first ever professional massage that lasted a whole seven minutes.  A massage therapist, complete with chair and table, was among the vendors, and was offering her services for $1 per minute.  Since my fall in August, I have been suffering from self-diagnosed sciatica (a royal pain in my butt that extends down my left leg to my ankle), and I was already hurting from bending and stooping at the book sale.

Somehow, though, she convinced me to hop up on the table, and she proceeded to perform a compression massage on my back and leg.  Despite believing that her healing hands would put me in the hospital, and being somewhat embarrassed that she was working me over in full view of everyone else at the festival, some of whom made comments as they walked by, it didn’t hurt (much), and actually felt pretty good.  When I finally stood up, the pain in my leg was gone.  I gladly paid her the $7, complimented her on her technique, and walked around, without limping, for the rest of the festival.

Unfortunately, when I got back in the truck, and sat on an apparent pressure point, the pain returned.  Oh, well, back to popping Ibuprofen.

The other topic that Ella suggested was mentioning our brushes with wildlife after the auction on Saturday night.  On the way home, we saw a fox cross the street onto our land.  We’ve seen deer, squirrels, turtles, chipmunks, and snakes, but this was the first fox.   We left the boxes acquired at the auction in the truck until yesterday, when Ella decided to unload them.  Late in the morning, I received a frantic call from her regarding a small rodent in one of the boxes.   She wasn’t going to touch any more of the boxes until I came home and eliminated the pest.  So, on my lunch hour, I went home only to find no mouse in the box.  I suppose the little guy is now snake food in our woods.

Since it’s Wednesday, I guess it’s time to start thinking about the weekend.  Two large sales are on the calendar for Saturday, with one starting at 7 a.m., and one starting at 8 a.m.  I figure we can spend 30 minutes at the first sale, which will give us just enough time to drive to the other one.  The 8 a.m. sale has a preview party, with barbecue dinner, on Friday night, but I have a hard time paying $25 each for the privilege of shopping early, even with the lure of pulled pork.

I would talk about sales, but I don’t like talking about non-existent things.

I will throw out one BOLO, though.  I sold a book, Magnificent Marriage: 10 Beacons Show the Way to Marriage Happiness, for $41 in August.  I just received a message from the customer asking for another copy.  There are only two copies on Amazon right now, and both are selling for $600.  Over on Alibris, the cheapest copy is $95.  Ebay has it for $99.  So, if you see it, grab it.

Have a great rest of the week, and a productive weekend.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Oh, Pooh

It goes without saying that Disney stuff can be highly collectible, or at least highly sellable, and we routinely pick up items from the Magic Kingdom.  On Saturday, I found a huge framed Winnie the Pooh shirt that had been autographed not only by the bear himself, but also by assorted other characters from Hundred Acre Wood and other Disney realms.

Pooh - “Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”
Now, I know that the less enlightened among you are saying to yourself that the autographs aren’t real.   I immediately thought the same thing when I saw the frame.  I mean, after all, everyone knows that Eeyore is illiterate, and that Mary Poppins stopped giving autographs after the nanny labor union had a contract dispute with Uncle Walt.

I pestered the owners for the identity of the signers, but they stood by their assertion that every autograph was authentic.   I waffled for a minute to “think it over, think it under,” as Pooh once said, before handing over my five dollar bill.

Whether the shirt actually was signed by costumed characters at the Disney parks, or signed by family members to create a one of a kind piece of wall art is immaterial.  It’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious as Ms. Poppins would say; was a steal at $5; and perfectly will complement our Disney display in Ella’s Eclectic Emporium over the fast approaching holiday season.

It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned Duc, our exchange student from Vietnam, who is now a freshman architecture major at Pratt Institute in New York.  He is doing well, as expected, and says that both his teachers and classmates are “awesome.”

He does, however, complain about his lack of a social life due apparently to the workload, and the fact that he “has never been challenged like this” in his life.  Deciding that he needed a little perspective, I decided to provoke him on Facebook:

Me: If architecture is proving too difficult, you can change to a liberal arts major, and work at McDonald's when you graduate.

Duc: I never said that.

Me: Say it with me, “You want fries with that?”

Duc:  I will not say it, but you said it, though.

Me:  True, but people who say it probably had a social life in college.

Duc: Yeah, but they don’t do great things.

Me: Exactly … so stop whining and do great things.

Duc: Whatever.

Like most first year college students, Duc is struggling with balancing his academics against being on his own in a big city full of temptations.  However, there is no doubt in my mind that Duc will do great things in the future.

Have a great week everyone.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Digger disappointment

Despite a last minute plethora of sales on Saturday, I had a feeling that the morning would be a waste of time.  We did find some good money CDs and DVDs at our second stop, but the pickings got slimmer and slimmer as the morning progressed, and even the pseudo church sale (a sale at a church, but with individual sellers) was a bust. 

I was thoroughly disillusioned, and almost missed this sit-on sandbox digger toy from Northern Industrial at our last sale of the day.

I really dug this cool toy
It was just quirky enough to warrant looking up on my phone, and imagine my surprise when the only listing came up as this:

At that price, it should dig up gold

I was at a loss to explain how/why this toy could warrant $500, but the listing said “29 sold” so obviously it had been selling robustly.  Still doubtful, but willing to take a chance, I negotiated the price to $20, and took my high-priced toy home.  Imagine my disappointment, though, when I got home, and actually read the rest of the listing:

“The Sale Includes ONE Northern Industrial Sandbox Digger for Kids. *We are temporarily out of stock...eta 30 Days* (We have increased the price so we can hold our ad)”

As Homer Simpson would say .. D’oh!

A more thorough search yielded sales ranging from $29 to around $60.  I was disappointed.  Obviously, I wouldn’t lose money on the deal, but it wasn’t the jackpot that I had been hoping for.

Later on Saturday, we headed to an out of town auction, something that has quickly become both a weekend ritual and an obsession.  If you haven’t been to an auction, I encourage you to do so because auctions are an excellent source of inventory.  We find items not only for our online stores, but also for our antique mall booths, and you never really know what treasures await until you walk into the auction house.

Saturday’s auction featured merchandise ranging from inexpensive antique furniture to cases of soda crackers and sweet tea.  The crackers, unsalted, didn’t interest me, but the sweet tea did, and I bought a case.  Here’s the deal, though, with food items.  You have to notice the expiration dates, and my tea had expired on September 1.  It tastes OK, though, and from what I read, expiration dates aren’t absolute anyway.  Still, it pays to be careful, and with auctions, it’s up to the buyer to examine the merchandise before purchasing.
Besides the tea, we bid on and won several beer signs, and 13 fancy well-stocked gift baskets that had price tags ranging from $15 to $35.  We paid $62 for all of them.  The gift basket themes included Over the Hill; Congratulations, It’s A Girl; Get Well Soon; Encouragement; and Wedding.

Next Saturday, local Mennonites (a group sort of like the Amish) will hold their annual “Peach Cobbler Relief Auction.” Items up for bid will include quilts, antiques, and hand-crafted wooden toys.  It should be fun.

Have a great week, everyone.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Antique booth update

August had me worried for a while.  It was our first month with two booths (Barry’s Bonanza and Ella’s Eclectic Emporium) at the local antique mall, and with nearly $500 in rent due on September 1, I was sure that I was going to have to swipe my debit card to make up the difference between sales and money owed.

Thankfully, though, there were five weekends in August, and by 6 p.m. Sunday evening, the mall’s closing time, we not only had surpassed our rent, but also we received a check for $301.  Granted, that’s only about $150 profit, but given that most of the month was spent bringing Ella’s booth up to speed, with one lost weekend due to my broken ribs, I’ll take it.

DVDs continue to sell well, and buyers loved the $1 cookbooks on our small library cart.  We picked up the cookbooks for free thanks to a local Craiglist ad.  Signs also are flying off the walls, with our best sale being this large Interstate Battery/Atlanta Falcons sign that sold for $60.

Speaking of football, on Saturday, I found several vintage sports posters, including this old-style Atlanta Falcons poster, for $4 each.  I put it in the booth early Monday afternoon, and it was gone before closing time to the tune of $20.  I've learned over the years that vintage sports items sell well. 

I also put this “Dawg House” sign on the wall; it’s a little beat up, but I hope Georgia’s big win this weekend will spur some Bulldog fan to decorate his wall with it.  I picked it up at an auction on Saturday.

In slightly more interesting news, at least to me, Ella and I walked (OK, I sort of limped … my back was hurting) into a thrift-type store in Macon last week, and I came face to face with a candid picture of Elvis Presley that I thought only I had. 

Back in the 1970s, Elvis performed in Macon frequently, and my father, who was on the police force, was friends with the local officer in charge of Elvis’ security.  After Elvis had left the building, so to speak, this particular officer made the mistake of telling my mom that dad could have brought her up to Elvis’ room at the Hilton for a meet and greet. Mom was furious at dad for a long time.

Realizing his faux pas, the officer later gave mom an 8X10 candid photo of Elvis wearing a Macon police badge.  It was this particular picture, in a cheap plastic frame, that I saw at the thrift shop.  It had a $10 price tag.

The owner of the shop, a long time local antiques dealer, saw me staring at the photo, and asked if it looked familiar.    Before answering, I asked him where he got the photo.  He said that he buys a lot of items from a gentleman who cleans out estates, and that the photo was one of the last pieces from a small collection that he recently acquired.  I then related the whole story about mom, dad, and the photo.  

Realizing the value of the photo, at least from a local perspective, he removed the photo, and said that he wasn’t going to sell it after all.    I really doubt that, though, and probably will see it in his shop in a nicer frame, with a heftier price tag, in the near future.

With September upon us, I really hope the weather cools down a bit.  I’m getting tired of yard sales in 95 degree heat. 

Have a good week. Work hard.  Sell something.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bookseller down

I had several choices on Friday night, none of which involved the emergency room.  Unfortunately, life intervened while I was busy making plans, and I ended up sitting in a nearly empty room, every breath resulting in a sharp pain, waiting to be admitted at the local hospital.

An hour earlier, I had made the decision to clean the front porch.  Friday is usually my free night, no reason to pack or list.  I dutifully moved all the furniture off the porch except the deck bench, a large plastic box designed to hold seat cushions, etc.  Since we had been seeing snakes in the yard, I cautiously opened the box.  The rest is sort of a blur.  As I was opening the box, I noticed a wasp stinging my foot, which drew my attention away from the huge wasp nest inside the box.  When my attention finally returned to the wasps swarming out of the box, fight or flight kicked in, and I chose the latter.  Unfortunately, my feet must have gotten tangled up, and I fell off the porch, which is about three feet off the ground.

Normally, a three-foot drop wouldn’t have been a big deal; however, I landed squarely, chest first, on one of Ella’s garden statues.  I knew I was hurt, but had no idea how badly.  Ella came running up, offering to call an ambulance.  Trying to man up, I said no, then walked to the side porch step to sit down.  I gradually worked myself inside the house, then finally to bed.  Nothing I could do, however, would alleviate the pain in my chest.  I finally made the decision to have Ella drive me to the emergency room.

I was admitted, X-rayed, and diagnosed with three broken ribs, plus a small blood spot on a lung.  There was nothing they could do about the ribs, but the doctor was afraid the lung could collapse, so they admitted me for overnight observation, and dosed me liberally, I think, with morphine.  Well, long story short, I’m still breathing, painfully at times, and have several weeks of recuperation ahead of me.

On the bright side, I got out of cleaning the porch, and probably won’t be doing yard work for a bit.  On the not so bright side, I have to be careful about lifting inventory for a while, which I learned the hard way on Sunday.

Since I was incapacitated on Saturday, we missed a sale featuring western décor, something that sells pretty well in our booth.  Thankfully, the sale rolled to Sunday, and despite my soreness and pain, I decided that I could handle a drive to look at some inventory.   When we arrived at the address, it was in a downtown building on the third floor, with steps being the only access to the living area.  I walked slowly up the stairs, and into a beautiful lofted apartment, with vaulted ceilings, skylights, and lots of potential inventory for sale.

I was winded from the climb, but Ella and I found $100 worth of stuff, including Harley Davidson items, western decorations, and books.   I was not looking forward to going back down the steps, though, carrying all that stuff.  I carried one small bag down, and Ella stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and brought the rest of our purchases down, making several trips.

Today, I was sorely tempted, pun intended, to skip work to recover from the weekend, but decided that I could be miserable at work just as easy as at home, plus I don’t burn up my leave.

And how was your weekend?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Truth in advertising, or flea bitten at the flea market

Once every couple of months, Ella and I visit the local flea market right down the road.  It’s a ramshackle place, and if you don’t mind getting a little dusty, you usually can find something to buy.

Earlier this week, we ventured into the furniture section of the place, looking for possible display stands for our antique booth.  The section, which is actually in two different buildings, features lots and lots of home furnishing, mostly broken down chairs and lamps. During this particular visit, I also discovered that the building has fleas.

How ironic.

After being bitten on my legs, I decided that I didn’t need anything that place had to offer, except, of course, the antique fireplace blower, two high-dollar DVDs, and a rolling library cart that I already had picked up. I really hope that I left the fleas behind.

On Tuesday, we ventured out to see a garage full of carasels (sic) and barbies that had been advertised through a local Facebook group.  Well, the garage was full, but not with Barbies.  Sure, they had several totes with the carousels and the dolls, but I really couldn’t get a feel for what exactly they had.   After some discussion, I agreed to come back at a later date after they had an opportunity to display their wares in a more conducive to sell manner.  

As part of my usual lunch time ritual, I visit various thrift stores, and recently found myself at an establishment managed by a long-time acquaintance.  After some idle chit chat, during which I learned that the shop was facing lean economic times, I proceeded to pull a $50 book out of the stacks.  Obviously, the shop doesn’t subscribe to my “always check the books” theory of money making. 

Today is half price furniture day at the local hospice thrift store. The establishment, which has been in business for just over a year, is slowly growing to rival Goodwill, both in its appearance (clean and shiny), and in inventory selection.  One of the main differences between the two stores is that the hospice shop is volunteer run, and by volunteers, I mean true volunteers (mostly senior citizens), and not the community service misfits at Goodwill who are only there because they didn’t want to pick up trash beside the road.

Goodwill must be feeling the pinch in our community, though, not only due to the hospice store, but also because numerous other thrifts shops have sprung up, sapping donations that normally might have gone to them.  I am hearing more and more Goodwill radio commercials begging for donations.  I don’t normally wish ill upon any business, but when I see labeled dollar store picture frames selling for $1.01, I think having to close a store or two might put a little “thrift” back into the chain’s “upscale boutique” mentality.

Speaking of begging, I need to find out to whom to beg for a sale or two.  Ebay has been slow forever, it seems, and I’ve gone 0 for Amazon (zero sales) for two days now.  I can’t remember ever having a two-day period without selling something on the big river.

The only good thing about the sales slump is that it is giving me time to work both our antique booths.  With 15 shopping days left in the month, including three weekends, we are more than half way to meeting the combined rent, which is my goal for August.  It’s a sad goal, I know, but with more than double the rent and double the space, it’s the best I can expect as we work to merchandise Ella’s Eclectic Emporium.

Forecast for the weekend is sunny with a 100 percent chance of yard and estate sales.  Temperatures are expected to range from comfortable at 7 a.m. to “bloody hell, it’s hot” by noon.

Be productive everyone.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rome wasn’t built in a day vs. the clock is running

Ella’s Eclectic Emporium got a shot in the arm on Sunday as we finally had time to move a couple of pieces into the booth, and I was able to put together a bookcase for some small items.  It no longer looks like the red-headed stepchild of the antique mall, but even after about six hours of work on Sunday, both pricing and merchandising, it still has a long way to go.

I tried to show both sides of the booth; yes, it needs more stuff
I know, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  On the other hand, the clock is running to get enough sales to make rent for both booths before the end of the month.   Stay tuned.  Our first month with both booths is proving to be interesting, to say the least.

Last week, Ella answered an advertisement regarding 350 DVDs for sale for $175.  We picked them up on Saturday morning after negotiating the price down to $150.  Unfortunately, upon getting them home, we realized that about half were either too scratched to sell, or were of the bootleg variety.   Of the remaining DVDs, most have the dreaded penny status on Amazon.  Thankfully, DVDs actually sell well in Barry’s Bonanza, our smaller booth, and with any luck, we’ll make a little money eventually.

While waiting to pick up the DVDs, I received this email from an Amazon customer:

Tracking info indicates that my order's estimated delivery date is August 11th. However, it also shows that it stayed in Georgia three days, and has been in a Memphis post office for two days. Not sure why it has to sit for so long in those post offices. I live in New York, and unless the package is moving along faster than the tracking info indicates, I will not receive it on Monday. That's disappointing, since I was hoping for a speedier delivery.

I am aware I didn't pay for faster delivery, but when ordering directly through Amazon, I usually receive things faster just using regular delivery. Maybe that's my problem (no extra money for fast shipping), but if something could be done in future to keep people's books from just sitting for days in two or more post offices, that would make for happier customers. Thanks for listening.

Yes, if only something could be done to keep people’s books from just sitting for days in post offices.  I’ll get right on it. 

Here is my reply.

I think every online seller would love to have a way to stop packages from sitting in post offices for days.  Unfortunately, it is beyond our control.  Even Priority Mail has a tendency to wander around the country, post office to post office, at times. 

If your package arrives too late, please just mark refused on the package, and drop it back in a mailbox.  I will refund your purchase when it makes it back to me.

Sorry I couldn't be more help.

And then her response:

Thank you for the timely response. It's okay. I know you can't control the U.S. Postal Service. I just wasn't sure how some packages seem to move along quickly and others don't. Truth be told, I'm an impatient person when it comes to waiting for things I've ordered :-) That's why I purchase locally, unless mail ordering is the only way for me to receive an item.

Also, I plan to keep the book even if it arrives later than Monday. That is, assuming it's not badly damaged, or anything. And who knows, maybe when I get some extra money, I will check out some of that "other neat stuff" that is a part of your business name. Have a great day.

All’s well, that ends well, provided the post office actually delivers the book.

On Saturday night, we went to the local auction, and picked up the game table and two chairs shown in the pictures above.  We moved them into the booth on Sunday.

After working in the booth, we went to the final hours of a large children’s consignment sale.  Many items were either half priced, or marked down to $1.  I found a couple of education books and pregnancy/fitness-related DVDs that will make the trip worthwhile.   Such sales frequently are overlooked by dealers, and if you can put up with wading through hordes of screaming kids, and getting your toes run over by baby strollers, you might just find some treasures.

Have a great week.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em … not

Sometime last year, I picked up a Brown & Williamson Commemorative Series wall hanging that features 10 packs of cigarettes.  According to my research, the wall hanging was a celebration of heritage and achievement from the giant tobacco company that had a huge manufacturing plant in Macon, and employed 3000 people before closing in 2003.

I hate cigarette smoke, but even a hater like me can realize the contributions
that this company made to the city of Macon
I’m not a smoker, but I knew enough about the company to realize that this collectible had to be worth more than the church’s asking price of $1.  On the other hand, I had my doubts about the legality of selling cigarettes online, and didn’t think Ebay would allow it.

Still, there were other such collectibles already listed, so I decided to take a chance on the item.  I listed it the next day, and, as expected, Ebay slapped me down, and removed the listing.  Then, something strange happened.

Ebay called me.  The customer service representative patiently explained Ebay’s rational for removing my listing, and told me that I could relist it provided that I used exact Ebay policy verbiage in my description, which the representative then provided via email.

So, I relisted it per Ebay’s instructions, and after almost a year, it finally sold yesterday.  Granted, it wasn’t for a lot of money, but it proves to me that while Ebay justifiably gets a lot of heat due to questionable policies and procedures, the retail giant genuinely does want sellers to succeed, and sometimes even lends a helping hand when needed.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Seeing red no longer

Under the watchful eye of both John Wayne and Hopalong Cassidy, Ella and her brother, Jimmy, painted the red wall of TBB, now formally known as Ella’s Eclectic Emporium (Triple E), on Sunday afternoon.  I had the difficult task of pouring paint, wiping paint, and taping and de-taping the trim areas since I can’t be trusted with a paint brush.

BEFORE: The antique mall owner thought the red wall was "unlucky,"
and suggested that we paint it
AFTER: John Wayne rode off into the sunset with a new owner after we painted
I know, it sounds about as much fun as, well, watching paint dry.  

This large metal sign is priced at $75
Still, by late afternoon, Triple E finally was ready for occupancy, and we responded by putting a sign on the wall.  Anti-climatic, to be sure, but it was a start of what I hope will be a prosperous endeavor as we head into the autumn antiquing season, as well as the dreaded ever expanding silly season known as Christmas.

Of course, we need to fill the booth, and keep Barry’s Bonanza stocked as well.  To do so, we’ve been attending auctions, as I’ve written about before, and Saturday night, we traveled up the road to a new to us auction after seeing pictures posted on  I didn’t win what I really wanted (the Wonder Woman Barbie), but we did come home with additional sellable knick knacks, for lack of a better term, and a vintage baby cradle that needs a little work.  We have lots of “smalls,” but we really need a few more furniture-type pieces.

Backtracking to Saturday morning, sales were plentiful, but we really didn’t find a whole lot. At a business liquidation sale, we pick up six western signs, and three western decorative pieces (from a closed bar).  The sale also had hundreds of CDs, with most bundled in packs of 10.  I really didn’t feel like scanning CDs, but did leave my number with the seller in case she wanted to sell all the CDs in bulk. 

I missed out on purchasing a vintage sewing machine because I asked the wrong person about the price.  A church youth group was having a sale, and the small Singer machine, with wooden cover, was sitting ignored on a table.  It was in rough shape, but still sellable.  Since everything was “make an offer,” I asked an adult about the price, and she suggested, after making a comment about looking it up on Ebay, that she would accept $30, which was a little high for me.  I then watched a man pick up the machine, and ask the teen cashier about the price.  She said “make an offer.” He said “$5.”  She said “sold,” and he walked out the door with it. 

I’m an idiot.

In the “I never thought I would resort to this” department, thanks to a coworker who delivers pizza, I’ve started keeping an eye out for trash piles on the side of the road.  The coworker spots roadside treasures on his pizza runs, and picks them up on the way back to the restaurant.  Once he accumulates enough good stuff (tables, chairs, etc.), he takes it to the local flea market on Saturday mornings. 

What’s next for me, dumpster diving?

Sales continue to be slow across all venues, including Ebay.  Of course, I have been neglecting Ebay in favor the booth recently so it shouldn’t surprise me.   While it’s easier to put items in the booth, I tend to price the items a bit lower to spur sales.  So, I am losing money for the luxury of not having to store it in my house, or to ship it once it sells.  Looking around my house, I think it’s a worthwhile trade.

The week ahead promises more work.  I have lots of stuff to list online, more stuff to put in the booths, and lots of grass that needs cutting.

As my friend, Joe, says, “every day’s a holiday, and every meal’s a feast.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another one bites the dust

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about our local Family Dollar store closing its doors.  Today, I visited Kmart on the second day of its going out of business sale.

Yes, my beloved Kmart, where I got several cart loads of $.99 toys, a buggy full of $.99 Wrangler shorts, and no telling how many clearance bargains over the years, is calling it quits.

Signs are up on the outside, and the store even has an employee whose sole job is stand out by the road and spin a sign to attract attention.

Prices currently are marked down 10 to 30 percent, which really isn’t a bargain compared to Kmart’s normal sale prices on a good day.   So many shoppers are snapping up these perceived bargains, though, that I doubt much will be left when the discounts get deeper.   From what I read, the store will be gone by October.

Retail arbitrage, at least for me, will never be the same, or as easy.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday already?

On Friday night, Ella and I attended the last auction being held in the auction house on the main drag in the little town of Eatonton, famous for the Uncle Remus Museum, and author Alice Walker of The Color Purple fame.  The auction house is being transformed into an antique mall, and the auctioneer, in the future, will be conducting only on-site auctions, free from the overhead that owning an old building brings.

It was raining cats and dogs when we arrived, and several small buckets caught the steady drip from the leaky roof.  Thankfully, the leaks were away from the merchandise, but attendees were subjected to an occasional drop of water.

It was the last hurrah, and merchandise was limited to various odds and ends; tables; giant fans; and the concession stand.  With no room in the truck for the bigger bargains, we bid on and won an antique school desk, a round display table, and assorted small items, all bound for The Big Booth (TBB) at our local antique mall come August 1. Ella still hasn’t settled on a name, but is leaning toward Ella’s Emporium to continue the alliteration started with Barry’s Books, our online venture, and Barry’s Bonanza, our smaller antique booth.

Saturday morning had us up and at 'em for a host of estate and yard sales. Ella was industrious on Friday, not only creating a list of sales to attend, but also using Mapquest to plot the best route to get us to the sales without going around in circles.  She also programmed our GPS with all the addresses, so all we had to do was hop in the truck and hit the road at 6:30 a.m.

I bought this 50's rocking horse
and several vintage cameras for $50

We had more than 20 sales on the list, and managed to get to most of them.  Along the way, we picked up some good books, DVDs, toys, several old cameras, a wooden high chair that needs some TLC, and a vintage 1950’s rocking horse, obviously bound for TBB.

Earlier in the week, someone advertised both a collection of Elvis memorabilia and an estate sale in separate ads on Craigslist, and I made it a point to get that sale on Ella’s list.  We pulled up late on Saturday morning to an older, semi-rundown house, in a less than desirable neighborhood, with a makeshift “estate sale” sign out front.  There were no other cars around, and after making sure that every lock on the truck was engaged, we wandered up to the front of the house, only to find a very locked porch door. 

We heard a dog barking around back, so we followed the sound to find a dog on a leash on the back porch.  Not wanting to antagonize the dog, we stood there for a few moments, debating our next move, when the door opened, and a man appeared, pulled the dog in, and shut the door, ignoring us. 

Feeling brave, I knocked on the door, and the same man opened it.  I inquired about the estate sale, and he ushered us in, and told us to wait.  As I was mentally debating the wisdom of our situation, a pleasant woman approached from the back, and told us to come on in.  She proceeded to talk about the Elvis collection, and showed us a few home-made Elvis VHS tapes.  Obviously, we weren’t impressed, but then she took us to a room in the back of the house that had more, including a four foot Elvis statue, a large record collection, and some movie posters.  I still wasn’t impressed, but pretended to be so. 

I asked about the price on the statue, and she said the she had a buyer on Ebay for $130, but had to cancel it because she didn’t know how to ship it.  I then asked her about the price on the record albums, but she said that she was still going through each album (there were a least 100 albums, maybe more), and wanted to price each one individually.

Figuring that it was time to leave, I promised to email her later to give her time to price her treasures.  I think the statue and record albums would be nice for TBB, but I’m not sure that I really want to deal with her. 

Later Saturday, we went to the auction in Byron.  It was sparsely attended, with little worthwhile to purchase.  We did bid on and win a few things for our booths, though.

I had a couple of good Ebay sales for the week, including vintage tools for $40, and a Yu-Gi-Oh Dungeon Dice Monsters Game for $99 that shipped via Ebay’s Global Shipping Program.

I picked these tools up for $1 each; they sold for $40

This has been in my inventory forever.  I'm glad it finally sold
I also had a minor annoyance when a single buyer bought the same book on Amazon, Half, and Alibris.  Like many media sellers, I have my inventory listed across multiple venues, and have an online database program that deletes items from all databases as they are sold.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t fast enough to catch this triple sale.  So, I canceled the sales on Half and Alibris, and shipped the Amazon purchase.  I have to keep Amazon happy.

This week promises to be busy as usual, especially given that TBB officially becomes ours on Friday, and we will need to merchandise it as quickly as we can.  I plan to have some before and after pictures of the booth to share.  It’s going to be a challenge.

Have a great week.