Monday, March 31, 2014

Getting high on Lego pieces

On Friday night, I decided to sort through all the Lego pieces that I purchased last week, trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, but wound up separating the weed from the wheat.

Yes, I found joints amid my Lego bricks.

The Lego collection belonged to my friend’s grandson, who spent more than a year at a Texas ranch for troubled teens.  I never knew exactly what the trouble was, but apparently it was drug related.  The Lego stash must have seemed like a good place for the 14-year-old to hide his drug stash.

Drug paraphernalia aside, it’s a huge amount of Lego bricks and accessories, which are sold by the pound on Ebay.  I just need to parcel out the little bricks and get them ready to sell. I also found a Ziploc bag full of the little Lego Star Wars figures, which can bring $4 to $6 each. 

On Saturday, we attended the World’s Largest Yard Sale, sponsored by a local radio station.  The radio station officials must live in a small world because it only had about 20 vendors, and we had to pay $1 each to get in.  Despite my better judgment, I purchased a Commodore Vic-20 computer with software and a data drive (basically a cassette recorder to store computer programs), all in original boxes, for $25.  The VIC-20 was a state of the art home computer in 1980. From the same vendor, I found a book worth $21, which they included with the computer.  So, using creative bookkeeping, the system only cost a whopping $4.  I love vintage technology, you know.

On Sunday, we took a few items over to our antique booth, and were questioned by the mall’s owner as to where the vintage western memorabilia was that we had promised on our application.  I got the distinct impression that she disapproved of the contents of our booth up to that point.  We assured her that it was coming in June, after we try to sell some of it at the Memphis Film Festival in Tunica, MS.

Later, Ella and I also sorted through all the religious books in our storage unit.  They were remnants of a closed Christian bookstore, and I already had gone through them once.  We pulled out several totes of worthwhile books, but left behind 32 boxes of penny books.  I placed an ad on Craigslist, and hope to let an eager buyer do all the heavy lifting out of my unit.

My favorite sale of the weekend was a pack of expired Polaroid film, not because it was high priced, but because it was a beat-up opened twin-pack box that held only a single pack, and sold within an hour of listing.  Have I ever mentioned that I love vintage technology?

"Come on let's take a picture, the kind you gotta shake" - Automatic by Miranda Lambert
I also had to request an inventory report on Amazon so Ella could sort and shelve my books from February and March.  Thanks to a couple of book sales and the pastor’s library that I purchased, I listed 342 books during that time period.

Before going to bed on Sunday, I looked around at the disaster area that is my house and vowed to avoid thrifting at least for the coming weekend.

Unfortunately, there is a local church already advertising a sale on Saturday.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Beanie Baby Guilt

Late last week, I got an email from a friend asking me about the value of Beanie Babies.  If you remember the history of the little beanbag critters, you know that they were real hot for a while, and people literally were betting the farm, or their kids’ college money, that collections would be worth big bucks in the future.

Unfortunately, like most fads, the reports of their investment value were greatly exaggerated, and interest, and fortunes, quickly tanked.  Today, individual Beanies are still collectible, but rarely worth the original retail price (with exceptions, or course).

Knowing this, and after a quick Ebay check, I told my friend that, unless she had a rare Beanie, her collection wasn’t worth more than $.50 to $1 each in bulk.  She decided to donate the whole lot to the local Hospice thrift store.  I had a momentary thought about buying the lot, but quickly let it pass.

On Saturday, however, I changed my mind when Ella bid on and won this supposedly vintage Beanie Baby wagon.  It’s made of wood, and is about 19.5 long by 11 inches wide.  The seller said it was an original store display.  I figured that if I had a few Beanie Babies to put in it that it would make a great addition to our antique booth.

Cute all-wood wagon will add some color to the booth
I emailed my friend on Monday, and, no, she hadn’t donated the Beanies yet.  I asked to look at them, and we decided to get together on Wednesday.  She then inquired if I was interested in Legos.  What self-respecting thrifter isn’t?  Of course, it helped that I remembered what Legos she was talking about.  Her grandson used to put together huge Star Wars spaceships, so I knew the potential value there.

On Wednesday, she had two totes of Beanie Babies in her garage.  While talking, I mentioned our antique booth, and she showed me several antique bottles that she wanted to get rid of.  We then went downstairs to see the Legos.  The once proud Star Wars spaceships had been relegated to pieces in various totes, but I knew there was still value there.  Sitting beside the Legos, though, was a new in box Hasbro Star Wars Transformers Darth Vader/Death Star toy whose value I knew had to be close to $100.

The totes hold approximately 236 Beanie Babies, most with tags still attached
Darth's heavy breathing hopefully will bring $120
OK, here’s where it got dicey.  I had no idea about the actual value of the Beanies, Legos, or bottles, and only a vague notion about the Transformer.  I did know, however, that researching and selling the Beanies and Legos would be fairly labor intensive, and likely would be a slow dime rather than a quick nickel process.

Since she was a long-time friend, I didn’t want to cheat or take advantage of her, but I certainly didn’t want to lose money on the deal.  I asked her what she wanted for the whole lot.  She hemmed and hawed, and we chatted about other things, until she finally came up with a price of $100.  I didn’t even attempt to bargain, and, feeling almost guilty, I accepted her offer.

Ella and I processed and counted the Beanies (approximately 236) last night, and Ella plans to research the individual critters to see if any are actually worth anything.  The bottles and Legos are still in my truck to be processed later today.

This morning, I listed the Transformer for $120 on Amazon.

I obviously got a good deal, but I do feel a little guilty that I may have inadvertently taken advantage of my friend. 

Should I have offered more?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Fried Green Tomatoes

On Saturday, we decided to skip our usual yard sale routine, and attend a porch sale and auction in downtown Juliette, GA, about 45 minutes north of our home.  Juliette was the setting for the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes, staring Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Mary-Louise Parker.

 I looked up the movie on Wikipedia, and read that Juliette was chosen because it was “nearly deserted,” and an antique/hardware store was converted to the Whistle Stop Café for the film.  Today, the Whistle Stop Café is an actual café, but the rest of the town, really only a small street, is basically a tourist attraction that still attracts visitors even though the movie debuted in 1991.
Ella, Duc, and I arrived early, as we usually do for sales, around 7:30, to find the street deserted.  Gradually, though, merchants opened their shops, and brought out wares to their porches.  At one sale, Ella found two large, sturdy metal stands for our antique booth, spending a whopping $4.  At the same place, I found a box of 20 or so blank wooden signs, with hanging chains already attached, which I  purchased for the bargain basement price of $10.  

We plan to have a display wall at our antique booth featuring Duc’s artistry on the signs.
We then decided to preview what was to be auctioned.  It was the contents of one of the street’s antique stores, and featured everything from old milk cans to vintage newspapers to handcrafted wooden furniture.  By 10 a.m., a small but spirited crowd had gathered at the Juliette “Opry” outside stage, and the bidding began.

The auctioneer and his son kept the crowd entertained all day
With no reserve, prices on most items stayed low, and we picked up some fun things for our booth. The only drawback was that there were so many items, and after breaking for lunch, the auction was still going strong at 2 p.m.  I had to practically drag Ella out, but she was determined to buy a piece of the cool furniture that had not been brought up for auction yet.  I went back into the shop, and met the artist behind the furniture.  Since the furniture would have a reserve once it was brought out, I bargained with the artist, and purchased a lamp and a bench (Ella’s favorites), hoping that it would actually fit in the truck.  Fortunately, it did, but I don’t think we could have squeezed anything else in.
With the truck full, Ella happy, and Duc starving, we headed toward home, stopping only to eat at a Chinese buffet to reward Duc not only for his help, but also for his patience.  He was so bored.
After eating, we unloaded the truck, left Duc sleeping on the couch, and headed to the local auction in Byron, hoping our hot streak would continue.  

Unfortunately, it came to a screeching halt because the local auction was dead in the water really before it even began.  Only a few people were there, and they were trying to sell the same stuff from the week prior.   After 45 minutes, and only one sale, they called a halt to the train wreck.
As we process our purchases from the Juliette auction, I will post some pictures.  I think we got some cool stuff for our shelves.
On Sunday, I packed my weekend’s sales (Amazon was hot … $250+ in two days), and listed a few items on Ebay, something I had been neglecting in favor of getting the booth up and running.
Looking ahead, I think we have enough inventory to last a while, but Ella wants to go to a consignment sale on Tuesday night.  Consignment sales aren't my favorite, but Ella seems to have good luck.

Have a great week everyone.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Clearance fried alligator on a stick

I’m not complaining, really I’m not, but once again our house has become a disaster area thanks not only to Peaches to Beaches weekend, but also to three book sales, and a local pastor who decided that he didn’t have room for his professional library.

For those who haven’t read my previous blog post, Peaches to Beaches is a two-day yard sale mega event that stretches along a certain highway basically from middle Georgia all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.  We visited some local sellers late Friday afternoon, seeing lots of cool expensive stuff, but buying little, other than a cowgirl Cabbage Patch Kid, and a clearance piece of fried alligator on a stick. Ella wanted to try it, and since it was the food vendor’s last piece, and he wanted to close up for the night, he sold it to us for $5 instead of the normal price of $8.

We got up bright tailed and bushy eyed … wait a minute, reverse that … on Saturday morning to head to a library book sale about an hour away.  On the way, we stopped at a garage sale that advertised a pastor’s library for sale.  I was thinking it was a few books, but it actually was about nine huge totes full of religious books and bibles.  After scanning a few of the tomes, I made a deal with the pastor for the whole lot for $300, left a $100 deposit, and told him that I would pick the books up late that afternoon or sometime on Sunday.

After making one more stop, and buying a few items, we made our way to the book sale, getting there a planned hour early to get in line.  We were No. 2 in line, and I spent the hour talking with the couple in front of us, who also were dealers.  When the doors opened at 10 a.m., there was a mad rush to the very back of the library where the sale was.  It quickly got crowded and hard to move, but an hour or so later, we emerged with two rolling totes and a cardboard box full of books, with a few CDs and DVDs sprinkled in.

As it turns out, the dealers in front of us were not very effective, grabbing books off the shelf, then looking them up on their laptop.  Ella, Duc, and I were the only ones with scanners, which made for a good sale.

We then made our way to a small town about 30 minutes south to join the Peaches to Beaches trail in reverse.  The town was littered with small sales, but knowing that time was against us, we hit only a few larger sales, buying some stuff, then headed north toward home.  About halfway to the next town, we saw a cluster of sales centered around a church, and decided to stop.   Much to my delight, I saw a “book sale” sign, and walked into the church gym that had rows and rows of books.   Duc and I started scanning, and quickly realized that no dealers had been there before us, and we quickly filled another box. 

We pushed on north, finally coming to Hawkinsville, our last stop on our journey, and another book sale.  It was very small, though, but it was apparent that no dealers had been there either, so another box was quickly filled.

It was late afternoon by that time, and Duc was starving, so we decided to call it quits, and head toward the Golden Corral, a local buffet, to reward Duc for all his hard work.  After eating, we dropped Duc off at home, then went to the Saturday night auction.  We bid on and won several items for our antique booth, and finally staggered home around 10 p.m.

It was raining cats and dogs on Sunday, but I knew I had to go pick up the religious books.  So, Ella and I braved the storm, backed the truck into the pastor’s garage, and loaded up.  It was still raining when we got home, so Duc and I hurriedly unloaded the truck, stacking all the totes in our kitchen.

We then went into book sort mode, separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and came up with three totes full of sellable books; the rest were penny books, pretty, but basically worthless online.  They will fit nicely on our religious bookshelf in the antique booth, though.

After all was said and done on Sunday afternoon, the house was a disaster area, from the kitchen to the great room to my office.  I really need a warehouse.

In between sorting and listing on Sunday, I also had to pack my weekend sales, including this unique Saturday Night Fever DVD.  The DVD is enclosed in a min-disco jacket with a pendant.  I thought it would be a quick sale when I purchased it, but it languished on my shelf for several years before finally finding a home.

This unique DVD finally disco'd out of my inventory
Looking ahead, I need a break.  I’ve told Ella that unless something special pops up, we are abstaining from thrifting next weekend.  Of course, I’ve said that before, but I mean it this time … maybe.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Peaches, beaches and books … oh my

To say spring has sprung around here, at least when it comes to yard sales, is to put it mildly.  Sales are popping up like weeds, and while two weeks ago I was complaining about the dearth of sales, today I am bemoaning the fact that there are just too many places to be in such a short period of time on Saturday.

The centerpiece of this weekend, at least around here, is the annual Peaches to Beaches yard sale, which stretches from middle Georgia to the ocean.  Of course, it’s just 240+ miles of hit and miss road-side sales, with some bigger sales in the small communities along the way.

It would be a worthwhile way to spend a Saturday if there weren’t other places to be.

Like a big book sale.

Yep, someone had the bright idea to schedule a book sale on the same day as the fruit to sand mega thrifting event.  Fortunately, the book sale isn’t that far from the route, and, like in past years, we will travel the route backward toward home, sort of like beaches to peaches.

Lorraine over at commented on my last blog, wondering about how sales were going in our antique booth.   Like anything else, it’s a numbers game, and when you have a lot of inventory, you typically make sales.  Right now, though, our booth is still kind of bare, so sales have been slow to non-existent.  I’ll post the numbers, no matter how embarrassing, when I get the sales report in April.

Of course, we have only been in the booth business for a little over two weeks, so I am trying to keep the dreaded “did I make a mistake, or bite off more than I can chew” mentality at bay. 

A 3 foot Barbie!
I have learned that much of my inventory backlog is too flea market-ish for the booth, and when scouting, Ella and I have to constantly shift gears, seeking not only our typical Amazon/Ebay items, but also items that will fit, both literally and figuratively, in our booth.  We need more “antiquey” items, for lack of a better term, plus additional collectibles.

Even knowing this, I still can’t stop purchasing fun stuff for the booth. Yesterday, I saw a Barbie on our local Bookoo site that was neither antiquey nor truly collectible.  It is, however, more than 3 feet tall, and after parting with a measly $8, I took her home with me.  This My Size Barbie, which is in excellent condition, costs $70 to $80 new.  What makes the doll so cool, though, is that her clothes can be worn by an appropriately sized child, preferably a girl, but, hey, I’m not judging.

Hopefully, she will class up the booth for as long as she stays unpurchased.  I plan on asking $50 for her.

Sales have slowed down again this week.  I know that the more you list, the more you sell.  Since I have been working to get the booth up and running, I have been very lax about getting Amazon and Ebay items listed. I hope that once the booth is full, it will become less labor intensive so I can concentrate on my other more profitable sources of income.

Speaking of Amazon, I just received an email from the big river stating that my Amazon Prime membership will increase to $99 per year when it renews in 2015.  It's been $79 per year for a while, so I guess it was only a matter of time before they increased it.  However, I don't think that an additional $20 per year is too bad considering how much I use it.

Have a lucrative weekend everyone.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Where did the weekend go?

I took a vacation day on Friday to attend a small book sale in a nearby city, and to visit a church thrift store in yet another nearby city, and a consignment sale just a few miles from home.
Needless to say, the day went by fast.  First, the book sale was lucrative, despite its size.  With a good selection of books, and no competition, Ella and I managed to snag approximately $750+ worth of media to sell on Amazon, some children’s books, and five vintage Disney record albums that I put in our antique booth.
After the book sale, we drove about 20 miles to a church thrift store that had been advertising on Craigslist. Unfortunately, the church listed no address, giving only a highway name.  A Google search yielded no address, only the same highway name and a disconnected phone number.  Google Maps took me to a convenience store whose clerks gave me blank stares when asked about the church.
Finally, we gave up, and headed toward home.  About five miles out of town, we stopped at another thrift store.  The clerks also had no idea about the competing store; however, a customer pointed us in the right direction, so we headed back.  Sure enough, we found the store, which was in the basement of a small church.
It was mostly junk, but I did snag a $60 book, a vintage pencil sharpener, and an uncut sheet of 29 cent Elvis stamps.  The stamps, which are both collectible and still usable ($11.60 face value), were priced at $2. Before we left, I talked with the proprietors, detailing how much trouble that we had finding their store, and suggesting that they put an actual Google-able address in their ad if they want to attract more business.  Later, I checked on Craigslist and noticed that they had taken my advice.
The consignment sale was mostly children’s clothes, but I did walk away with a $40 doll, new in package, for $8.  I should have put it on Ebay, but decided that the shelves in our antique mall booth were still a little bare.  

Saturday dawned to a fresh set of yard/garage/estate sales.  I found various odds and ends, but my favorite find was an unusual set of over-sized plush Disney characters for $5.  The characters were homemade, crocheted by the seller’s mother.  I haven’t had time to take a picture yet, but will share in a later blog.
Late Saturday afternoon, Ella and I took a bunch of stuff to our antique booth.  

Rack now actually has DVDs; we also added framed cartoon art,
Vietnamese silk ties, and a unique CD rack from a storage unit sale
Scan me, please
On Sunday, I listed all the books from Friday’s book sale, and took more stuff to the antique booth, including a couple of these Scan Me! signs.  Scanning the QR code with your phone takes you to my Ebay store. Go ahead, try it.  You know you want to.

Finally, I packed my sales from the weekend.
Speaking of sales, I had my first international sale after enrolling in Ebay’s Global Shipping Program last week.  The sale was for my Elvis pocket watch, and instead of mailing it to the buyer in Australia, I mailed it to the Ebay shipping center in Kentucky, who, in turn, will actually ship it to the buyer.  Ebay assumes all liability for the international shipping; all I have to do is get it to the Bluegrass State in one piece.

Keeping my fingers crossed that this watch actually makes it to Australia
On a totally unrelated subject, thank goodness that it’s finally Daylight Savings Time.  Why?  The clock in my truck is finally right!
Have a great week everyone.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Marching on

Thank goodness February is over.

Between snow, the threat of snow, the rain, the threat of rain, bitter cold, the lack of sales, and the lack of good thrifting opportunities, February 2014 is simply a month to forget.

It’s time to march on, pun intended.

When I started selling online seven years ago, I had several goals, not the least of which was to avoid becoming Fred G. Sanford of television’s Sanford and Son fame, with matching cluttered house.

Today, I am dangerously close to that level of accumulated chaos due to my penchant for buying stuff to sell, and never having quite enough time to get it all listed.  I’m sure some of you can relate, and while I know misery loves company, I’m getting quite tired of zig zagging through our great room around piles of unlisted stuff, and not being able to open my supply closet due to boxes and totes in front of it.

I am also fed up with having a chest full of vintage postcards; boxes and boxes of collectible Star Trek books; and long boxes full of comic books gathering dust, giving me no return, or even potential return, on my investment.

It’s also disheartening to have inventory in both vehicles because there is no room in the house yet to bring it in.

Both Ella and I have kidded about opening a thrift store in a vacant building near our house, but I know that’s a pipe dream. Still, the idea of having an off-site selling location is alluring, given that it would be another source of potential income, and would allow us to off-load some of our inventory items that are impractical to sell on any of my current online venues.

So, after watching countless YouTube videos, and reading both horror and success stories, we picked out a booth at the Big Peach Antique Mall.  The mall, which features antiques, collectibles and basically anything but flea market tacky (i.e., used kitchen stuff, non-collectible clothing, etc.), is directly off Interstate 75 (the major highway that stretches between Michigan and Florida), and is literally just minutes from our house.

The rent is fairly reasonable, with no commissions, and the lease is month to month.  It seems like a good idea, with no downsides, other than the level of effort and cost involved in getting it up and running.

Since we have inventory, the biggest issue right now is getting the infrastructure in place to hold all our stuff.  Target had a sale on five-shelf bookcases last week for $25 each, so we bought three, and got a rain check for two more.  Since a portion of the existing booth structure is peg-board material, I also bought some appropriate hardware and shelving.  In addition, the local DVD rental store was selling surplus metal rolling DVD racks for $25, so we bought one of those as well. 

One of the tips from the YouTube videos was to have a sign clearly stating booth name and number.  We had been brainstorming names all week, and finally settled on Barry’s Bonanza.  It’s semi-catchy, and not only ties the store name to my online ventures, but also the word “Bonanza” is both literal (a large amount of something valuable) and figurative (a throwback to Ella’s love of the popular Western TV show of the same name).  Late Saturday night, Duc designed us a simple sign.

Duc's handiwork
On Sunday morning, Ella and I priced and tagged our first load of stuff to put in our booth.  Later, after Ella merchandised the booth, and I tweaked the shelves and hung the sign, it was very apparent that we have a long way to go.  Here is the metamorphosis of our booth so far:

The first thing we did was remove the hideous and dirty green rug.
Also, the ugly black bookshelf on the right belongs to the other booth.

Getting better. 
We still have a lot of work to do!
Aside from the booth, it was a fairly busy and good weekend of thrifting.  We went to two consignment sales, a Saturday morning’s worth of yard, garage, and estate sales, and the local Saturday night auction.  I actually ran out of money while paying my auction bill, and had to borrow $10 from Ella’s brother, who fortunately was at the auction as well.

Sales also have picked up over the last week.  Amazon has been steady, and Ebay, while not spectacular, has provided several good cha-chings on my phone.

Not a big sale, but not a bad ROI on 50 cents

Ditto.  I've starting giving caps a closer look while thrifting
I accepted a best offer of $25.  I love vintage software
Back to the booth, I honestly hope that I am not spreading myself too thin with the addition of Barry’s Bonanza to our repertoire.  Thankfully, Ella will take the lead in the paperwork, as well as the merchandising and organization.  Still, my already over-crowded dance card just got a little more hectic.

Who needs sleep anyway?