Monday, June 30, 2014

How much for that doggie on the roof?

How much for that doggie on the roof.
The one with waggedy tail (arf! arf!).
How much for that doggie on the roof
I do hope that doggie’s for sale (arf! arf!).

Dog has bird's eye view of the neighborhood
With apologies to Patti Page for bastardizing her lyrics, I couldn’t help but hum that song as I scanned some books at a yard sale on Saturday morning as that dog looked down from the roof, barking his displeasure at us being there.  The owner gave some convoluted explanation as to how the dog gets up there, but I really didn’t care.  I just mentally added it to the list of weird things found at yard sales.

Earlier, Ella and I had a choice of three yard sales to begin our day at 7 a.m.  A church sale, a benefit sale at a church (big distinction), and the doggie on the roof sale.  Usually, I’m partial to church sales, but something just told me that the benefit sale was the place to be.  It was a good choice.

The sale was little advertised, something that always works in our favor.  We arrived just before 7 a.m., and found the church gym full of stuff.  And we had the place to ourselves practically until we left about 45 minutes later.

I found several $100 books, assorted high-dollar DVDs, belt buckles, new in package pistol parts, Harley Davidson t-shirts, new with tag pants, and various odds and ends.  Ella found some stuff, too, including a $20 multi-speed bicycle.  We left about $100 lighter.

We stopped at the church next, which was a bust, then we headed to the house with the doggie on the roof.  The rest of the morning was spent at various estate sales, and two additional church sales, none of which came close to the riches garnered from the benefit sale.

While we were out and about, my phone “ka-chinged,” something I hadn’t heard in at least a week.  It was a good ka-ching.  I’ve started listing those Western items that didn’t sell during the film festival, and someone dropped $300 plus shipping on my collectible cowboy knife collection, almost three times what I paid for it.  In addition, my American Sentinel books, aimed toward patriotic/conspiracy minded individuals, finally sold.  Some audio cassettes, a DVD, and a K-mart clearance box of scar treatment rounded out my Ebay weekend.

I priced the knives higher on Ebay than at the film festival
On Sunday, Ella and I massaged our antique booth, and Ella actually spent some time staging our western memorabilia to make it look as fine as cream gravy.

Speaking of the booth, June sales were down a bit, but we still grossed $320, down from both April ($373) and May ($399).  After rent and fees are deducted, we’ll still get a nice check.  Despite a smaller check this month, I’m beginning to think we limited ourselves by renting a smaller space; we have so much stuff.  I am considering upgrading should a larger booth become available.

Looking ahead, with July 4 on Friday, I don’t anticipate a lot of sales for the weekend, although I could be wrong.  However, it won’t hurt my feelings to have a day off to chill and list.

Have a productive week and a safe holiday everyone.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Storage unit crap

It’s been several years since I bought my first and only storage unit.  It was huge and full of crap. On Saturday, I bought another unit.  It was smaller, and, unfortunately, full of crap.

To be fair, it looked like crap from the outside, but it did have two nice looking portable display cases, the kind that you see at estate sales in which the proprietors display their jewelry. Other than that, there were boxes, and two wooden end tables without their glass tops.

There was no “wow factor” that I could see.

However, I surprised Ella, and myself, actually, by bidding and winning at $80.  The fact that it started to rain just as the auctioneer said sold should have been my first clue that it was a waste of money.  After paying our bill, we braved the sprinkles to check out the contents.  Much to my display, it seemed to be mostly Christmas decorations.  By then, the sky had opened up, so we decided to clean it out on Sunday.

Late Sunday afternoon, I decided that we had procrastinated long enough, so we made the short drive to the storage unit and got to work.    We performed triage on the unit, with one pile for stuff to keep, one pile for stuff to trash, and one pile for stuff to donate.  Thankfully, the trash pile stayed relatively small, but the donate pile kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.  The keep pile wasn’t as big as I would have wanted, but it made for easy storage, and we just walked the stuff around the corner to our actual storage unit for which we pay monthly.

Beside the two display cases, we kept some camping gear (lanterns, flashlights, cook stove, etc.); some vintage Christmas crap for our antique booth; and assorted odds and ends that Ella deemed worthy. 

We then loaded the rest of the stuff in the truck; donation crap went in first, followed by the real crap. I then found a dumpster to offload the real crap, then dropped the donation crap at Goodwill.  Since it was after 6 p.m., I just put it out beside their donation door.

The two tables without their glass went to the curb in front of our house.  Even though the tables were rained on for two days, some kind crafty type person finally picked them up.

The whole process, from digging through the small unit, to disposing of the trash and donations, took approximately three hours in the late afternoon sun.  Thankfully, there were no surprises, other than the leather satchel that contained medical items, including a broken stethoscope, and assorted blood collection vials.  I was glad that I had put on my gloves before pawing through that bag.

Was it worth the effort?  Probably not, although the two display cases are nice.  The vintage Christmas ornaments might bring a little in our antique booth, and the camping items probably will just sit until I find a way use them (I’ve only been camping once in my life).  

While loading and unloading the truck in the heat, I remembered why I don’t buy storage units very often.  It ain’t like they show it on TV.

Elsewhere in the land of Barry’s Books, I’ve made a concerted effort to declutter the house.  I started by sending six boxes of toys to Amazon (FBA) this week.  I am also donating five totes of religious books to the hospice thrift store today.  The books were part of the pastor’s library that I purchased, and, while truly nice, aren’t worth much more than a penny each on the Amazon marketplace.  I kept trying to figure out some return on investment for them, but decided that I was tired of bumping into the totes.  So, off they go.

I also made good on my promise last week of not thrifting on Saturday, and have been determined to follow suit this weekend.  Unfortunately, a plethora of sales, including several church and estate sales, are tempting me to fall off the proverbial wagon.

It's hard to be strong when there are bargains to be had.

Have a great and productive weekend everyone.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

With the 2014 Memphis Film Festival behind us now, I’ve had time to think about the good, the bad, and the ugly, to coin a western phrase, of our latest money-making endeavor.

The Good

Travel time.  The festival started on Thursday, but vendors were allowed to set up on Wednesday.  Instead of rushing to the festival on Wednesday, arriving late, then trying to set up our tables, we arrived Tuesday, a day early.  It cost us an extra $39, but was well worth it.

Pricing.  Our merchandise, for the most part, sold at sticker price.  Not wanting to gouge the festival attendees, I priced our items based on Amazon and/or Ebay prices.

We purchased a cash register prior to the festival, with the idea of being able to lock the cash drawer so we could leave the table for whatever reason. We never got the chance to fully learn to use it, and decided to just use a fanny pack as a money belt.  As it turns out, the register would have been overkill.

Ella had the foresight to purchase enough sheets at various yard sales to cover our tables.

Ella had the great idea to use a western sheet/blanket on the floor underneath our table to display our stuffed horses, bags, etc.

I decided not to use our scent machine.  The apple pie cartridge really didn’t smell like I wanted it to, and given the proximity of other vendors, I thought it was best to just leave the machine in our room.

The Bad

We brought too much stuff, or had too few tables, depending your point of view.  It was difficult to see everything on the tables, plus we had merchandise in totes that never saw the light of day.

It never occurred to me that festival attendees already would have most of the DVDs that we brought.  In hindsight, it’s obvious.

Much of our inventory, other than the DVDs, was Old West related, not necessarily TV western related, if that makes sense.  For example, photos of western TV stars sold, while the few pieces of western home décor did not.  Our Gunsmoke trading cards sold, while our Old West trading cards did not.

John Wayne is popular only up to a point.  Most of our “Duke” inventory remained unsold.

Not everyone loves horses as much as Ella does.  We had lots of horse-related stuff, including watches and hand-make purses (purchased cheap at a church sale).  Obviously, there is a link between horses and the Old West, and even TV/movie westerns, but apparently not enough to warrant the investment we made during the year on equine merchandise.  I am surprised, though, that our hop-along stick horses, including a rare Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, not only didn’t sell, but didn’t even warrant a glance from any would-be buyers. One toy horse that we did sell was a horse on a remote tether that walked and whinnied.  It languished until a customer took it out and played with it.  That customer didn’t buy it, but the next one did, and credited the demonstration for her purchase decision.  Not that we had a whole lot of items that actually could be demonstrated, but the idea is worth considering if we decide to sell at next year’s festival.

The photo kiosk was a good idea, but had poor marketing on my part.  The few festival goers who took advantage of the kiosk loved it, but I didn’t make enough of an effort to educate attendees, through signage, cards, word of mouth, etc.  Granted, the printer is limited to 5X7s, while the stars were signing 8X10s, but with the nearest photo lab nearly 30 minutes away, it could have been more of a moneymaker.

On a related note, many attendees were using their Iphones or Android phones, which do not have the requisite memory cards for the printer, to take their pictures.  Again, in hindsight, this issue should have been obvious.  A Bluetooth adapter is available for the printer, and I should have had enough foresight to purchase one.

Again, on the same issue, Ella had suggested “volunteering” to take photos using our digital camera with the understanding that they would print the photo on our printer.  I considered this, but thought the logistics would be unworkable, giving that Ella would be doing festival stuff, leaving me running the table, and unable to stand in line to take the photos.  As it turns out, I did volunteer to take several photos, and they did print them out on our printer.  Ella’s idea was sound, and I was silly for not giving it more consideration.

The Ugly

I refused to haggle on a necklace on the first day of the sale, thinking that it would sell later. It didn’t.

I watched a gentleman tear apart his phone, looking for the memory card, only to discover it wouldn’t fit in the printer.  He then had trouble putting it back together.

Having a drink behind the table, and watching it spill on the carpet, almost soaking a bag of merchandise that we had sold.

Back to the grind

We are still unpacking and sorting our western stuff, but we did manage to take a small load to our antique mall booth last night.  We replaced most of our regular DVDs with western DVDs, and replaced some unsold knick-knacks with some cowboy items.  Our goal is to have a cohesive “western” display, but we didn’t have time last night, so we just unloaded it on the shelves.

Speaking of our booth, I received a box of beautifully crafted Steampunk merchandise yesterday from Lorraine and Chris at  My idea is to not only make some money from reselling the items, obviously, but also to push some customers to Chris’ Ebay store, Back Flame Creations.  It seems like a win-win scenario to me.

Both Amazon and Ebay are still slow, probably because I took a three-week vacation from listing.  I am trying to get back in the groove, so to speak, to get some more money coming in.

For the weekend, unless something special pops up, we will not be going to yard sales.  I’ve been spending too much time sourcing; it’s time to list, and then list some more.

Have a great and profitable weekend.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Memphis Film Festival – Gathering of the Guns – A look back

After a year of  preparation, and a week of intense scurrying, our first attempt at a vendor table at a major festival has come and gone with mixed results.

Our trip started on Tuesday, with the eight-hour, 500-mile journey to Sam’s Town casino just south of Memphis.  We arrived late in the afternoon, weary from the drive, and just bummed around the casino for a bit, losing a little money in the process, before crashing for the night.

We got up early Wednesday morning to unload the truck, and set up our two tables.  We started around 9 a.m.  Ella wanted it just right, and she wasn’t satisfied until about three hours later.  After covering our tables with sheets, we did what every good Ebayer does while on vacation … we went thrifting. I was the proverbial stick in the mud due to concerns about room in the truck on the return trip, but Ella managed to find a few smaller items, and I found a few books, which I hoped that we could squeeze in the truck.

Ella worked hard to get our tables ready for customers
Wednesday night found us back on the casino floor, playing the penny slots, and taking advantage of the free drinks.  I usually give Ella one drink a year … it’s a running joke between us.  However, this year, she sampled a wide variety of “sweet” drinks. 

On Thursday morning, we were excited as we uncovered the tables, and got ready to make some money.  As I posted last week, we make our first $50 within 15 minutes en route to a $398 day.  Buyers snapped up some comic books, a few pieces of jewelry, and assorted odds and ends.  A few festival attendees also found our photo kiosk, and were delighted since the nearest place to get photos printed was in Memphis, about 30 minutes away.  By the end of the day, we were tired, but excited, and had our fingers crossed that Friday would be at least as good.

Friday dawned bright and early, and we uncovered our tables in anticipation of crowds that never developed.  Friday was very slow; we had a few customers, but most attendees stayed in the lines for the stars, and never even looked at our wares.  I was beginning to worry that we wouldn’t match Thursday’s total.  Thankfully, though, Goldilocks showed up.  Goldilocks is Buck Taylor’s wife, although we didn’t know it at the time.  Taylor, who was one of the stars at the festival, played Newly on the TV series, Gunsmoke.   Anyway, she picked up every piece of Gunsmoke merchandise that we had to the tune of $214.   Later, after we discovered who she was, she explained that Taylor had kept nothing from his Gunsmoke days, and she was attempting to find as much memorabilia about the show as possible for him. Thanks to her, we exceeded Thursday’s total, but just barely.

If Friday was slow, Saturday was dead.  With a very sparse crowd, we made all of $15.  Thankfully, the dealers had to vacate the room by 2 p.m., and everyone began packing up by noon.  By 1 p.m., I had everything loaded in the truck, and our first attempt as a festival vendor was officially over.

The grand total for the three day show was just a tad over $800, which covered our hotel room, convention registration, and gas money, with maybe a few dollars to spare. 

Was it worth the effort?  If our only goal was to make a profit, then the answer is no.  However, we probably would have attended the festival anyway, and by making it a business trip, we get to deduct expenses come tax time next year.  Plus, Ella enjoyed hobnobbing with a few of her favorite western stars, and she even won the opportunity to sit with Clu Gulager (Ryker on The Virginian and Billy the Kid on The Tall Man) and Robert Colbert (Brent Maverick) during the festival’s banquet on Saturday night.

Other stars at the show included Clint Walker, who played Cheyenne; Robert Conrad from the Wild Wild West; Taylor from Gunsmoke; and Jon Walmsley, who played Jason on The Waltons.  Walmsley also performed at the banquet on Saturday night, singing and playing the guitar.

Ella was one of the many fans seeking Robert Conrad's autograph
As a side note, I really need to find our friend Kenny’s source of luck.  Not only did he win big at the poker table, but also he became the center of attention of at least four different women, including one attractive blonde who was determined to wipe the barbecue sauce off his face at the banquet.  Way to go, Kenny.

Now, it’s time to get back to work.  Amazon and Ebay are suffering, and need massaging, and our antique mall booth needs refreshing.

I am also working on a list of lessons learned from the festival in case I want to attempt this next year.  I’ll share this list later.

Have a great week everyone.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gathering of the Guns - Day 2

Day 2 is starting off slow.  It seems like most of the crowd is in lines to meet the stars.

Ella is happy.  She got her photo taken with Buck Taylor from Gunsmoke and one of the Mavericks.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Gathering of the Guns - Day One Recap

After eight hours of sitting and selling, I'm proud to say that we grossed $398, which isn't bad for our very first day.  Most of the seasoned vendors say that tomorrow (Friday) will be better.

The casino's wi-fi won't let me upload pictures and my phone barely gets a signal in the vendor hall.  So, no pictures during my daily blogging.

Chat with you tomorrow.

Gathering of the Guns - Day 1 updated

So far, so good.

For a Thursday, it's a pretty big crowd.  We made our first $50 in the first 15 minutes on five comic books. We've also sold some jewelry, and eight photos from our Sony photo kiosk. Surprisingly, no DVDs have sold.

Stay tuned.

Gathering of the Guns - Day 1

It's actually day three for Ella and me.  Tuesday was the travel day.  Five hundred miles on the road with only a few stops made for a long day.  After arriving, we bummed around Sams Town, our casino home, then went to bed.

We got up bright and early on Wednesday so we could unload the truck before it got crowded.  Ella supervised, then set up our tables with our merchandise.  It took her three hours to make the tables perfect.  I am having trouble getting pictures to upload but will post some if I get that glitch worked out.

We went back to the dealer's room late Wednesday afternoon, and to Ella's delight, Clint Walker, also known as Cheyenne, was already signing pictures,  Ella got her vintage Cheyenne board game signed,  Clint also signed a photo and a new CD.  The CD was a tribute to Clint, and the singer, who also was there, signed it as well.  Total cost: $50.

The festival actually opens this morning at 9 a.m. I will try to post throughout the day if anything exciting happens.

Update: Glitch worked out.

Ella worked hard to make table perfect

Monday, June 9, 2014

You can’t leave without buying something

It was our last stop of the morning, and the estate sale, being run by the family, was pretty much deserted at that point.  After looking around, we decided to leave, empty handed, when a family member uttered those words.

We’ve been told that before, but what she said next made us stop in our tracks.

“Come back tomorrow around 1 p.m. Everything will be given away.” 

Well, that was a horse of a different color.  So, we decided to take another look inside the house to see if we wanted to come back on Sunday. It was mostly household items, with a fairly large collection of knick knacks, ceramic pieces, and photo albums.  Oh, did I mention the Franklin Heirloom dolls?  I usually don’t pay attention to ceramic dolls; the owners typically have an over-inflated sense of their worth.  Still, the prospect of a freebie made me give them a second look.

There were 15 of them, mostly fairy tale related, including Rapunzel, Alice in Wonderland, etc., and according to my on-the-spot research, worth at least $20 each.

I called the family member over, and asked how much for the dolls since they would be free on Sunday.

“How much will you give me for them,” she asked.

Crap.  I hate it when that happens.  Usually, the negotiator who makes the first offer gets the short end of the stick.

So, I threw out a low-ball offer of $1 each, $15 total, knowing that it wouldn’t be accepted. Surprisingly, she countered at $20 total, and the deal was done.  I thanked her, and told her that we would be back on Sunday.

The next day, we got there about 12:45, and looked around some more.  True to her word, the family member announced at 1 p.m. that everything was free, and the few customers, like me and Ella, began putting things in our totes.  About 20 minutes into the feeding frenzy, a young couple with four kids came in and began sweeping things into boxes, determined to take everything.  At that point, we thanked the family profusely, and left.

I’m not sure we really got anything worth keeping, though.  I’ll have to sort through everything when we get back from the Memphis Film Festival next week.

Speaking of which, Ella and I spent most of Sunday making last minute preparations, including sorting and pricing DVDs, for our western memorabilia vendor adventure this week.  Looking back at the time, effort and money that we have spent on this, I’m having second thoughts about the wisdom of this venture, but will reserve judgment until all is said and done.

Provided the casino has adequate Wi-Fi, I will be uploading pictures and short blog posts throughout the week.  I can’t guarantee it will be worth reading, though. 

Happy trails, everyone.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

You Plenty Good Kemo Sabe

As I mentioned in my last blog, we have a framed Lone Ranger Creed that was signed by the masked man himself, Clayton Moore, in 1984.  It’s actually inscribed (You Plenty Good Kemo Sabe) to Gordie Peer, who taught both Moore and fellow cowboy, Lash LaRue, many of their western tricks, including back-spinning draws from their pistol holsters, and how to use a bullwhip.
Signed creed is both a western
and an oil company collectible

It’s a western collectible, obviously, and, most likely, one of a kind.  On another level, it’s also an oil company collectible, with the Amoco logo emblazoned in the bottom left corner.  While it doesn’t have a certificate of authenticity, my gut tells me that it’s still worth good money.

I also have another autographed picture that features an unmasked Moore, LaRue, and Peer.  I also think that it is one of a kind, or at least exceedingly rare.

LaRue signatures average around $20, while Lone Ranger autographs are all over the board, ranging from $10 up to $100.  Peer’s name is worth less, but still very marketable.  If I can get $100 for that particular photo, I will be happy.

Moore, LaRue, and Peer
But, back to the creed.  After much thought, driven by the fear of selling it too cheap, I decided to auction it off, Ebay style.  I plan to set a reserve price, and display the creed with a bid sheet.  The highest bidder who meets the reserve can take it home at the end of the festival.  If it doesn’t sell, I can always put it on Ebay later.

Ella has her doubts about this tactic, but I’ve seen these western fans pay retail price for penny books; $20 for autographs; and $300 for the privilege to sit with the stars at the festival’s banquet. They obviously have money, and I so dearly want to help them spend it.

First, though, we have to get everything priced, packed, and ready to go.  Time is running out.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Excuse the mess, but we live here

Whenever someone visits our house, I’m always reminded of the Rosanne Barr quote:

“Excuse the mess, but we live here.”

Except that I amend it, and say that “we live and work here.”

Right now, our house is in full warehouse mode, which is to say that it is dangerously close to being featured on an episode of “Hoarders.”  I know, I’ve said that before, but I mean it this time.

Adding the antique booth to the Amazon and Ebay equation has only exacerbated the problem.  Plus, in preparation for our vendor booth next week at the Memphis Film Festival, we have started unboxing and sorting all our western memorabilia, and have made not so neat stacks on the floor, leaving only a narrow walking path through our great room.

Even the dogs, who jump every time they step on stray bubble-wrap as they thread their way to the backdoor, are looking at me, as if to say, “really?”

Our priorities right now are the film festival and the booth.   Amazon and Ebay always need massaging, but they are pretty much on cruise control.  I only need to pack the sales; listing can wait.  The booth will have to be restocked this week, and straightened, as usual, but we have new merchandise already priced; we just need to tag the items, and make the short drive to the antique mall.

Speaking of the booth, May was a good month.  We sold $399.50 worth of merchandise; April's total was $373.40.  Our “May the Fourth Be With You” promotion, was a bust leading up to the actual Star Wars “holiday,” but sales picked up nicely as the month progressed.  DVDs also sold pretty well, and assorted collectibles rounded out total.

To support the booth, like I’ve mentioned before, we’ve had to branch out, and to really look for bargains.  Two weeks ago at a local auction, with few people in attendance, we were able to acquire a large lot of collectibles for about $40.  This included a not rare but collectible remote-controlled Crocodile Hunter truck for $10; a box of Normal Rockwell plates; a vintage high chair that needs a little TLC; assorted toys and tools; and a table deal for $2 that included a huge assortment of china and glassware, much of which is collectible and/or made in Japan.

Bargains from the local auction
I was a little more cautious this weekend, both at yard sales and at the auction, and was determined to open my wallet only sparingly.  I partially succeeded, but we still came home with a truckload.  The best deal I made was a church foreclosure sale; yes, the bank was taking the church, and the remaining four members of the congregation were liquidating the assets.  Everything had to go. 

I picked up some religious books, while Ella was surveying the rest of the items.  She pointed out a case of printer paper, and I offered the already harried church member a measly $5, which she accepted sight unseen.  When she saw what I had, she was good-naturedly perturbed, saying that I just got a good deal.  As we were talking, someone asked her about a large bag of Lego pieces (which I missed … darn it).  I could tell that she wasn’t sure, so I told her not to sell them cheap, and that Lego pieces, depending on amount and quality, can bring big bucks on Ebay.  She thanked me, and said that made up for the bargain that she gave me on the case of paper. 

Sunday was spent working on the aforementioned western memorabilia, trying to determine prices.  Some pieces were easy, like new in box action figures.  Other items, like an autographed Lone Ranger creed, are harder to determine.  Obviously, I want to sell it, but I don’t want to leave money on the table, so to speak.   We also have western comic books, tons of cowboy DVDs, and assorted other Old West stuff.  

I also purchased a Sony Snaplab UP-CR10L personal photo-lab printer.  It’s a kiosk-type photo printer with touch screen that accepts memory cards from digital cameras.  The idea is to have festival attendees take their photos with the stars, then print them to share right there at the festival.  In theory, it’s a money maker.  In reality, well, we’ll see.

The other piece of technology that I invested in was a small ScentAir ScentWave fragrance machine.  Many professionals recommend using smell to attract festival attendees to your booth, so I figured either this machine will give me a slight edge, or annoy the heck out of my neighbor vendors.  I wanted chocolate, but had to settle on apple pie.  They had apple pies in the Old West, right?

I still plan on live blogging the event, which may mean just updating my blog on a daily basis, providing there is something to talk about.  Me sitting there, twiddling my thumbs, probably won’t be very interesting, though. 

In the midst of all this controlled chaos, my Amazon sales have been anemic, and my Ebay sales have been on life support.  My one good sale on Ebay this week was for a small lot of Hard Rock Café t-shirts that I paid $20 for, and sold for $75.  Not great, but every little bit helps.

I thought these would sell for more, but beggars can't be choosers
As you can surmise, the next two weeks will be very busy.  I’m tired already.

Have a great week, everyone.