Posts Tagged ‘Ebay’

The Quick Flip

July 31, 2014

Monday July 28th, 2014 – Waukegan, IL

I’m still basking in the radiant glory of my killer business triumph yesterday, flipping the stash of toy cars I nabbed for $2 at a thrift store for a cool crisp twenty. Actually the bill was a kind of soggy and rumpled, but twenty bucks is twenty bucks. The point is I made a profit for little work.

That’s the pure essence of what every fly by night huckster has been attempting to do since the beginning of time. It has never been easy, and never will be. I just happened to luck out and I am fully aware of that fact. The universe threw me a couple of bones, and I flipped them for twenty.

I realize it’s only $20, but there are much larger implications involved. What if I had purchased an item for $200 and sold it for $2000? I would be a lot more excited than I am now – and I truly am now. It feels great to pull off a successful deal, but it also makes me wonder if I did it right.

My two main wheeler dealer mentors have traditionally been quick flippers, and both of them were able to stay in business twenty years or more. They may have varied on rare occasion, but for the most part they’d get something in and flip it right back out. If they doubled their original investment, they’d do it day and night until they couldn’t do it anymore. Then they’d do it again.

Greed is part of the human bag of tricks, and everyone thinks about how they can score a sweet financial deal that gives a ridiculous return. This is why casinos stay in business. People that won big can’t just walk away and appreciate that they won. They have to try and clean the casino out.

I must admit I did think on the way home yesterday that I could have kept those cars for a little while and tried to move them on Ebay. I only went to one dealer, and he gave me my price. What I don’t know for sure is, was my price correct? Ten times my investment is great, but did I have a stellar load that could have sold for a lot more? That would have involved a lot of extra activity.

I would have had to list what I had for sale on Ebay (which I have never done before), write up all the sales notes, take pictures and eventually mail them to each buyer. Maybe I could have put them all in one lot, or maybe I should have split them up into several. There were many options.

My initial investment was very small, so I could afford to sit on the whole bag as long as I felt like it. Knowing me that would be months or even years, and I don’t want to start stockpiling old clutter at this point in my life. I want to get rid of as much as I can, and only collect cash piles if I collect anything at all. I was able to turn my investment into a healthy return, so I’ll accept that.

I also came across some old sports cards I forgot I saved. They weren’t anything great, but they were old and worth something so I took them to a sports card shop today and got $40. I can’t put an exact price on what I had in them, but I’d rough guess $20. I bought them several years ago so I’ll count that as total profit. They were just lying around, and I turned them into in pocket cash.

Who hasn’t had the dream of starting with something tiny and turning it into a fortune? This is not the first time I’ve done deals like this, but I always end up needing the money and that ends the game before it starts. I’ve got a couple of other trinkets I can cash in, and I should be close to $100. That’s a nice round number to start, and I’ll keep watching for deals. They’re out there.

From now on, this is the only collectible I am interested in acquiring mass quantities of. Everything else is for sale.

From now on, this is the only collectible I am interested in acquiring mass quantities of.

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Trans Am Treasures

July 31, 2014

Sunday July 27th, 2014 – Wilmot, WI

I was walking through a thrift store a couple of weeks ago and ran across a bag of toy cars that were on sale for $2. It was a generous sized bag for that price, and I noticed it was packed with a collection of Pontiac Trans Ams for whatever reason. When I was growing up that was a hot car.

Somebody had obviously been collecting them, and they were donated. I have always liked toy cars, and anytime I can cop a sizeable load of them for a low price I’ll do it if for no other reason than I like to give them away to kids. The look in their eyes when they get a big bag is priceless.

This seemed like an especially good find, so I gambled the two bucks knowing I wouldn’t lose. I opened them in the car, and was impressed with the quality of the load. There were Hot Wheels and Matchbox and Corgi which are all brand names. They were in top notch condition and there was a nice variety. There were also a couple of slot cars – both Trans Ams – and a Batmobile.

When I got home I immediately emptied the bag for a count, and it was 27. Not shabby. That’s far less than a dime a car. I looked up some of them on Ebay, and saw they had asking prices of up to $15 a car. There was a Hot Wheels special edition that was a mail in offer exclusively, and there were four of those. The Batmobile had asking prices between $10-$15, so I knew I’d be ok.

Even the no name Trans Ams had to be worth at least a buck each, and there were also a couple of higher end Matchbox models of older cars that were in excellent shape. There were also a few cheapo cars in the bag that would probably sell for a quarter or less, but as a whole it was a haul.

Today I took my weekly run through the flea market in Wilmot, WI and decided to bring along the bag of cars to see if I could sell them as a whole. I would much rather turn a quick profit and let some vendor make out than set up and sweat my Sunday away trying to sell them all myself.

My cousin Jef Parker used to own Collector’s Edge Comics in Milwaukee, and I would watch him wheel and deal comic book collections. He said there were always two strategies, and buyers had to decide if they wanted to flip it for a quick profit or piece it out in detail and squeeze every cent out. The latter would entail much more time, effort and expense so he preferred the former.

I also watched master sports card dealer Ray Gunderson of Gunderson’s Sports Cards in West Allis, WI pull off deal after deal and that was his strategy too. He was always about a quick flip – even if he lost out in the long run. He didn’t care if the buyer got an extra good deal, and in fact he wanted that so they’d come back and buy from him again. “This ain’t no museum,” he’d say.

Whatever he paid for anything, he’d move it out the door for 2-3 times what he paid for it. He kept his doors open for 20 years doing that, and everyone thought he was crazy for having such low prices. But his success was being able to buy low, and he did it regularly. He was a master.

That’s exactly what I did with this bag of cars. I stumbled upon it by chance, and it was able to be had for the right price. I suppose I could have farted around on Ebay and maybe made $100 or more, but I settled for a quick $20 from a dealer who was sweating in the sun. Maybe I could’ve tried for $40 or $60, but I kept it fair. I made a nice profit for doing nothing. I’ll take it and run.

I copped a load of toy cars at a thrift store for $2. Not a bad haul.

I copped a load of toy cars at a thrift store for $2. Not a bad haul.

This isn't even all of them. I feel like a miniature used car dealer.

This isn’t even all of them. I feel like a miniature used car dealer.

Everything Must Go!

August 7, 2013

Tuesday August 6th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   It’s prime time for a possession purge in my life. I feel a backup of clutter weighing me down, and chopping as much dead weight as I can will free me up to move forward. I try to live as lean as possible – or at least I thought I did – but too many piles of junk still manage to accumulate.

   Books have always been my downfall, and that’s the pile that needs to be trimmed most. I have way more than I’ll ever read, and at this point they are just weighing me down. I do read as much as I can, but often it’s online or other sources. These books will be best served in someone else’s possession, as even if I’d start tomorrow and read twelve hours a day I’d never finish them all.

   Almost all of them are nonfiction. I have a ton of self help and how to books, along with health related, biographies and business. I’d love to get to every one of them, but that’s just not realistic and never was. What guy doesn’t want to sleep with every centerfold? That won’t happen either.

   I also have a butt load of audio programs – most of them on cassette. Nightingale Conant is the company that puts them out and most if not all are excellent. I found the majority at thrift stores or rummage sales at minimal cost, but I know for a fact the retail price for a long time was $60.

   I checked on Ebay, and they’re being offered at around $12.99 each for the “buy it now” price. That doesn’t mean they’re getting it, and I’ve got at least 100 titles from Anthony Robbins to Zig Ziglar and everyone in between. I’ve got a few CD sets, but the majority of them are cassettes as that was the technology at the time they were made. The content is still good, but who wants it?

  I’ve listened to quite a few of them, and luckily I happen to have had cassette players in my last few cars but there’s no way I would ever hear them all even if I drove to the North Pole and back six times in a row. Most of them I haven’t gotten to, and they’ve been gathering dust for years.

   If I really wanted to hear them I would have by now, and the same goes for the books. I got to as many as I could, but the future looks bleak for the rest of them. I just don’t have as much time as I’d like, and it would make me feel much better if I’d cut ties with all of it and cleanse my life.

   I took a big box of books to the Salvation Army today, and that felt great. Many of them I read, but a few I hadn’t. It stung a little to put them in the box, but I realized if I hadn’t gotten to them by now I probably never would. I don’t want to be the equivalent of a cat lady for books. I’m not a hoarder, and if I really want that book in the future I can check the shelf at the Salvation Army.

   That’s where a lot of this stuff came from anyway. It gave me something to do on the road, and it didn’t cost much. A couple of bucks here and there weren’t missed, but it sure would be nice to have all of it back and start over. Too late now, as the choices were made. Time to choose again.

   Making time to list the titles and then listing them on Ebay isn’t what I see myself doing in the next little while. I’ve got other projects that need attention, so I think the best option is to clear it out any way I can. If I have to give most of it away, so be it. It’s time to cut losses and move on.

   If you happen to enjoy reading or listening to what I’ve described, feel free to contact me and it will be my pleasure to hook you up with some outstanding material. You could pay me money if you want, but far better payment would be to make use of it yourself then pass it to someone who might also enjoy it and help make the planet a better place. That’s what I’m trying to do myself.

$38.65

July 15, 2013

Saturday July 13th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   The gap between theory and reality seems to be widening of late. In my head, I’ve got all these grandiose ideas bouncing around for what I want to get done in life, but far too few have had any tangible results. Those that did have happened so slowly, a snail’s pace would signal an upgrade. 

   A prime example would be my feeble attempt to make a few extra bucks wheeling and dealing antiques and collectibles. I’ve been doing it my whole life and I’m in the ideal scenario with my vagabond lifestyle and plenty of free time. In theory, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be killing this.

   I have made a few nice finds, but nothing that’s going to bail me out of the poor house just yet. I knew going in that with enormous glut of TV exposure from American Pickers to Pawn Stars to Storage Wars and everything in between it would light the fires of treasure hunters everywhere.

   I wasn’t getting in it for the quick and easy buck, because if there’s one lesson I’ve learned on my life’s journey it’s that it doesn’t exist along with unicorns, leprechauns and Chicago Cubs in the World Series. I entered the game knowing I would have to work my way into it gradually.

   The main concern as always is my time outlay vs. income. I can’t afford any hobbies that only suck time right now, and I was looking specifically to turn at least a semi steady buck. I think my picking eye is halfway decent, so I set out to look for a supply of trinkets and baubles to resell.

   I compiled a bunch after several weeks of hunting in my spare time, and then delivered some to a friend of a friend who frequently sells on Ebay. We worked out a percentage deal that we could both live with, and I left him to do his thing. We both agreed it would be a low risk experiment.

   Today I received an email from the guy saying my grand total after fees and percentages was a whopping $38.65. Not everything sold, but what did actually fetched a profit. For example, I had a vintage phone I found in a thrift store for $6 and my share after everything was $15. I’ll take it.

   I also found an old model car kit at a rummage sale for $3 and my final net was $12. Again, not a bad profit and the other guy made his percentage too. We only tried a few items, so it’s not like my whole stash is used up, but at this rate it will be a long time before I’ll be in the Fortune 500.

   Rummage season is in full swing, and I am in a mega ripe area. I can’t drive down any street in any direction near me on a weekend and not see homemade signs everywhere. I’m not finding an abundance of quality items though, and it’s not been worth my time and especially gas to search.

   Everyone else is watching all those TV shows too, so anything even close to old is being listed as ‘vintage’ and priced as high as someone would have to be to buy it for that amount. It’s funny to see the looks on shoppers’ faces when they flip over a junk item and see a sky high price tag.

   Still, there are bargains to be found for those that look hard enough. I’m just not sure if I have a desire to be one of them. By the time I fill my gas tank and put stressful miles on my car sorting through randomly scattered junk piles hoping to find a rare gem, the profit I make isn’t worth it.

   I will still fart around with it only because I like it, but this isn’t the way to make any kind of a steady living. I’d have to get a storage facility and set up at flea markets, and right now I’m just not looking to do that. I’ve got other projects that mean more to me than being a garbage picker. In theory, I had a plan to bring in steady extra cash. In reality, I worked way too hard for $38.65.

Shoot Me Now

June 9, 2013

Saturday June 8th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

   Shoot me now. Please. Anyone who has a few spare bullets lying around, could you please go find your gun and pump a few rounds in the back of my head while I’m sleeping? Sell whatever organs you can on Ebay, and keep the money. I’m on the wrong planet, and I want to go home.

   My every fear and more about comedy contests came true tonight, and I’m feeling about as low and useless as a poodle’s pecker in a kennel full of pit bulls. Tonight was the finals of the World Series of Comedy at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL, and it couldn’t have gone any worse.

   It feels like I got hit in the cup with a blazing fastball – only I wasn’t wearing a cup. This stings to the bone, and makes me question my entire existence. Just yesterday I was in the winner’s seat and feeling fantastic. Less than 24 hours later, I’m on the toilet seat and the bowl is overflowing.

   Absolutely everything went wrong tonight. First, the Chicago Blackhawks game was televised and the whole town is going nuts over it. This reminds me of how it was when the Bulls were on top in the Michael Jordan era. When the playoffs came around, nobody came to comedy clubs or theatres or restaurants or anywhere not a sports bar. It was great for the city, bad for businesses.

   Tonight’s crowd was about a dozen away from being sparse. On top of that, there was a big old bachelorette party in the house – the death knell of comedy shows. They’re usually drunk beyond belief, and rarely shut up during the show. Also there were some twenty somethings right in front that had their arms crossed and were bound and determined not to laugh at anything anyone said.

   We all had eleven minutes tonight vs. seven minutes last night. There were six of us on the bill, and I drew number two. That’s about what it felt like, as they were completely dead. The emcee had a rough time getting them going, and he brought up the first act to piercing silence. He got a bit of response, but his style didn’t prepare them for what I do. I tried to adjust, but I was done.

   These people were flat out DUMB. That happens in a country of more than 350 million people. Once in a while a clump of dimwits gets together, and tonight was it. I pulled out every trick that I could think of, and I finally started to get them about nine minutes in. I had to get off at eleven, so all that did was set them up for the next guy. In a headline set I could have got them over time.

   But this wasn’t a headline set. It was a contest, and all that matters is if someone can get laughs for the time allotted. It doesn’t matter that that’s all the time they have, and past performance has nothing to do with the current situation. That’s what’s so brutal and cruel about contests, and I’ve never liked them. How many times have I ‘lost’ to someone who can’t even do a 30 minute set?

   The truth is, nobody gives half an aardvark’s ass, or the ants he ate for lunch. None of the dolts in this crowd tonight saw the years of hard labor it took to get the chance to try and impress a panel of judges for ten minutes. Had I made the final three, I’d have gone on to the late show and had a 25 minute set with two other finalists. I like my chances a lot in that scenario – but I won’t get it.

   Am I pissed off? Royally beyond belief, but not at Joe Lowers or The World Series of Comedy or Cyndi from Zanies who suggested I sign up. I’m more pissed at myself for making the choices I made that put me in a position to even sign up for this contest in the first place. I should be out there headlining all these clubs, and working any time I want. I know I have the ability, but those people tonight just weren’t my audience. I don’t want them as my audience, but I had no choice.

   This is all part of the cruel randomness of the entertainment grind. Everyone dreams of being a famous singer or actor or comedian, but that dream can turn on and off with ease and it’s located safely inside one’s imagination where the real world doesn’t operate. In life, it’s much harder.

   When it goes like it went tonight, there’s no turning it off. All the way home in my car burning $4.50 a gallon gas, all I could think of were the years of struggle and paying dues that placed me in the position to go up in front of less than half a room full of people who stared blankly at me.

   I felt like a goldfish who was somehow taken out of the bowl and all I could do was look up at the people staring at me, hoping someone would have the presence of mind to throw me back in so I could breathe. Nobody did, and that was it. The feeling of crushing disappointment is about as bad as I’ve ever felt it, and I truly wish I’d never been born. What the hell am I doing here?

   Nobody came over to tell me I did a good job or encourage me like I did last night to every one of the other contestants. I’m not blaming those guys, they were all very funny. The lineup was as solid as I’ve ever seen one for a comedy contest, and the fact that I have more experience than all the rest of them means absolutely nothing. That’s not what was being judged. It was just tonight.

   It was total luck of the draw, and I drew a rotten poker hand tonight. I did the best I could with what I had to work with, but it wasn’t enough to crack the top three I needed to move to the next level for the late show and do 25 minutes. I would have had a huge advantage in that situation, as 25 minutes is like a night off for me. I can do three times that amount of time, and be consistent.

   I doubt if any of those other guys could have matched me over a longer period of time, but that won’t be an issue. It’s over, and only because of dumb luck. It’s like a sports team that wins by a last second fluke play of some sort in a championship game. Nine times out of ten the other team would have won, but in the one time out of ten it was the big game so the underdogs are champs.

   I wish all the winners nothing but the best, and I’m not holding any grudges against anybody or anything like that. I entered the contest of my own free will, and I knew full well anything could happen both good and bad. I took a chance, rolled the dice and got wet mud kicked in my face.

   I don’t know if I can put into words how rotten I feel right now. This one really hurt, but unless one has been a performer and experienced this pain firsthand I’m just wasting keystrokes on my computer. It would be like a woman trying to tell me about childbirth. I will never feel that pain.

   If there is someone reading this that has experienced what I’m talking about, he or she can feel every bit of what I went through tonight. It’s a deep bitter disappointment that takes one’s whole spirit away. It’s like finding out that there’s not only no Santa, but that I owe the fat bastard who has been wearing the suit all these years back pay, suit rental and interest on the toys he brought.

   I’m really beginning to lose faith in just about everything. I wish I could have some optimism, but I just don’t see it. Is that a normal part of growing older, or did something just snap inside of me after taking all these years of all these direct hits? After a while even the nicest puppy bites if someone keeps poking him with a broom stick. I feel like I have been getting poked since birth.

   I wish I had an upbeat thought to end on, but I totally don’t. Not only did I lose out on my shot to get a paid trip to Las Vegas, I also didn’t get paid this week. I spent money on gas getting to a contest I got my ass handed to in. This is not what I pictured life to be. Shoot me now. Please.

Redneck Reminder

May 30, 2013

Wednesday May 29th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I was scouring my local thrift store today, looking for my instant retirement plan. I’m hoping to run across a severely underpriced bauble or trinket I can score for peanuts and resell for top buck on ‘Pawn Stars’ or ‘The Antique Road Show’ – but who isn’t?  Life is now a big scavenger hunt.

   We’ve all been relieved of whatever savings we may have had, and the economic collapse that we’re going through has made American Pickers of us all. Gas at $4.50 a gallon with no letup in sight has brought out the wheeler dealer in all of us. Between that and the lottery, we’re crossing our fingers we have a few shekels left for our old age so we don’t have to subsist on pet chow.

   It’s easy to spot the sharks in a thrift store, and we’re all doing the same thing. We’re all trying to outsmart everyone else and haul in something we can resell for a lot more. Sometimes it does happen, but not as much as everyone might think. Most of the junk in there is there for a reason.

   I highly doubt 2004 is going to come back any time soon, so why would I need an organizer or calendar even if it is only $1.99? And I think I’m up to my limit on VHS tapes too. I don’t know anyone who even has a player anymore, but I’m sure someone does. I have an 8 track machine.

   Vinyl records are allegedly making a comeback, so I’ve been stocking up on those of late. I’ve been able to get them between fifty cents and a buck on a consistent basis, and have put together a decent collection of mostly jazz, older country and obscure spoken word stuff I have seen listed on Ebay for significantly more. I have no idea who buys them, but I have a supply ready to sell.

   I used to focus on books and self help recordings, but not anymore. I’ve got enough material to last me six lifetimes plus a long prison term, but I don’t feel my life getting any better because of it. I picked most of it up for very low prices at the time, but now I wish I’d have that money back instead of piles of books and tapes I’ll never ever get to. My intentions were good, but that’s it.

   Good intentions mean nothing without action, and I’m trying to make something happen so I’m not still fishing for thrift store scraps years from now should I be lucky enough to live that long. I do admit I enjoy the treasure hunting aspect, but depending on it to pay my bills is not my desire.

   I received what I’m taking to be a message from the cosmos today when I ran across a copy of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be A Redneck If…” book. I hadn’t seen a copy in a while, but not a day goes by that I’m not aware of how I missed my shot to be part of that whole phenomenon.

   I can picture plain as day sitting across from Jeff at lunch and having him tell me how he came up with an idea he thought would make millions and how I laughed in his face and told him what an idiot he was and how it would never work. If I could live my life over again starting from any one point of reference, that would surely be it. I missed out on a huge opportunity, and I know it.

   Too late now. I looked at the credits in the book and didn’t see my name there, even though he listed some other comedians I know. I could have been there too, but I blew it. Kicking myself in the aspirations years later isn’t going to change the fact I missed the boat, but it does still sting.

   Will I ever get a chance that big again? Who can say? I’m thrilled for Jeff’s enormous success, as he was and is a wonderful guy. I give him mega kudos for a legendary idea. Not only that, he EXECUTED it to perfection.  And here I sit years later, wishing I had shut up and played along.

Jeff Foxworthy - a great guy with a great idea.

Jeff Foxworthy – a great guy with a great idea.

I was there when it started.

I was there when it started.

Financial Insecurity

May 12, 2013

Friday May 10th, 2013 – Caledonia, WI

   Like it or not, I have to knuckle down and make some money. On this cosmic plane, I have not figured out a way to get over the financial hump, and it absolutely stinks. I keep hearing tall tales of how people start with a piece of lint and a gum wrapper and turn it into millions, but I bet nine of ten of those tales aren’t more than fabricated fluff and nothing else. Getting rich is a real bitch.

   Yes people do win the lottery and even businesses hit it big, but more often than not people get in a financial rut and stay there throughout their lives. It’s getting harder to make an honest buck than ever before, and those that do are getting taxed up the poop shoot so why even attempt it?

   One thing I know it’s not is easy. The snake bastards who peddle “no money down” real estate courses on late night TV are oilier than Justin Bieber’s complexion, but the greedy couch maggot masses still get sucked in by the idea of making easy millions without doing anything to earn it.

   I’ve always been willing to earn it, but how? I’ve been so busy focusing on creative endeavors, studying financial fundamentals has been left behind. This is true for millions besides me, and in no way have I ever thought I was alone. The clock ticks, and I need to start socking away cash.

   But it’s so damn difficult without stability. One week or month will go well, but then there will be some fallouts or unexpected bills and before I know it I’m back in the hole deeper than I ever was. If I had more stable income I could plan better, but who does these days? It’s not realistic.

   Then there are those who inherit a hefty wad. Wouldn’t that be sweet? Without a doubt, but too bad for me – everyone in my family tree that could possibly have left me something is now dead and I didn’t get a nickel. I’m not asking for millions, but it would be nice to have a little security.

   It’s no fun floating aimlessly like a dead fish from week to week. Struggling to scrape together a living takes away a lot of creative energy that could be spent on much more meaningful things. I’d much rather be planning a benefit show to help a worthy cause than hoping my rent gets paid.

   I thought for sure I’d be financially secure by now, and by all rights I should be. I was lined up perfectly with my radio job at The Loop in 2004, and that would have been it. I would have had a great run of comedy to go along with the radio and by now I bet I’d have enough saved to retire.

   Woulda, coulda, shoulda. The whole world came crashing down, and it was no fault of my own but I sure am suffering all these years later. Had I been able to get another gig or have time to put another plan together I may be sitting in a different spot altogether. But I didn’t. I had to get back out and start piecing together a living in this cold cruel world where few care about anyone else.

   I thought about all this more than a little today as I loaded a container with trinkets and baubles I’ve been buying at thrift stores and flea markets to take to a person to help me sell on Ebay for a profit. I hope. I don’t have time to fart around with it myself, but I’m trying to start an income so I’m hiring someone to do it for me. It’s a friend of a friend, and I have no idea if it will work out.

  What else can I do but keep slugging? I defy anyone to start from ground zero and get rich with no help from anyone. I’m sure it’s been done and will continue to be done – but it’s about as rare as rappers who say ‘ask’. The odds are stacked against us, even in America. Sorry to say, it’s not the easy cakewalk we’re lead to believe. I’m doing my best, but I could use a break about now.

Junk Jackpot

March 8, 2013

Wednesday March 6th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL/? WI

   My idea to start picking antiques wasn’t the worst one I’ve had. I’ve been doing it regularly for a while now, and it’s turning out to be the perfect part time job. I can do it whenever I have a free amount of time from half an hour to a full day. I’ve been making a point to work on my picking eye, and I stop at every thrift store, pawn shop, antique mall and flea market that I happen to see.

Today I had some errands to run, and ended up in a small town in Wisconsin I’ve visited many times before. There are a couple of decent thrift stores there, but I didn’t find anything today as I took my obligatory lap. Sometimes there is all kinds of stuff to buy, other times it’s a total zilch.

There’s also a small antique mall in the town, and I’d never been to it before. I wasn’t really up for any more junk hunting, but that little voice in my head told me to take a lap in there so I went right over. I’m learning to listen to that voice, as whenever I do there’s always a positive payoff.

I walked in the antique mall and immediately knew I was going to find something good. I don’t know how I knew that, but I did. I scoured the place from top to bottom, and there were three full floors to go through to do it. It took about forty minutes, but I wound my way through all three of the floors and found absolutely nothing. I was ready to go home when something caught my eye.

It was in the very last booth of the very last row in the basement, but there hung a small plastic bag. In it was a 1954 Topps Eddie Mathews baseball card, and those are right in the golden years as far as desirable sports collectibles go. They can fetch a hefty shekel when in prime condition.

This one was not. There were a few bits of Scotch tape on the front of the card, and that sucks the value right out from a fanatical collector’s standpoint. Those people are way intense. They’re anal to the point of obsessive, and they all need to lighten up and relax. Life is too short for that.

Still, the card had nice eye appeal and I estimated the resale value to be at $20 – $25. There was a hand written $6 price tag on the plastic bag, so I snapped it up noticing there were two items of interest I’d never seen before. One was a circular patch made of felt with Mathews’ picture on it.

The other was a piece of cardboard with a photograph of Mathews that was designed to be used as a standup display. I’d never seen either of those pieces before, but I knew since I was only out my $6 initial stake I could afford to gamble and if nothing else I wasn’t going to lose any money.

As luck would have it – in my favor for a change – those other items are quite rare and after a couple of calls to sports collector friends I knew I made a nice haul. The standup piece is from a set issued by Milwaukee area dry cleaner Spic and Span circa 1955. There is ONE listed on Ebay at a price of $1200, but that’s in mint condition. Mine isn’t, but it’s not horrible either. Jackpot!

There’s also one listing of the felt patch and it had an asking price of $450. Mine is close to the same condition, and it blew my mind to see such high dollar value on both items. I’m not saying I’ll be able to get full retail asking price for the items, but for six bucks I made a fantastic score.

 

Fred Sanford Revisited

February 12, 2013

Sunday February 10th, 2013 – Lake County, IL

   I’ve been dipping my toe in the water with the antiques picking game, and I think I’m going to do pretty well for several reasons. I’ve been looking for another source of income that’s flexible, and I think this is it. It won’t be easy, but if I play my cards right I’ll be able to turn a fair profit.

Right now I’m mainly practicing my ability to pick items out of thrift stores. That’s not a huge source of guaranteed income, as all those items have to pass in front of a lot of eyes before even making it to the store shelves. Still, there are often trinkets that do and that’s what I want to find.

It becomes a poker game of deciding what I can get at a lower price and spin for more than my initial investment. There will be expenses of time and money if I choose to sell on Ebay or set up at a flea market, so I have to decide what I can do well enough with to make it worth purchasing.

I’ve scored quite a few smaller items already, and that gives me hope there’s a lot more to pick – especially when rummage sales start in the spring. I’m learning what to look for, and it’s a total switch from what I’ve been buying for the past twenty five years when scouring the thrift stores.

It used to be all I’d look for would be books, CDs, DVDs and maybe cassettes depending upon if I had a cassette player in the particular car I happened to be driving at the time. I’d often score great stuff for a very low price, but I discovered the turnover market wasn’t there. I never bought to turn it over, but after moving several times and having to drag it all with me I’ve restructured.

I have enough books to read for the next forty years, should I be lucky enough to live that long. I am now focusing on baubles and trinkets that can be spun for a profit, and that can include a lot of things from jewelry to glassware to furniture to vinyl records just to name a few. There are all kinds of possibilities, and I have a whole lot to learn about all of them. Right now I’m guessing.

For example, I stopped in Goodwill on my way to a gig a few weeks ago and they had a sale on vinyl records. Albums were a quarter and 45s were three for a quarter. It’d been years since I had any records and I don’t own a turntable on which to play them, but I gambled five bucks on some older stuff from the early ‘60s that was in very nice shape. It was a calculated but affordable risk.

One of the albums was a ‘Bat Masterson’ TV show piece that was dated 1960. It’s in excellent shape, and I saw on Ebay that one had sold for $100. Bingo! I’m not saying I’ll get $100, but if it brings even $40-$50 I’ll be ecstatic. Now I have to find someone who is willing to pay me for it.

There were some other albums in the stack that were listed between $25 and $60, but again that in no way means I’ll get that. Still, I think I made a fantastic buy for my $5 and now I’m going to experiment with ways to turn it all for a profit. It’s all a risk, but I’m into the whole pile for a fin.

This kind of stuff is everywhere and always has been, but I wasn’t looking for it until now. It’s certainly not my goal to become a modern day Fred Sanford, and the last thing I want is to waste my time thinking I’m going to get rich quick. I’m not delusional going into this. It’s a transition.

Hopefully it can help me make a few bucks to keep me off the lower end gigs on the road, and when I am on the road it’s something I can do to productively use my time to make contacts that hopefully I can use to move some of the inventory I do get. I’m learning quickly that winning in this game is about knowing where to sell things BEFORE they’re bought. That takes a network.

I’ve got a few comedy contacts that do this kind of thing either for side income or to earn their actual living. Greg Willet is in Appleton, WI and he’s a full time dealer. Greg has been generous with his time in helping me get started, and he informed me of a pick where an old baseball card that was found in a scrap book brought $92,000 at auction. Big ticket scores are still out there.

Someone wins the lottery every week as well, and I’m totally aware this is a long shot. I don’t expect to make a million dollars tomorrow, but with a little effort and smarts applied to what I’m already doing I think I can use it to make a few extra bucks. I’m not looking to cheat anyone and I am going to report every penny of profit to the IRS – but I will take all my legal deductions too.

Today I ventured out to test the waters at a couple of small flea markets that happen to be near where I live. I just wanted to get a feel for what’s out there these days and see if setting up at one might be in my near future. I wasn’t impressed with either one as a whole, but there were dealers at each one that stood out so I’m glad I went. I ended up learning from them all – good and bad.

One ingredient that was painfully missing from the mix was showmanship. Way more than not, most of those who set up just threw everything in a pile and let it sit. A few of the dealers would say hello as I walked into their domain, but most did not. They sat there knitting or reading their book or whatever they were doing, and it was interesting to monitor how each person behaved.

Signage was another thing that caught my eye. A few of the sellers had eye catching signs that let me know how much their merchandise was, but most others had sloppy hand written stuff that was very unappealing to the eye. If I would set up at a show like this I would handle it differently and I bet I’d do well. My entertainment background would set me light years ahead of the pack.

I could see myself dressed up as The King of Uranus at some big flea market, and attract a long line of people to my booth to buy things. I could do some kind of humorous presentation and sell funny items like joke books or farting dolls or something I can pick up cheap and spin for profit.

All of this is all about the show, and I know it going in. It’s not my goal to spend the rest of my life looking for rare Edsel hubcaps or ‘I Like Ike’ buttons. I want to use those things to help turn a buck, but that’s about it. I enjoy the treasure hunt aspect, but the real buzz comes from a show.

I want it all to tie in together, and I think it can. If comedy fans know I wheel and deal antiques they might sell to me before approaching a stranger – especially if I develop an honest reputation as I intend to. If antique customers know I do comedy, they might become fans. It ties together. I am not taking this lightly, and I know there is work involved in addition to a need to get educated in a lot of areas of expertise so I can make smart choices when buying things. I have work to do.

Ten Cent Triumph!

November 9, 2012

Thursday November 8th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   One of a precious collection of useful things my grandpa told me that still sticks with me today is the difference between good luck and bad luck is good luck isn’t funny. When someone else is mired in a losing streak, those who see it laugh out of sheer tension relief. The only one laughing during a streak of good luck is the one experiencing it. Everyone else is feeling jealous or angry.

I’d much rather be the only one laughing, and today I got my chance. Actually, I have been in a tremendously upbeat mindset of late, and I can’t say it’s bothering me in the least. I’m enjoying a brief respite from being life’s dart board, and quite frankly if I never go back to the other side I’ll be more than fine with it. ‘Mr. Lucky’ is a character that lives onstage, and he needs to say there.

Dobie Maxwell is an entirely separate entity. He’ll take all the breaks he can get – funny or not. Today I caught a nice one, and it piggybacked on a couple of others I’ve had recently. I’d like to gratefully acknowledge them all, and vehemently ask the universe to keep sending them my way.

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to find a $10 bill crunched up on the ground and stuck it in my wallet to decide what to do with it later. A few days after that, I was walking through one of my favorite thrift stores and happened upon a collection of Apollo 12 collectible drinking glasses dated November 19, 1969. There were five of them on the shelf, and they were priced at $1 each.

I bought all five, thinking if nothing else they’d make fun gifts on The Mothership Connection at some point for either guests or listeners. I paid for them with the $10 bill I found, and in return I received a receipt with a red star on it and was told those are lucky winners of a $5 store credit.

Technically, the glasses were free and I still had the $10 I started with. I decided to keep going and see what else I could buy for ten bucks and hopefully spin it for more. I would have to scour the thrift stores, but I do that anyway. It’s a relaxing pastime I’ve always done. I enjoy the hunt.

It’s kind of like my own personal ‘Storage Wars’ or ‘Pawn Stars’ adventure. I’m trying to find something someone else didn’t know the value of when they priced it, and neither did those who looked at it on the shelf before I got there. Chances are low that it happens, but once in a while it absolutely does. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and having street smarts.

Today I drove by the same thrift store and was kind of in a hurry but that little voice inside told me to take a quick lap. I almost blew it off, but decided against it as I felt it strongly urging me to do it immediately. Positive things usually happen when I listen to that voice, and they did today.

I walked past a shelf of knick knacks and saw two official National League baseballs in plastic cube holders screaming at me to buy them. One was priced at $2.12 and the other $2.62. I looked closer and saw that one was autographed by Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and the other by some of the 1989 Cubs including Mark Grace, Jerome Walton, Mike Bielecki and Rick Wrona. I couldn’t believe they were priced so low, and I took them right to the checkout and the total was $5.10 for both balls. I gave them my winning receipt and my total was .10! I floated to my car in ecstasy.

So let’s review. I started with ten bucks I found on the ground and bought five collector glasses for $5. With tax, it was around $5.40. I won $5 in store credit, and used that to buy two baseballs in plastic holders – both autographed. The total was $5.10, so my out of pocket cost was a dime.

There’s no way to authenticate the signatures, but I’d bet they are legit. They’re official league balls, and I’ve seen autographed stuff before. These should have no problem selling to somebody in the Chicago area who loves the Cubs, and I can hold out for my price since I have little into it.

All totaled that would mean I’d have five collector glasses, two autographed baseballs plus my left over total of roughly $4.50. That’s a pretty good start, and I think I’ll be able to sell all of it for a healthy profit without gouging anyone and keep the ball rolling. I know how to find stuff.

Selling it has been an issue, and it may continue to be. Where would I sell collector glasses or baseballs? The first thought would be Ebay, but I’ve never sold anything on it before. I bought a ton of stuff over the years, but never sold even one thing. But how hard can it be? I can handle it, but I’m not sure if I want to. I have enough going on without starting some new time demander.

Still, the lure of the treasure hunt is strong. Who doesn’t love looking for the big payoff? I sure do, and I freely admit it. I know every deal isn’t going to be a winner, but I’ve heard tales of big scores through the years and I do believe things like that happen. To win, one has to participate.

I did take a quick lap through Ebay and saw that the glasses weren’t all that rare, and weren’t at all priced consistently. I saw them listed for anywhere from $2 to $20 each, but shipping was the big expense. I’d be thrilled if someone gave me $20 for four of them, and I’d keep one to give to my Mothership Connection co-host Greg DeGuire. He’d enjoy it, and it would be a fun souvenir.

The baseballs should realistically bring somewhere around $100 for both, or at least that’s what I’d look to get out of them. They’re in great shape, and Ernie Banks is a Hall of Famer without a doubt. I know he signed a lot of stuff in his life, but some Cubs fan would love to have that ball.

Say I can manage to score my asking price somehow from someone and walk away with $120 for everything. Couple that with the roughly five bucks I have left from my original $10 and call it an even $125. That’s well over ten times my original stake, and it literally came from nowhere.

I don’t think it’s realistic to expect to keep pulling off ten times my investment on a consistent basis, but doubling my money doesn’t seem out of line in the least. What could I invest $125 into that will bring me at least double in return? The possibilities are endless, and I’d love to give it a shot. I’d get it in cash in smaller bills and have them available to make a buy everywhere I went.

Eventually, $125 becomes $250 becomes $500. Then $1000, then $2000 and on and on. It may take a while, and I’m sure I’ll blow it on occasion and make some less than stellar buys, but on a long term basis I like my chances to be able to build a significant wad of cash I can use to keep a constant flow of more items and cash coming in. It’s been done before, but not by me. I’d love to take it all the way from $10 to enough to walk in and pay cash for a new car. It will be fun to try.