Posts Tagged ‘Jef Parker’

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.

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Albatross Removal

April 13, 2010

Sunday April 11th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

I made a big step in the right direction on getting rid of the sports card albatross around my neck today. I’ve been trying to shop them around to some dealers I know, but that has significant risk attached. Most dealers of any collectible range from total scumbag shyster criminal types to partial scumbag shyster criminal types. Very few will cut win/win deals.

All of them aren’t like that, but from my experience the overwhelming majority of them are. I’ve seen coin and stamp dealers operate over the years, and my cousin Jef Parker had several comic book shops in the Milwaukee area before he passed away several years ago.

The people might be different in each hobby, but the game is exactly the same. There is a predator and there is prey. The predator needs to eat, and the prey is at their mercy as to what their ultimate fate will be. Usually, it’s ugly and bloody with the prey getting eaten.

I knew I was taking a risk when I bought these cards. I had some money at the time and I bought a few collections of various sizes from various sources. I thought I would be able to do card shows on the road while I was doing comedy shows, and make double income.

In theory, it sounded great. So does Socialism. Let’s see how Mr. Obama’s master plan to fix health care works out in reality. On second thought, no let’s not. Let’s not have this forced upon us like they’re trying to do. Let’s THINK a little. Maybe a lot. Let’s be smart.

I thought I was being smart by buying these cards. I thought it through and even though it was a gamble, it was a calculated one so I pulled the trigger. I knew what the very worst case scenario was, but I did it anyway. Then it happened, and now I am stuck with them.

Actually, the second worst thing happened. The first would have been a flood or fire and then I’d REALLY be screwed. I’m not insured for them and I’d be out every single penny I spent to buy them all. Now, at least I have somewhat of a chance to get some of it back.

The two main mistakes I made were buying a mixture of older and newer stuff, and that much of the older stuff was in mid-grade condition. Older and newer stuff has a different customer base, and as the saying goes – “The very best place to get hit is in the middle of the road.” That’s where much of the stuff falls, and there are all kinds of dealers selling it.

Personally, I don’t even like the new cards. They’re overpriced and overproduced and it has a whole different collector mindset today. I like the old classic stuff from the 50s, 60s and even the 70s, as that’s when I collected. After about 1985 or so, I couldn’t care less.

Still, I probably have 50,000 cards made from 2000 to 2008 or so that I have no interest in at all. I only bought them thinking I could turn a buck. Now I wish I’d never seen them and can’t wait to get them out of my life. There’s a painful lesson in this, and I’m starting to see it crystal clearly – stay with what you love and the rest will work itself out. I made a huge goof and now I need to ungoof it, at least to the level I’m able to make it disappear.

In all likelihood, I’m going to take a loss when they’re all gone. I’m afraid to estimate it as an actual number, because I don’t want to turn it into a reality. Thoughts are things and it’s easy to dwell on how horrible this whole situation is. That’s not going to change it for one minute, but what will change it is me unloading as much of it as I can for a fair price.

That’s where it all gets cloudy. What exactly IS a ‘fair price’? Most dealers will ramble on about overhead costs and how the market is slow and some of it is legit, but then a lot of them will turn around and offer a lowball cash price hoping their scare tactics worked and they can steal the deal. I’ve seen how they do it and it’s all a big production number.

The reality boils down to old fashioned economics – supply and demand. If someone is a card dealer, they need to have inventory to sell for more than they paid for it. I get that. I don’t mind if a guy makes money off of me and in fact I want that. That way he or she has a reason to potentially by from me again. The problem I have is finding the correct deal.

My two main friends in Milwaukee deal in mostly top level cards, and much of all they do is conducted on Ebay. My cards have a market, but it’s not those guys. I do know of a guy from Michigan that’s been doing shows for 35 years. His name is Mark Smith and he comes to Milwaukee on occasion to set up at a card show and we’ve talked several times.

Mark does this all over the country, just like I do comedy. He’s probably about the very same level in cards as I am in comedy. I’m nationally touring, but not super famous. I am known in some places but still have a private life, so all isn’t bad. Mark has a life but still goes out and works card shows all over every week. We both hustle to get our bills paid.

That being said, Mark has agreed to take my cards on consignment and include them on his table, which is at a different card show each weekend. He said he can give me a down payment up front and then make payments every month and I’m ok with that. I’ve had my ass scorched big time in the past with comics and car deals, but this is a different animal.

Mark has a stellar reputation in the business, and if he screwed me word would get out in about ten minutes. He can’t afford to screw up his reputation, which is very solid. That took him 35 years to build and we talked about that today as we ran over the deal we want to work out. He’ll send monthly payments, and I know he will. He’s the total right choice.

I still may end up losing out in the short run, but in the long run I’ll have all this GONE, and that is worth it right now. If I hit it big, I’ll be able to buy it all back and fifty times as much beyond that if I want. The problem is, I don’t want. Not anymore. I’m done with the thought of trying to do both. I can’t. It didn’t work out, and now I want to pack and move.

Mark is going to be back in Milwaukee in May. That will give me a chance to put all of it in a package and give him what he wants – which is older stuff. Mine isn’t great, but it’s not horrible either. There’s some sellable stuff there for sure, but how much will it bring? That’s what Mark will figure out, then we’ll work out a percentage and my life will keep moving. I learned my lesson. There are ZERO ‘quick bucks‘. I’m giving up chasing them.