Posts Tagged ‘thrift store’

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.

Advertisements

Mental Wealth

October 24, 2013

Friday October 18th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

I’ve been reading quite a bit about acquiring wealth of late, diligently trying to figure out what it takes to achieve financial independence. This has been a perplexing puzzle, and a source of all kinds of pain in my life. I would guess 95% or higher of my problems come from lack of money.

I realize money isn’t everything, but it’s a lot – especially when it happens to be in too short of supply. It’s the measurement of energy that’s returned to a person in proportion to what he or she puts out. That’s what I’ve been reading anyway. There has to be a way to conquer this problem.

America is supposed to be as good as life gets anywhere on the planet, but the vast majority of Americans are hurting for money right now. I won’t go as far as to say we’re poor, but I doubt if anyone would argue that finances are as tight now as they have been since the Great Depression.

My grandparents told me horror stories when I was a kid of going through those years, but they had no choice. Times were tight for all then, much like they are now. They also told stories of the boom years after World War II where lots of people laid a foundation to build eventual fortunes.

Wealth is definitely a mindset, and one I would love to acquire. If I wasn’t so busy trying to get those pesky bills paid month after month, I might have a shot. It’s much easier to fix a hole in the roof when the sun is shining than during the middle of a torrential downpour. That’s a no brainer.

Not many of us have that luxury. I know I don’t. Every single penny I make goes to either bills or paying down debt. My savings is zero, and I’m thoroughly embarrassed. There was a time not all that long ago when I was sitting pretty with zero credit card debt and a hefty stash in the bank that would have allowed me to live without working for at least a few years. That’s LONG gone.

It’s gone for almost everyone – except the filthy rich that don’t have to worry about what they spend at anytime. That’s a tiny percentage of the population that doesn’t count in my book. I am referring to the real world jungle that most of us have to call home. Things are getting a bit snug.

Gas prices have ‘gone down’ to right around three bucks a gallon. Really? How insane is that? That alone is killing us, as it drives up the prices of transportation to get the trucks with all of the merchandise to the stores so they can sell it. It’s all interwoven, and in the end we get the shaft.

It’s hard not to go off on what’s wrong with the system blah blah blah, but that’s not what I am talking about – at least not today. What I mean is getting a proper mindset in place that will bring true wealth as a result. Part of wealth is having money, but not all. It’s acquiring an abundance of resources that can be used as needed to solve problems. It’s an energy river flowing from within.

I know that sounds goofy, but I really believe that’s what wealth is. Many have won the lottery but wound up broke again not that many years later. I never want that to be me. I want to be the wizard that can rebuild a fortune at any time should disaster happen to strike. I have experienced my share of disaster for the next six lifetimes. Hows ‘bout some decent years tossed in there for a refreshing change? That would be nice, and that’s what I’m shooting for. Picking trinkets out of thrift stores and rummage sales is fun, but it’s not my solution. True wealth comes from within.

Money is part of it, but wealth is a mindset.

Money is part of it, but wealth is a mindset.

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.

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.

 

Betting On Elvis

February 12, 2013

Monday February 11th, 2013 – Crystal Lake, IL

   There’s a thrift store in my area that has a Monday special of 25% off for those who sign up for one of their discount cards. Last week I was walking through scouring for baubles and/or trinkets to resell and ran across an issue of TV Guide from1956 that had Elvis on the cover. It turns out it was his first national magazine cover, and is apparently a higher end collectible. I was interested.

The marked price was $29.99, and that seemed low to me for an item of that ilk. It appeared to be in excellent although not pristine condition. There were minor signs of wear, but who’d keep an issue of TV Guide around that long? They were meant to be thrown out at the end of a week.

I don’t particularly have $29.99 to gamble on the chance of something being real, so I did my due diligence and went to do some research on the magazine. Ebay sales average about $100 per magazine, and there was one that was independently graded like a coin or stamp and that one had an asking price of $1300. I asked the store manager about the history of it and he said it was real.

Here’s where the poker game of all this comes in. The store manager was maybe 30ish and not a fan of Elvis at all. I could tell by the indifference in his tone as he talked about all the interest it had been getting. He wasn’t sucked in, and sounded like he just wanted to get it out of the store.

I tried not to act interested, but also get as much information as possible. That’s when I learned of the 25% discount on Mondays I hadn’t known about. He wouldn’t budge and sell it to me any sooner for the discounted price, but said I had a good chance to nab it if I would show up at 9am sharp Monday morning which I did today. My gut told me this was something worth going after.

In the back of my mind I half expected to see people in sleeping bags lined up at the front door camping out waiting for the store to open up at 9 but when I got there it wasn’t so. There was one guy ahead of me, and I was prepared to fight to the death for the right to claim my Elvis item but he went in the opposite direction and was obviously interested in something completely different.

I did indeed score my prize, and got my 25% discount to boot. I also found a few other trinkets like a wooden and metal toy gun that looked to be pretty old and a View Master that came with a pile of discs for three bucks. I also found another small bag of older Hot Wheels cars that were in fair shape, and at fifty cents a car I think I’ll do ok with them. If not, I’ll give them to some kids.

This is all a gamble, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll make one cent in profit but I am already enjoying the adventure of the hunt. Driving to the store so early in the morning made me feel like Indiana Jones searching for the Ark of the Covenant. I didn’t know if I’d get it, and when I did it gave me a feeling of accomplishment and victory. At the very worst, all I’ll be out is under $40.

I don’t think I’m going to lose money on the Elvis piece though. I already showed it to some of my friends and they gawked at it like monkeys looking at a bright red ball. If nothing else, it will serve as an eye catcher if and when I do set up at a flea market or antique mall. If I have to bet on a collectible that will fetch me a nice profit, I feel safe betting on The King. Thankyouverymuch.

 Is The King collectible.