ISSUE 13: Nov. 2003
Yard Salers: Issue 13!
The Five Types of Yard Sales; Vern Yip's Big Tips: Trading Spaces' Chic Savings; Emo Redux; Reader Mail
Yard Salers and eBayers: Issue 12! 1.12 - Nov. 4, 2003
Welcome to another issue of YAB! I know some of you may have been wondering if there was ever going to *be* another issue of YAB.
The Germans have a wonderful word, "zeitgeist," that literally means the "spirit of the times." (Or, think of it as the "ghost" of the times, since "geist" sounds like "ghost," anyway, and they probably share the same roots). It means the tone, the feeling, the overall essence of a time period -- like the 70s were the "Me Decade" and the 80s were bad hair and investment banking.
(The Germans have so many wonderful words that can be so descriptive. Of course, the Germans also have words that can be three feet long).
Given the last few years in the D.C. area, when you think about Sept. 11, the sniper shootings, and, most recently, Hurricane Isabel, if our zeit gets any geistier, it's going to be downright spooky.
As Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos said after his stock plummeted and a former employee wrote a tell-all, "It's, like, what's next, locusts?"
All this by way of saying that on the day after Hurricane Isabel sloshed through our area, I had to get to my house the next day in a canoe.
Oh, yes. I kid you not. I literally stepped into in a canoe being paddled by my neighbor, Janice, who was immortalized in the A section of the Washington Post the next day in a photo in a story about our neighborhood's flooding.
We stayed in a hotel the night before the hurricane was due, worrying about the trees falling on the house. As it turned out, the trees weren't the problem.
I should preface this by saying that we live in a 100-year flood plain, in a small neighborhood just south of Old Town, Alexandria, adjacent to the Potomac River. The last time anyone saw flooding like this here, it was 1933 (and most of the houses were built in the 1940s and later).
Anyway, back to that morning. From one cross street to the next, all you could see was water. Which made it miraculous that when we were ferried up to our house, and climbed the few steps up to our front door, and then opened it, there was no evidence of flooding on the first floor.
So we were very lucky, since our neighbors to our right and across the street did get flooded and had to move out of their homes for months.
So, that explains one reason why this newsletter is so late this er, month.
Another reason: after our power finally came back on after Izzy blew threw (I think it was six days later), I hopped upstairs with bated breath to see if one of the things I was most worried about had been affected: the computer. Oh yes, I had practiced safe hard drive and pulled all the plugs from the wall. So, I should have been OK, right?
Come to find out, as they say, the durn thing refused to boot up with more than an ominous bright blue screen with white writing, proclaiming something really depressing about a boot record.
To put it in technical terms, as the digit-heads at my old company used to say, it was "all hosed up."
Fortunately I had backed up my most important information. I probably should have backed up more, but quite a few personal emails have disappeared into the void.
So the death and belated resurrection of my computer is the second reason this newsletter is so late.
The third reason is that I have been working on a book project that has been taking up much of my time. I want to tell you more about it, and I plan to, but for now I am holding off. But, suffice to say, it is about eBay.
So, Yard Salers and eBayers is back. We plan to go full speed for the holiday season, one that eBayers hold especially dear.
Are we all psyched up for big sales?
Lastly, I want to say that I was gratified that even though YAB has been gone a couple months, people seemed to notice. Which makes me all the more happy to be back. I hope you're happy too. And if you are happy, please forward this newsletter to anyone you think may like it!
So, enough back story -- let's get to it!
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In This Issue:
1) The Five Types of Yard Sales
2) Vern Yip's Big Tips: Trading Spaces' Chic Savings
3) Emo Redux
4) Reader Mail
5) YOUR FEEDBACK WANTED
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1) The Five Types of Yard Sales
After years of spending Saturday mornings sussing out area yard and estate sales, my sister and I developed a kind of verbal shorthand for describing some of them. If you go to them regularly, too, I think you know what I mean. It's usually a love-at-first sight -- or none at all -- kind of thing.
Either your heart goes pitty-pat, like those of the Keno brothers happening upon a trove of early American folk paintings, or you get the sinking feeling akin to turning over that lovely little piece of Victorian pottery and seeing -- "Made in China."
For the bad sales (or, well, this is the P.C. era; maybe I should just say the quality-challenged sales instead), my sister and I came up with a simple monosyllabic descriptor: shah. This is similar to the sound uttered by Michael Myers as Wayne of Wayne's World when mocking something. I think it's something between a sure and a yeah, with a soupcon of as if! for good measure.
Anyway, it got me thinking about the different kinds of yard sales. As a writer, I know that you're supposed to find ways to present articles as The Top Ten this or the Five Ways to that. So, here is my modest example of a list that breaks down the various kinds of yard sales out there:
1) The Shah
The Shah is the sale that may have looked good from the road, but on closer inspection, the stuff is of the same caliber as that pile stashed in the corner of your tool closet -- the one that you just haven't found time to take to charity, throw away, or both. Often it includes and inordinate number of old drinking glasses and mugs, and perhaps a few plates. Sometimes that is all it includes.
2) The Drive-By
This is the sale that people will slow down to check out in their cars, get a quick look at the merchandise, and drive off. They don't bother to park, and they become rather shameless about the rubbernecking, at that. I've hosted a few drive-bys in my day, so I know from experience. It's similar to the shah, with old glassware, but usually has some old clothes and albums (yes, albums...remember them?) thrown in for good measure. There may also be some cassette tapes (yes, cassette tapes -- remember them?). You can often find wonderful juxtapositions such as Jim Nabors' Christmas Album and the est of Peaches and Herb. I personally try to avoid doing drive-bys myself, because it just isn't a very nice thing to do.
3) The Sleeper
The sleeper can be one of the best kinds of yard sales to chance upon, because at first glance, it appears to be a Drive-By, or even a Shah, but on closer inspection, there are a couple items lurking among the less-desirables that are diamonds in the rough. An example of this is the sale that I almost missed this summer, where just before I was about to leave, I noticed a few more items on the front porch, and discovered a wonderful big box of great Halloween costumes, and a big bag of nice, name-brand maternity clothes.
4) The Early Bonanza
A lot of yard sales fall into this category. This is where you get the standard jelly glasses, plastic cups, and old albums, but among the old clothing are some very nice pieces, and there are a few really cool items that get snatched up early in the day. I think most people recognize that they need to put a few cherries out there in the ol' yard sale fruit bowl. Good stuff here includes things like original works of art, or nice framed prints, priced to move (I picked up an adorable old print of a "Virginia gentleman" for $10 a few weeks ago); brand new appliances in the box; wedding gifts that were never used (I got a complete set of salad bowls for $4 that had been a wedding gift to the yard sale's hostess), jewelry boxes, current hardback and paperback books, videos, nice toys or vintage toys, largely intact, etc.
I like to think that my last few sales fell into this category. Our "cherries" included a wrought-iron plant holder/stand that used to be an oil lamp stand, and an almost-new metal bathroom shelf unit.
5) The Pitty-Pat
This is the mother of all yard sales (or estate sales). Good stuff is plentiful, and priced to move. I've come across a few sales like this in my life..and only a few so far. You know it when you walk into one. Either there is just nice, quality stuff everywhere that meets the eye -- with looooow prices -- or there are enclaves of nice stuff if you look around.
One such sale was the "shopaholic's" -- the sale that I've written about in my piece for AuctionBytes, "Estate Sales I've Known and Loved."
There was a whole roomful of giant life-sized girls' dolls priced at $10 each. There were four jam-packed doll houses, full of quality antique dollhouse furniture priced at $45 each. Probably worth $400-$500 with all the stuff inside. (Wish I could go back in time and buy one of them. At the time, I was running out of hands to hold things with, and too lazy to go back).
Another was an open-house sale I went to recently. The whole place was decorated like something out of Better Home and Gardens..or, maybe more like Under the Tuscan Sun marble, chandeliers, etc., white and off-white, Ballard Designs catalog-esque decor. I got a beautiful ornate off-white carved mirror for $20.. and the nice proprietress even plied me with free toy cars that her son had outgrown (my son Kyle is 5..need I say more?).
Well, there you have it. The Five Types of Yard Sales. Think I'm off? Have stories to share? Send 'em in!
2) Trading Space's Vern's Big Savings Tips
Have you gotten sucked into the addictive tv show Trading Spaces along with a lot of other people?
If you haven't seen the show, in a nutshell, each episode shows two households trading spaces to remake a room in the other's house, with the help of an interior designer and a $1000 budget. With only $1000 to spend, the designers are famous for coming up with all kinds of creative designging shortcuts that save money.
My favorite designer on the show is Vern Yip (isn't that a great name?). He was recently on an episode of Oprah, where they went to his own home and he shared his great, cheap-chic secrets:
- His desk is actually a cool, black wooden dining room table, originally $1500, which he got for about $230 because it was dented (which he says only adds to its appeal, of course).
- His best tip is to find out when the big home stores like Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel switch out their seasonal merchandise. Just ask and they will usually tell, especially if you're a regular customer. That's how he found some of his best pieces. Vern asked his local (Atlanta) Crate and Barrel and they told him they change the showroom floors in June and December.
(Speaking of which, I think you could do very well flipping Pottery Barn stuff on eBay, if you get it for the right price).
- He got black leather chairs that normally retail for $4000 apiece for $200 each by going to a sale for a public lobby that was being redone - he saw a public notice in the newspaper for the sale.
- He got some great leather-and-linen lamps from Banana Republic for $19, down from $120, by checking regularly with the store and waiting until it was getting rid of its unsold merchandise.
- When you travel, find out where the locals shop -- don't shop where the tourists shop. Vern got a wonderful alabaster head sculpture in Thailand that would retail for $5000 in the U.S. for $80!
- Look for unusual uses for items -- they can make for great, inexpensive substitutes. He found some large, stone and metal birdbaths (for which there isn't a large market, he says) and they were being liquidated for $3 apiece. He says they make awesome planters.
- And another tip he gives is to paint your own pieces. (If you hadn't noticed, they do a lot of painting on Trading Spaces. Some of it with some ..er...controversial colors, but that's another topic).
Well, that's it for Vern's tips. You can use 'em for reselling stuff on eBay or for decorating your own house! For more Vern, see Trading Spaces on the TLC network (yeah, you have to have cable tv).
3) Emo Redux
I realize that in asking the question, What is Emo? in the last issue, I inadvertently posed another question: Just what the heck IS Emo, anyway?
I got so caught up in talking about Emo, that I never really explained what it is.
In a nutshell, Emo is a punk style that uses retro pieces. It's something that some of today's teens and hip young adults are into.
I was writing about it because I see it as an opportunity to sell some old stuff that you might not think would be worth much, for decent money.
Actually, here's a better description of Emo fashion from http://www.fourfa.com/fashion.htm:
Some pointers about emo fashions:
- the Emo Romulan look - short, thick, greasy, dyed-black hair with bangs cut straight across the forehead, and cut high over the ears. Someone from Time In Malta recently described to me the San Diego Crimson Curse scene as "Spock Rock."
- actually, any greasy dyed black hair. Bangs in front and spikes in back is very emo too.
- horn-rim glasses, or at least thick black frames.
- bald head, furry face (boys only). Goes especially well with horn-rims.
- heavy slacks, often too tight and short.
- thin, too-small polyester button-ups in dark colors, or threadbare children's size t-shirts with random slogans. Button the collar if you got one.
- clunky black shoes
- gas station jackets. This has diffused a lot over the years though; it's no longer exclusive to emo kids. Nowadays, you may want to select a nice corduroy denim jacket.
- also classic outerwear but quickly diffusing to normality: the famous Blue Peacoat
- barrettes on boys
- make-up (male or female)
- too-small cardigans and v-neck sweaters
- anorexic thinness. Veganism helps here.
Sorry folks, I didn't write it; I'm just reporting it! Especially the part about barrettes on guys. Well, more about Emo, or lack thereof, in the Reader Mail.
What does Emo mean -- you never quite explained -- plus where is the best place to list those 80's t-shirts? Thanks! - Paula
Did you ever actually tell us what "Emo" means? Or, did I just miss it? I
know you gave examples with Emo in the title, but what does it mean or stand
for? I've read the article twice and don't see the definition or
No I didn't..looks like I forgot to do that! Sorry! ;)
Basically it's just a term for a punk style that uses old/"retro" items like the old 70s/80s t-shirts. (More in this issue, as you can see). ;)
Thx for writing!
As to Paula's question about the best place to list those shirts -- I think what you put in the title of your auction is more important than the category you list them in, because I think more people do searches for Emo stuff than browse. But..I would try vintage clothing, and men's t-shirts (or whatever other appropriate category) in Clothing. Anecdotally, I think more men than women dress this way. But, I'm no expert, not dressing this way myself! (Though I may have inadvertently been twenty years ahead of the Emo curve back in my nerdy days in ninth grade!).
Thanks so much for using some of your valuable time to answer my questions. So...if I am selling something from the '70s or '80s, I should put Emo in the title? I mean, that's a word people are using to search for? Or, is it just '70s and '80s rocker and/or far-out stuff that is Emo? Like, I have some mini skirts and other clothes from the '70s that I want to put on eBay. They are fairly conservative for the '70s, things I would have worn in high school but not really over-the-top. Would they be Emo or just Retro? Or, should I just use both terms in my title for greater search hits?
Thanks again! I have SO MUCH to learn!
Since it's only 3 letters, I'd put emo in the title, yes. :) But, it's up to you...70s or 80s and/or retro may have the same effect. I would at least put Emo in the description, if u don't put it in title, tho..:)
I plan to experiment more w/ Emo so will hopefully have more for the newsletter soon.
Good luck and let me know how it goes!
More reader mail in the next issue.
- Going back to the first article, what is the silliest, or even most useless, item you bought? What are you (inexplicably in some cases) drawn to?
YOUR FEEDBACK WANTED: An Update to What Sells on eBay: Secrets of the (High-Margin!) Powersellers; The Real Deal on Wholesalers, and What Else Do You Want to See?
Note: I am always open to reader articles, so if you want to write about something relating to yard sale-ing and eBaying, just flag me down! I will of course give you credit, using your eBay ID, web site, or any other contact info.
I'd love your feedback on this topic, as well as other topics you'd like to see me address.
That's it for this issue. Until next time, happy yardsale-ing and eBaying!
eBooks by Julia L. Wilkinson:
Avalable at my bookstore at http://www.yardsalers.net/bookstore.asp
Copyright 2003 Julia L. Wilkinson
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