ISSUE 6: March 14, 2003
Yard Salers and eBayers: Issue 6! 1.6 – Mar 14, 2003
[This version of the issue has the html right..if you want the html, please ignore any other version that went out! Sorry 'bout that!]
Spring has sprung…or at least been trying to spring, here in the Washington, D.C. area. I am starting to see more notices of estate sales in the classifieds. Today I took advantage of the semi-nice weather to brave the one-way streets and circles of D.C.’s roads to make a pilgrimage to a cool consignment store I’d been told about (for those who live in the area, it’s called “Secondi.”
I was thinking about the advent of yard sales and wondering if the rise of eBay and other online auctions would make a noticeable change in the climate of these makeshift markets: would prices be higher, because everyone would be pricing their items on eBay the night before? (Last year, I went to a yard sale where a lady had several Barbie dolls priced at $40 and above, saying “that was less than you could get them for on eBay”). Will there be more competition? I sensed that last year as well.
Perhaps. But I think there are still a lot of people out there who either can’t or won’t deal with listing their stuff online. So as the season progresses, I invite you, my fabulous readers, to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you notice out there.
Speaking of my fabulous readers, I’m happy to present you with an article by one of you: “Tell me About Coca-Cola!” by our resident Coke expert Bob Wilkinson, and his wife Lyn (no, they are not related to me!). It’s a great read and I guarantee you will learn something you didn’t know about Coke. So let’s get to it all...
**Don’t have five minutes to read the newsletter now? Print it out; take it to bed with you! (That’s my favorite place to read my newsletters!). **
In This Issue:
1) Imagine If You Put All Your Stuff Outside Your House and Took a Picture…
2) Some of the Top-Grossing Auctions of All Time
3) Mental Tricks for Moving (and Selling) Your Clutter
4) Books, Continued: How My Friend Made $400 in 2 weeks with Amazon
5) Tell Me About Coca-Cola! Guest Article by Bob Wilkinson
6) Reader Mail
Auction Hot List…great info about what’s selling
7) YOUR FEEDBACK WANTED: An Update to “What Sells on eBay”: Electronics!
8) Quick Recommended Reading: All My Life for Sale
1) Imagine If You Put All Your Stuff Outside Your House and Took a Picture…
OK, I know that last time I used this spot to write about a USA Today article, about how the middle class is embracing so-called “luxury” items.
Well, they did it again. Say what you will about USA Today -- that it’s “McPaper,” or make fun of its color weather maps, but I do think this is a publication that has its finger on the pulse of American culture. (Or at least, pop culture).
In the “Life” section Tuesday, Feb. 25, on the front page, there was an interesting picture of all the possessions of a family (and the family) out on their lawn.
I know what they want us to think, looking at that photo. “Man, look at all the stuff they own!” But I have to admit, what I thought was…”Is that all their stuff, really? I think I have more stuff than that.” (And I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way).
The article reports that the latest cultural zeitgeist is a downsizing and junk-tossing, while people embrace the “Not So Big House” (a popular 1998 book by Sarah Susanka). This shrinkage is leading to what some say is the first significant hit the public storage industry has taken. It has also led to the creation of such clutter-busting companies as “Got Junk?” and “Trashbusters,” which specialize in stuff removal and recycling.
What does any of this mean for you and your business? If you embrace the trend, it could mean putting more of your own stuff up for auction. (I’ve discussed this a little in my clutter-busting section of this newsletter).
It could also mean trying to profit from the trend by offering clutter-busting solutions…whether it’s selling storage containers, buying and fixing up potential storage solutions, like painting an old box in a decorative way; or simply trying to appeal to people’s sense of streamlining in an auction (“It’s the only dress you’ll need this year! Wear it all Spring, Summer and Fall!”).
They may not even realize they’re buying more stuff. ;)
To read the whole USA Today article, go here: http://www.usatoday.com/life/2003-02-24-stuff-cover_x.htm
2) Some of the Top-Grossing Auctions of All Time, and a Story Worthy of Hollywood
I got to thinking about what items have gone for the most money at auction. (If you’ve read any of my ebooks, you know I’m fascinated with what prices different things get at auction).
It’s not all about money…sure, some of it is about money, but the things I find really interesting about these big sellers are: What is it about that item that made someone want to pay so much? What were the emotional factors at work? Is the item really worth that, or did the bidding war jack it up beyond its value? What defines “value” anyway? And last but not least, who are these people paying astronomical sums for these things?
So I did a little digging, and I found one story in particular that read like a novel…or better yet, a film script. Turns out that the most expensive painting sold at auction, Van Gogh’s "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" (bought for $82.5 million within three minutes at a Christie's auction in 1990), has such a strange history behind it that it spawned a book: Cynthia Saltzman’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet: The Story of a van Gogh Masterpiece, Money, Politics, Collectors, Greed, and Loss.”
I’ll sum up the story here briefly, but meantime if you want to get a gander of this work of art, go to http://www.usnews.com/usnews/doubleissue/mysteries/portrait.htm for a look at the painting and the complete text of the article.
First, about the painting: The Portrait of Doctor Gachet is one of Van Gogh's most famous paintings, notable because 1) it was painted in the last few months of Vincent's life and 2) it has been the focus of a great deal of controversy. “How competent was Doctor Gachet? What did Vincent mean when he wrote, "First of all, he is sicker than I am, I think, or shall we say just as much.”
The anonymous buyer turned out to be Japanese industrialist Ryoei Saito, who spent a few hours with his purchase, then locked it in a climate-controlled vault, where it stayed, untouched and unseen, for seven years. But Saito came into personal and financial troubles…he then “scandalized the art world by stating that he wanted van Gogh's masterpiece cremated and buried with him upon his death – though he later said he was joking.”
After Saito’s death, it was unclear who owned it or where it was…his heirs, his company, or creditors...but his company’s reps assured it was still in existence. But if the painting was sold, no one to this day knows where it is. A mystery that will soon be solved?
Even with Saito’s tortured saga, the painting’s previous history rivals the drama of his tale: “Van Gogh's sister-in-law originally sold the work in 1897 for 300 francs (around $58). After several changes of hand, it found its way to Germany, acquired in 1911 by Frankfurt's Städtische Galerie.” The painting hung there until the spring of 1933 – and the rise of Hitler – when the prescient museum director removed Gachet and several German Expressionist paintings and locked them in a hidden room. Not long after, the Nazis condemned such modern works as "degenerate art" and set about confiscating them; they finally tracked down Gachet in 1937. Within a year, party higher-up Hermann Goering – whom writer Saltzman calls "one of history's most rapacious art thieves" – sold the work for some $53,000 to buy politically acceptable hunting tapestries. The painting soon changed hands again, ending up with the Kramarsky family in Amsterdam, who brought it along when they fled the Nazis and came to New York. They often lent the work to the Metropolitan Museum, and in 1990 put it up for auction.
Well, enough on Van Gogh, for now. Let’s look at two other high-grossing auctions:
$76.7 million: Rubens’s "The Massacre of the Innocents" (1609-1611), a “large, biblically inspired painting depicting the massacre of newborn boys ordered by King Herod.”
[Personally that is one of the saddest subjects for a painting I’ve ever heard of, but the painting is no doubt a masterpiece].
It was the third-highest price ever paid for a painting at auction and the highest auction price ever for an old master painting. Speculation was the buyer was David Thomson, a Canadian collector and the son of Lord Thomson of Fleet, former owner of The Times of London. Mr. Thomson was thought to have outbid several museums, including the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
It had been hanging in the dark hallway of a monastery in Austria. “The seller, an unidentified 89-year-old Austrian woman, so disliked the painting after she inherited it in 1923 that she lent it to Stift Reichersberg, a monastery in upper Austria. It was thought to be by Jan van den Hoecke, an assistant to Rubens, until George Gordon, an expert in Flemish and Dutch paintings at Sotheby's in London, received an e-mailed picture of it from Sotheby's office in Amsterdam, which had been approached by the seller. Simply by looking at the image on a computer, he had a hunch it might be something else, so he went to the monastery to see the work. The back hallway where the painting hung was so dark he had to do his examination with flashlights.”
I guess one woman’s ugly painting is another man’s $76.7 mil masterpiece.
To read the whole piece and see the painting, go to :
(Incidentally, if you want to see a hilarious and extremely silly take on the art world, be sure to watch the movie “Bean,” where Bean accidentally ruins the face of Whistler’s mother, and tries to fix it by doodling in cartoon eyes and mouth).
And one last item:
$577,610 – “Black Betsy,” the handmade hickory bat used by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson throughout his amazing baseball career, sold on eBay for a record $577,610 on August 7, 2001.
“Black Betsy spent ten days on eBay, attracting a solitary $500,000 bid for the first nine days and 23 hours. A second bid came just minutes before the end of the auction, this one for $525,000. And, just as the final seconds were ticking off, a Pottstown, Pennsylvania, man offered $525,100. At that moment, Rob Mitchell, a 30-year old marketing firm owner, became the new owner of Black Betsy and a footnote in the history of sports collectibles.”
To read the whole article, go to:
3) More Mental Tricks for Moving (and Selling) Your Clutter
I wrote last time about ditching my clutter. So far I sold off a big lot of beads and craft supplies that the kids kept strewing about the house. It didn’t go for much, only about $12…but it’s one less thing taking up space.
I offer only one short trick this issue to clear clutter, because this issue is already too long. Think of the stuff you own that you don’t use, or wear, as renting space in your home. Is this stuff worthy of taking up that space? What if you were paying a storage facility for it? Make your stuff earn its keep.
This thinking has helped me to get rid of some clothes I wasn’t wearing but had a hard time getting rid of. I don’t think I can part with that favorite pair of 512 red-label Levi’s that is just too darn small. No..I will not admit defeat…yet.
4) Books, Continued: How My Friend Made $400 in 2 weeks with Amazon
I’m ticked off because I had typed in a whole nice article about How My Friend Made $400 in 2 Weeks by Reselling Books on Amazon.com. Well, my computer seems to have eaten the article…I don’t even know how, as it was part of this newsletter file when I last saw it. In any event, I’ll reconstruct it briefly from memory. The main idea was to show you the types of books that (re)sell well on amazon.
Essentially what she is finding is there are two main categories of books that resell well: contemporary bestsellers that are still hot, such as, say, “I Don’t Know How She Does It”...or, last Summer, “The Nanny Diaries.” Or say popular books by authors like Patricia Cornwell or Michael Crichton…but while that book is still fresh. After that, the problem becomes there are just too many cheap paperback copies of these bestsellers glutting the market.
In any event, my friend sticks to unusual and interesting nonfiction books, especially informational books for which there may be a strong niche market. Often these books are out-of-print and hard to find, so when someone really wants them, they are willing to pay more. I’ll give you a couple quick examples:
“Unsafe at Any Speed” by Ralph Nader. This sells for up to $140 on amazon. Many copies are between $30-$100. I have to confess, I don’t understand all the price variability of this title...maybe that’s a column for another day.
My friend found that book at a library sale for about a buck.
“How I Made over $1,000,000 Playing Poker” by Doyle Brunson.
This hot little number goes for from between $50 - $150. She picked it up for about $1.
The final book she sold for @ $40. It was a writer’s research guide book…the kind of book that helps a writer learn about a particular area or time period for research. Another out of print special.
Notice the strong benefits the first two titles offer…and the third is a niche title that can have strong demand.
More on books as I get more info. I picked up a used book on witchcraft the other day I am eager to see how it sells. Witchcraft is one of those niche areas that sells very well.
5) Tell Me About Coca-Cola! (Guest article by Bob and Lyn Wilkinson – (no relation to me!)
Every American and most people world-wide have always had access to all things Coca-Cola. A link to simpler, happier times, Coke gives us images of soda fountains, refreshment stands, picnics, ballgames, beaches, and just plain fun.
Created in 1886 by a druggist, Joseph Pemberton, the familiar script logo came into being as a combination of the main ingredients in the original formula; the Coca bean and the Kola nut. The design for the logo came from Pemberton's partner.
That distinctively beautiful script has survived in variations over 115 years and is a key for collectors of Coca-Cola.
When I first became interested in Coca-Cola items I had no idea of the history, or the effects that the Coca-Cola company had on so many different eras, and so many different traditions or habits. Coca-Cola had a great hand in the design of glasses, bottles, and even the image we have today of Santa Claus. I was hooked and began reading and learning as much as I could.
Coca-Cola items are so much fun for me that today, what was once a hobby, has become my passion and my business.
Coca-Cola items are of interest to a number of different groups of people which I categorize in the following way. I have found myself in each of the categories at one time or another.
1) Collector - has very specific wants in very specific categories, such as a specific commemorative bottle or a 1938 tray. Condition is always important, but even more so to the collector. A collector can be looking for a bargain, but will often times pay whatever is asked, or at auction bid high in order to fill a "hole" in his collection.
2) Investor - this buyer of all things Coca-Cola is looking for the same thing that a person who buys stock is. He wants to see return on his investment. He wants to buy low and sell high. The popular notion is that anything with the Coca-Cola symbol on it will someday be worth a lot more. DON'T BELIEVE IT!! If you are starting with the idea that you will make a killing in the Coca-Cola collectibles market, please DO YOUR HOMEWORK. The Coca-Cola collectibles market is filled with reproductions, fakes, and fantasy pieces that are not going to appreciate in value and sometimes are sold deceptively.
3) Fans - This is the category into which the majority of Coca-Cola merchandise purchasers fit. They have accumulated Coca-Cola items in a haphazard fashion based upon what appeals to them. They aren't interested so much in the history, or whether it will appreciate monetarily over time, or even whether it is a reproduction or fantasy piece. If it has the logo on it, and they like it, they will buy it. This also covers the area of people who just don't have the money to purchase the old, original Coca-Cola pieces which can cost hundreds and thousands of dollars.
4) Decorators and fad followers - Looking for that nostalgia feel for the kitchen or den? Coca-Cola fits the bill. Many people just like the look of the Coke logo and use it as a decorative theme. There of dozens of items of kitchenware, tablecloths, tins, wallpaper and border, signs, clocks, and furniture fill this niche. When the mood or fashion passes for these people, it is a great time for US to get items at their yard sales!
5) Gifters - Lots of inexpensive Coca-Cola items are sold to this group for their friends and coworkers. Most gifters have a hard time deciding what to buy because they don't know the extent of the recipient's collection. I always tell them that duplicates don't matter to a Coca-Cola collector; he is glad you remembered his hobby and he can always trade the old one!
This article was written by Bob and Lyn Wilkinson. Questions about collecting or murchandising? Contact Bob at Buynsell1234@aol.com. (Bob and Lyn will have a web site soon..and I will mention it in this space when it is ready).
Thanks, Bob and Lyn, for a great article!
If you are interested in writing for YAB, just email me at email@example.com.
6) Reader Mail
Here is some select correspondence between you, my fabulous readers, and me.
The letter below was how I first met Bob and Lyn Wilkinson, who are experts on Coca-Cola items and authors of the guest article which appears above in this newsletter.
On Buying and Selling Wholesale:
As for wholesale, I've found buying wholesale and reselling to be my meat and potatoes. I am known in this area for Coca-Cola items, old, new, inexpensive to collector pieces -- but at this point I don't live on Coca-Cola items alone.
I also sell many new flea market items - tools, baking pans, gloves, socks, seasonal items, all from wholesale suppliers. I've made my share of mistakes, been stuck with merchandise that just doesn't move and learned a lot.
My opinion is that buying wholesale and trying to sell on online auctions, ie Ebay, is extremely tough. Especially if you are chasing what is currently hot.
I believe that by the time you do the research to determine what is hot, find the source, and get it in stock, your window of opportunity for a significant profit is quickly vanishing if not gone! The market gets saturated and the prices begin to fall. As an example: A year ago we researched a specific neon clock, found nobody on Ebay selling it. We decided to see how they would sell. A year later they are being sold on Ebay for less than I am getting them from the manufacturer. Time to put the neon clocks in a different market. The same occurred with collectible Monopoly games. Granted I'm not buying in huge quantities but I am buying direct and I am negotiating for the best deals I can get.
Until I began buying wholesale I didn't understand the statement "you make your money on your buys, not your sells.” Wholesale is like anything else out there. You can find great deals, and deals where you make a little bit, and deals where you break even or -- heaven forbid! -- lose money. With wholesale you know what your price is and you know approximately what the retail is. When you stumble across that widget you have been buying for 25 and selling for 50 at a wholesaler "on sale" price of 10 it is time to buy, buy, buy!
When the exceptional deals come along in the wholesale end you had better be ready to take advantage of the opportunity and be willing to expand your thinking. It usually means large quantity, but an extremely low price. Most people can't imagine how to get rid of 100 of anything and 1000 boggles their mind. Yet if you are buying 1000 at a nickel a piece you don't have a lot of your money tied up. What you need to solve is how to sell 1000!
Do we sell wholesale purchased items on Ebay? Yes, but the margins are lower than the collectibles, yard sale, and auction finds that we sell, generally. I won't give up on it; I continue to seek new sources and new products. No market is static.
Well enough for this email. This is all, of course, in MHO and experiences during the last 3 years of fulltime buying and selling. It is my business, but more important to me, is that it is my PASSION, and it is FUN!
The liquidation/closeout sources I'll comment on in another email.
More on Buying Items at Wholesale:
I just thought I would write you and comment about finding items at wholesale.
This is something I have been researching for almost three months now. A lot of that research was trying to find wholesalers on the internet. It takes a lot of looking but you can find very good wholesale items on the web.
One site in particular that I found sold designer clothes and accessories at good wholesale prices. And they also offered Ebay start-up packages (two different ones); a smaller one that cost just under $500, and a larger one that costs just under $1000. They offered designer clothes from just about any manufacturer that you have probably heard of, and some that you probably haven’t.
I also found a website that offered links to wholesalers in every category. And a lot of these wholesalers offered large pallets of merchandise from well known retail stores. Most of those items are returns, and can be purchased by the pallet load at very reasonable prices. And most of these dealers guarantee that the items are all in good condition.
Plus you can always get your tax id and go to local wholesale warehouses in the area you live in.
If you really get out there and look, you can find lots of good wholesale merchandise at very good prices, and make a handsome profit. Thanks for letting me put in my 2 cents worth.
Martee, thanks for writing. I think you’re right that there are some good sources out there. I also think they are hard to find...yes, it involves a lot of research and weeding out.
Anyone is going to be hard-pressed to get anyone to share once they have found a good source, because that person is going to want to keep the great source to themselves!
Still, what I hope to do is cut thru the clutter and give people a sense of what reputable sources are out there, and what’s a waste of money. (And why am I sharing? Because a) I don’t plan to sell wholesale myself, and b) I’d rather sell the information about wholesale than the items themselves!).
Thanks again for your valuable input. Any other readers out there who’d like to share your experiences, please email me! If I use it in my ebook, you will get a prominent, ongoing free plug for your business.
7) YOUR FEEDBACK WANTED: An Update to “What Sells on eBay”: Electronics! Secrets of the (High-Margin!) Powersellers; The Real Deal on Wholesalers, and What Else Do You Want to See?
I’m working on an updated version of What Sells on eBay, because I think it is sorely needed and because I eventually would like the book to cover most major eBay categories.
Right now I’m working on a section about Electronics, and I would dearly love your feedback. What subcategories of electronics interest you the most? Do you sell electronics? If so, why, and if not, any reason why? Lack of knowledge? What knowledge would you like about it?
BTW, every subscriber to this newsletter will get emailed a FREE copy of the electronics update when I am done!
The following is a repeat from last issue but still valid: In future issues, I plan to carefully examine powersellers, especially the high-margin powersellers who make tidy profits per item (not the ones who spend all day and night listing penny items, since I don’t want you or me to have to live like that!). I’m going to see if any of them will share their secrets, and if not, well, we’ll just see what we can learn from their listings as to how they do it.
I also plan to take a look at wholesalers in a coming issue.
I’d love your feedback on these two topix, as well as other topix you’d like to see me address.
8) Quick Recommended Reading
All My Life for Sale
I’d read about the guy who auctioned off everything he owned a while back. So when his book about it, “All My Life for Sale,” came out, I have to admit to being curious enough to buy the thing.
I figured it would be an amusing chronicle of how various mundane items in his personal stash of stuff brought in higher-than-you’d expect bids, due to the p.r. surrounding his experiment. (E.g., an old t-shirt bringing in $23.00).
But the book turned about to be more than that. The author, John Freyer, has a wry sense of humor, and many of the items he owned had either some kind of ironic appeal, or were retro. For example, the vintage “K-Tel” t-shirt (for those of you old enough to remember, like me, K-Tel International used to be the king of record compilations…sort of like the “Now” Series of CD’s is today). And a pair of green polyester pants (“These are from the green polyester suit that I vowed to get married in,” says John, I assume jokingly. Thank goodness for his future bride that he didn’t).
The pages in the book show pictures of the items, and, often, pictures of the people who won them in the auctions. (Freyer traveled around the country and visited various winning bidders of his auctions). So the book reads as a kind of bizarre material-world travelogue, combined with Freyer’s philosophical reflections on the “stuff” we own and whether that stuff in fact owns us.
In the end, he seems to come full circle, deciding that rather than be unencumbered by all his stuff…complete with lots of thrift store finds...he actually yearns to plant down roots in the very Iowa he’d sought to leave behind. One imagines Freyer hitting the yard sales every Saturday to build up a new collection of polyester clothing, old comic books, ugly dishes, and the like. (Hey John! This newsletter is just the thing for you).
Want to buy the book? Click here:
All My Life for Sale
That’s it for this issue. Until next time, happy yardsale-ing and eBaying!
eBooks by Julia L. Wilkinson:
[all my ebooks are offered at substantial discounts from their regular price of $8.95 to the subscribers of this newsletter. Only $4.95 each! If interested in any of them, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
-- Making Big Bucks off Catalogs on eBay:
- Over 100 Books that Sell for $50-$100 on eBay: email me!
- Selling Kids Clothes on eBay: email me!
(these last two will be available for purchase via my site soon).
What Sells on eBay for What:
My Life at AOL (available at amazon.com and 1stbooks.com)
Copyright 2003 Julia L. Wilkinson