ISSUE 7: April 23, 2003
Yard Salers and eBayers: Issue 7! 1.7 – Apr. 23, 2003
OK, so this issue is a bit later than usual, you may notice. The past week or two has been interesting…er, challenging, as one says in job interviews. ;) First I was sucked into the tax vortex, then had several small people to watch after for a week; and finally, hit by a nasty cold bug. I hope you all stay healthy. Now, below I’ll get back into the editorial I had written in the beginning of the month. (Well, at least it’s still April!)
My sister and I resumed our fair-weather ritual of hitting local yard and estate sales this past Saturday morning, and we returned from our outing laughing about our finds.
Why? Because we thought of explaining to our husbands the wonderful treasures we’d found: a day of trolling for hidden riches had yielded some particularly odd trinkets: a plastic flying elephant and four egg-sized metal insects. (“Look, honey! We can retire now! We have four metal insects and a flying elephant!”). I think the people holding the one yard sale were especially horrified when Signe and I launched into an off-key rendition of “When I See an Elephant Fly” from “Dumbo.” (Let me put it this way: we decided if we were ever to be a lounge act, we’d have to call ourselves “The Gnat Sisters,” due to our distinctive buzzing sound).
OK, so I also picked up a lovely purple-and-white toile bulletin board for my daughter’s room for $2…a great deal. And my sister picked up a turkey pan for a buck, which I especially appreciated because she borrows my turkey pan every Thanksgiving.
I’d love to hear from you as to any or all of your funky yard sale or flea market finds. What is the silliest, or even most useless, item you bought? What were you inexplicably drawn to? (I know I’m not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, but this is my newsletter, and darn it, I’ll do it if I want..er, want to).
Share them with me and I’ll share them with you all in the next newsletter.
I’ve come to a decision about my own eBay selling efforts…something I want to concentrate on. More on that in an article below.
I will also have my exciting announcement for you all for the next issue. (Are we building up suspense, or what? No, I’m not pregnant…that’s the first thing many of my friends think when I say I have news…).
No, wait a minute, since this issue is late, you get to know right now! I am pleased to announce that I will be taking on a new part-time writing job, as Editor for a new newsletter about Ecommerce: the "MyEZsale Ecommerce Guide.”
MyEZSale is being launched in June 2003 by Ina and David Steiner, who are the publishers of the free AuctionBytes newsletters, and the AuctionBytes web site, the premier resource for the online auction industry. (AuctionBytes is a wonderful resource for auction sellers, so if you haven’t checked it out, at www.auctionbytes.com, please do so! Not that I’m biased or anything). ;)
From the press release: “MyEZsale Ecommerce Guide will show readers how to set up a Web site, get credit card merchant accounts, earn extra income through affiliate programs and more. Established Internet and Brick & Mortar retailers, liquidators and distributors, online-auction sellers, small businesses and anyone who wants to make money online will benefit from reading MyEZsale.”
More on that as it develops.
Now let’s get to it…
** 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) Flea Marketing with the Kovels
2) Julia Changes her Auction Tactics
3) “Take the Box!” Offline Auctions
4) Getting Into Estate Sales Early: Ebook Review
5) Funny eBay Auctions: Reader Mail
6) YOUR FEEDBACK WANTED
1) Flea Marketing with the Kovels
I was watching a couple episodes of the Kovels back-to-back the other day (OK, so I have tivo). If you have not discovered this wonderful show, it features this married couple (Ralph and Terry Kovel) wandering about various flea markets and antique shows in the country, checking out the wares and asking dealers about various items in which they specialize in. (It’s on HGTV so if you don’t get cable you’re unfortunately out of luck..unless you can watch it at a friend’s house, which might be more fun anyway).
It’s a great way to get a broad spectrum of info about a lot of types of collectibles. You just might find a great new collectible in which to specialize. (One recent show featured Stangl dishware, turned wooden bowls, teacups, vintage transistor radios, Shawnee corn king dinnerware, antique cheese scoops, German "show towels," and a pie safe.
They also give some expert tips on how to recognize reproductions/fakes. The interesting thing I find is that each item has its own unique rule about what’s genuine and what isn’t. You wouldn’t necessarily guess what the rules are. For example, for one type of figurine featured on a recent show, if you turn it over and notice its bottom, a solid bottom means the real McCoy; a hollow bottom means a repro.
But with another type of item, large pottery jugs, if the item has a date on it, it’s a modern reproduction. That’s because they didn’t bother dating the early ones (not knowing how valuable they’d become).
One part of the show I particularly enjoy is called “What’s It?” Terry holds up some strange-looking antique, and Ralph is supposed to guess what the heck it is. So far Ralph hasn’t had much luck. The last thing I saw was an antique ice cream scoop, and Ralph thought it was a candle snuffer. OK, so it might have been.
The show is on HGTV (Home and Garden Television) Friday at 8 p.m.and 11 p.m. ET. (It reruns other times in my area as well, so check your local cable listings for exact times).
Their HGTV site is at:
2) Julia Changes her Auction Tactics
In the past year, I’ve been selling items at a wide price range in a concerted effort to de-clutter my house. But lately I’m thinking of changing my eBay strategy to my original M.O.: sticking to items I can resell or “flip” for a minimum profit. What is that minimum profit? That varies for everyone, I know, but my current thinking is I want to try to make at least $40 per auction.
I did just that the other day with a St. John sweater I sold for @ $88. I bought it for @ $43. So that was approximately doubling my money, not counting listing fees and commissions.
For those of you who are not familiar with the St. John brand, it has something of a cult status among the C & A (Clothing and Accessories) board on eBay. It’s a high-end clothing line..I’ve heard it described as clothing for businesswomen who travel a lot.
Your most likely encounter with it will be in a Vanity Fair or similar magazine. Flip through the pages and you will see a stunning, tall model with cropped blonde hair. She’s gorgeous, all right, as are all fashion models.
But wait. Something’s different. She’s not stick-thin like so many models…she lacks that whole hollowed-out-heroin thing.
She still looks great. It turns out this model is Kelly Gray, Co-CEO and Creative Director of St. John Knits, and is the daughter of company founders Marie and Bob Gray. (I believe the “St John” name was Marie’s maiden name, but I haven’t dug up proof of that yet, so don’t quote me on it).
The stuff is not cheap…piece for an outfit may run between $300-$500 and up…and outfits/suits can be in the $1500 neighborhood. But the clothes hold their resale value well.
At any rate, I am going on about this brand because it’s an example of a high-end brand that can command decent prices. If you can get a piece of a designer item like this at a consignment shop, estate sale, etc., you can make a decent profit. Of course, the challenges remain, 1) Finding these quality items at low enough prices to flip (I found mine at a consignment shop where it had been marked down twice for being on the racks too long), and 2) Finding pieces that are still stylish enough to resell. (That jacket with the big puffy shoulders may have been the cat’s pajamas in 1983, but today you might not be able to give it away).
These general principles hold for other types of merchandise, of course. In your case, it doesn’t have to be clothing. It could be books, antiques, computer software, whatever.
Do you have thoughts on the topic? Think I’m off? Care to share what your minimum profit per transaction is, or do you prefer to just list everything and not worry about it? Just want me to stop asking questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!
3) “Take the Box!” Offline Auctions
Remember that old game show, “Let’s Make a Deal”? Contestants would have to choose between different options…say, what was behind Curtain #1, Curtain #2, or what was in this black box. Audience members would try to be helpful, calling out choices for them. All I remember of the show (other than host Monty Hall…who could forget a name like Monty Hall?) is these people yelling out “Take the box! Take the box!”
Well, this phrase came to mind the other day when I read a great piece in The Washington Post called “Bid Business” in the March 7, 2003 Weekend section.
Ever gone to a (gasp) offline auction? You know, with real bidder numbers and everything? The piece was about auctions in our area…the kind in the real world. It focused on the offerings of a moving company which had “shock, shock – misplaced some of its clients’ possessions.” So they sat in boxes in a storage warehouse…some of them “untouched since the 50s.” Now they were being auctioned off by a local auction center.
(If anyone comes across a big box of hand-painted Lord of the Rings figurines from the 1970s, you’ll know you have my own personal lost booty that I suspect out last movers...er, misplaced).
Anyway. Here are some of the finds these Saturday auction-hounds got at this storage facility bonanza:
- a crate labeled “Katmandu”, bought for $225, turns out to contain 11 framed and signed pictures, possibly from a Nepalese temple; a champagne bucket and breakfast tray; and a boy bazooka.
- Another “Katmandu” crate is not so worthy: a guy buys it for $100 and discovers a moldy game of Clue, a squashed summer hat and a Christmas tree skirt and some linens. (Guess you can’t trust handwritten labels on these boxes all the time!)
Up for a game of find-and-seek…want to take your own chances? Check out the auction houses in your own local area. Look in the yellow pages or on the internet, or check your local paper’s Classifieds.
4) Getting Into Estate Sales Early by Terry Gibbs: Ebook Review
If you’ve read a few issues of this newsletter, you know I love estate sales, and not just because I like to find cool stuff at good prices. I enjoy seeing what kinds of things other people decided to save, and I also get a big kick out of checking out houses in our local area (there are some gorgeous homes with views of the Potomac river near where I live, just South of Washington, D.C., where everyone of late is obsessed with soaring real estate prices).
If you missed my piece on estate sales in AuctionBytes, check out this link -- “Estate Sales I’ve Known and Loved”: http://www.auctionbytes.com/pages/abu/y202/m06/abu0072/s05
But what I don’t like about estate sales is the mad rush to get into them. The long lines, the feeling that a hoard of vultures has swooped down and is poised at the entrance, sale number in their claws.
Well, collectibles expert and author Terry Gibbs has now written an ebook to show us how to avoid the mad rush and “cherry-pick” what we want from these sales before anyone else gets in: “Getting Into Estate Sales Early.”
Terry has a site at www.iwantcollectibles.com. I first came across Terry’s stuff when doing research for another article. I read his other ebook about getting collectibles to come to you instead of the other way around, and found it interesting, readable, and even funny in places. Reading Terry’s stuff is like sitting in a bar, sharing a beer with an old friend who is giving you the real scoop.
I’m not going to give away all Terry’s secrets from the book, but I will talk a little about the techniques he gives you in it. Terry talks about establishing relationships with estate sale company owners and operators so you can get what you want while helping them at the same time.
He offers very, very specific advice on how to act and what to say so you won’t rouse suspicion in getting the items you want from the sale. It will require a little bit of your time, and during the week (you want to avoid the weekend hoards at all cost), but with Terry’s advice, it makes sense.
He also gives samples of letters he sends out and cards he uses to drum up business, which I find very helpful, because I like concrete examples. There are some free “bonuses” in the back of the book, including my favorite, “How to Become an Antiques and Collectibles Expert.” (There are no quick shortcuts, but he will point you in the right direction).
Bottom line: Terry offers a wonderful technique that could reap you lots of profits in the long run, so I think his ebook is totally worth it. You can get it by going to the following url and clicking on “Get Into Estate Sales Early For The Best Deals”: http://hop.clickbank.net/?juliawilk/nalroo5
5) Reader Mail
I don’t have a lot of Reader Mail this month, but I did have one exchange I wanted to share with you. (As always, feel free to write me!).
Specifically, I’d like to pose these questions for the next newsletter. (Remember, if I use your letter, I’ll post your url/ebay contact info if you like).
- Are you using online auctions other than eBay, and how are they working for you? Let me know!
- Going back to the first article, what is the silliest, or even most useless, item you bought? What were you inexplicably drawn to?
Great web site! Have you heard of anyone listing expensive items on ebay
by putting up an auction for pictures only etc. and then give details of
the expensive item and contact info.? -- Scott
I want to help you out with your question. I'm not sure I 100% understand it though…you mean they list just a picture of the item, and so the auction is for a picture of it and not the actual item? Sounds like a classic bait and switch to me...I've seen other borderline ethical eBay auctions that do such things, like selling a web site address w/ more info as to how to get or win an item, not the item itself. -- Julia
Hi Julia, I mean putting something cheap on auction and include info on something expensive in the ad, therefore avoiding the high ebay fees. What is that popular site that lists funny auctions on ebay? -- Scott
Hi again Scott! Aha.. interesting..I hadn't heard of that, but it sounds like the kind of thing eBay will crack down on if it hasn't already. :/ Have u seen auctions like that? Send me a link to one if u can. -- Julia
As to the funny auctions, I did some digging, and this may be the site Scott was thinking of: “The Weird eBay Auctions Warehouse” at:
It lists, well, funny, weird, goofy, odd, and maybe even downright scary auctions. (There is even a disclaimer that some stuff may be offensive).
Here are, for example, the “Fan Favorites” (there are a lot more categories/auctions listed; this is just a sample):
* Twenty-Four kids
* …and his references.
* The kidney that made world-wide news
* Someone's virginity
* The nails from a serial killer
* Someone really was attached to his pack of cigarettes
* French Toast not eaten by ‘N Sync's Justin Timberlake
* We have the baby. He just needs a name.
* Haunted pictures?
* Buffalo is cold. And snowy.
Check ‘em out if you want..er, a laugh.
Scott also offers the following link to a site with articles about online fraud, including a Business 2.0 piece about one seller who scammed a bunch of people out of large sums of money after having built up a good feedback rating on eBay.
Scott, thanks again for all the links and ideas!
7) 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?
I’ve updated my “classic” ebook (now that we’re on Internet time, I can call it “classic” since it’s over year old), What Sells on eBay for What.
I added a section about Electronics, and some Collectibles. I would still 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?
And yes, every subscriber to this newsletter will get emailed a FREE copy of the update! My current plan is to send you a link in the next newsletter. (This issue is already late enough).
The following is a repeat from previous issues 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’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:
[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 email@example.com.]
-- 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, booklocker.com, and 1stbooks.com)
Copyright 2003 Julia L. Wilkinson
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