No more comic books and super hero movies – PLEASE!

Hollywood never has had a very keen imagination but it seems like all they make these days are superhero and comic book movies – the lure of merchandising and cross media promotion was too much. It used to be cool, now it’s just embarrassing. Please, no more superhero or comic book films, no more 1960s and 1970s remakes, no more sitcoms or TV classics turned into features.

Something new would be nice. Here are a few ideas:

George Washington before America

The Surrealists

Folk Artist Narrative Biopics we’ve never heard of

Cesar Chavez

Nazi USA – where the Germans won WWII (Imagine a world where Germany dominates Europe and the USA is a fascist state..oh wait…we already have that…)

Norman Rockwell – Serial Killer

Ataturk starring Mel Gibson and Russel Crowe

Evil Kneival biopic

The most boring man alive – Ben Stiller does nothing for two hours while the audience checks their phones for text messages

The Stealing of the Presidency – an all out conspiracy nut pic starring every star you can think of but especially Woody Harrelson as Nixon and Angelina Jolie as Jackie O and later with Adam Levine as Reagan and Chevy Chase as Bush Sr.

Just please, no more comic books!

 

Destroying Cool Things for a Profit

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Here’s something sad that isn’t new – often, the parts are worth more than the whole. Case in point – I bought a couple of really cool old items recently – a 1940s National Cash Register and a 1920s RCA Victor 5 Band World Radio.

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I’ve tried to sell both at numerous prices – but with no luck. I tried to sell them high at the price that the pieces are worth when parted out and then, because I hate tearing cool things apart – I tried to sell them at just about the price I bought them for – which is roughly 25% of what they part out at.

They wouldn’t sell. Too big, too heavy, and folks just don’t have the room they used to have. All those McMansions are being sold as boomers realize they don’t want to climb stairs every night or mow an acre of grass in the front yard. They’re selling their furniture, selling their collections, and selling the collections they inherited from their parents.  The younger generation doesn’t have the money or the space.

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So, I’m going to destroy these cool old machines. I’ll sell the RCA Victor tubes for $20 each and the keys of the old cash register for $2 each – I’ll pull out the cool old dial from the radio and the bakelite knobs and then convert the cabinet into a bookshelf. I’ll scrap the guts of the register for about $30 more and paint the whole thing red and slap a coke label on it and sell it to someone for $35 which is the last price I tried to sell it for.

I’ll quadruple my investment even when you figure in the time spent pulling these cool old machines apart – but it sure seems like a shame to do it.

I hate having garage sales – a pointless rant

Before anyone tells me not to have a garage sale if I hate having them – let me point out that this is exactly what I’m doing by writing this – reminding myself of – not to have garage sales in the future.

Here’s the thing – I enjoy going to garage sales – but having one of our own is a bummer that I forget about until I’m in the midst of setting it up or dealing with the cheapos and wack jobs that show up for such things. They show up early, they make offers that are insulting (Will you take a nickel for this?) and in general – I’m pretty sure that giving all this stuff to charity for a tax write off is the better option – so let’s hope I remember this the next time I consider having a yard sale or garage sale.

Yes, there are some nice people and yes, we usually end up making a fair amount of money – but the days usually start off bad with people ignoring the signs or free listings on craigslist which say 8 am, no earlybirds – and before we get the chance to set up we have people going into our garage or opening up boxes without so much as a by your leave.

Then there are the old ladies with thier nickel and dimes and even worse the younger ladies or men with their nickels or dimes. Look, I’m a picker – I look for bargains – but I never offer less than a dollar and usually pay the price people are asking. I’ll make offers on high priced things but they are reasonable and respectful offers – and I never argue with someone about what their stuff is worth. I make an offer with a smile and maybe an explanation and then they either take it or not – and usually, we’re both still smiling. The creeps that come to my sales will try to tell me that I don’t know what something is worth and when I tell them that I own an antique shop and do frequent appraissals – they sometimes go so far as to tell me I don’t know my business. This is the point I tell them that they should leave before we have a serious problem.

A guy today tried to tell me he could buy a new gas powered weed eater for $40 at Walmart. I pulled out my phone and showed him that they are actually $138.47 – a woman asked me how much for an old mill saw blade – I told her $10 and she said “I was thinking more of a dollar” – I told her “You can give me your dollar as a donation, but the blade stays here for any less than $10″ at which point another lady handed me $10 – little did I know that my wife had just agreed to sell it to her for $15 – but that’s fair game.

The early birds piss me off as a picker, a seller, and as a human being. My ads and signs clearly state 8am, no early birds – and yet people still roll up at 6:30 and sometimes knock on the door to ask if they can look early…these same guys are doing the same things to other sellers and when i show up at the listed time – the good stuff is usually gone – nice guys finish last – what kind of world is this?

Estate sales are a different story – you set a time and lock the door, let the crowd build and work themselves up to a fever pitch then let them in an entry point and have a controlled exit where they can line up and pay for their purchases…no questions, no b.s. – everything is the price it is marked until the last day then it’s half price – of course, my friends that run estate sales tell horror stories about that too…

It’s the cheapohs – crabs at the bottom of the bucket trying to suck all the same shit and clawing each other to do it – next time – I’ll donate it if I can’t sell it on ebay or craigslist…

 

The Worst Trade I Ever Made

Back in 2006, I went on a trading odyssey where I started with a skateboard I bought for fifty cents and saw just how far I could trade it up…it was fun.

I traded the skateboard to an artist for three pieces of outsider art. I traded the art for a handfull of junk rubies. I traded the rubies for three things:

A massage from a masseuse which I never used

A sailboat which a few days after I got it sank and was then traded for a sword which I later sold for $5.

And a timeshare in Wisconsin – which I thought was pretty cool until I found out that when I transferred the title I became responsible for the $1200 in back dues the previous owner hadn’t wanted to pay.

After trying to explain the situation to the timeshare people, I realized there was no getting them to cancel the deed, so I signed it over to them and sent it with a bill of sale before I left the USA on a life changing five year journey…and I forgot about it.

Fast forward to 2014 – I’m back in the USA, I’ve brought my family with me from Morocco, and we’re struggling to make a living in rural Oregon, pay health insurance, not default on student loans, etc.

Guess who suddenly pops up and tells me I owe them $6600?!!!! The same timeshare company. Apparently they didn’t bother changing the title or decided it was better to let interest and penalties accrue…

Guess who got told to go fuck themselves because my credit is already non-existant and I’ve made it this long without any credit cards or loans – yup…that’s the one.

So, in a nutshell – I traded a $.50 cent skateboard for $6,600 in debt and a bad credit report….

That’s the worst trade I ever made.

Jinxing Yourself – My Box of TR King Poker Chips – The Sleeper

Commanche Club

I jinxed myself with my last post. I know it’s a bit superstitious to think that one actually can jinx one’s self – but I guess that bit of superstition provides a little bit of meaning and understanding to things we just don’t understand.

My last post titled You Don’t Make Money Selling – You Make Money Buying was a pretty good article. The information in it was solid and true except for one little bit of prediction I made which sort of ruins the whole thing for me – I said, right at the end -

“I found my sleeper and ended up paying $1 for an item that I would flip for over $2000 within a few days…I’ll tell you about that in the next article which will be all about sleepers….”

Man, I wish I hadn’t of said that. You see, I hadn’t actually flipped my sleeper yet but I was so sure that I would be able to – that I allowed hubris to grab me and let my fingers do the bragging that jinxed me. Truth be told – I’ve been waiting for my sleeper to sell so I could write my triumphant “I told you and here is the proof” post – but, like I said, I jinxed myself.

clay poker chips

I’ll tell you about my sleeper find later in the article, but first I want to fulfill my promise about explaining sleepers.

In the antiques and collectibles business, a sleeper is an item that the seller has overlooked – an item which is priced well below market value. You might think that sleepers are hard to come by, but they are everywhere -even in antique shops, flea markets, thrift stores, yard sales, or high end auctions by Sotheby’s, Christie’s or Bonham’s.. There is always a sleeper.

The reason is that unless the seller is only selling one thing that they are completely sure of and expert on -it is probable that there is something of value which they have overlooked. An example would be those very nice staplers I wrote about in a previous post, or maybe a vintage Barbie thrown in among the modern Barbie dolls, a broken dresser with valuable hardware on it, a pair of ruby earrings that has somehow found it’s way into a junk jewelry box, or a box of 75 clay poker chips from 1955 marked Commanche Club Poker Room that wound up in the dollar box of a hoarder sale.

Yup, that’s what I found. As soon as I saw that they were embossed, I knew they were special – even if they hadn’t of been embossed, they would have been a sleeper since a box of T.R. King small crown poker chips made of clay is worth $40-$60 by itself -

Commanche Club

These were special though. Every chip was marked $1 – Commanche Club. A bit of research showed me it was a Los Angeles card room that had closed in 1955. Further research showed me that individual chips sold for anywhere from $35 – $95 each.  I did the math and listed them on Ebay for a discounted price of $2250 with a “Make an offer” option. I was sure they would sell within a day or two and then I jinxed myself by writing that last post and including my bragging.

Still – it’s an awesome sleeper and is just waiting for the right butt to come along and fill the seat. I’ve left enough meat on the bone for a dealer to make a nice profit – the thing is – it’s a big investment – so it will take the right person coming along.

So, the sleeper is what you are looking for when you are picking. Whether it is the $100k piece of furniture which is for sale at only a few thousand dollars, the red line hot wheels inside the box with the modern ones, or the broken Turtle Timer watch from Zell Brothers of Seattle (which most people don’t know is actually a Rolex movement inside a watch with a silly name).

Here’s the thing though – don’t jinx yourself. One way to make sure you don’t make a sale is to brag about it before you do – I don’t know why the universe works that way – it just does.

Oh, I almost forgot – if you want to buy the T.R. King Chips from the Commanche Club – just click the link…

You Don’t Make Money Selling – You Make Money Buying – Explained

tin lithograph toy

The first time I heard it, I recognized it as a profound and universal truth.

“You don’t make money selling, you make money buying”  The speaker was some anonymous homespun picker up in Washington State who was poling around through the same boxes as I was at a random garage sale back in the 1990′s. He may not have said it just the way I wrote it, but that’s how I’ve remembered it – and I can tell you without a doubt that I remember it and always will.

tin litho train

He was saying it to the proprietor of the garage sale who had just said something like “We’re selling some stuff because we need to make some money…” It flew right over the guys head and smacked me in the face. I should have grabbed that old picker and asked him to make me his apprentice because with that one piece of wisdom, he’s earned me a lot of money. I can’t imagine what else I might have learned from him.

It might sound ridiculous to you, as it did to the garage sale guy – obviously you make money by selling things and you spend money buying things, right? Yeah, of course that’s right, but only if you are looking at things with no perspective and no perception of the past or future as already existing.

You sell the stuff you have. Where do you get the stuff you have? You buy it. If you buy stuff that no one will buy from you then you aren’t making any money in the future from it, but if you buy things that will sell – well then you’re making money by spending money – easy as that. If you don’t buy anything, you are just using up your potential energy as you sell what you already have – and eventually, the well will run dry unless you are selling your wit, your wisdom, your body, or something else that you can produce from vapor.

tin litohgraph toys

Want some examples? I’ve got a lot of them.

I went to an antiques show recently and I waited in line with the other dealers to be as close to first in the door as I could. We all laughed and joked with each other outside but when the doors opened – it was every man or woman for himself. One guy went left, another went right, and I went straight in and to the back. I saw a table lined with tin lithograph toys and I asked the vendor what she would take for all of them – as she started adding them up I threw a lowball offer – she raised it by 50% – and I agreed. It was less than 1/4 of the added up price. Deal was done. $125 for everything on the table.

While I did that another guy bought 40 WWII maps on silk for $300, another bought up four Navajo blankets for $150 each, and a fourth dealer grabbed seventy large unframed photos of racehorses from the 1930s for $100.

Here’s what you need to know – all of these cool items were sold within a couple of minutes of opening and they were all sold for a fraction of their worth. My buddy sold the pilot maps on silk within a few days and made nearly $600 in profit. The tin toys paid for themselves the same day, I listed  a few of them for sale in my Ebay shop. The Navajo blankets are worth several thousand dollars and as for the pictures of the racehorses – I don’t know but they are worth far more than the $100 she paid for them. So, $1125 was spent and an estimated $5000 was earned leaving a profit of $3850 – and that money, nearly four thousand dollars was made not by selling – but through buying.

tin lithograph toys

I can hear some of you saying “But hey, you have to sell that stuff to make money” – Yes, you’re right, but the origin of the money is the buying, not the selling.  None of us walked into that sale with no idea what we were looking for.  We all know the market and as dealers, we are all learning all the time. I walked right past the Navajo blankets – and I’ve learned from my mistake – the next day I bought a book on Navajo rugs and blankets. I also got online and began educating myself about old photographs – and the next week I knew the right price to offer for a box of photographs. More money made through buying.

There’s a reason each of us bought everything on the tables – if you buy in bulk you get a better price and – even more importantly – people often miss the trees for the forest. In every case above – there was one item among the lot that was worth more than all of the rest put together. One blanket was more valuable than the combined worth of the rest. One tin litho toy was worth more than all the rest together. One silk map worth more than all the rest. One horse picture worth more than all the rest.  This happens so often that you can almost consider it a universal law. By lumping all of the items together, the percieved value on the group as a whole becomes less.  There are several lessons that can be taken from that last statement.

Here’s the main thing – and I hope this is clear: you can’t just walk in and buy everything or anything. You need to know what you are purchasing, approximately how much it is worth, and have an idea of how much you can get it for.  Hoarders and G-Sale junkies tend to just buy anything and everything – and I have to admit, I love it when they finally have a yard sale. Here’s an example:

Yesterday, I went to a hoarder sale. There was so much stuff. Much of it was priced on the nose, a lot of it was overpriced, and some of it was priced for a very modest profit. I ignored almost all of that and looked for the sleepers – the items that the hoarder had overlooked as being truly valuable…I found my sleeper and ended up paying $1 for an item that I would flip for over $2000 within a few days…

I’ll tell you about that in the next article which will be all about sleepers….