|Baby Einstein DVD set.|
We looked at boxes of our own video tapes and several bookcases of used books and saw value. We monetized their value by selling on eBay. Then one Saturday Teresa went to a neighborhood yard sale and returned with a couple of bags of video tapes. We were off to the races as a reseller.
To secure inventory I went to yard sales, flea markets and estate sales. I scanned ads on Craigslist. We looked in the bargain bins at bookstores. We even kept our eyes pealed when walking down the street during trash night. We filled our basement with inventory. We crowded the attic and dining room with packing materials.
|Yard Sale territory|
Starting Monday mornings in season, I would cut and paste yard sale ads from the Washington Post and Craigslist to a Word file. Then Friday afternoon or evening I would lay out an itinerary, copying a tight MapQuest street map satellite view for each sale (scrapping sales I identified as insufficiently promising) so I could see how to navigate from nearby arterial streets through the neighborhoods to each sale. I learned to plan my overall itinerary using neighborhood yard sales and flea markets as the major nodes. As I traveled in between the group sales, I would stop at individual sales. It was a numbers game -- the more sales I could stop at during a Saturday morning through early afternoon, the better we could do. Over time, I became familiar with most every neighborhood inside and south of the Beltway in Northern Virginia.
Usually I was out of the house by 6:30 am. It was free sailing on sparsely traveled roads, unless I ran into an Obama golfercade on I-395.
The best yard sale months were May, June and September. November was slow -- December, January and February were a small trickle.
|Roy Rogers Restaurant in Kingstown, Virginia.|
|Alas, Washington Golf is no more|
Buying in bulk works. If someone was selling Cd's for a buck or two, for example, I would offer to buy their entire stock for a fraction of the price, after checking samples to gauge the overall value (be wary of sellers who have all the good stuff on top). Scan, identify, negotiate, buy and move along, the faster the better to get on to the next sale.
I learned by watching and talking to other buyers. There was a time early on when I was looking at a table of opera Cd sets on sale for a dollar per Cd and I cherry picked a few sets that looked particularly good to my untrained eye. As I went back for more sets, another purchaser approached the table and used his forearm to sweep the entire collection into a box. When I researched later I realized my hesitance had cost hundreds of dollars in potential profit. Lesson learned and put to use many times thereafter.
One time, on a slow day, I arrived at an estate sale 15 minutes early and waited in line. I chatted with the young lady in line ahead of me who it turns out ran a high end resale shop up in Manhattan. She made a living on resales. So I asked, what do you buy when you don't know what to buy? She said, "Grady it's easy. People who have nice things have nice things." That was incredible advice.
I learned that gay guy estate sales offered especially good buying opportunities, because they tended to have high incomes, good taste and would buy things their families were not necessarily interested in keeping. Moving sales were good. And like with Goldilocks and the three bears mid range was just right -- low income neighborhood yard sellers sold junk, while upscale sellers had inflated views of the value of their possessions. Republicans negotiate; Democrats don't (you could tell one from another by the electioneering signs leaning on their garage walls or by their lineups of used nonfiction books on sale). I used these rules of thumbs to negotiate and target sales on days that I couldn't make them all.
I ran across a fellow Chris from Hyattsville, Maryland on Craigslist who had a line on unclaimed book club books. I would drive over from time to time to purchase and fill up the bed of Teresa's pickup with hundreds of books, virtually all multiple copies, making for efficient re-use of Ebay listings. Chris worked in a pre-school. He lived with his drop dead gorgeous girlfriend who in my observation, whenever she said jump, he would ask how high.
|Google Maps street view of Don's apartment building|
and the parking lot where we conducted business.
After I selected 20 or 30 items Don reduced the total price because I was a quantity buyer. He told me he was a regular seller and to be sure to visit the Jaycees sale the next month. He also sold at the Springfield Lions flea market. I came to make the monthly Jaycees sale and Don my first stop on the appointed Saturdays, eventually following Don and the Jaycees down to their new location south of the Beltway in the Kingstowne section of Alexandria.
|Alexandria Jaycees sponsored yard sale at|
Lane school in Kingstowne, Virginia.
The most remunerative Don purchase was a collection of crisp new review books that publishers had sent to MacNeil/Lehrer producers (the PBS news show was produced in the Shirlington section of Arlington) hoping for a
|Shirlington Village parking garage |
I met Mrs. Jackson (Antique Associates) at a gay guy estate sale on a sticky hot summer day in a Fairlington condo with an inoperable air conditioner. The recently deceased had hundreds of high value classical music Cd's, many new and unopened. I went to the sale because it advertised Ping golf clubs. It turns out the heirs had taken the clubs and a number of other valuable items for themselves after Mrs. Jackson had researched values and advertised the sale. She was ticked (typical estate sale terms are 50/50 for the estate and seller) and as a consequence gave me a great deal on hundreds of Cd's. She saw the address on my check when I paid and asked if I knew her son, Michael Jackson. Of course, I said, he lives around the block and walks by with his dog, Oreo, twice a day. Michael would stop by when I was on the front porch of our home in the People's Republic of Arlington to talk about the local government, investments, the economy, neighborhood issues and politics. From then on, Mrs. Jackson would let Michael know when she had estate sales coming up that were rich in the items I was looking for.
We would look through the clearance bins at Barnes and Noble to find books we could resell for a profit. For 75 percent off we picked up multiple copies of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, which driven by Teresa's kick ass ad copy, sold extremely well. Teresa went back to Barnes and Noble and negotiated buying out their nationwide inventory of the pocket book size hard copy edition at a super discounted price. It became our best and most profitable seller. We bought books and tapes at the local Goodwill. For a time, books on Cd were highly profitable. One time we were able to buy dozens of Lands End kids parkas at rock bottom clearance in the spring and resell them for several multiples in the fall. Another time Teresa bought dozens of special wooden box packaged classic board games at Target on clearance. We sold the games for two and three times our purchase price online. Whatever opportunity we saw, we jumped on it.
I learned to accumulate draft listings and release large volumes of listings during the holiday buying season. Teresa packed, shipped and calmed irate customers. I purchased, provisioned and wrote most of the listings. Along the way we became third-party Amazon sellers. Amazon gets better prices but cuts out a larger commission than eBay. Amazon has high-end buyers on average with higher expectations. eBay has a lot of scammers and people who expect to get something for nothing. As time went on we listed everything we could on Amazon and used eBay as our clearance rack and listing source for specialized and grouped items. In the beginning we bought stamps to affix to packages; in the end we printed and affixed post paid labels that included Delivery Confirmation via PayPal.
As a Civil Service Retirement System employee working for the federal government, I was not in the social security system. But by fulfillment of my self-employment payroll tax obligation to Uncle Sam on the profits from our Amazon and eBay sales, I've qualified for minimal social security payments. Also, I bought tons of stuff for the kids (bikes, skates, clothes, books, games, toys, etc.) on the yard sale rounds for substantially reduced prices and the household as well (grill, yard tools, furniture, chain saw, maternity clothes, etc.). And I figure I probably saved $40 per week by not playing golf on Saturday mornings. It was fun and an excellent deal financially for the family. If we had to do it all over again, we would.
Next time you are on Amazon check out third party sellers. If they have positive feedback ratings of 98 or 99 or 100 percent give them a go. You should not be disappointed.