Thursday, September 24, 2020

It's as easy as A, eBay, C....

 Can't believe almost three months have gone by since I posted. Time means little during a pandemic. But in that time I worked my way through all the bins in the garage and sold or purged most of it. I opened my own store on eBay as well as listed stuff on Facebook Marketplace and Craig's List. It has been an exercise in marketing and psychology.

I have learned a great deal about selling. First, I was right, Elvis memorabilia does not sell. You practically have to pay people to buy it. It took almost three months to sell all but two of the Velvet Elvis paintings (though the last one sold for $200).  I also learned that it is a pain to pack and ship large items.

I also learned that cleverly written item descriptions are hit and miss when it comes to selling. So there goes my long held theory about that humor (especially my humor) sells. Sometimes people just want you to cut to the chase.

I also learned that people will buy just about anything. I sold an old laminated Blockbuster Video Card for $14. And I sold a Warthog skull, a baboon skull, a badger skull, a beaver skull, a snapping turtle skull, a deer skull, a buffalo skull, a cow skull and my beloved horse skull from the Nevada desert outside of Reno. I even finally sold a goose skull despite the fact it was banned from eBay and Facebook due to some obscure policy about migratory skulls. And I sold one of four coyote skulls. The remaining three don't seem too popular because of missing teeth.

Why did I have all of those skulls? There was a time before I was married (18 years to be exact) that I spent way too much time browsing eBay and thrift stores snapping up curiosities. I thought of the skulls as more sculptures than dead animals. But once I got married, the curiosities no longer seemed so curious. So I packed them away in bins that sat for fifteen years untouched until I began my saga to empty out my past.

I've joked that it is like holding my own estate sale. But there is a certain truth in that. I watched a documentary last night about a brother and sister who decided to make a film that treated their dead grandmother's house like an archeology dig. So they catalogued and filmed and dug through everything she owned for the camera.

I felt like I was opening up a time capsule with each bin I opened. There was a mixture of awe and bafflement as I pulled items out and either remembered them or asked myself where in the hell did I get this and why. 

Some things were purchased on a whim. Some things were relics from my childhood that I'd rescued on trips back to my parents house over the years. I made a killing on old Hot Wheel cars I acquired when I was ten and rarely played with. Apparently there is more of a market for die cast cars than there is for the King of Rock and Roll.

I discovered that the things I thought were valuable were worthless and the things I thought were worthless were valuable. I also learned that selling collectible memorabilia takes a great deal of research. Thank god for google. I was able to identify the history of items I'd acquired and wondered about for years. 

For example, I'd bought this old metal helmet with a spike on top at a flea market back in Idaho when I was a kid. I think I paid $15 for it. It was stamped 1880 and looked like a military helmet but it was way too small and thin to be something someone would wear into battle.

Turns out it was a parade helmet for a fraternal organization like the Masons or Oddfellows. I think I eventually sold it for $75.

I learned that ornate liquor decanters shaped like beavers, Orca whales and the Space Needle are a dime a dozen. And the seven or eight Elvis music box decanters fall into the category of things you can't even give away. They are two heavy and bulky to ship for a reasonable cost. And the few people who want them don't want to pay anything for them. I've got a last ditch effort going now to sell them locally via Facebook or Craig's List but no one is beating down my door.

There were treasures in my garage that didn't fit in a plastic bin. I had a couple of old metal advertising signs out there that I'd picked up at an auction years ago. One sold for $400 within minutes of listing it on eBay. I had an old life preserver retired from a Washington State Ferry that I'd bought at a garage sale for $5. It was battered and beaten and had hung on the wall in the garage for years. It sold for $99 as quickly as the metal ad sign. And don't think it wasn't a pain to ship.

I had a full sized dummy artillery shell from 1942 that was used to train sailors how to load big guns during World War II. I'd bought it at St. Vincent DePaul's years ago for almost nothing because I thought it was cool. Research informed me what it was and helped me discover that there were more than a few out there for sale. Again the size and weight made them difficult to unload (pun intended). I eventually sold it to a woman via Craig's List for $50. She was buying it as a gift for her son.

I've learned that selling some things online takes a great deal of patience. Although I love to post something and have it immediately sell, I've learned that means they are underpriced. And I've learned that not accepting a fairly reasonable offer for an item can be a mistake. I listed an old poster of Disney's Space Mountain that I'd purchased in 1977 when the ride opened. Someone offered me $70 and I counteroffered higher. They declined and the poster has remained unsold for weeks. I even got back to the person and offered to sell it for $65 and they didn't even respond.

But now I'm winding down my sales. Fact is I am running out of things to sell or at least things that need to be sold to eliminate clutter. I have smaller things that can be sold later when we've moved and the pressure isn't on to clean out stuff.

Most people can't relate to how major thing this has been for me. Things used to make me feel grounded and connected to my past. But realizing that most of this stuff has been hidden in bins for years without any interaction with me has driven home that it is time to let go.

Maybe it's the pandemic. Or maybe it's just my age. But bottomline is that it is all just stuff.


Helen Baggott said...

Ah, now I know why it keeps appearing on Twitter.

Time said...

And I don't ship Internationally so that explains why you haven't been snapping things up.