Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Coca-Cola Ad
From a 1950 National Geographic Back Cover
(Hawaiian Odysseus Photo)

An estate sale I recently attended in Walla Walla yielded me a cache of old magazines.  I ended up going back to this home a second time with my wife at the invitation of the owner's sister. She made me a deal I couldn't refuse.
When the dust of dickering had settled, I ended up shelling out $107 for a total of 230 magazines.  At about 46 and a half cents per magazine, with the potential of either selling most of the magazines for about $10 a pop and carefully removing ads from the rest that I could list at $8-10 each, I saw this as a great deal.

There are always challenges.  The first big one was to convince my wife weeks ago that my vision of generating a viable income from this pursuit could become a reality.  I think I've met that challenge quite well, and my wife has found good reason to help me with this latest of Hawaiian Odysseus projects.

Secondly, there's the issue of storage space.  An upstairs bedroom has become my office/den. The primary occupants of this space for several hours each day...and sometimes, late into the evening...are our cat, Kona (star of several blog posts), and me.  I do my best to keep the room tidy, but I always look over my shoulder in case the producers of A & E's Hoarders happen to be nearby. There are several boxes and plastic shelves full of either magazines or ad clippings. Whenever I exclaim, "Thank You, God!" upon discovering that I've made a sale, I'm simultaneously cheering the fact that either a magazine or one more piece of paper is being paroled from my den of ephemera.

As I come across more fodder for my business in yard, garage, and estate sales, however, it's increasingly apparent that I'm fighting a losing battle.  Compounding this is the fact that my wife's olefactory sense is keener than mine...and her tolerance for the musty smell of vintage paper is proportionately lower.  She's taken to buying these gizmos with scented oil that you can plug in to electrical outlets.  They double as night lights.  Personally, I can't stand them.  

But, sigh!  Marriage is a give and take institution, and I'd rather live with marital compromise than be without.  Know what I mean, jelly bean?

So, anyway, third challenge...and one that I welcome the most because it's all about keeping Alzheimer's at bay...is writing up good descriptions for my listings.

One of my pet peeves about eBay is coming across auction or store listings that consist of no more than one or two sentences.  For example:  Good magazine.  No pages missing.

Boring!  And the mark of sheer laziness.

My goal, then, is to imagine that I'm the buyer.  I am therefore not shy about using my unique voice in my listings.  It's my attempt to be right there in that buyer's personal bubble, letting him or her know as best I can that he or she is about to buy a quality product from me.  Significantly, if anything about that item has a flaw, that buyer will hear about it from me long before they see the actual item.

So what might take another seller seconds to put together, especially with a bulk listing program, takes me much more time as I craft a template.  Once I create the template, things get easier.  

While I'm recycling the products that others have created, I'm actually utilizing my creativity in each eBay listing.  

One other challenge involves the time and effort needed for carefully removing the staples and remnants of spinal glue and clipping the frayed edges.  Here's where I could use some help, but my adult son's well established in his professional career in another state, and my daughter is employed full time in her collegiate studies at the local university.  

And Kona's no help...except when it comes to chewing on oatmeal cookies from the Dollar Tree.

So I do my best, and before I know it, it's time to retire for the night.

Okay, so now with all that introductory prose out of the way, I've come to the  meatier aspects of this post.

See that photo above?  Coca-Cola ads do very well on eBay, so much so that Coke ads are a sub-niche of their own.  At first glance, eBay is flooded with Coca-Cola products.  But that's part of the reason why I promote good, solid, and appealing descriptions in my listings.

Anyway, I was ecstatic that the above ad, a back cover I had removed from one of the National Geographic magazines I'd purchased from the woman at the aforementioned estate sale, sold this past week.  

It sold for $4.95, and the shipping was free to the woman from Michigan.  After the eBay final value fee, PayPal fee, and shipping charge, I made a humble profit.  

A lot of work for peanuts, you might say.  But to me, it's a valuable experience as I utilize trial and error to find my potential customers' trigger points.   Plus, being a newbie to this ad-selling niche, I realize I have to forge a good, solid, and reputable foundation in order to establish a golden customer base.  Repeat customers and/or the feedback I receive are vital components of a successful eBay venture.  So I don't mind paying my dues, so to speak.

Here's another one that also sold this week.  It went for $8.99 to a gentleman in Texas.

Life Savers Ad
From a 1953 LIFE Magazine
(Hawaiian Odysseus Photo)

My son in Hawaii, a former popular island deejay and well acquainted with radio advertising, asked me just the other night why these vintage ads appealed to people.  A great question, indeed!  

My response was, "When I say, 'Crackerjacks,' what do you think of?"

"The toy inside,"  he replied.

"And also the sailor on the box?"  


"What about Morton Salt?  Think about the girl with the umbrella?"  I asked.

"Yeah,"  he said.

I went on to establish my point.  "See?  People associate certain words or icons with memories from their past.  Seeing or hearing about these items takes them back to a warm and fuzzy time in their lives.  So having these ads to matte and frame and put up in their office as a conversation piece or add to their living room decor preserves a very special memory for them."

The Lifesavers ad elicited a collection of feelings for me.  It's a simple yet brilliant idea that was brought to fruition by the particular ad agency.  I instantly remembered both the candy and warm memories of pulling at a chicken or turkey wishbone with my mom or siblings five decades ago.  I was also attracted to the great illustration.  Regretfully, I could not see any artist's signature.  It certainly looks like a Norman Rockwell work, but I didn't want to second guess who the actual artist was.  

That's another thing.  Sometimes the ability to identify the artist in illustrated ads helps to make the sale.  This actually happened not too long ago, but that will be the subject of another post.  Maybe even the next one.

I gotta hustle and get out of this favorite Walla Walla Starbucks and catch a couple of buses to get back home.  

My wife and I, you see, have a date this afternoon at a certain College Place thrift store.

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