Friday, January 6, 2012


Floral Print of an Original Oil Painting by Lola Ades
(Hawaiian Odysseus Photo)

During a Christmas trip to Forest Grove, Oregon, my family and I had an opportunity to shop at a Goodwill Outlet Store in Hillsboro.  What was particularly interesting about this store was that people were dumpster diving.  I use that term with tongue firmly embedded in cheek because that's the best way I can think of presently to help you conjure up an image.

I watched for a while before taking the plunge and following suit.  The process involved circulating through this huge warehouse and diligently sorting through the hundreds of items in each of dozens of large rectangular carts.  (Research regarding thrift store shopping and reselling purchased items on eBay is abundant on YouTube.)

Surprisingly, I observed a lot of people--many of whom were Hispanics--with devices that looked like cell phones with semicircular tops, or attachments of some kind.  They held these high-tech gadgets up to chosen items.  One of two things would then happen--either a red light would be emitted, as with scanning devices, or the individual would type out something on his or her keyboard, and information would pop up on their screen.  I soon determined that they were accessing eBay, Amazon, or some other website to check on the value of their chosen items.

(Note to self:  I gotta get one of those gadgets!)

Books seemed to be the most popular item being scanned.  The value of toys, records, and collectible items also appeared to be of more than passing interest.  

I asked one Hispanic young man to explain the workings of his gizmo.  He politely nodded and smiled, and I politely backed off, quickly assessing that I'd either broken a boundary or that his understanding of English was limited. Being a former poker player, I'm opting for choice C--the one that said, Mind Your Own Business!  I quickly decided to store that inquiry for later.  Besides, if I'd learned anything in the last couple of years, it's this:

Doing my own research is more profitable in the long run.

While my wife and daughter were finding clothing and household items, I found two interesting tins, a book about sharks, a book about the history of aviation, and two art books that were splendidly filled with magnificent floral prints.

At some point, I figured I could sell the tins for $5 each.  But it was the books that were of greater interest to me.

You see, one of the things I've been trying to do lately is to sell actual prints gleaned from magazines.  I wanted to up the ante a bit and look for old books with which to do the same.  Again, it was on YouTube where I first got the idea, and because I'm gung ho for projects that are outside the box, this idea has great appeal for me.

My God, the God who's loved me through almost 60 years of falling on my face and getting back up again, is all about outside the box.  Who am I to second guess the beauty of thinking and doing above and beyond the norm?

 While the din of hundreds of people picking up and tossing items filled the enormous building, and with dozens of elbows, hips, and other body parts brushing up against me, I focused on finding books with lots of pictures.

And I found them.

My wife and I paid $2 for each of the two hardbound books.  The art books had soft covers, and we were charged magazine prices for those--25 cents each.

When we returned home, I wasted no time in carefully removing the floral prints from one book.  There were about 16 large pages, about 13-3/4" x 10-1/4" in size...roughly the size of the old Life magazine pages.  

Since some of the pages had prints on either side, I solicited the help of my wife in determining which side I should list on eBay.  I trust the woman's intuition when it comes to things of this nature.

Delightfully, eBay was offering its sellers free auction listings, including the Buy It Now feature, so I took full advantage of these freebies and posted my listings.

A week later, even though several items were being watched, I had only one live bid.  I'd calculated earlier, however, that even one sale would provide me with some kind of profit.  Remember, these floral prints had come from a book that had cost me only 25 cents.

The print sold.  I told my wife that I was thinking about emailing the customer, someone in Thailand, and reminding him or her that buying three items or more would mean free shipping anywhere in the world.

I dragged my feet on that idea, but I'm glad I actually followed through on it.  When I woke up this morning, the customer had bought two more prints.  

Here they are:

Yellow Roses in Black Teapot
Floral Print of an Oil Painting by Lola Ades
(Hawaiian Odysseus Photo)

Sunbeam Roses
Floral Print of an Oil Painting by Lola Ades
(Hawaiian Odysseus Photo)

So, for those who are interested, here are the crunched numbers:

Total sales amount for the three items was:  $27.97.  

My overhead was $11.93.  Here's the breakdown:
  • Cost of book             $  .25
  • Listing fee                    .10 (free, initially, but I re-listed unsold items)
  • PayPal fee                  1.39
  • Final Value fees         2.80
  • Postage                       7.39
The postage was expensive because the customer, as I mentioned, was from Thailand.  Even so, my profit was $16.04.  Dividing that by the initial investment of $0.25--the cost of the book--the profit margin was 6,416%!

Okay, so maybe there are a few cynics out there who are saying,  "Bah, humbug!  All that work for $16.04!  Not worth it!"

I don't consider what I do as work .  I perceive it as a refreshing way of living.      I have the best earthly boss in the world--me.  I work for a very loving, devoted, and faithful Master.  What I'm doing--recycling old vintage items and presenting them to the world--is no different than what He's doing in my life.

Work?  Hardly.  You know who's really working hard?  The guy at the local Safeway parking lot, right there by the bus stop, who sits on the cold pavement in the dead of winter with his dog waiting for a handout from the passersby.  Now that's hard work!

I would love to teach him how to sell other people's throwaway items on eBay and other online venues.  As I can vouch from my own experience, he would definitely regain his God-given dignity.

You can find out more about the fabulous vintage print niche in the following articles:

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