Pickers and Picking: It’s NOT always Antiques!

Last week, I did some fun “picking”. It had nothing to do with antiques. I went to an office that was closing, near my own warehouse unit. I bought:

Intel Duo-Core Apple Mac tower (loaded)
(using it right this second to enter this update)
Large Apple HD Studio Display.
Wireless keyboard.
Hot stamp printer, with all of the type and foil, and type holders.
Heated mug imprinter tool with a box of mugs.

My wife found some great artwork for the home. No antiques, but lots of great valuable finds for very little money!

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Too Cold For Estate Sale Pickers?

There is snow on the ground here. There was only one estate sale of any interest in the ads. I noticed there were fewer people in line. Must be the cold. It was cold, but I actually had fun! See the photo of some of my picks today. Some antique glass Murano, Italy paperweights. Some very old mousetraps. A tiny cigar box full of old keys. A very early local advertising wooden ruler. There were some vintage can openers, and cork screws. Even a couple of vintage electrical push button light switches, with the early mother of pearl “on switch”. They don’t make them like they used to. You’ll see an

antique GE toy transformer, and a couple of miniature copper soldering tools. An old Yale brass padlock. Speaking of brass, look at the very old brass blade / brass cage fan. It is extremely heavy. The thing actually works (although very noisy). I thought it was pretty good pickings! (we’ll see how much value it’s worth after I see what I can do on ebay!)

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Items that are HOT for Antique Pickers!

First of all, I’d like to hear from anyone who might be interested: “What is a HOT item to find?” My collectibles picking list will be different than yours. My list is different than my wife’s list! I go for guy stuff (actually probably nerd or geek guy stuff). I like to pick for vintage technical items:

Old radios: regular, shortwave, “ham radios,” even transistor and crystal radios, etc.
Old LED pocket calculators, and LED watches.
Electron tubes of any kind.
Tube audio and stereo equipment.
Microphones.
Microscopes.
Mini tape recorders.
Weird or “futuristic” TV’s and Tape players.
Old cameras (Leica, Nikon, etc).
Old technical engineering books.
Slide rules.
Scientific and test equipment.
Vintage electronic parts.
Telegraph and wireless items.
Vintage “pate de verre” glass objects.
Early advertising items for any of the above.
Early computers.
Space and robot toys.

These are items I am excited about. This is why I am a picker. Any early, heavy, “that’s so cool” items. I do buy items like above and would welcome inquiries through the comments entry, if you have things to sell. I may be a little hesitant, based on shipping expense, but hey, contact me, I could also advertise it here if I don’t want to buy it.

I like this stuff, because I was in the electronic component distribution business for many years. This created a nostalgia in me for items in my field. I started slow as a picker, thinking I was just lucky in finding good stuff. Then the more I researched, and read about stuff in magazines, I really went crazy! If you have been in the medical field, you may collect old doctor’s bags and tools. If you are into automotive collectibles, it’s probably because you repair cars, etc. Tell us of your “hot items!” and WHY you collect them. Send photos too.

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Time Travel in a Thrift Store and an Antique Shop

I found a brand new in box iPad 3 in a thrift store. It was only $15.00. This was not recent, but this will be in a few short years I’m sure.

The calculators we used to have to pay $100’s for are now a couple of dollars. Expensive video game consoles, and computers and best seller books are pennies on the dollar. But, what goes around, comes around. Those very first calculators may now only be $2 in the thrift store, but could be again tens or even hundreds of dollars to collectors. It’s all time travel. I remember when the Texas Instruments representative came into our electronic store many years ago, with their first prototype pocket LED calculator. It was encased in clear plexiglas so you could see the large integrated circuit they made, and the TIXL series LED display. I’d pay a bunch for one of those prototypes for my collection!

A thrift store is especially a time travel machine. You can go to several different dates, back in time, and see what was around. An antique store is a little more specialized, as it has just the more interesting and valuable items throughout time. The thrift store has all the other junk too. They smell different too. The smells are the same, no matter where you go. The thrift store has an additional “old humans” mustiness. Old bookstores have old paper mustiness, all together different. Antique stores have dusty mustiness smells. And the best is old radio collections. They have the antiques store’s dusty musty and additional bakelite and phenolic smell mixed in. I especially like, in this order: Old radio smell, then bookstores, then antique store smell. I don’t care for thrift store smell. It makes me want to wash my hands a lot. If you are an avid picker, what is your favorite smell?

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Never Fall in Love…. With your inventory

I learned from another wise man in the business, this sage advice. You may think your item is fantastic. You may think it’s worth a gob of money. Sure, you bought it right. It was cheap. The item is worth a hundred times what you paid! Problem is, you may never get what it is worth. You might get what could be considered a fair offer. You are tempted to hold out for more. If you wait, or negotiate too high, you will likely lose the sale, and never get a chance to find a willing buyer again…ever!

I had an cranky boss at a place I used to work. They had an old tired mainframe computer that they replaced. I’ll just put some random numbers here, as it was a long time ago. They got the new computer, and the computer salesman said, “we’ll give you $5000 for your old one, refurbish it, and sell to another company”. The boss was angry! “I paid $50,000 for it, you are crazy, I’m holding on to it”. The salesman came back in six months, “We’ll give you $1000 for it, I think we have a sale”. The boss got real mad. “You said $5000”. They explained that was six months ago, and that customer is gone. Six months later, the boss asked us to call the salesman, and get the $1000 for it. He didn’t know who to sell it to. They said, sorry, in order to remove it and dispose of it properly, We will need to charge you $250. He went ballistic. An employee finally gave him $25, to take it. He wanted to take it home for his teenage son to take apart, and learn something about computers. Do not fall in love with stuff. Take the good profit, buy something else and make an additional profit, then again, and again. This is what is called “the law of turnover”. Turn over the money four or five times in a short while, and you’ll make more dollars than you wanted in the first place for that original item!

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I Buy Stuff at Auctions!

I like certain types of auctions. I really like silent auctions. We have a local company that holds occasional warehouse auctions this way. They might even have over 1000 lots! You would think that a thousand lots would be too much to see, but it’s not. The human mind is conditioned to be aware of everything in it’s immediate surroundings. Humans have used this forever. Early times it was a way of sustaining and protecting life. A human can walk into the forest, and subconsciously see all of the tools, and resources that are available nearby. This was used to find immediate defense, and protection. It’s the way to find food. It’s the way soldiers can fight to stay alive. You will see in some movies, how the hero spots a way out, or discovers a weapon in a split second, as they zoom in on it. So whether its in a forest, or in a war, or in an urban environment, or out picking, it works. When I am searching for likely items at these auctions, I go in with an unwritten list in my head. I am constantly adding new wants. My experiences give me tools. I see potential profits as I walk around, and I find items to buy, and then sell. It works the same with every estate sale or yard sale, etc. I will find my stuff, you will find your stuff. Most of the time it will be completely different. I think I am the one who is lucky, or smart, or blessed. You will think those same thoughts as you pick up your different pieces.

Live auctions can be great too. The problem is, unless you are very disciplined, you can pay too much in a split second. You can end up with a terrible case of buyers regret. On the other hand, you might go away with an amazing deal everyone else missed. Sometimes auctioneers will let a few at first go really fast and cheap to get everyone excited. Any way, I do like auctions. Great fun.

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You Need to Have Money!

I just got a call about fifteen minutes ago. “You still like antiques, right?” The caller went on to tell me that a studio he works for had a problem with the city, and has lost about one half of their real estate. They are having to clean out the buildings and storage areas, and attics a collection that probably dates back a hundred years! He said there are WWI and WWII era collectibles, local, original art just as old. Lots and lots of stuff. He said he is very tight with the people, and might be able to get me in with him tomorrow night, a couple of days before the “rummage sale”. He said they don’t even have an idea of what the stuff is, or what it’s worth.

Problem is, I just paid bills. Felt pretty pleased, as it looked like I was going to be OK. Just squeaked by for the month. I don’t have any money for antiques! (I don’t have money for good inventory!)

You always need to be prepared. I get a few calls every year like this. I used to get more before ebay changed everything. In my book, I even instructed my readers, you need to be continually buying, so you always have good inventory.

Well, I’ll go tomorrow, I will look around. It will be interesting, and I will learn some things. (LIKE: HAVE SOME MONEY! for deals like this!)

##########################  I went to see the stuff for sale  ##############

I’m back.

I went to a sneak preview of the rummage sale. It is a non-profit organization. People go there to do crafts and learn art, and attend all kinds of classes. It has been a wonderful organization to have in our city for many many years. People have donated all sorts of antiques and various items to them (probably for tax write-offs).

We go in the place, and the first thing I see is tons of old books. And a woman is trying her hardest to look up books on Amazon, so they can price them for the sale. She won’t get even close to Amazon prices. Then there is a large pile of darkroom equipment, and old wooden box cameras.

They had in a back room tables set up with old donated actual pioneer era clothing. They had no idea what to do with it. There was old furniture, but while there they said that an antique dealer came in and bought lots of antique furniture pieces. Wonder what they got? There was dolls, projectors, toys, a WWII field pump organ, and stuff everywhere. There was original artwork.

I suggested they invite an estate sale dealer in to help them price it. They said they did not have the time, and besides, everything was pure profit to them, so they really did not care what they got for it.

I bought a box of old books, and 3 old large format Kodak Wood cased cameras, and a German camera lens, and a WWII 35MM ariel bomb sight movie camera in it’s case with all the lenses. They were happy to see the stuff go. It’s off to ebay to do some listing for me…

##########################  I went back the next day too!  ##############

Today, I bought:

Two very old projectors (pre-slide type) One is a Victor Stereopticon. I also picked up some film holders for the antique Kodaks I got yesterday. I found an old Tour Ship jacket for Korea / Japan for the USS O’Bannan DD-450 Battleship. I found dozens of antique marionette and puppet heads. I thought they might sell on ebay, plus some are pretty freaky, and may just stay here for some crazy Halloween decorations. I also picked a few more antique books. Oh, and a very cool life sized plaster casting of what looks like an actual human skull. Pretty good “picking for antiques” day. Still no real competition. Just a few other people they let in too.

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100 Year Old California 100 Proof Fifth of Pure Brandy

I went to an estate sale today and found a sealed bottle of E G Lyons & Raas Pure California Brandy. Made in 1907 and bottled in 1912. One hundred years old antique! I have no idea of what it my be worth. The liquid is still there but not full to the top (it comes to below the curve of the neck). The bottle is sealed, and stamped and wired shut. It was only a couple of bucks! When I got it home I noticed a small crack in the bottom of the bottle. Maybe some has evaporated out. I will post updates as I learn more about this. Any collectors out there that can help me?

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The Greatest Estate Sale In The World!

That I didn’t even want to go inside and see. I walked away mad.

The ad online told of the wonderful accomplishments of this fine person. How they had scoured the country for fine antiques. It told of wonderful one of a kind collectibles. They warned in the ad, no phone calls, no early birds, cash only, 8AM sharp start. I was getting kind of excited.

I get to the place, get in line, and they are passing out numbers in line. There will only be 12 people at a time allowed in the house! I was number 37. (I had to stop for gas, and to find an ATM for the cash). So, if there were any good things, and pickers were finding them, I could be out here for an hour or two. They would let another person in, when one left. Within minutes, a couple came out. “Don’t waste your time. it’s only two rooms, and everything is priced way above retail. If you are going to any more sales this morning, you should leave now. This is a waste of time.” Another minute later, one of the regular pickers I know, came out, and had a look of shock, and disgust on his face. “Worst sale I have ever seen!” About this time, six or seven people in line, including myself, left the sale. I was not even curious to see what was inside.

Some people are pretty foolish when putting on a sale like this. Some may invite “appraisers” in to price everything. Nothing sells. Some are so interested in the loved one’s sentimental history of something, they price it higher. Nothing sells. Some print out pages, showing what the same item sells for on Ebay, and tape to the items. Nothing sells. If they want Ebay prices, they should keep the items, and list them, and sell them. Sentimental value cannot be transfered. Fame can be transferred, but it is rare, and only if you have the proof, and provenance.

Ever been to one of these sales? Leave your story here.

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Antique Secrets: Yard Sale Signs!

Whether it’s a yard sale, estate sale, garage sale, or tag sale; Signs are really important. I suppose this post is meant to help people who are going to have a sale. If you know anyone, please print this off, or forward this information to those planning it.

Addresses are pretty hard to find sometimes. GPS systems have really helped! If you have an address, you can usually find it very easy by listening to the GPS tell you turn by turn. The big problem is the “regular” yard sale signs. If you are planning a yard sale, you may place an ad in the paper, or on Craigslist, or some other favorite local online listing. Always double check it! Realize that a large percentage of people will attend the sale by only seeing the sign, at the last minute! The best possible sign is placed strategically on nearby main roads. The markings must be large and bold to be seen from a moving vehicle. I have seen signs with one inch sharpie letters that you need to get out of your car to read! The ideal lettering should be with the widest most ridiculous sized black permanent marker you can find. If you only have a thin one, thicken the letters! I would hope the letters to be three to four inches high, and the line width to be at least 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick. Don’t put too much information on the sign. Many look like kids wrote them, and they are going to make lots of money that day, so they list all the items mom told them they need to sell. I also like when the seller puts small arrows made from the same color poster board, showing the various turns, and helps you find your way there. I saw a great sign the other day, it just said “In the yellow house on the corner” We found it, and my wife bought something from the sale.

Sellers, you need to realize there are usually some pretty important sales that same day. The diehard pickers and scouts, and dealers head there first. They may stop on the way to the big sale, if it’s clear to them where you are. A good picker will hit all the major estate sales, and then might go “yard sailing” on the way back, that is, finding yours and other sales along the way. Make it easy for everybody.

Important! When the sale is finished, take down your signs! It is so wasteful in time and gas, and frustration, to go the next week and find that you are a week late! Never advertise a yard sale as an estate sale. I have followed signs to some of the lamest garbage garage sales, that claimed they were estate sales. I have been led to “estate sales” that are just junk stores posing as a sale, but hold this same estate sale every week or so.

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