Could Have, Should Have, Would Have… If Only!

Regrets. I have regrets often in this business. It’s usually after a “live” auction. Like the one I went to yesterday. I went to the sale preview on two different days. I found all of the items I thought I’d want. I marked them on the auction lot list. I researched values online through Google, and ebay, and amazon, etc. I thought I was pretty ready. I even had money in the bank! Right off I won an item, and then lost an item. Yeah, I think I would have bid higher on the one I lost, but, they had more coming up. Problem is, the first one was the best, and all of the rest went for higher prices. I was still OK. Then I bought an item I had not even seen on the preview inspection. Another regret. I paid too much. No one else bid, so that must mean something. Then I felt pretty good, as I won a couple of additional items on my list. One I got for a lot less than I would have gone. I was going to go as high as $200 on a special tool. I got it for $50! Then it happened. One of the items I wanted came up, and feeling I was lucky on the others, as the price started increasing, I backed out. It went for $150. Looking back, it was something I really did want, I would have gone as high as $350. The problem was this: I had not decided a top price beforehand. The auctioneer went fast, I saw it was going up fast, and I backed down. I lost. Today, even though I really won some nice items, I keep sulking and moaning about this one that got away.

For live auctions, you need to decide in advance on each item, what is the highest you will pay for that item. When is it no longer a good deal to you? If you lose it, and it’s not a good deal, and the other person paid way too much, you won’t be left with regrets. If you ask, “If I lose this item and don’t want to feel bad the next day, it’s because I am willing to pay $______ for it!”

The auctioneer is making money from exciting the crowd. He is speaking fast to sell lots of “lots”. He is speaking fast to keep you from having time to think. People will bid because of pride, “so the other guy” won’t be able to get it.

Your decision on how much you are going to spend per each lot, as an individual item is most important. Your next decision is how much total you are going to spend, based on your financial situation at the time.

I have a request. Please write back and let me know about your wins and regrets at live auctions. Also, do you have any “tips” you can give me before I go to the next auction? For example, is it better sitting in the front or the back of the room? Side or center. Does it matter how you dress (if you dress nice, does it intimidate the competition, thinking you have more money?). What other kinds of tips do you have. I’d like to do better next time!

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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.
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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