Multi-tasking at the thrift store: shopping for resale

While you're thrift-shopping about town, you may want to keep an eye out for resale items. If you're planning a spring yard sale, participating in a fundraiser flea market (where you rent space for a day or a weekend) or have a digital camera and might want to sell on eBay, you may be able to make money while saving money. You can also buy for consignment but "buyer beware," - be sure you have a well-located consignment store in mind and that you know the prices. It gets even more interesting once winter ends and the yard sales, usually the best venue for this kind of buying, begin again.

If you shop yard sales, thrift stores, church sales or auctions, inevitably you've noticed the dealers. Watch them. Awhile back, at a sale, as I assembled an LL Bean backpack, an army blanket and a flashlight (right, we were going camping). Meanwhile, a man in his sixties arrived. He selected an a 1930's planter and from the same box, an old framed mirror and a numbered print of a fisherman in a yellow slicker. He'd snagged the prime resale items and left before I was halfway through shopping with wife/mother eyes.

James McKenzie (Antiques on the Cheap) observes that most antique dealers started out as collectors. The moral: buy what you recognize. Don't guess. Knowledge is power. The book dealers, right at the front of the line waiting for the doors to open at library sales, know exactly what to buy. It's a treat to watch them (if you can stand to take the time from your own hunting) because they know what they're looking for and can fill a carton faster than you can choose two books.

My younger son was keen on buying for resale by the time he was ten-years old. His niche? Old video game systems and games. He educated himself on ebay so he knew what games were good resale purchases. More than once at church sales and thrift shops, he found a box filled with a working system and a dozen or more games. He'd resell on eBay - listing higher value games separately and then put the system and the rest of the games on as a lot. Okay, he was using his mother's account because he was much too young to be selling on his own. From games he moved on to first edition hardcover books of currently bestselling authors. He'd pick these up for .50 or $1 and resell them on eBay for $7 or $8. Not a great profit margin for an adult, probably not worth the time, but wonderful for a kid. Then, one day he picked up an early first edition Robert Parker for .50 and sold it for $70.00. Meanwhile, I bought a tablecloth...

If you have expertise, have been a collector, this is the first place to consider buying for resale. If you happen to know about more than one collectible, or want to study, consider becoming a "picker" for a local shop. Ask the owners whether they are looking for anything particular and keep you eye out while you're shopping to turn a profit at the same time.

Church sales, garage sales and thrift stores probably recycle more collectible items in the United States each year than all the auction houses and dealers combined. The items found there are unlikely to be big high priced antiques but are an excellent starting point for the novice who is buying for resale. They can be acquired on minimal capital. The goal is always to buy ahead of the crowd and sell when the crowd begins to buy. That is why the people who made money on the Beanie Baby craze are the ones who bought - and sold - early. Everyone else got left holding the bean bag ...

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