mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Killer ham and a little bit of money...

I recently finished reading Killer Stuff and Tons of Money", which chronicles the adventures of "Avery", who buys and sells at antique markets, mostly in the Massachusetts area.

The book was interesting because there are a little parallels between his world and mine. I do some selling at hamfests - basically electronic swap meets originally aimed at ham radio enthusiasts, but broadened to include computers and other electronics. There are a lot of similarities between the worlds - dealers who go to shows to buy more than to sell, buyers who flock to amateur sellers who don't know what stuff is worth, and vendors grumbling about how there aren't as many customers as there used to be. It's also reassuring to hear that even pros make mistakes, because I have a few albatrosses, some rather expensive in my house - and a list of things I didn't buy or didn't buy enough of and regret. Some of my buying experiences are similar too - at auctions I've had people try to read the notes on my bidder card, I've suspected people have bid against me just because they figured if I was bidding on something it was worth something, and I've seen amateur bidders bid way too much for stuff. I've also found myself buying a large lot of items to get one or two good things in the lot.

There are some differences, though - most of what I buy and sell is pretty much a commodity, which makes it easier - but also more competitive - than the antique trade, where it often takes some work to identify if an item is real and how old and rare it is. I've noticed more and more people looking stuff up on their smartphones at auctions, and many of those people are bidding against me on stuff that normally almost nobody looked at.

Avery and I share another common thread - houses full of crap. My collection of computers and other stuff has outgrown the basement storage area and has crept into hallways, family room, and pretty much every other room in the house. Unlike Avery, I don't have a significant other to keep me in check, either.

There is another difference - I'm not doing this to pay the bills. Avery is a full-time dealer whose profits feed his family. For me, hamfests and eBay are a little extra income, money I can save up towards things like renovations or a new truck.

Which makes me think it's time to back off a little bit. The last few months I've been striking out - there haven't been many good auctions, and many of the ones I've been to have been a bust (which may be a good thing, since I often trade on misery - bankruptcy, failed banks, closed businesses). I'm thinking it's time for me to start backing away a little big - to continue buying, but only when it's something I can make a ton of money on, and to focus on smaller items. That's tough, though - while it's easy to be more selective in what I buy, being successful at buying often means going to some auctions, yard sales, swap meets, ect that are a bust - because sometimes the ones that seem the most promising aren't, and some of the best ones are the ones you least expect to be good.

But barring something good popping up at the last minute, I think the next few months are going to be slow for buying. But I'm hoping they are good for selling - I've got 4 or 5 hamfests coming up in the next 3 months or so. They are probably not going to be very profitable, because I've sold most of my high-end stuff and will be selling cheaper items. But I'm hoping I sell a lot of them, so I can clear a lot of space. I'm also hoping that after I've sold a bunch of stuff, I can get a better idea of what I have left and dump or donate some of it.

Before this weekend's fest, I dug around my basement looking for a couple specific items that someone at a previous fest had been looking for and that I know I have somewhere. I didn't find it, but I found a ton of other stuff, including 2 broken ps2's and an entire case of computer exterior cleaner, that I didn't know I had. Which is probably a good sign that I have too much stuff, and that I need to sell or otherwise get rid of it before I'm on an episode of Hoarders, screaming that "I'm not a hoarder, I'm a reseller!"

Or maybe someone will write a book about me.


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