mad anthony

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How to make tens of dollars by going to yard sales...

On occasion, when I'm not posting about my cat or being single, I'll make a post on FaceBook bragging about something I found at a yard sale. Usually, it will get a comment or two from people lamenting how they never find such cool stuff at yard sales. So I figured I'd share some of my deep, dark secrets.

What kind of things do I find at yard sales? This weekends haul included a pair of vintage Bose Series 4.2 direct/reflecting speakers. I paid $12 for them at a community yard sale about 3 miles from my house. They guy even helped me carry them to my SUV. A pair in similar condition sold on eBay for $300.

Other finds this year have included a MXR Phase 100 "script" guitar pedal for $5 that sold on eBay for $101, a $5 Apple ADC to DVI adapter that sold for $79, a $75 NIB commercial coffee maker that went for $162, and a $20 new in box Epson PowerLite projector that went for $247. All time best finds have included a $2 Yamaha Keytar that went for $220, a $5 fuser for Xerox color copier that went for $207, and an HP 16C Computer Science Calculator (with original box) that went for $230.

So how do I do it? Work. Every non-rainy Saturday morning that I don't have something else to do (and since I have absolutely no social life, that's all of them) I go to yard sales and flea markets. I roll out the door around 8am with all the tools of my trade - a fully charged iPhone, a wallet full of several of every denomination of bills, including a couple hundreds just in case, a can of Rockstar energy drink, and a map.

The map is the most important thing. Every Friday night, I go on Craigslist and find all the local yard sales and flea markets. I also check the PennySaver, if my mailman has bothered to deliver it, but very few people advertise their yard sales in the PennySaver anymore. I throw them into google maps and plot out a course. I give priority to certain things - descriptions that mentioned stuff I look for (like electronics, computers, or musical instruments), sales in nice areas (because people who live in expensive houses often have expensive stuff), community yard sales (because you get a lot of sellers in one place, and you are more likely to get casual sellers who are trying to get rid of stuff rather than pros who are trying to make a profit), flea markets (if they are ones I know are likely to have casual sellers and not just people selling homemade jewelry or multi-level marketing schemes). I try to group them near each other. Then I print them out and go to bed.

It's not perfect - there are days I come home empty-handed, and there are days I do worse, and come home with turds that I lose money on. But since I don't spend much, I don't lose much, and I often win. Most of the time it's not a huge win - I can't find $3 items that sell for $300 all the time - but I can pretty easily find stuff that I can make $20 or $30 on, and it adds up. After all, Wal-Mart makes a lot of money by selling lots of cheap stuff at a very thin markup. And I can't draw any hard and fast rules - that projector was found in an older neighborhood on the edge of Baltimore City, one I normally would have avoided except for a lack of many other sales that week. The 16C was found at a church flea market around the corner from my house, one I've been to a dozen times and left empty-handed the other 11.

But the main trick is just to hit as many sales as you can. If you have specialized knowledge of a field, if you have a hobby, that's what you should concentrate on - on looking for stuff you know. It's weird how something I discovered a couple years back will suddenly make an appearance on someone's table, nestled between a giveaway Frizbee and grandma's old linens, and I'll know what it is even though nobody else did.

I probably could work harder - I rarely do Sunday sales, and I typically find myself calling it quits after 2 or 3 hours - by then I'm usually hungry, have to pee, and figure a lot of the good stuff has already been snatched. But I do a lot better than I would if I did what I otherwise would do on a Saturday morning, which involves being curled up under the covers of my bed.