Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Day In the Life

As I mentioned in the last posting, I have seen more than a few articles online about how easy and profitable it is to get into antiques picking....

Ok...let's look at "Easy."

Yep, ok, admittedly it is easy to get into this business.....TOO easy.


Let's define "profitable"...

Good ol' Wikipedia's definition of "PROFITABLE"

Hmm...lots more involved in profit than you thought, eh?

Not worried?

So, ya scored something for $5 and it is a $65 item!

That equals $60 profit, right?

OH, geeze, shucks, there are those cash EXPENSES to factor in yet.

$10 in gas to get there...oh, lunch cost $7, tip is another 50 cents (ya cheap bugger!), oh, and $13.50 gas to get back due to the higher cost of gas in the area you drove to, wear and tear on the vehicle, chip in the windshield you got from the gravel truck that cut you off...well, lets just ignore those last two...hard to put a value on those...and don't want to make you too depressed...not yet.

Ok, so we have another $31 in CASH expenses...the sun shining in your eyes that is glancing off that stone chip until you get it fixed? Ya, just ignore that, 'kay?

And, you paid $5 for the item...

Ok, so we're at $36 that the item cost you...$29 profit!

Um, so, ya work for FREE, do you?

1 hour labor...$10 an hour...ok, not a bad wage...but $6 an hour less than your old job you quit to follow your dream profession

$19 potential profit....

Yeah, POTENTIAL...remember, you need to sell the item yet.  Uh-huh, at this point, you are still down $46!

So, put it in the box with your other finds. Toss it in the cab of your pick-up truck, and haul it down to your buyer of such treasures, about a 1/2 hour drive downtown.

You pull up in front of his store, park at the meter, noting it is 4:30 PM....and he closes at 5:00 PM. 

Hmm....You realize you are cutting it close, 'cause he tends to be busy, as he has a real good reputation for having great stuff, and you have to deal with him when he isn't busy with customers. Plus, Saturday afternoons he tends to be twice as busy, buying from other pickers who have finished garage sales for the day that bring their garage sales finds in this late Saturday afternoon.......and wow, it is such a beautiful day, sunny, but not too hot, not at all humid just warm enough to sun bathe and not get cold, but not sweat to death, either....remember 3 years ago when all summer you and your buddies/family went to the beach every Saturday? Wow, yeah, that was a great summer...was so relaxed when you went back to work after your 5 week vacation..nice to have seniority; got to take the prime vacation time...and you saved all those sick days for that extra week (hey, your nose is dripping from that summer cold! ...wipe it off! Yuck.)...yeah, *sniffle/snort*...ah, yeah, those bar-b-q's, the Sunday afternoon poker games with the buddies....for sure, some great times!

Oh well, beach is 2 hours drive away, gas is now getting pricey.  You only broke even playing poker, are saving some money on beer, too. Your other half is not complaining about Fred's smoking in the gazebo...mind you, she took up smoking again...and worked her way to her old pack-a-day habit.

 Still would have been great to take the kids to the pool today....but, hey, gotta make money to pay the bills....& pay for pool admission. Remember, they weren't impressed when you took them to the paddling pool at the park last Sunday at 3:00 PM, while you were sweating like a pig, looking like a homeless guy, after attending that auction where you ended up buying a pile of what was really just hard, sweaty, dirty work that you paid someone else for the "pleasure" of doing yourself...and the finale was a trip to the landfill to get rid of 99% of it after you found it smelled of cat urine...

Oh, HEY, reality just got asked a question....!

"How much do you want for the widget?"

"Just $39", you say, thinking that you do need to attempt to break somewhat even on that trip, "They're worth $65."

And, how did you come up with that?

It comes to light that you saw that the snotty dealer down the street had 2 on his shelves marked at that!

"Did you know yours was actually 10 years newer than those?"

Ahhhhh, crap....!

Ah, but this dealer/buyer is honest, and tells you that; oddly enough, it is a GOOD thing in the case of this widget!

Less were made during that period! These are quite RARE!


SCORE!!!!! *fist pump* *woot* *woot* 

"We're in the money, We're in the money...!"

He beamingly announces to you that it is actually worth....wholly smokes....omigawd...wait for it...

Whoopee..uh,...huh, uh, oh, wait a minute....

Only $100?

But the dealer down the street has two less rare ones priced at $65 each....but this "rare" one is only worth $35 more than the common ones?

Ah, but Smythe's Teek's down the street $65 ones are priced at triple what they are actually worth....and he has had them on the shelf for 12 years....Guess you shouldn't value your stuff based on some other guy's price tags...

And he also recently refused to buy one last week from Junkster know Bill, the guy who gets stuff from trash, no, not that're thinking of Weird Will....I mean Bill, the guy who sells his stuff dirt cheap all the time to anyone who will buy it, so he can buy food for his 5 kids? Yeah, him....

Any-hoo, he was wanting $7 for it..and it was in far better shape than the ones Smythe had on his shelf.....Snotty Smythe offered poor Bill a measy $1!


You also see that your buyer has one just like those 2 you saw on Smythe's shelves, but the one here is in much better shape...darn thing is near mint...! Makes yours look rough, even...

"Yeah, I bought it from Bill, gave him his $7. Really too much, and shouldn't have even bought it. Have 2 over there on the shelf at $20 each, and  I have 3 more in the back I bought at an antique auction a month ago, for $5 each. And, it seems like no one wants them anymore.  They used to be hot, hot, hot!  Not anymore, though, But, Bill said he's going to bring all of his stuff here first from now on...I guess we'll see if that actually happens, I'll be surprised...he always needs the cash, like, "right now", immediately, and I am not always open when he comes around....but, hey, he is a decent guy. Poor guy is just trying to make an honest living any way he can"

You are now thinking: Well, still, now I can get $50...right?

Oh, wait a sec....

As a dealer with the overhead of a store, you remember that previously he said he'd pay you 1/3rd of his retail for items worth under $100...

Initially you thought was a damn rip-off...but, when he pulled out some of his bills (how many dealers would have done that?) and popped out the calculator, and he quickly went through the numbers, adding up monthly expenses, the total of which made your eyes grow wide....and a week later you saw his business tax bill open on the counter (they charge THAT much for business tax?)....and that day the furnace in his store conked out, and you watched the counter while he had to hunt down a used part, which still cost him $300...that he had to install, because the local furnace guy wanted $400 for their labor, and would not install that used part, it had to be new or nothing....


Oh, yeah, remember that day you were there and that arrogant city's licensing inspector came in?
He nearly started a scene, snorting that he should issue the dealer a $1000 fine, just because he had those 5 sterling silver brooches in his showcase (yeah, the ones you sold him...the ones he paid you close to what he priced them at, just to bail you out of that bad deal you made 2 month ago) and he wasn't licenced to sell precious metals...He had to pay another $100 fee in addition to the $500 antiques dealer license..which was only $300 last year, but due to that old biddy...that pawn dealer's wife down the block, the one that complained that antiques dealers who were setting up in the area were cutting into her family;s "honorable" business (yeah, the pawn dealer couple who were convicted for selling baby food jars, with a little paint thinner in them, out the back door to those sniffers...yep, those sniffers that you seem to have to walk around sometimes when you come to sell stuff to your buyer..the same ones who smashed his window last year because he wouldn't buy the real "antiques" they brought in...the handfuls gravel they scooped up out of his parking spot.....Man, and that window cost him $600, remember? And it was a SALVAGED one, not even a new was going to cost $2000! )

So, you decided that 1/3rd for an item worth under $100 was actually more than fair, really, but that was only after you spent a week complaining about it to your cronies. You had to do some damage control after that, remember? You're lucky the guy didn't just refuse to buy those brooches from you after you slagged him like that...He called you on it...and you meekly explained that you realized you had over reacted, and that you came to your senses...You almost grovelled...but managed to apologized as best you could. You're lucky he saw himself in you...he told you a few stories of his start 30 years prior....he is a real interesting guy.

You sure found out how fast the grapevine works in this business, didn't you? Plus, if he hadn't bailed you out of the brooch deal your spouse would have had your neck for gambling the mortgage money on what you initially thought was a bargain of a lifetime....

Yep, expenses of a store were WAY higher than you imagined. The guy isn't making a great living doing that.

Looking around, you can still see quite a bit of the other dreck they (his wife and him) bought from you...seems like a fair bit of it is still on the shelves...and some of it is marked down to darn near what they gave you for it. 

Heck, he has treated you damn well, really....gone beyond the call of duty.

Ok, so, I guess we're looking at about $33?

He agrees, and pulls out $35...Crud, you have no spent it all at that last garage sale on the way here.

He says "No problem, we'll even it out on some other deal. I'm really sorry I can't use any of the other stuff...the store is quite jammed with that same sort of stuff right not is just not moving. Tastes have really changed in the last 8 years."

Glancing around his store you think, yeah, he is getting pretty crowded in here. There is more than one shelf that is threatening to collapse under the weight of what used to be desirable inventory...that now collects dust.

He thanks you for bringing the widget to him, walks over to the front of the store, flips the chipped "open/closed" sign to "closed." He clicks out a few of the front lights. Pops the cork out of a bottle of wine he pulls from behind the counter, offers you a glass.

You decline...The label on the bottle indicates it is pretty cheap wine, and looks like it came from a discount bin, seeing as the label is pretty ratty. You are a little spoiled with the $40 a bottle stuff. Been awhile, though, since you had a glass of that.  You did have a few glasses of a bottle last month...but, admittedly you didn't buy was handed to you by that buddy you used to go golfing with during those clear summer Wednesday nights, when you popped by his place after buying that cool old Hula lamp from that old lady. She happened to live near his place, so it was a convenient stop.

Your golfing buddy sure rolled his eyes when you showed him your prize; looked at you almost with pity, in a way, didn't he?  He did say he missed your company on the links, but not to worry, he had picked up a new partner.  

That weekly Wednesday evening auction was one you've decided you just can't miss....Early on you learned just never know what they will pull out of those boxes. Ok, so some of it is pure junk, but you did do really well a few times....made some good money...and remember the one time you did go golfing  instead of hitting that auction? It just happened to be the very night that the rude jackass (yep, the one that seems to beat you to some of those great garage sales) scored that pair of bronze statues in the box of worn out Tupperware, for the bargain basement amount of TWO DOLLARS!? No, not the  rearing horse he sold for $500...he got that at the estate sale...the one where you only had $20 left on you, they were priced at $40, and the seller would not go down in price...but the jerk managed to smooth talk another one of the sellers into selling them for $20?  I'm thinking of the Art Deco nudes he sold for $1000 on eBay, the week after he bought them. He had bragged about how they went for "thousands"...yeah, there are all sorts of people in this business, aren't there?

Heck, from that one score you got from the auction, that the $35 box that turned out to be a $400 sale for you! You took the family out for supper 3 different nights in a single month! Was almost like you used to do  when you were working, every Tues & Thurs night. Those evenings out to the fancier Greek & Italian joints in the trendy part of town? Yeah, in the area you don't bother going to garage sales at, because they seem to have just modern stuff, and they mark their used clothing and worn designer Gucci purses at "new" prices....tough to buy your shirts & jeans for yourself at those places,, basically no reason to shop those sales, really. You can buy your clothes at the thrift stores in the north part of town, at the same time you do on your rounds of them all on Thursdays....the day you are out until 7:00 PM, because there are a couple shops that don't close until 6:00 and 7:00PM.  Even tough to buy some clothes at the thrift stores in the south part of town; they price their shirts at $5, compared to $1.00 at the other places. LOL....remember when you used to pay $45 each for shirts? You have TWENTY of those same high-end shirts in your closet, and they cost you less than $30, TOTAL!

Hmm...Thursdays...Remember when you went to that cool little Irish-style pub near the office, at 3:30PM for a "business meeting" with Frank from across the hall ...drinks & that good 'n' greasy "pub food" food...little pricey, but damn good....and it was all covered by the company!

 Hey, remember there was an old beer sign hanging in there!? Maybe you could buy it and flip it over at the next flea market? YIKES,  that is next week! Got to get packed up for it! Need to cover the bill on the repair of your wife's car!  It is 2 months over-due.....When you were working that 9 to 5, Monday to Friday gig, you'd have a  a new company car every year. You did have to buy that half-ton truck, and needed it to be reliable...lots of money went into it. SO, for your spouse's car; instead of doing the leasing thing on a car that was maybe a year or two old;  you had to pick up that 15 year old Buick your neighbor's grandmother had in her garage...the one you scored at her estate sale for $500. Was little old lady driven, just like they say...too bad she never ever took it in for tune-ups...starting to cost lots in repairs...really more than it is worth now....hmmm.

The dealer notices you staring, rather blankly, but seemingly at the label, and laughs...

You "come to", snapped out of that little world in your head...

"This is NOT vinegar, my friend."

He proceeds to tell you about the Italian couple he met while on a house call at their home, where he spent some major money, presented him with a case of homemade wine. The stuff was made from grapes they had cultivated in their back yard, picked from vines growing them from clippings from some of the finest grapevines in Italy, which, apparently, the grapes only the finest winemakers in Italy use, and use only for their "masterpieces".

He also relates to you how it is best stuff he has ever had...far better than anything that he ever drank when he was wined and dined by clients in those Parisian cafes or those exclusive London night clubs.  That, of course, was when he was working at a 6 figure-a-year job, and travelling around the world. 

Looking up from his wine, he seems to sigh a little...."Almost seems like it was someone else's life I'm remembering, now."

He picks up the bottle and gestures with a pouring motion to the empty glass.

You smile...and even almost grin...this sounds like superb vino! Could be one heck of a treat! You are about to say "Sure!"..then your bubble bursts as you remember you assured your spouse that you'd be home by 6:00PM at the absolute latest tonight. She/he had to pick up part time job, so it is your turn to watch the kids tonight. Plus, you really need to clean up some of that really filthy stuff you pulled out of that basement sale 4 weeks ago...the stuff you have been putting off cleaning....Yep, the box that had that bottle with the rotting mouse corpse in the bottom. You need some fresh stuff for the flea market next week....and "eau du rotten mouse" is not going to attract any customers...

So, you shake your head, offer to him the fact you have to get home and the reasons why (death at the hands of your other half being one of them), and pick up your box of stuff that will now have to be blown out at the flea market next weekend. You say a goodbye, and wander to and out the door, directly to the passenger side of your truck...where you see a yellow slip of paper flipping in the light breeze.

A parking ticket.

You forgot to plug the meter.

It is only a mere $25, if you pay it within 2 weeks of the date on the ticket....then it jumps to $55.

Hmmm...cost on your $5 purchase, after factoring in expenses?


So, you are only $26 in the hole...

Oh, wait....

You were on the road for an half hour, and spent a half hour at the dealer's shop,, add your $14 an hour you figured your time was worth,  and you are $40 in the hole.

Oh, and a half an hour's drive home....tack on $7...

$ the hole.

Not quite like the hole-in-one you got on that one beautiful Thursday evening; when the sky was a beautiful red.  "Red at night, a sailors delight" Sailing...another hobby you thought about, but won't be taking up anytime soon...
I bet it will be a similar sunset tonight. Maybe you can wash that junk out on the picnic table in the back yard, and possibly catch a glimpse of it....


HEY YOU, I'm over here!

So, did any of that sound familiar?


Well, it could become familiar....and it is far more common scenario than you'd think.

Hey, SMILE people, there are happier tales and tips coming...stay tuned to this channel...all pickin', all the time!

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