Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pickin' Story Around a Globe

Long ago, when I first started picking for a living, I was driving down a road, just off a main highway, but still a well traveled, paved road. I spotted a 1950s gas bowser (electric gas pump) in a guy's farm yard with a sign still on it. This was/is unusual for being on such a well traveled route...usually in such cases, the stuff turns out to rarely ever be for sale.

I pulled in, and the owner came out of the house right away. I leaned out the window of my truck, and asked him if he would sell the sign off the gas pump. I figured he'd probably been asked 1000 times before, but I might as well make it 1001.

 He said "I don't think so." I asked if I could just take a look at it, and I' then make him an offer, and he could say yes or no.

He agreed.

I jumped out of my truck, took a look at the pump. It had two porcelain signs on it,  both Texaco Sky Chief, as well as two "This Pump Contains Leaded Fuel" (common $8 - $15 retail at the time..and only still as much). The Sky Chiefs were selling retail for about $85 each at the time. I told him I'd give him $85 for all 4 signs (a fair offer in any picker's book). He had a surprised look on his face when I made my offer, and I got the immediate impression that people had been hassling him for years to sell them...but for next to nothing.

He said he'd go and grab me a screwdriver, and I told him it was ok, I had one in the truck. While I was taking them off, he stood there, watching me work. He seemed to have a somewhat thoughtful look on his face, and after I had two of the signs off, he said,

"You know, I think I have the glass thing for the top of that".

My thought was "Ok, cool." He might have meant he had the flat glass inserts at the top front sides (maybe $15 retail for a Sky Chief one) or if I was very lucky, he had the globe that would go on the top of the pump.(a plain Sky Chief gas globe was worth about $300 - $350 retail at the time).

 The pump did have a factory insert covering the hole on the top, but no evidence that it had ever been off and a globe mounted over it. I wasn't overly optimistic he'd drag out anything other than a flat glass plate or 2.
So, I kept working away while he sauntered back to his garage. Almost done, taking off the final 2 small signs, I looked up, and.....

he was carrying a gas globe as he was walking towards me.....

but not a Sky Chief globe! It was a North Star ENERGY Globe (North Star was a Canadian company later bought out by Shell). The ENERGY globe happens to be far scarcer than Texaco Sky Chief globes.


SO, at the time, I had never had one before, and had no idea what it was worth. There were no reference books on Canadian globes (still really isn't), and most collectors were always pretty tight lipped about values.

I figured it had to be worth $400, so I told him that I figured it was worth $400 retail, and I'd pay him $200, and, because I wasn't 100% sure I was accurate on my thought of value, if I ended up selling it for significantly more I'd come back with half the difference.

 He agreed, and a deal was made.

Those were the days when I was picking with my grocery money, essentially, and trying to triple it to also cover my rent. Times were tough. Picking to pay the rent and eat. Picking was my income and entertainment. Forget being able to go to the movies. It went on like that for 2 years.

I managed to eventually sell the globe for $600 to a straight up, honest collector I was dealing with at that time. But, rent, groceries and the necessities of life gobbled it all up before I knew it. Life has a way of throwing you curves, especially when cash is in short supply.

I didn't forget. As far as I was concerned, I had an outstanding debt to pay. About two years later, I had some spare cash, and went back to that farmhouse with a $100 bill, and knocked on the door.

The farmer answered, and soon he remembered me, and the transaction. I then told him I had sold the globe for $600, and thus, I owed him $100, as per the deal we had made.

He was dumbfounded. He said that he didn't think I'd ever be back.

 I told him simply that I had made a deal, and I don't back out on my deals.

He graciously took the $100.

Then he said, "I'm retiring, and in the shed there are two trailers of stuff...the auctioneer told me not to sell anything before the auction, but you go in there, and pick out what ever you'd like to buy."

I picked out some cool stuff,including a steel Exide Batteries advertising tool holder, then ended up in his house's basement, where I bought a stack of McColl Frontenac letterheads.

McColl Frontenac is also commonly known as "Red Indian" - their logo was an Indian in full headdress - They were later bought by Texaco - and as a result of the great graphic image they used, and the fact they were Texaco's start into the Canadian market, their advertising is very sought after stuff.

 The letterheads had some goop on the top, bundling them together like a note pad, which made me hedge on price. The stuff was black and nearly rock-hard...some sort of tar. I told him I knew they were good, but the goop might just make them a tough sell, but I thought I may be able to remove it. I offered him $15, and told him the same thing I'd told him on the globe....If I got significantly more than $30 or $40, I'd be back with half the difference.

He smiled and said if I did do far better on them to just keep the extra cash.

It was a pick that I came away feeling very good from. And, yes, I happened to do very well on the letterheads in the end...and didn't even have to clean the goop off.

I know, some of you will say I am nuts, but it is just the way I roll. I believe in Karma.

Trust me, following that sort of method for many things is a good policy, and always works out well in the end, I assure you.
On a picking trip, pickers do buy more than a few things at some stops. Personally, like to fill my van if there is enough decent stuff there, and really make the stop worthwhile. Due to sheer bulk, their low price quotes, high price quotes, bulk purchases (IE: Box of interesting small junk you don't have time to go through right then, but drop an offer for on spec), you do over-pay for some things and you under-pay for some things. It comes out in the wash most of the time in those cases. If the piece is darn good, don't risk screwing up the deal by low balling on the price so you are "safe."  If they quote the price, and it is a good price, don't dicker...just buy it.
If it is insanely cheap, offer them a little more. That kind of gesture will come back to help you in the end...and possibly even within a few minutes or even seconds of putting it out there.

Some people figure that regardless of the price, they need to get it for less. If it is $10 they want it for $6. If it is a buck they want it for 50 cents....if it is 25 cents they want it for 10 cents...even when  the item is easily worth $50. I sometimes see these fools operating and think that if the item was marked FREE they'd tell the seller they wanted to be paid to take it away. I just glide in to the sale, scoop up the bargains and pay for them, while that kind of fool is making faces at the seller, poo-pooing the merchandise, trying to weasel the price down another dime.

Really, why would you waste your time like that?

I figure my time is worth more than those few cents or dollars. 

Plus, you need to have some class.

 So, while they are dickering their 25 cent purchase down to 10 cents at that estate sale, just keep picking up the $100 & $200 items priced at $2 each and thank the "greed gods" that person obviously happens to worship! 
Those sorts of people waste lots of time, and manage to make more enemies in a year than you will ever make by being honest and decent. 

Plus, the time they waste can end up becoming your advantage. 

So, with that, I tip my hat in thanks to all those people who low-balled the farmer with their offers on his Sky Chief signs!

1 comment:

  1. A very good way to look at it - be grateful for those who come before and make it easier for an honest person to make a good offer.
    I also believe that we must treat people with respect. If we think the prices are unreasonable, maybe have a polite conversation to find out how attached a seller is or what significance items have to them personally.

    Some days it is just an educational experience and no sale will be made.