Things I bring to the auction house pt.2

I’ve been trying to reorganize and declutter my various storage spaces, but it’s difficult when I keep finding great trash to sell! Fortunately, the auction house is there to ensure I don’t get too overwhelmed.

It’s tempting to be lazy when such a service is available. Instead of doing the work required to sell something on eBay I could always just drop the thing off and let someone else do it. It remains true that the best way to maximize the value of my finds is to put in the effort and list them myself. At the same time I don’t have nearly enough time to list everything, and it’s very reasonable to take the easy route for certain items. The key is to figure out which items best suit the auction house, which are better for yard sales, and which are best for eBay.

These are the classes of items that I (currently) think make the most sense to bring to auction, keeping in mind that they look for about 20$ in value when accepting commissions:

  1. Large, bulky, and fragile items that take up a lot of space and are annoying / expensive to ship. (It’s worth noting that while the buyer pays for shipping on eBay, that’s also a cost that they were willing to pay to get the item. Perhaps local buyers will bid a bit more than they would on eBay because they don’t have to consider shipping).
  2. Tools, practical items and interior design elements.
  3. Items belonging to the hottest markets of the day including: vintage video games, electronics, mid-century pieces, silver, and coins.
  4. Collections of items that are slow to sell at yard sales, and not worth my time to list individually on eBay.
  5. Items of local or regional interest.
  6. Things I don’t like or don’t enjoy selling (ie: dolls and Barbies)
  7. Things for which I lack expertise or knowledge.

An item could fit into more than one of these categories. For instance, most things I bring to auction fit into class #1 to varying degrees. Vintage video game cartridges and coins are easily shipped, but those markets are very hot and the returns I’ve seen so far have been great. I could have listed those Steinberg tie pins on eBay, but I figured the nostalgia / FOMO of local collectors (#5) would fetch me a reasonable price (we’ll find out on Sunday!).

So, what’s left? For eBay: small, easily stored, and easily shipped items; niche items I know I can get top dollar for; highly valuable items where the difference in fees becomes notable; and things I enjoy selling. For yard sales: everything else. We’ll see how the business evolves, but this seems like a solid strategy for the time being.

This stuff I spotted on heavy garbage day in Ville St Laurent featured some very auctionable junk. I took the wine jug in wicker on the right …

… this cool formic acid crate, which contained another wine jug;

… and this winemaking doohickey, which was inside that cardboard box. I’m not sure what it does, but it seemed to work when I turned it on.

I spotted this standing ashtray in Ahuntsic last Thursday and brought it to auction the same day. It was a great piece but also a category 1 object that I didn’t want cluttering up my storage.

I picked up this weird (and slightly creepy) looking thing in TMR last week. It’s definitely old and horse-related, perhaps something used to shape a saddle back in the day? Regardless, we’ll see how it does in the auction that ends next Thursday.

I’m told that this loon (which came from the same spot as the thing above) is a very nice piece. I don’t know much about Inuit art, but apparently it’s soapstone and signed by the artist on the bottom.

The bottom number represents the town it was made in. The auction folk know more about this stuff than I do so I feel comfortable letting them deal with it.

I picked up this starburst-y Italian chandelier base sometime last year. A friend of mine was planning on doing something cool with it but never found the time. I finally brought it to auction last week in hopes that it would do well as an upcycling piece. The fact that it has mid-century vibes only helps its case.

Vices (especially vintage ones) seem to do well at auction. They’re also pretty heavy which makes shipping expensive. I found this one in Ville St Laurent.

They were on the fence about taking this Frank Doerner office chair, but its sturdy frame and base won out over its obviously well worn upholstery. My last Doerner office chair didn’t fare very well, but this one’s much more luxurious and could look great with some new fabric. However, if it doesn’t do well I’ll pass on similar chairs in the future (also, they’ll probably stop accepting them). The chair was listed last night and the bidding will end next Thursday evening.

Here’s an antique kids’ potty chair I found last week. I’d never seen such a thing before (and don’t understand why you’d want to make one with wicker) but it seemed like a good thing to drop off at the auction.

Someone last week tossed a hat signed by former Montreal Canadien Alexei Kovalev. This definitely falls under “local interest,” and I expect the auction to earn me about as much money as I would if I were to list the hat on eBay (with much less effort required).

These old butter crates are bulky, practical and of local interest. They should sell for about 15$ each.

Most vintage glass lampshades are annoying to sell at yard sales because they’re niche (what are the odds the person who wants that specific one will show up?), bulky, and breakable. The latter two reasons (which result in a high cost of shipping) also make them a pain to sell on eBay. So, to the auction they go, often in groups of at least three.

I dropped off a bunch of video game stuff including these N64 games I had stashed away for eBay season and some untested consoles I had at the garage. Some of my other video game lots have already sold but these haven’t yet appeared on the sight. Mario Kart and Zelda are especially popular, and these should fetch me a nice chunk of cash.

Let’s finish with this piece, which will probably end up being the most valuable of the bunch. My friend and I happened upon a huge pile while picking one evening. We met the guy doing the tossing which can sometimes be an unpleasant experience. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so ecstatic to have me take their junk. He was telling me what all was there, helped me collect a bunch of train set pieces that he put in his neighbours recycling bin, let us wash our hands inside the house, and so on. Apparently he was cleaning out his parents’ attic as they were preparing to sell the house. Anyways, I spotted some wood pieces inside a pair of disintegrating trash bags. I could tell right away that they were teak, and wondered if they could be fancy designer pieces.

They turned out to be the pieces of a mid-century chair (actually 1.5 chairs – I have two extra bits that I don’t know what to do with). I don’t know much about all the different mid-century designers so I posted pictures to Reddit’s /r/mid_century forum in hopes that they could tell me what I needed to know. As it turns out, this chair is a Capella lounge chair designed by Illum Wikkelso for Niels Eilersen of Denmark.

I don’t think that this chair has the same appeal as the George Nakashima piece I found a couple years ago, but it’s still very much in style and should sell in the somewhere in the low hundreds. I felt comfortable dropping it off because the mid-century market is very hot right now, the price of shipping would be pretty high, and the 25% fee (as compared to the roughly 10% with eBay / Paypal) is well worth it considering how much hassle it saves me. We’ll see how it goes!

I think I’m nearly done with the constant organizing / reorganizing that became necessary after downsizing my garage and discovering this new auction approach. My basement is pretty much clear of forgotten junk, my storage on Coloniale is relatively empty after a couple of yard sales, and my garage is still a total mess but not nearly as bad as it was not long ago. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to focus more on the blog and featuring finds from specific spots like I used to.

I’m leaning towards doing a yard sale this Sunday at my garage. The weather is supposed to be perfect and it might be the last hot weekend day of the year. Plus, I really want to get rid of some junk. It’ll be at roughly 918 St Gregoire (near Mentana and Laurier Park) starting around 11am. For now let’s assume that I do it. I’ll edit this post below if I change my mind (so check back if you want to be sure).

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13 thoughts on “Things I bring to the auction house pt.2”

  1. Those Canadian butter crates are so cool! I know what you mean about shipping costs, though. It has gotten so expensive that I use eBay much less often nowadays.

    1. Yes, shipping is expensive particularly in Canada. Canada Post gets a lot of hate, but they do have a lot more ground to cover (and many fewer people to serve) than USPS in the States so the prices are kind of understandable. Flipping is still possible but you need to focus on small or high-margin items.

      Those butter crates are pretty cool, and also the perfect example of how the auction house benefits my business. I saw one previously that sold for 20$ at auction – mine aren’t in quite as good condition so I’m hoping to get 15$ a piece. Anyways, 15$ is about what it would cost to ship a crate like that within Montreal or to nearby cities like Ottawa or Toronto. The price would go up to about 20$ for faraway Canadian cities like Calgary or Vancouver, and more than that for relatively rural places (of which there are many). For shipping to the US or overseas, forget about it. Basically, listing such a thing on eBay is a waste of time even if you’re able to sell it for a bit more money than you could otherwise, given the work it takes to get the thing listed and shipped as well as the space it takes up in the meantime. At a yard sale, I’d probably get laughed at 50% of the time if asking for 10$ and end up accepting 5$ in a desperate attempt to free up space and move on with my life. On Kijiji, I’d get stressed out by the constant notifications – people asking if it’s “still available” and so on, and then trying to arrange a meeting that 50% of people will flake out on (I’m more or less sick of Craigslist / Kijiji at this point).

      I like sales that are quick, easy, and formulaic. eBay is great because someone either buys your thing or they don’t, and there’s not much chatter in between. The auction house provides similar benefits to a whole new slew of items, and it really helps keep the junk flowing instead of piling up!

      I realize this response was probably more than you bargained for, but it made me think of that specific example that might help some understand my thinking!

  2. The wooden horse-related thing is a saddle tree. It would be most easily explained as the skeleton of a saddle, or innards perhaps. Beyond that I have nothing to add as far as whether or not this piece is valuable. It would probably be of interest to a horse person who likes decorating their home with horse-related items (I’ve seen ppl do that). I would be interested to hear what happens to it. A trainer I knew had a wooden tree from his grandfather’s saddle, early 1900s.

    1. Thanks for doing the research! Mine isn’t in as good of condition but I’d guess it’s probably worth in the three figures as well. Primitive is another hot market these days.

  3. Hi,That standing ashtray you found in Ahuntsic is wonderful.You could have tried to sell it yourself.The butter crates and the loon made of soapstone are cool too.
    I found wonderful vinyl records in the trash of Ahuntsic this Friday early in the noon,just south of Fleury.There was a vinyl record of Patrick Hernandez ‘Born To Be Alive’,many disco records,and lots of quaint titles from the sixties and seventies,including Ginette Reno’s greatest hits.I am happy to have made the rescue.Check out Laverdure,Berri ,Durham ,Peloquin ,St.Charles and Basile Routhier streets on Friday mornings in Ahuntsic north of Sauve.

    1. Yes it was nice, it was somewhere near the south part of Francis street which is picked up on Thursday. I like Ahunstic a lot now that there’s only one garbage day a week (so there’s more trash concentrated in that one day). Perhaps I’ll check out that area this week as I’m not having much luck on my other Friday routes.

  4. Please posting more often.Stop making readers wait so long between posts.
    Summer is ending and hopefully the shorter daylight hours will make you want to write more often.

  5. I would like your posts to be more often as they were before also. I dont find the posts of what items on ebay sold for interesting or worthwhile as readers can check your ebay page under completed or sold listings and find out. themnselves. Love when you post pics of smalls you find and let readers help discern what the items are. just like seeing the junk piles and what you have pulled out.

    1. Unfortunately I’ve been very busy lately and thus haven’t had the time or energy to post as often as before. In the end the junk is what pays the bills (I make very little if any money from blogging after expenses) so the business aspect has to take priority. I think the work is nearly complete, and I once it’s done I think the operation will run more smoothly than before and I’ll post more as a result.

      I do the sales posts because I think they help inform potential garbage pickers of the kinds of things they can sell for good profit. Personally I’ve learned things the hard way over many years of trial and error (lots of error) but that is not necessary for others. Knowing what to look for makes picking a more profitable endeavour, and may encourage more people to do it regularly, which I think can be good for the individual, society, and the environment.

      On the other hand, as I sell more and more things those posts are becoming more and more work, so I could retire the series or modify it so that it only details the best sales or things that otherwise didn’t make the blog.

  6. It was great to read your analysis of what’s best to sell where, and the whys behind it. There’s definitely more to your business than meets the uninformed eye. So much work! You clearly enjoy it though. Many people aren’t so fortunate as you in being able to pursue the kind of work they like. I wish you huge success; you certainly deserve it. 🙂

  7. Please don’t stop your blog. I appreciate it whenever you find the time to do it. I know how much work second handing is. I’ve been a thrifter, hunter, gatherer, roadside scavenger most of my life and simply because I love it. I also know how easy it is to become overwhelmed in these venues no matter how you are proceeding with it. It can be an absolute constant whether collecting, listing, selling, cleaning etc., etc., it can be incredibly time consuming work! I also love when you elaborate on your strategy for selling what you find. Any tidbit you offer such as shipping from Canada etc., I really value your knowledge on.

    Thank you Martin.

    1. Thank you! Indeed, this lifestyle can be a lot of work. I used to burn out frequently, but these days I’m better at conserving my energies. My goal is to work hard but avoid getting overly stressed. I’m glad you appreciate the info, otherwise I wonder if I’m just writing for myself!

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