STEP NINETEEN: Trains, Insulators, and Typewriters

$2,118.40 becomes $2,159.90

So I got busy with other responsibilities last summer and fall. But as soon as the cold days returned and the holidays were over, I found myself searching listings again for the chance of a lifetime to buy low and sell high.

I've been busy with this project the past few weeks. Sometime in the future I may clean this up and put an entry for each item but in the interest of time, I'll just list a bunch of them here.

These items started as a bulk purchase at an estate sale last spring. 1947 Lionel Train Set with 5 Cars, Cast Iron Locomotive with Real Smoke and Whistling Coal Car + 3 Glass Telephone Insulators + Vintage Typewriter

I bought this at an estate sale. It belonged to a now-deceased hoarder. A couple had bought the house as is and offered the contents to the surviving family. They didn't want anything.  I think I paid $200 for the train set but she also threw in a typewriter and 3 cool glass telephone insulators.  I had a local train buff repair the locomotive so it would smoke again and get the whistler going on the coal car ($35). Total investment: $235.

3 Deep Purple Telephone Insulators - sold for $45
1947 Lionel Train - sold for $162.50

1928 Remington Portable Typewriter #3 - sold for $81

STEP NINETEEN: Bought for $235, sold for $288.50
Profit on these items: $53.50 
(and a whole lot of fun teaching kids how to type and use a dangerous smoking train)
Project Profit: $2,159.90

STEP TWENTY: Clearing out the closets

$2,159.90 becomes $2,246.35

Now this next section I'm going way off base with my approach. I decided not to buy anything but rather to clear out some closets and sell a few things we no longer needed. I know this totally violates the intent of the project and if you feel strongly that I should remove these figures from the total, just tell me so.  I'm kind of making this up as I go. 

Personal Smurf Collection: sold for $65
Grain Mill (donated by neighbor) - sold for $6

Coleman Gas Lantern (donated by neighbor) - sold for $15.45

STEP TWENTY: Bought for free, sold for $86.45
Project Profit: $2,246.35

STEP TWENTY-ONE: 3 Flavor Icee Machine

$2,246.35 becomes $3,656.35 

If I'm going to do this, if I'm going to leave a mess of products, tools, parts, scraps of paper and empty boxes cluttering the office desk and bed, there had better be some progress made from it. This was the general sentiment coming recently from my wife, who saw me slipping into my winter selling craze. Actually, you might call it a winter buying craze with an occasional burst of selling.

Well, I spotted something while browsing the commercial business section of my local Craigslist. I love the business items for sale section. There's so much random crap. Once I saw a luggage elevator cart from an airport. Who wouldn't want one of those? And it wasn't expensive!

A Lancer 553 ic 3 Flavor Frozen Beverage Dispenser and it's all mine!
This time around I spotted a beverage machine. This wasn't a regular soda dispenser, this was an Icee Machine. You may call them Slushies, Frozen Drink Machines, Smoothie Makers, or Snow Cone drinks, but know that they are not all the same. For one, Slushie is the brand used and owned by 7-11 stores.  Slush drinks do not have carbonation. Icees on the other hand do have carbonation and the freezer component mixes with the carbonated water to give you a ever expanding frozen soda in a myriad of flavors.

These machines are massive and massively expensive when new.  I've seen some in my research cost $28,000 plus extras like a base cart, compressors and regulators.  So when I saw one listed locally for $1,500 I was intrigued.  Especially since I saw this model selling on Ebay for 4-5k.

Bought for $800, $65 invested, sold for $2,275
Project Profit: $3,656.35



Some neighbors had upgraded their kids' room and was getting rid of a bunk bed set. It was in pieces and was missing a few screws, but the major pieces were all there. It was a colorful bed with a built in folding desk, an attached play tent and a ladder on the side.  Most people buy new mattresses when they buy a used bunk bed so I didn't bother with that.  My neighbors were happy to get it moved off of their front porch. I stored it in my garage while I listed it for a quick sale locally on Craigslist. I started at $200 but when I got no offers or calls at that level I simply started dropping the price every couple of days. A week later I had sold it to a dad who was giving it to his 6 year old for his birthday for $120.

Step Twenty-Two: Free turned into $120
Project Profit: $3,776.35

Some New Ground Rules from the Wife in the New Year

My wife showed her commitment to my passions, crazy though they may be, by surprising me with her support upon news of this latest purchase of the drink machine.  She wasn't excited per se, but I'll take "willing participant" at this stage any day.

She explained that in order for her to continue supporting this project, I need to show faith to the project. No more $5 sales here, or $1.50 profits there, with the exception that I can do it if the item is free to me.

So, here are her ground rules which I agreed to.

1. Only one purchase per month.

2. I cannot buy another item until I sell the previous item.

3. No small items for sale unless they are free to me.

4. All items purchased must either be ready to sell as is, or, if they are going to take work (labor, materials, time to research) then I have to factor my time into the product as further investment. We decided that my time on this project is worth $20 / hour. (blogging excluded).

5. I am to retain the goals of the project and seek the million dollars using the incremental steps laid out in the intro to the blog. We'll let the Smurf collection and scout badges slide this time, but from now on, it's game time.  Note: I do still have a few items in my inventory that are being made ready to sell. I will still sell these items off but when it comes to shopping the next steps will be large ones.

Feel free to share your thoughts about this new return to the old approach.

Step TWENTY-THREE: On My Honor, I will... Sell My Scout Patches


Why do we keep things? For a memory? To impress? Fear of not being remembered? Reminder of a life lesson? I've got a pretty good memory and I feel adoration from my family and friends so why hang onto things that fill closets?

During my childhood I went through the ranks in Boy Scouts, eventually earning my Eagle Award, the highest achievement in scouting.  It was a fun adventure and I have many great memories from it. In fact, it's likely that those numerous outings gave me the confidence to not only continue to travel trails into adulthood, but to also seek my own unique place in life, contributing where I can.

A grocery bag full of old musty scouting patches wasn't required to keep that passion I now live.

Bought for $0   
 (not counting burnt dinners, frozen fingers, and snipe hunting) Sold for $311
Project Profit: $4,087.35

STEP TWENTY-FOUR: Dreamcatcher, Dreams to Dollars

$4,087.35 becomes $4,100.39

 At a recent neighborhood swap meet, I picked up this nice large Native American dreamcatcher. It measures 9 1/2" across and 22" tall. I could tell that it was made from authentic materials: wool, rabbit fur, pheasant feathers and beads on leather string. This type of craft isn't my cup of tea but I know there are collectors of these things out there (own kids included). Whatever it sells for online is profit.

Bought for FREE, sold for $13.04
Project Profit: $4,100.39

STEP TWENTY-FIVE: Vintage Monopoly

$4,100.39 becomes $4,130.39

This is pretty cool.  While driving past a thrift store in Tucson I'd never seen before I wandered in and found this cool game board and box for real cheap.  I bought it, taught my daughter how to play, used the famous "Get Out Of Jail Free" Card (so that now she knows that reference, and put the thing online. The game is either from 1946 or '51 but the game pieces are all wooden, referring to a time when they stopped making the metal game pieces like the shoe and iron due to metal shortages during the war.  Some of these games can go for $100 or more but I'll be happy with anything over a few bucks.

Bought for $6, Sold for $36
Project Profit: $4,130.39

What lies ahead...

It looks like I'll make out all right on this frozen drink machine. Even if it stays at it's current selling price, I'll make enough to make the purchase worthwhile. From there I have one possible item picked out that, if it checks out and can be bought for the amount of money I have, may bring in close to 8k when sold.

What happens after that has me stumped, for the moment anyway.

Step Twenty-Six: Airline Food Service Cart

I love never knowing what I'm going to find, especially when I'm not even looking for anything.  Yesterday I stopped in the local Habistore, a resale shop benefitting Habitat for Humanity.  Contractors, homeowners and businesses can donate building materials and household goods for a tax write-off. The store then puts them up for sale in their warehouse and whatever money they earn from the sale goes towards helping build additional homes for those who need them but can't afford them.  In past years I found incredible deals at the Habistore but unfortunately, the pricing has been ramped up to mimic retail prices, or at least near retail prices.  However, when I've found something I really like, I can often get a better deal by talking with the manager and making a serious offer on the spot.  Traditionally, this has been near half of what they are asking.  Case in point:  yesterday I found an airline food service cart for sale.  The store had priced it at $250, with a special sale price "today only" of 50% off.  He said he would accept my lower offer as long as I was willing to buy all three of the carts he had in stock.  I had no idea there was more than one but I went for it.

I've never seen these things for sale. I know they don't come up very often and a quick online search on my phone from the store showed me that there a lots of people who want them for retro uses around the home but they are hard to come by.  One recently from an off-brand airline sold on Ebay for $310.  Another sold for $150.  Checking the metal work of the ones I just bought, I found that all three came from Qantas Airlines, one of the premier airlines in the industry.  All aircraft aluminum. Great design. Functional. And very cool. People are putting plastic bins in these and using them for ammo, silverware, tools, crafts, drinks, you name it.

I put the first one online last night on Ebay.  Within just minutes I had 3 views and one bid of $0.99.

That's a good sign.  After only 24 hours, there have now been 11 bids, it is up to $53 and 16 people are watching it, and it has gotten 52 views.  Let the good times roll!

I still have a long way to go over the next week to get this sold for a profit, and then list and sell the other two, but assuming I come out ahead, this is another example which proves that buying and selling in bulk is a much better and more effective technique than risking it all on one item.  I only wish that the value had been in the thousands of dollars rather than hundreds.

In further researching these carts, I found a company called Flight 001, they take these used carts, wrap them in custom stickers with bold graphics like flowers, checkerboard patterns and sell them for $1,200 to people for use in living rooms, kitchens, craft rooms, workshops and the like.  I thought about doing that myself but I love selling things as is and letting the buyer do those touches if they want.  I know that if I did them it has the potential of bringing in more money but then you have to wait around until someone likes the pattern of sticker you picked out. And who knows, but perhaps some people really want the scuffed up original showing the thousands of air miles.