Something From Nothing Log

What skills to learn, what tools to get
jacob
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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by jacob » Tue Mar 01, 2016 7:05 pm

@Ego - I'm jealous! ... Maybe I should give you a list of things I "need" or 'want' and you can source them for a ~100% markup + shipping? Probably won't be as profitable though ...

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Ego
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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by Ego » Tue Mar 01, 2016 7:21 pm

I am open to orders. Most of the people in my cycling group have at least one second-hand jersey that was a little too imperfect for ebay. Heck, I go to the swap meet anyway. Fire away. What do you want/need?

Edit to add.... I would never charge you guys more than I pay for something.

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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by Ego » Tue Mar 01, 2016 7:30 pm

C40 wrote:Ego - where are these swap meets that you're able to find this kind of outdoor gear for so cheap? Are you in Los Angeles?
San Diego. There are several really good swap meets here.

http://kobeyswap.com/
http://southbaydrivein.com/swapmeet/
http://www.qualcommstadiumswapmeet.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SpringValleySwapmeet/

Mr. Twofingers is at the South Bay Swap Meet. 6 AM Wednesday morning.

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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by C40 » Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:18 pm

Damn, 6am at a swap meet? Maybe in 5-10 years I'll be old enough for that :lol:

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Ego
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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by Ego » Wed Mar 02, 2016 1:23 pm

C40 wrote:Damn, 6am at a swap meet? Maybe in 5-10 years I'll be old enough for that :lol:
:D My hope is that most people will think this way. Here is the haul from this morning

Image
Image

21 Women's Speedo swimsuits
3 pairs of Lululemon yoga pants
3 Specialized cycling jerseys
1 Wool cycling jacket for me!
1 Equestrian jacket
2 Columbia PFG Fishing shirts
1 Pari of Chaco sandals in Mrs. Ego's size
1 Yoga Music CD for Mrs. Ego
1 Picnic basket (keeper)
1 Patagonia jacket
1 Sierra Designs 3 season sleeping bag.
and more....

Most of this is going into my ebay store. I spread it out and photograph it all like this to keep inventory/COGS records. I have to admit, this was an unusually good day.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Mar 02, 2016 4:10 pm

Here's a smattering of my adventures in scavenging this week.



My sister and I bought 35 books and a few other items at a nearby monthly library sale this morning for $28.50. I listed 29 of them for sale at a total of $567.29, kept 4 for my own perusal and 2 went into my not-worth-listing box. I also sourced a large quantity of new-in-box beauty supplies at a local thrift store. These I will be able to sell for around 30x what I paid for them. My sister made the score of the week at another sale with the book in the bottom left hand corner. The rest of the items in the photo are mostly fun things I picked up on the cheap for my own use while at these sales. The sweater is 100% cashmere and the label says Dalton Mademoiselle Shop Detroit. I paid $1 for it. I've been wanting to learn some more about edible insects, so I picked up the copy of "Man Eating Bugs" for 75 cents when I spotted it. The DVD is the Bollywood take on "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." I love musicals, so I will watch it myself before I sell it for quite decent mark-up. The loppers were something I needed in the moment for my spring garden clean-up, so I paid $10 used for them at the used junk shop a few blocks away. The items are spread out on top of my homemade futon which consists of 7 layers of down comforters which I bought for $1 each.
Last edited by 7Wannabe5 on Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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C40
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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by C40 » Wed Mar 02, 2016 4:40 pm

Ego wrote:
C40 wrote:Damn, 6am at a swap meet? Maybe in 5-10 years I'll be old enough for that :lol:
:D My hope is that most people will think this way. Here is the haul from this morning ....
Ok, I just added this to my list of potential hobby income sources. I'm inspired!

brighteye
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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by brighteye » Thu Mar 03, 2016 3:09 am

My cousin has an interior design company. She furnishes peoples homes for $$$, sofas are usually at least $10000, chairs $1000 a piece, blankets for $500 etc. Like designer clothing, but for the home :) it's pretty crazy.
For example, a customer will buy a new sofa and let her take care of his "old" one, which may be just a couple of years old with minor use. You know, sofas go out of style so quickly :roll:. She usually discards them (as she is not in the second hand business). I would love to take these designer pieces (for free!) and flip them for a good price as a side business when I am ERE.

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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu Mar 03, 2016 7:15 am

@brighteye: That is an excellent idea. Another source for very good furniture is estate sales in wealthy neighborhoods. I've sometimes attended an estate sale because they were selling the library, and I have seen some absolute steals on larger furnishings and even art. The primary limiting factors are access to truck/van, muscle and storage space. Many people flip stuff on Craigslist out of storage facilities. But, in my neck of the woods, the best market for flipping slightly used designer would be consignment stores in middle-class neighborhoods. There are many people, such as my mother, who would never buy something off of Craigslist or at a garage sale, but enjoy shopping at well-appointed consignment or "antique" shops.

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Ego
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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by Ego » Thu Mar 03, 2016 8:16 am

7Wannabe5 wrote: My sister and I bought 35 books and a few other items at a nearby monthly library sale this morning for $28.50. I listed 29 of them for sale at a total of $567.29, kept 4 for my own perusal and 2 went into my not-worth-listing box.
Okay, now I am really going to have to start looking at books again. That's the kind of markup I shoot for.

Do you use an app to determine resale value? A few years ago I used to see these guys digging through boxes of books....

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/cult ... esman.html

Not so much now that everyone has a smartphone.

Are you selling mostly old books? Any tips on what to look for or what to avoid?

7Wannabe5
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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu Mar 03, 2016 7:09 pm

@Ego: We use apps more to help us buy less than in trying to determine what to buy. We call the people who use them all the time "the scanner people." There are all sorts of niches in book dealing. Mostly I specialize in books on very specific topics published by small presses, but I will buy/sell anything I can make a decent profit on. The best sales are very competitive and fast-moving, so at a sale that I might buy 80 books at, the first 30 or so I will just quickly grab based on my knowledge, and then I will slow down and use my phone to help evaluate my further picks. Quite a few sales have a NO SCANNER policy, at least for the pre-sale that dealers attend. The mark-up is so high on most of my picks, the occasional duds aren't really a problem in terms of profits, more of a hassle in having to haul around too much chaff with the wheat. I've only been scouting on a very part-time basis the last several years, while letting my old giant pile of inventory sell down auto-pilot from Amazon's warehouses. But, I've really missed it (me working a book sale is kind of like that slow-mo guy doing his thing) and just recently committed to getting back out there at least a couple times a week with my sister.

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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by enigmaT120 » Fri Mar 04, 2016 5:33 pm

Ego, are those trekking bars on that Safari? I had a pair of those on my Rocky Mountain bike when I was commuting on it. They're nice, but not so good for long fast descents on loose gravel! Very good for long rides though.

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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by Ego » Fri Mar 04, 2016 6:08 pm

Yes, they are trekking bars on the Safari. Mrs. Ego just told me she decided to keep her original bike so I'm going to try to sell the Safari before she changes her mind again.

7wanna, I bought a signed first-edition of an Everest climbing book at the library book sale for a dollar..... only to find that it sells for .01 cent on Amazon. I thought I knew my niche. Apparently I am going to need a scanner if I want to get started with books. :?

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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sat Mar 05, 2016 7:18 am

@Ego: The scanner is a useful tool for educating yourself. I was employed as the inventory supervisor for the flagship store of a mega-bookstore empire, so I had a passing familiarity with 100s of thousands of titles before I even started scouting for my own business. Some scout/dealers have the sort of brains that hold specific knowledge about specific books. They never use scanners and they go right to their area of interest, most frequently the history section, and pick up the books that they know everything about and ignore the rest. Other scout/dealers are completely reliant on scanning tools because they have very little knowledge, so they just stand in front of a table of books and scan one after another with no discrimination. My sister and I are intuitive scouts with generalized knowledge. IOW, we are very well able to identify "the sort of book that is likely to still be of interest and hold value." Books on the topic of sports usually lose value very quickly after publication because they are often given as Christmas presents from book lovers to sports lovers. Some exceptions to this rule would be books on very specific topics in the martial arts, hand-to-hand combat and weaponry. OTOH, one of the most valuable books I every sold was a guide to the secrets of playing specific golf courses that was only published in a very small run.

Anyways, at this point in the history of the S curve of the used book business, I would not recommend it as a likely-to-fully-support-even-frugal-lifestyle career choice, anymore than I would recommend becoming a blacksmith or a mushroom gatherer. HOWEVER, the discard market in general is HUGE, and what I would strongly recommend to anybody is that they find some part of the discard market to operate on to earn some part of their income or basic support. Beyond earning some income, it is fun because it is like treasure hunting and I think it wakes up some important part of the brain previously needed for survival, and it will eventually change your entire view of how our economy works, because it is definitely NOT a realm in which the efficient-market-hypothesis holds true. When an individual chooses to throw something in a dumpster or randomly affix a $1 sticker to it for the annual neighborhood garage sale, all that means is that it has become worthless to him. In fact, because waste disposal is an expense of both business and life, it is often true that a clever discard market operator can be paid to "take care" of the disposal of one entity's waste, and then turn around and sell it to another entity as still valuable resource. Also, it's just super cool if you are the one person in 1000 who can walk into a forest clearing and know what you can gather to eat as salad or fix that broken old lamp or un-knit the ugly sweater back into useful wool or (this is the sad part) just clean that plastic toy so one more kid can play with it or (even sadder part) just cut the bruise out of the imperfect apple before eating it. Really, it's just extending being frugal into being frugal with other people's stuff after they've given up or not even tried.

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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by Ego » Sat Mar 05, 2016 8:59 am

I love the fact that you mention feeling like Slomo at book sales. That really is the key, isn't it? And probably why I'll never do well with books. It starts to feel like work - or stops feeling like Slomo - when I need a scanner.
7Wannabe5 wrote:Really, it's just extending being frugal into being frugal with other people's stuff after they've given up or not even tried.
This is absolute genius.

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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by jacob » Sat Mar 05, 2016 9:58 am

We used to do flip books manually without a scanner (before smartphones). We'd take down ISBNs to promising books and then find a place with wifi and check them against amazon. However, after about a month with had covered every thrift store inside a 20 mile radius and that was pretty much the end of that adventure. Also, many thrift stores have realized that they can just do this themselves now. Apps have made it too easy; e.g. walk into the store. See book. Scan it. Does it pass, yes? Well, then you can list it for sale even before you bought it. If you're lucky you can drive it directly to the post office.

@Ego - ERE book, start of chapter 7.
An ecosystem has four components, which form a cycle: Abiotic (resources), producers, consumers, and decomposers. Modern economics only considers two of these relevant: producers and consumers. It ignores the finite abiotic resources and presumes that their only limit is the producers' ability to turn them into commodities. Similarly, consumers and producers ignore decomposition. Once our waste and detritus is dumped into landfills, lakes, rivers, and the atmosphere, and is out of sight, it is, for all intents and purposes, out of mind. Meanwhile, the finite planet is running out of its finite resources (duh!) and pollution keeps increasing and is starting to bite back. Typically, the economists solve this problem by waving their hands and mumbling something about substitution and human ingenuity. However, it's obvious that our cultural paradigm is incomplete and that resources and decomposition capacity can no longer be considered infinite.

Naturally, the economy can't keep growing without killing itself if the cycle isn't completed. If the cycle is not completed, we're either going to run out of resources or drown in pollution. If a decision is made to solve this problem, the size of the economy would be determined by how efficient the cycle is. Given the enormous size of the human population in relation to the renewable resource base of Earth, completing this cycle and preventing leaks will be to the 21st century what the Cold War was to the 20th century. In this book we're not focused on the necessary policy decisions, but rather what the individual decisions should be. An economic system has trophic levels like an ecosystem with groups or socioeconomic strata feeding off each other. In a growth economy, there are workers, organizers of workers, owners of assets, and owners of land. In a complete ecology, there are abiotics, producers, consumers, and decomposers.

Humans are sufficiently adaptable to execute any of these roles in either system. Economic decision-making must be expanded to include all these factors. Until such an understanding is codified into human behavior via law, religion, and values, something that those who profit from the current setup are not apt to do anytime soon, individuals need to act as if such a code already existed, since economic decision-making eventually does catch up to reality. The economy has many unrecognized inefficiencies--it is, for example, possible for more people to play the role of decomposers (recycling, upcycling) and producers as well as becoming less dependent on abiotic resources. The challenge is to do this within the existing framework.
ERE can and definitely should be extended by building connections everywhere. This permaculture. The more loops you close, the more efficient the system gets. The idea of thinking of the problem in isolation is an artifact of industrialized consumerism i.e. the concept that each individual exists in isolation using something called "money" they invest in a single machine called "the market" which then provides an "income" (money again) which is spent in "another market".

If you're acting as a decomposer, you're absolutely being frugal with other people's stuff. Another way to be frugal with other people's stuff is to swap, freecycle, borrow, ... and of course.. it doesn't just have to be stuff. Think of being efficient with other people's neglected skills. Maybe some kid needs a newspaper route and you happen to know where to get one. Or you have a background as a teacher but now work in a bank but miss teaching; maybe there's tutoring ...

Without closing the loops, all this value gets wasted. Close the loops! :)

PS: My current interests are mostly on the opposite side of the cycle ... trying to produce w/o using resources. This is done by conversion, multipurposing, etc. In any case, the way I explain ERE to permaculturists is simple to explain that ERE has exactly the same goal of closing loops: It's just that a) it's extended to everything (not just gardening); and b) there's a definite time/planning component because living a human life is not as "static" or "set" as designing an ecology that fits inside an annual cycle.

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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by OTCW » Sat Mar 05, 2016 11:15 am

The first estate sale I went to I bought a big box of cheap ballpoint pens/pencils because I saw a chrome cross pen in there that I liked and because my girlfreind was a teacher and was always being bugged by students who didn't have anything to write with in class so I thought she could make use of the 200 or so that I didn't want. Took the box home and found about 5 vintage fountain pens that I sold over craigslist to a collector for $10 to $15 each. Also two more cross pens that I kept, and a boxed Scheaffer set fountain pen/mechanical pencil from the 1950s. I thought it was gold plate at first but realized it was actually 14k. These sets go for close to $2,000 with the right buyer. I ended up keeping them though and just enjoy writing with them. All this for a 5 dollar bid plus 10% auctioneer fee for a total of $5.50. I was the only bidder. An old zippo lighter was in the box too.

First book I sold on ebay was an advanced readers copy of Cloud Atlas that I bought for 99 cents at a thrift store. It went for $80 something dollars.

Haven't come anywhere close to those two finds since, but I do enjoy looking around thrift stores and going to estate and garage sales from time to time. I try to buy things I like (books, older transistor radios, knives, pens, watches, toys from my childhood, and tools) so that if I get stuck with them or they aren't resellable for a profit, I can still enjoy them. I also keep a mental list of things that I know sell easily that I look for. Just a sporadic hobby that sometimes makes me small amounts of money.

llorona
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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by llorona » Sat Mar 05, 2016 10:30 pm

A neighbor threw out this lamp (!) because she broke the pull chain. I plucked it off the curb, bought a replacement lamp socket/switch for $3.50 on eBay, and fixed the lamp in five minutes. Now I'm going to list it on Craigslist.

Image

Today I went to check out two thrift stores because I've been thinking about selling stuff on eBay as a side hustle. I've decided to focus on vintage toys and kitchen/tableware because I know about these areas.

Turns out that the local thrift stores have gotten smart - one had a boutique section with higher-end goods and the other priced their merchandise quite high. However, while rummaging around, a pan caught my attention because of its unusual oval shape and weight. Here's the before picture:
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Turns out it's a vintage Scavullo copper pan, probably from the early 1950's. This is what it looks like after being rinsed with salt and lime juice. I might try cleaning it with Brasso.
ImageImage

A new pan of this quality would cost an arm and a leg, so I may very well keep this one. Hence, the danger of playing this game...

Balance = -$9.49

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Ego
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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by Ego » Tue Mar 08, 2016 11:00 pm

Last week I switched the handlebars from the cyclo-cross bike to the mountain bike. Today I bought an old heavy leather portfolio for $1 at the thrift store.

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I cut it into strips and glued it onto the handlebars using some 3M spray adhesive that was left in the basement. I had used this adhesive on the handlebar tape for another bike and am confident it will do the job.

Image

I've found that I can make a piece of brown leather take on the appearance of an old shiny-worn subway seat with a few coats of parade-gloss black shoe polish. I smear it on thick and let it dry over night then allow the polish to wear off naturally. We'll see how well it turns out. I'm pretty happy with the half-assed results.


Image
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Balance $664.46 - $1 = 663.46

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Ego
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Re: Something From Nothing

Post by Ego » Thu Mar 10, 2016 7:57 pm

Craigslist sales.... the Patagonia bag for $15 and the Mad Rock climbing shoes for $35.

$663.46 + 15 + 35 =$713.46

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