Scavenger Life Episode 134: Interview with James Otis- Illustration Art Seller

James with Maurice Sendak; Items belonging to Gandhi sold for $1.8 Million. iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

Part of the fun of scavenging for eBay is meeting people along the way. We love going to auctions and flea markets so we can talk to other sellers about why and what they sell.

This is an interview with our friend, James, who has opened up our eyes to the possibilities of selling art. He has created a business over the past twelve years buying art and antiques on eBay and then re-selling at high end auctions. He's really taken the idea of Scavenging to a new level.

James became an expert in Charles Schulz (Peanuts), Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and Maurice Sendak ("Where the Wild Things Are"). He even became friends with Maurice and mentions these great interviews with him here and here.

James is also a philanthropist who has donated significant amounts of money to causes he believes in. We love him because he's passionate, generous and shows you don't have to just sell $20 items all day long.

Scavenger Life Episode 133: What's Happening In Your eBay Store This Week?

More and more playing cards are selling. So easy to list, store and ship! iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

As we mentioned in our last post, we embarked on an adventure to Los Angeles to help our friend clean out his art estate. This recording comes straight to you from LAX at 5:30am before we hop on our flight home. Ryanne explains a cool hack on Virgin America, where buying and listing on eBay is free on the wifi. Nice! We put our store on vacation mode this week and changed the handling time using the bulk editor and we have seen quite a dip in sales. We still sold some cool stuff, like two more packs of playing cards, Ryanne’s new obsession. Check out Ryan from Online Selling Experiment’s latest post about how Amazon FBA is going. Also, if you're in the SoCal area, check out The Long Beach Antique Market. We had a great time there looking for higher end items to scavenge.

The Weekly Scavenger Numbers

Our Store Week July 13-19, 2014

  • Total Items in Store: 3498
  • Items Sold: 30
  • Cost of Items Sold: $85
  • Total Sales: $1,355.75
  • Highest Price Sold: $199.99 (Vintage lamps)
  • Average Price Sold: $45.16
  • International Sales: 11 (10 GSP)
  • Returns: 0
  • Positive Feedback: 21
  • Neutral Feedback: 0
  • Negative Feedback: 0
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $150

Art Selling Bonanza Extreme

We're going to be late this week putting out the podcasts. We aim to post Sunday nights or Monday mornings, but this has been a fun seven days for us. Should be up in the next couple days.

As you see in the photos, we've been packing up an art estate in Los Angeles. It's taken us six days to load up 30 large boxes full of antiques, art pieces, and books. We did this surprise trip after a friend who deals in art asked us to take care of his excess inventory. We've mentioned many times we don't like consignment, but we've sold for our friend before and like the relationship. We also love the kind of art he deals in. So this is a big experiment for us. Anyway, we'll fill in details of our contrary behavior on the podcast!

Food Scavenging: Summer Garlic Harvest

Since we're now called Scavenger Life, we wanted to share some other ways we save money. Since we work from home, we cook almost all of our meals. We have a small garden where we grow easy stuff we like to eat. A lot of kale, spinach, peppers and garlic. This is our garlic haul for this year. It's the easiest crop to grow. We just save several of the old garlic heads and re-plant them in the fall. By mid-summer, they're read for harvest. The garlic you see in the above photos will last us all year. We bought the original heads for planting from a fellow eBayer in Virginia as well.

This week we're in LA. A sort-of spur of the moment "art trip". More to come on that!

Scavenger Life Episode 132: What's Happening In Your eBay Store This Week?

Vintage 1800s Russell Morgan Congress gold edged playing cards deck- purchased for less than 25 cents, sold for $600, a rare but exciting sale! iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

This week we sold a deck of playing cards for $600. What?! It's one of those rare, surprising sales that happens when you scavenge (and do your research). Most of our sales this week were the $30-$50 range as always. The unglamorous (but profitable) bread and butter.

We're starting to get people buying clothes and shoes. Remember, it's "back to school" already. The retail world makes sure that these slow buying periods are extremely short.

We spent $50 on a bunch of Barbies new in the box. These dolls have never been exciting for us (I'm falling asleep just writing this), but we wanted to experiment with them. We'll always try an experiment since it challenges us to learn about something we don't know yet.

Danni Ackerman posted a smart, sober letter to the president of eBay explaining why the new Defect Rating for sellers is overly tough and confusing. But as we always say, just keep listing. If eBay gets too nutty, there'll be a better place to sell. We don't stress over this stuff since buyer's don't care. (p.s. this is Danni's follow up, after she actually spoke to some eBay higher ups. Thanks Kim for pointing to it!).

The mayor of NYC, Bill De Blasio, is moving from Park Slope to the mayor's mansion on the Upper East Side. Here's a funny story about how people realized he was leaving junk outside his old home for anyone to pick up. Scavengers!

The Weekly Scavenger Numbers

Our Store Week July 6-12, 2014

  • Total Items in Store: 3483
  • Items Sold: 42
  • Cost of Items Sold: $279
  • Total Sales: $2,489.50
  • Highest Price Sold: $599.99 (Vintage playing cards)
  • Average Price Sold: $59.26
  • International Sales: 9 (5 GSP)
  • Returns: 0
  • Positive Feedback: 33
  • Neutral Feedback: 0
  • Negative Feedback: 0
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $260

VIDEO: How We Harvest Honey From Our Backyard Beehive Using An Extractor

This past week we talked about how we harvested honey from our beehive for the year. Well, here is the video to prove it. You get to see all the fun without all the sticky mess. Yum!

Mid-Week Q&A: Saving money by "digitally scavenging"

It's been two billing cycles since I switched my cell phone service from AT&T to Ting. You can read why we made this decision here. I've gone from paying $100/month to about $30/month for the same exact service and usage. The difference is that I'm now being charged for what I use versus paying for a fixed amount whether I used it or not. As a Scavenger, I love being able to cut down on bills by being frugal. Digital scavenging!

The genius of Ting is that most of the time I'm using my phone at home where we have Wifi, so I'm paying for no phone data. When I make calls from home, I just call for free on my computer using Google Voice so not paying for any cell phone minutes. When Ryanne and I text each other, we use the free service WhatsApp (uses wifi) so no charge for texts.

When we traveled for three weeks in June I used my phone much more,  but my bill was only an extra $5 since Ting charges a minimal amount for extra usage. I would have to be on my phone all day and all night to be charged the $100/month that AT&T used to bill me. I was just blindly paying those bills not thinking there was a cheaper option.

Since our testing went so well, Ryanne switched over so we could be on the same account. She had to buy a Sprint phone to use their network, but she's selling her old phone to cover the cost (she might even make a profit). Instead of paying $200/month for our cell phones, we'll now see about a $65 bill TOTAL. Also, if we don't use our phones for a month, like when we travel overseas, it only costs us $6 per phone to keep them activated. We pay nothing extra if we use no data or minutes.

Other people have suggested cutting down on phone bills through Republic Wireless, TracFone Wireless, MetroPCS, Cricket, Simple Mobile, etc. We like Ting because it has a great interface/community and is easy to get a customer rep on the phone for questions. Ultimately, if you're paying more than $40 for your cell phone, it's time to do some digital scavenging.

This is an open thread, so talk about whatever you want. Have you found ways to cut down on any of your regular bills?

Some simple rules-
  • We do allow anonymous commenters, but we encourage you to use your ID so people can get to know you. Plus you won't have to re-enter the code for each comment.
  • Be civil. People have different ways of doing the same thing. If we disagree, no big deal.
  • We are solution oriented. If you want to simply hate on eBay, go to the dark depths of the eBay forums where your hate can be polished like a precious jewel.
  • Please back up any issues with facts and specific links. We don't deal in rumors.
  • Comments are threaded (what?). So you can either reply to a specific comment or start an overall new topic.

Scavenger Life Episode 131: Interview with Martin from iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

We love the name of Martin's blog: "Things I Find in the Garbage". Why sugarcoat it?

Martin is 27, lives in Montreal, and roams the neighborhoods for the treasures that people throw out into their garbage. As you see can see in the photos he's posts each week, he's finding gorgeous vintage, one-of-a-kind items. IN THE TRASH. This is true scavenger style.

Starting out casually, he was selling at yard sales and Craigslist for extra cash. But recently, he's been selling more and more on eBay. Check out his store to see the prices he's getting. No one is laughing at this kid. Why hustle to get a 9-5 job he hates if he could keep growing this business?

In this interview, Martin walks us through his process and his constant evolving as an eBay seller.
He mentions a cool resource at Reddit's "What is this thing?" that he uses to identity mysteries in the garbage.

If you have any questions for Martin about digging in the garbage, just leave them in the comments and he'll be glad to answer them. 


Scavenger Life Episode 130: What's Happening In Your eBay Store This Week?

The weather was so nice we harvested honey and split wood for 3 days. But we kept on selling! iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

This week we've been photographing and listing piles of unlisted items. But we've also taken the time to do other scavenger tasks like harvest honey from our bees and split firewood for the winter (as seen above). Do a little work now and save a lot of money in the future.

We're also learning some new categories of items to sell since all it takes is a little research to turn that trash to cash. Some sellers love to specialize, but this means you really have to become the super expert.

Jeff from Michigan sent us this article about how "brown furniture" that was so popular in the 1980's can't be given away today, but this also may mean it's a good opportunity to find the cool, rare pieces. The shipping and storage is a challenge, but we've been doing well with small pieces of furniture.

What's going on in your store this week?

The Weekly Scavenger Numbers

Our Store Week June 29-July 5, 2014

  • Total Items in Store: 3438
  • Items Sold: 38
  • Cost of Items Sold: $82
  • Total Sales: $1,975.71
  • Highest Price Sold: $550 (Vintage advertising artwork)
  • Average Price Sold: $51.97
  • International Sales: 5 (2 GSP)
  • Returns: 0
  • Positive Feedback: 23
  • Neutral Feedback: 0
  • Negative Feedback: 0
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $150

Storage Profile: Jena from Jumble & Clutter, How she organizes her eBay store

As many of you know, Jena is my (Ryanne) mom. She is also a prolific eBay seller and has turned half of her house, and all of her basement, into an eBay workspace for her store Jumble & Clutter. On a recent visit we snapped some photos of her work stations and storage. We joked many times that this was our favorite thrift store to shop in, since she essentially has as much inventory as a brick and mortar store. Our first interview of another eBay seller on Scavenger Life was with Jena, you can listen here.

One of my favorite places, the shipping station. Complete with wall rack to hold all her supplies.

Clothes in line for photographing and shelves of fabric, as tall as Jay.

Tools, models and more shipping supplies.

This is just one angle of the basement clothing racks. There are a combination of free-standing floor racks, which were purchased from a department store liquidation, and poles that are suspended from the floor joists.

The iron pole racks are suspended using 2x4 wood and metal strapping. Sturdy enough to hold heavy jackets.

Mens shoes, womens shoes. So many shoes!

Hats and more clothes racks.

 I think we can all get some inspiration from Jena's organizational set up. Boy is she tidy!

For more inspiration see Episode 32: Storage & Organization. Tips on How to Store and Organize Your Ebay Store Inventory.

To hear our interview with Jena see Episode 26: Interview with Jena from Jumble and Clutter