Ugh, again with the writer’s resistance… y’all don’t need an intro, right? How’s about I share some stuff I’ve sold on eBay?
As you can see I was doing this for months before I actually got good at it… such is any new skill.
Very aware I was learning, at first I picked up and flipped damn near anything that I could make a profit on, but I reigned it back as I learned more.
Lesson 1: Used stuff animals are gross and no, I NEVER ever bought any.
Lesson 2: Vintage tupperware is gross and I swear it leaves a film of phlalates on my hands
Lesson 3: I like research, but not all research. Modern electronics- no. Toys and games, even vintage ones? Could care less. Said vintage Tupperware? NOOOOOoooo. China and crystal patterns? Surprisingly yes. Vintage clothing? Totally yes and in no way freaks me out like the vintage stuffed animals do- tis weird. Art? Fuck yeah. Things from other cultures, especially vintage and antique pieces? I didn’t get this 38k Cultural Anthropology degree for nuthin’!
Lesson 4: Going to estate sales can be good bonding with the family. My husband and I could have a good time untangling yarn; so while he’s not a fan of shopping he loves, as he says, “watching me work” and we have a good time at it. My youngest loves getting $10 to spend and “going to dead people’s houses” (yes I’ll pay for the therapy). My middle daughter likes buying things and we get a chance to talk- she’s a fan of vintage clothing too. The oldest, who you couldn’t normally pry a dollar from her cold dead hand if you tried, is interested in learning about reselling and has started picking stuff up to do so- and also likes vintage clothing. The people watching and MST3King we do driving around or at the sales is also great and we laugh a lot when we’re out and about.
Here are damn near too many things:
A good lesson in “Just because you like it doesn’t make it valuable.” I love this piece and own an egg print I bought off of eBay years ago, but this one has been a slow mover. Good thing I paid only $2. (It hasn’t actually sold yet)
Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. I’d never put this up in my house, but it sold within a week. I paid $3. Another lesson- find out what’s hot. Something called Cottagecore is hot- a quasi agricultural, simpler life, tea drinking, crafty and cute type movement. As long as they’re buying my $48 vintage needlepoint they can do whatever they want.
Also falling into the “find out what’s hot and keep an eye out for that” category- Maxfield Parrish. I don’t get why Maxfield Parrish is so hot right now. While I like some of his more obscure landscapes well enough I find most of his stuff pretty solidly in the “not my bag” category.
BUT. I can pick up vintage or very ornate frames CHEAP at estate sales and thrift stores. I also found a vintage poster book and retrospective book of his. And so: VOILA! $17.99 plus shipping on a print cut out of a $2 book and put in a $1 frame. I am not above such things.
Don’t you feel bad about cutting up a vintage book, you ask? Well one- horrifyingly- anything older than 20 years is vintage but it is only a 1996 book. And two- did you know he made his daughters pose for all those nudes he painted? So no- I don’t feel bad about it.
It’s a living.
Next up: History stuff. I have a lot of things I’ve sold that are older+interesting. 1950s individual creamer from the air force training center. Other things I’m blanking on right now. And this!
That is a 1907 huge magazine type thing to try to convince industries to move to Pittsburgh with a lot about the existing industries and demographics of the time. It was absolutely fascinating to read through. Though the pages were so slick I feel there must be lead in them somehow. (White was the author’s last name and also what every member of the 1907 Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce were.)
I found this for $2 in a pile of old sheet music. Also- I’ll buy damn near anything Pittsburgh related (outside of sports team stuff) because I love that town.
There was one that had sold last year for $95 and no other ones listed… so what with inflation and all: $115. It sold in less than a month to some dude outside of Pittsburgh.
Next up Japanese woodblocks! I truly and deeply love finding and selling Japanese woodblocks. The ones that are mid century modern from the 1950s and early 60s get overlooked and undervalued at estate sales.
These two woodblocks of dachshunds were hideous and I couldn’t tell if they were signed because of the mats they originally had. But I have a real eye for telling if something is a poster or an original (it’s all in the sheen) so I bought these for $37 and sold for… more than that. The image above where they were sold as a pair actually never got payed by the asshole who won the auction and so I split them up and sold them individually. They netted $700 but I can’t seem to find any images of them from those listings.
This was $5 and shipped to a dude in London. I have mad packing skills so it made it there just fine.
She’s tiny and terrifying but she was only $3.
STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT, TIGERS. Also only $3
And the piece de resistance:
I bought this for $37 and sold it for $625.99 to some dude in Germany. Sadao Watanabe was a Japanese saxophone player who wanted to spread Christianity to everyone and made his wife hand grind his pigments from natural minerals. Baby Jesus here is Che Guevara and there is no convincing me otherwise.
The lady at my neighborhood mail center screamed, and I mean top of her lungs, “HOLY FUCKING SHITBALLS!” When I showed her what this one sold for. The ladies there love hearing about all the weird things I ship out- in November they sent me a “Customer of the Month” postcard that I’m 95% sure didn’t go to all customers.
Next up “Cultural Stuff”- I have got to come up with a better way to describe this category. I already showed y’all the Sumatran shield I bought for $30 and sold for $390, so here are some other things:
This was sold as a “Mexican Wall Hanging” at an estate sale and I bought it for $10 on the last day. I have to bite my tongue ALL the time because I need to not show that I know what something is when I’m trying to negotiate a lower price. But I KNEW that was asian style embroidery and beadwork- I was thinking Laotian when I bought it. But all I said to the lady selling it was “thank you.”
My friend Theresa (HI THERESA!) asked me how I knew by looking at that where it was from- and weird answer is I don’t really know. Reading is the best way I remember things- so I bet it was from images in a college textbook- I did focus on Asian Studies for my history minor and took many more Asian classes than other cultures for the Cultural Anthropology classes. None of those textbooks helped me identify it was a fucking loincloth till after I carried it around in my bare hands for half an hour though. Just like, burn them to nubs, okay?
I bought this basket from Goodwill for $4.99. It were disgustingly dusty- but compressed air for cleaning out keyboards works wonders on baskets. The Bontoc tribe in the Philippines were former headhunters. This basket (hollow handles, only opening at the very top- I guess you never wash it) was for roasted green rice. I was relieved to learn it was not headhunting related and was only headhunting adjacent. Shipped to a lady in Hawaii. I still have another one too. I do not find these as creepy as 1987 disney stuffed animals.
You’d think I LIKE making large boxes to ship art in- but you would be wrong. I sure love buying it though. This was sold at the same estate sale as the loincloth and was called an “Aztec painting.” Eye twitch. It was $7.
Temple rubbings are no longer allowed in Thailand, so this is from 1974 or before. I think it’s cool- research allowed me to not only find the exact temple it was from but the story the 70 narrative panels are telling. This scene is a demigod kidnapping the hero’s wife, and the hero then leaves her for the crime of- wait for it- getting kidnapped. So fuck him amiright?
Hows about some vintage clothing next?
This sold to a dude in Australia and I am horrified I didn’t crop that picture better so you didn’t see a sliver of my bathroom! Agh. (Also my title game has gotten way better since October.) I’d love to think it was for an Australian drag queen named Tossitonthe Barbie. I bought this for $1.
Also one dollar and bought at the same estate sale as the previous dress. That fabric was so stiff and uncomfortable looking. (I am now taking pictures of light colored things on the black closet doors to better effect.)
I paid my oldest $10 at 10 o’clock at night to model this for me as it looks like crap on a hanger. I bought it for $8.49 at Goodwill. As ugly as most of it is, the quality of the fabrics and craftsmanship of 70s and 80s clothing is insanely better than modern clothes.
There is vintage clothing… and then there is true antique clothing. This was the MOST amazing Victorian skirt that was $4 in a wad of lace and vintage fabrics in the bottom of a chest I was buying. That estate sale- omg- it deserves it’s own post… as does the chest I bought there- next time. The insanely small waists on these women though- holy cow. This shipped to a very nice collector in Denmark.
This also was in the wadded pile o’ lace with the skirt- it was $2. (There was another piece that unfortunately didn’t survive even my careful hand washing attempts and had to be tossed.) Even after washing it was creased to hell so I wasn’t really able to see what it was till I steamed it… and then WOWZA. There was a bidding war for this one. “Vintage” can be used for anything older than 20 years, but it has to be older than 100 years to be called antique. Even without true provenance it was obvious I was perfectly cool calling this and the skirt antique.
Next time I’ll show you some of the awesome stuff I’ve found at estate sales and thrift stores but kept. I imagine myself as a dragon, coiled around my 1960s Scandinavian enamel trays and bowls, antique Apache basket, central american snake pot, artist proof Junichiro Sekino woodblock, and bisque statue (I’m pretty sure she’s haunted- was bound to happen) and hissing “MY TREASURES!”
It’s a living.