Reselling goods involves hard work, little payoff

The idea of turning junk into extra jingle for the holidays sounds simple. As easy as making a gingerbread house ... ever try that? But really, we all have some things we can -- and probably should -- sell. Lots of places buy stuff. "Cash for sho...

The idea of turning junk into extra jingle for the holidays sounds simple. As easy as making a gingerbread house ... ever try that?

But really, we all have some things we can -- and probably should -- sell. Lots of places buy stuff. "Cash for shoes" caught my eye at one store last winter.

So this year, I decided to try it. It had to be simpler than the gingerbread project.

DAY ONE: My selling spree began on a Monday at an antique toy-buying roadshow at the Courtyard Marriott in Troy.

I packed up Skipper, Francie and a 1965 Misty -- a doll sold by Ideal. And in a moment of pure optimism, I lugged a huge Pollyanna doll out of Mom's attic. My mother's friend Esther bought it for me; Esther was a lot of fun, but I was never too crazy about Pollyanna.


Neither was the toy guy. She might have been worth $100, he said, but she needed a hip replacement.

"Don't feel bad," he said. "They all broke."

I went online later and saw a never-played-with Pollyanna going for $245. Alas, mine was deemed worthless, and the best offer I got for the three fashion dolls was $20. Eleven years ago, I had been offered $75. Why didn't I sell then?

I left with my dolls and no cash.

DAY TWO: My next venture was to Plato's Closet in Madison Heights, Mich., a national resale chain for "fashion-conscious, spending-savvy teens and 20-somethings."

I handed over a bag of stuff and waited.

The offer was $9. I took it and felt positively giddy when the young woman in Goth garb gave me the dough. Hey, I had clothes that a fashion-savvy 20-something might want. (Plato's Closet rejected my Ann Taylor Loft jacket with the Peter Pan collar as "too mature.")

But I got $1.40 for a brown crocheted Dress Barn shrug, $3.80 for a blue Isaac Mizrahi Target jacket and $3.80 for a black Target Mossimo jacket.


Sure, it was less than $10 for stuff that cost me $75 a few years ago, but I didn't dwell on it. I had a spring in my step as I walked across the parking lot -- until my son reminded me that I could have had $20 more if I had parted with the dolls.

"I'm just sayin'," he said.

Wait until he hears what I could have gotten the year after he was born.

DAY THREE: Next stop: Cash for shoes.

I like my shoes -- so I only have two pairs to sell, including one pair of my mother's.

I drove to Sassy Sheek, the shop in Berkley, Mich., that had that shoe sign. But the owner says I'm out of luck -- the man who buys shoes only does so from January through October, paying $1 or so a pair. So $2 lost.

By now, my car is looking like a rolling Salvation Army store. I'm not pitching stuff that's rejected; I'm thinking I can sell it someplace else.

DAY FOUR: A big day. I hit three places.


The Record Collector in Ferndale, Mich., says "Open at noon" but at 3 p.m., the door is locked.

Soon, however, a huge fellow arrives with his lunch and unlocks the door. I haul in two bags of my husband's soul and R&B records.

Best I can get: $2.

I have a bad feeling about letting go so cheaply of "The Best of the Spinners," "The O'Jays' Greatest Hits" (unopened with a $7.99 sticker) and an album featuring the Jacksons in space-age outfits.

I remind myself that the $2 goes to my husband and, certain that I can get more for my old clothes than his old records, I drive to Regeneration in Pleasant Ridge, Mich.

The place is hopping. The clerks say they can price my stuff while I'm gone and if I don't come back this day, they'll give it to charity. But then I don't get a tax receipt.

I chat with another customer, Monica Echols, 44, of West Bloomfield, Mich., who says she comes in a few times a month to "sell and swap."

"It's like recycling clothing," Echols said.


Can you raise much cash?

Not at all, she said.

In Michigan's prolonged recession, Echols says, she's seen older women cry at the store because they're trying to raise money to pay their bills but can't get much for a favorite outfit.

"This isn't the place to raise hundreds of dollars," Echols said.

After my efforts, I'm starting to realize how tough it is to raise money this way in Michigan, where people in financial trouble have unloaded everything from gold jewelry to coin collections in the past several years, forced to sell off the plasma of a prosperous past.

Regeneration offers me $3.15 in cash -- or $4.72 in trade toward something else in the shop. I take the cash.

My last stop: Solo Music and Collectibles in Royal Oak, Mich.

They don't want anything in my bags. George Benson was good, the woman says, but now she can't give George Benson away.


For all my efforts -- and gas money -- I have $14.15. And a little voice that keeps telling me how much those dolls were worth in 1999.

Turn that clutter into cash for Christmas? Great idea -- if you have lots of time and only want to buy a box of cards. Maybe I will try the gingerbread thing again.



Some experts say households could have $1,000 or more of potential cash sitting in closets, basements and garages in the form of junk that they don't use. But you may need lots of time to turn your stuff into that kind of money.

--Go online to see if your jewelry, toys or other treasures have any special value beyond the getting-rid-of-junk prices. Is this really a collectible? If so, take time to properly price and sell it.

--If you try a resale shop, look around at the styles there. Are the customers fashionistas? College students?

--Consider various routes for selling stuff -- online, mom-to-mom sales, garage sales, auction houses, classified ads, consignment shops and resale shops. Negotiate.


--Factor in the cost -- gas to drive to some locations, a 50-50 split to a consignment shop, advertising and commissions.

--If you're selling gold, shop a few places by phone or foot on the same day. Check out the current price at .

--Dig through wallets and drawers for unused gift cards that you might use to buy gifts for someone else.

--If you want to make money, the first thing to pitch is any emotional attachment to the stuff you're selling.

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