by Terri Coop
Since 1995, I’ve shopped so you don’t have to. Or so you could, depending on your outlook. I’m one of the dealers you see at flea markets or don’t see at antique malls and online. Back in 1999, I was selling vintage toys on AOL bulletin boards when we heard a rumor, “there’s this new website called eBay, where you can sell stuff . . .” We were skeptical, but launched a legend. I’m an eBay OG, from the days when the system would only take 200 sales per hour.
So, where does all the stuff come from? From shopping. I’ve toughed it out at elegant auctions, froze at farm auctions, had a grandma whack me with her cane at a church sale, reached through a crowd of ten-year-olds to snatch a Barbie, and dug through dumpsters to rescue vintage Boy Scout memorabilia. But, most of it comes from relentless searching at garage sales, estate auctions, and out-of- the-way flea markets.
It’s usually a measured job. “Hmmm, that’s a dollar and I can sell it for five.” However, the secret that keeps us digging through your junk is the search for the most elusive of all prey, “The Score.”
The Score is seeing a doll’s foot sticking out of the dollar box at a garage sale. It looks familiar. I approach cautiously. Odds are that half of the other shoppers are dealers as well.
Keeping it cool. Keeping it cool.
I pull out the doll and . . . well . . . angels sing. That little lady is a 1970s icon. Fighting to keep my breathing steady and to project calm, I pick out a couple of generic teddy bears from the box to mask my treasure. On the way out I grabbed a doll dress as an afterthought. It would sell for about five dollars and, hey, gas is not cheap.
Waving to the other dealers, I head to the check-out. Then I hear a voice, “I’m sorry, there’s been a mistake.”
My heart sank. I’d been had. Clutching my bundle tighter I turned to face the music.
“That doll dress is really valuable. It shouldn’t have been put out for sale. I want to keep it because it’s really old and rare.”
Trying not to jump for joy, I surrender the five-dollar doll dress with a poker-faced, “not a problem, I understand.”
I paid my three dollars and beat feet back to the car. I sold the doll for $325.00. Hey, I gave back the dress without an argument and I had a receipt for my $3.00. All’s far in love, war, and garage sales.
I got out of it for a few years. However, a couple of weeks ago I randomly stopped at some garage sales. At one I saw a riot of color and smiling faces heaped in a box. Care Bears. Vintage 1985 Care Bears . . . for fifty cents each. Ignored by all the other shoppers. Was that the sound of angels? Time and sales will tell. However, as I carried the entire box back to my car, I thought, “I’ve still got it . . .”