A chancer with a fondness for small wooden things and decent threads sets out to make his fortune in the world of antique dealing.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Kassam Car Boot Sale

My mum, right? My mum, has just bought a Hermes scarf for a quid. We bring it back home and look it up on Ebay. It's worth £106. Whatever I manage to wring out of today's haul has already paled into insignificance next to that. I can't go on.

I'll go on. I hadn't been to the Kassam car boot before this morning, but have heard about it in legend. It's unremarkable really. A lot of market traders (meat out of a van, brillo pads, veg. The like) and rusty tools on tarpaulins. I don't know what it is about these tools, but there's always a stall at any car boot or flea market (they manage to sneak into the antiques fairs as well, as long as they pitch up outside) and while on the face of it, there's just a huge spread of buggered hoe heads, pickaxes, shears...etc... blokes go mad for them. There's always a gaggle of grubby men picking through and holding a bit of unrecognisable metal up to the light as though t'were a fine cut ruby. I've never seen a bloke spend money on one of these stalls, but they're always there rummaging for truffles. The nearest I've seen one of these particular connoiseurs come to handing cash over was today:

Grubby Bloke: (hefts a pitted hoe head in his hand) 'Ow much?
Grubby Stallholder: Fifty (pence, right? Surely pence)
Grubby Bloke: (replaces hoe head on tarpaulin with the care of a bomb disposal expert)

Anyway, my other observations of the Kassam car boot:

- so many pitbulls
- young man on the phone: 'was I rude to you yesterday? was I rude to you yesterday? was. I rude to you. yesterday?'
- stallholder of one of the above tool stalls to two unversed young visitors who were examining an axe: 'You know they're no good for splitting logs and that?'
- If you've a young kid, there's no excuse for ever buying toys from a shop

Also, the following knife-edge negotiation over a tin of old buttons:

My mum: How much for these?
Woman: Two pounds.
Mum: Pound?
Woman: No, two pounds.
Mum: One-fifty?
Woman: Two pounds, they're in a nice tin.
Mum: Tell you what, one-fifty and you can keep your tin.
Woman: Alright then (throws in the tin anway. It wasn't a nice tin).

Glass Lampshade

So, what did I get? Well, the first purchase was a 1930s lampshade. This was a bit of a tip-off, I have to admit. Mum just came up and said 'this is a 1930s lampshade, they're popular and very collectable' and then fucked off to another stall. I felt like a wee chick lobbed out of the nest and expected to fly. Thing is, it was only 20p, so I made the investment. I then became convinced that everything else in this bloke's 20p bin was a lost treasure of Atlantis as well. I became a spiralling mass of doubt and confusion. Only managed to escape by buying a nice (but worthless) jug for another 20p and using the purchase to break my orbit and fly off down the row.

Now, it's not in shit-your-pants amazing condition, but it is pretty cool, and will look a bit nicer after I've cleaned it up a bit. Ebay and the wider internet remains tight-lipped about how much it might be worth, but if I wang it up there for a couple of quid then it could be on.

Bought for: 20p

Hopes: Modest

Profit: £££

Actual Cheddar: ££

Minton Cup and Saucer

Now, don't get excited or anything, but these guys are quite old. The guy on the stall was giving it some fierce chat about how they're Royal Derby and over 100 years old, but this proved to be negative truth. I still stumped up for them because he was enthusiastic and they are quite nice ('buy old quality' was ringing in my ears).

A good deal of scrutinising once they were safely stowed in my Binsey Lane emproium revealed that they are not Royal Derby. One of the things that occured to me several times this morning was that I wish I knew a little bit more about crockery (like about 1000% more) because there was so much of it about that I must have missed some gems. Mum maintains that I didnt, but then I didn't see her snapping up this saucy little cup and saucer so there's no telling what else her more refined nostrils failed to sniff.

While they're not RD, they are made by Mintons. I don't know much about these chaps, but I did manage to find a guide to their potter's marks on the internet. It informs me that the little S on the base of the saucer dates it to 1895.

Now, I went a bit excited when I found this out, but I've no idea what it does to the price. Ebay hasn't had anything like this selling recently and I've not been able to find anything with a similar Japanese pattern on Google Images (only the finest resources here). That makes it all a bit taxing to work out how much I should be asking for it. I may take it along to a local antiques bod or museum to ask them, like a sucker. They'll probably offer me £4 for it.

Nevertheless, it's old. Old as a grandad. Not these modern grandads that kids have these days, mind, a proper grandad.

Bought for: £5

Hopes: defiantly high

Profit: ££

Actual Cheddar: ££

Silver Surfer Lot

I came across a dude with a big box of Silver Surfer comics. They were cool. What's that film from the 80s in which a guy goes on about how much he loves the Surfer? Is it Big? Is it Lethal Weapon? Yeah I think it's Lethal Weapon...

...Ah Mel Gibson... when he was acceptable....Mel...

So this guy was selling off his old collection of Surfer comics, some of which go back to the 80s. I was a bit reserved to begin with, but the good ones are in mint condition and are bagged and boarded. That sounds like something they'd say in CSI: Somwhere: 'bag and board him, we'll do the autopsy back at the lab'. Is that what CSI is about? I've never watched it, but assume that most of these wallowing US crime dramas are the same as Silent Witness.

Bagged and boarded just means that the comic's in a plastic cover with a bit of card, so stop it getting drooled on by comic geeks or folded when they try to shove it in their pants. Now, e-bay has shown that none of the comics are worth much. About a dollar each. Given that I shelled out £25 on the whole lot, I should be able to make my money back by selling them individually.

However, given what good nick they're in, I might look into getting them graded. I've been doing enormous amounts of research of late into trading card dealing, and it turns out that you can send your old comics away to have their condition graded. If you get a good grade then it adds to the value and also makes suckers more confident about buying them on Ebay because you can show them the grade rather than trying to display how nice they look from a grainy photo.

The picture below is from a normal 1980s copy, but there's a 1992 special edition in this box (hang, on there's another in here as well) that goes for around $30 in mint condition. One thing I've learned during my research is that 'mint' really does mean mint, and even if a comic looks in great nick, it's still probably on a 2.5 out of ten for some reason not visible to the human eye. Harsh, right? Well we'll see. This box is going to take a lot of research and even perhaps its own spreadsheet. The thing is, how much is it going to knock off the value once I've taken them all out of their bags and read them a couple of times. Sure, I might be able to get through a couple of issues without spilling curry on them, but that still leaves another 30-40 at risk.

I could just not read them, I suppose. That would safeguard their condition. But that's not really why I bought them is it? let's face it.

Also tossed in for £1.50 were three Silver Surfer trading cards (above). I don't think there's any resale value in these, so I'm just going to keep them and frame them. Then sell them.

Bought for: £25

Hopes: deflated

Profit: £

Actual Cheddar: ££

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A Crowing Post about those Football Cards

Someone said to me the other day 'when are you going to do a crowing post about those football cards?' I said I'd wait until the fees come through from Ebay and then tot everything up. But I got impatient and with no new purchases forthcoming until next weekend, at which point expect a large update, it was either a CPatFCs or one about my newfound obsession with basketball rookie cards. The former representing my only guaranteed, in-the-pocket chance of a glorious success story, I opted for the football cards.

First things first though: let me set that scene. The success about which I'm to crow comes on the back of repeated and demoralizing failure, like all good Hollywood successes (cf: Wile E. Coyote in Soup or Sonic). Since the last update, I've made a profit on just two items: the wee wooden thimble (three cheers!), which netted me 6p, and a pair of pristine cowboy boots, which went for a genocidally unacceptable £11.50. Stick it up your arse, Ebay! Oh wait, the third Netsuke sold as well! For 58p, which I've probably already reinvested in bog roll.

Among some of the biggest disappointments were the Mother of Pearl bracelet, which was robbed off me for £4.19 just days after two tasteful (and probably kind-hearted) acquaintances offered me significantly more. From this I have learned: take the money when it's offered. Also, a lovely little stainless steel brooch in the shape of a comma (come on! Commas are the coolest punctuation mark!) which lost me 70p and the little bloody beaded bloody lipstick holder, which went for a single quid. Beads are out.

What I've learned from this is that Ebay isn't the best way to make money on these things. I'd be much better off finding local dealers or setting fixed-price sales. Anyway, I'll expand more on my changing strategies in a forthcoming post.

There is also quite a bit of stuff knocking about that didn't sell, so I'll include that in whatever new strategy this new strategising throws up. This lot includes the Slimmer's Plate, the Jasperware Plate and the Mother of Pearl Ring. To my eternal discredit, I've also written off a couple of items against my total. These are a cassette version of the Breakfast Club soundtrack, which turned out to be hopelessly distorted (when my friend Ross and I tried to play it after our 5th viewing of said film) and a really sharp Dablju shirt, which looks pretty good on me, and which has therefore been withdrawn from circulation.

So, in summary, of what I've sold so far:

Bought: £61.23
Sold: £53.22
Loss: £8.01

That's an octo-loss! Bloody hell. I'd do an emoticon at this point, but they're not helping anyone. How should I articulate my disappointment? I could tear the curtains down, but they're quite nice curtains and I got them for my birthday (wonder how much I could get for them on Ebay...), or I could go and pensively smoke a fag. Yeah, I'll do that like in films.

Here I am getting a fag out of the packet...yeah...I'll...wait, what's this in the fag box? Why, it's a


That's right, thou waves of clownish internet fortune, I'm still in the game! I'm not afraid to admit that those thirty-two motley globe-chasers have heroically bailed me out and left my finances in raw, if not rude, health.

In the end, they attracted a rather modest flurry of bidding which, I'd like to imagine, all came from pipe-chomping whiskered old soaks who saw said buccanneers ply their trade in the fifties, rather than red-faced memorabilia dealers in Stourport spare-bedrooms. Amid the pall of poor performances and evaporating capital, I still excitedly logged in throughout the week of the auction to see the price first go green and then creep upwards, like a hung-over slow loris.

They eventually reached the grand heights of £51, square on the button. Now, as I'm not likely to ever see this level of profit margin again, I'd like to record it for electronic posterity. It's a 1,357% profit fools! (sorry for calling you fools. You're not fools. In fact, you've probably already made a better stab of that profit calculation than I have). But anyway, oh frabjous day, right?! Here's what it does to our rudimentary totaliser thing:

Bought: £64.73
Sold: £98.88
Profit: £34.15

That's a pretty remarkable stack of cheddar, there. I could have cheese sandwiches from now until I got malnourished and still have enough left to make a little throne out of. It's enough to make a chap complacent and full of his own nonsense, which, rest-assured, I shall certainly be in the next installment.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Lovejoys - A Spotter's Guide

Well, January became February in interesting fashion with continued e-baytrayals, a couple of write-offs and one huge breakthough. I'm going to do a full write-up once E-bay has sent me the commission bill. I'll also knock together a rough strategy plan for my next steps, to avoid the pitfalls engendered by my inability to use E-bay properly. I think there's a knack to it or something. Like butchering an octopus.

In the meantime, I thought I'd pay tribute to the fourth-wall-breaking, dodgy-dealing, posh-nobbing, mullet-headed* scam-scamp whose exploits I seek to emulate. Now, we all know about the man himself. I won't repeat his finest moments here, but will provide some juicy quotes from the man's Wikipedia page:

- "The lechery and violence in the novels was toned down for television".
- "The episodes were based on a series of picaresque novels by John Grant (under the pen name Jonathan Gash)".
- "Lovejoy has a reputation in the antiques trade as a "divvie".

That last one isn't just in there to tick off the Rule of Three. It's actually the key to understanding Lovvers and his true glory. Now, 'divvie' is antiques slang for a dude who can just tell what's what and sense a bargain piece from out of nowhere. However, what most people don't clock is that it is also an ancient Persian word for a powerful oasis-dwelling spirit. These spirits, while few in number, were able to incarnate as various avatars during their long lifespans and through this they became possessed of vast knowledge.

Tell you what though, to prove my point, here are three of Lovejoys other incarnations, subsequent and previous:

After centuries of manifesting as warlords and serious tribal elders, Lovejoy first came to earth in female form in the last 1860s. He took the name Esther Clason Pohl Lovejoy. In this form, our loveable rogue took matters into his own hands and set about championing the role of women in medicine. He was deep into his women's suffrage during this time, and helped to establish the American Women's Hospitals. He also busted out some important medical scholarships at the University of Oregon's Medical School. Above all though, he also found time to rock almost unfeasibly rad headgear, like the item seen here. He was so fucking hip during this period that foxes would come running over and try choke a fool.

The reason that he was so fly when he was ECP Lovejoy was the thirty-five years he'd spent as one Elijah Parish Lovejoy, toiling in some pretty straight threads. He had other shit on his mind all that time, though. He had some slavery to shut down. He fired up an abolitionist printing press. A mob set fire to it. He did another one. They cooked that too. He had another go. They burned that shit down. He moved somewhere else and threw up a new one. They shot him dead. It was pretty rough for old Lovvers at this point in history. To make matters worse, all the antiques were brand new, so nobody wanted to shell out for them. He was depressed.

During the latter part of the Twentieth Century, Lovejoy was confronted once again by the forces of evil. Using his divvie senses, he divined the gross and corpulent expansion of our nation's favourite game, and resolved to fight it at every step. Taking the form of a rotten little goblin lad, he sought to undermine and topple the sport by fostering an elaborate lattice of bone-ignorance around it. Lovejoy was greatly admired during this time and was thwarted in his grand undertaking only by the the BBC's Delivering Quality First cuts, which managed to trap him in the oubliette of Saturday morning television before casting him out. He was a hero during this time, but I couldn't find any images of him without 'twat' written on them.

So there you go. A few of the faces of this powerful being throughout the ages. Actual selling stuff will resume next time I do a post, hopefully. Sorry about all this.

* "Lovejoy's mullet hairstyle is a common target in parodies of the show. However Ian McShane has a short cut in the first series and cuts the locks well before the final series revival" (Thanks, Wiki. Sorry for leaving you out of the cool list up there. I thought you deserved your own footnote, that's all).