Mike Presley responded to a recent walletpop post on thrift shops with one of my favorite kind of stories: From Thrift Shops and Yard Sales to eBay.

Mike is 41 years old and has served in the Navy for 19 years. After work almost every day, he makes a thrift store stop. It's a habit that his father passed along to him. A few years ago, noticing that things he'd seen in antique stores sometimes turn up at thrift stores (for 1/10th of the price), he began to buy with the thought of one day opening his own shop. This, of course, is how lots of antique dealers are made. Beginning with 25-cent Pyrex bowls, Mike began to hoard. In the interim, he started selling on Craigslist.

A large local consignment store -- a regular (3-4 times/week) stop on Mike's route -- was going out of business and selling at 50-60% off. On a weekend afternoon, Mike and his girlfriend were picking up armloads of finds when he flipped open the lid of an old Chiquita Banana box. The box was filled with what would turn out to be a set of dirty old toy trains. The price was $15.

The items from the sale spent the next month in the garage until Mike got around to checking out the selling prices of American Flyer Trains on eBay. He was pleasantly surprised to see that he could expect to make, "a couple hundred dollars on them"

He took out the five box cars -- leaving the the track, engine and transformer for another time. Without cleaning the cars, he took a few photos and posted them on eBay. When he checked his listing in the morning the trains were already over the $200 mark. Maybe, he told his friends, he might even see $500 on the lot. By day three that goal too was history.

Here's the rest of the story in Mike's own words: "I of course told everyone I knew and worked with...my girlfriend did the same...and in the last 30 minutes of the auction, when the trains had reached $1,500, work up and down the Eastern Seaboard came to a halt to watch what the trains were going to do on eBay."

When the auction closed the trains had sold for a total bid of $2,176.

Mike had happened on the Holy Grail of American Flyer Trains...the Refrigerator Car.

If you have a "Thrift Shops and Yard Sales to eBay story," I'd love to read it. If I use it on walletpop, I'll be glad to send you a copy of my book, "The Yard Sale Shopper's Companion."


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