Month: July 2017

Where Do You Hunt, Part 3

In this series I’ve described the places I ‘hunt’ for my various collection and resale items.  In the first round I covered garage sales and thrift stores; in part two I discussed flea markets.  Now it is time for perhaps the best known hunting grounds…

EBay (and other online markets)

Ah, EBay.  Perhaps the largest online source for used and new items, where people can create accounts and buy and sell almost anything.  Here you have an array of sellers, from casual ‘it’s time to clean out this closet’ people to professional stores run full time as someone’s main source of income. Because of this, the type of goods can really vary, as can the seller-set prices and description qualities.  I’m going on the assumption that you have at least glanced at EBay before now and have a passing understanding of how it works.  If not, feel free to post questions in the comments and go on over and take a stroll through their marketplace.

To buy on EBay is pretty easy- you basically need to create a user name and password, and set up a Paypal account.  EBay has a lot to offer buyers- the vast and varied goods, a guarantee of receiving your money back if the deal goes bad (within reason), and the chance to get a steal via auction or Buy-it-Nows.

Buying on EBay

Most of this advice will work across multiple platforms, including some of the new ‘app’ stores like Poshmark and Mercari.

First, look closely at the pictures and description! Don’t rush in to buy only to figure out the item is in poor shape, or not everything is included.  While you can back out of a purchase it can be tricky and put black marks on our account.  Also, be sure to check the shipping costs! Sometimes sellers will put a low purchase price up but have highly inflated shipping costs.  Check the seller’s feedback and look to see if they take returns- good sellers will have 98% good feedback or higher; returns are more open and many seller’s won’t take them.

Auctions have a proscribed length of time, and the highest bidder wins.  Buy-It-Now’s are just that- a set price that guarantees you the item if you purchase it.  I’ve bought both.  I like knowing I’ll get the item with a BIN, but auctions are lots of fun as well and sometimes you get a steal.  Because of the differences between these two, let’s break this down into two sets of advice:

Buy-It-Nows and Best Offers

My best advice for BIN’s is to save favorite searches and leave the page open, refreshing often.  I usually have EBay open as I work at home, or on my phone, with a favorite search open to the BIN setting.  For example, I’ll have my seach term be something like “Vintage G1 MLP My Little Pony”, set it for BIN only, and then select “Newest”.  This means that every time I refresh, I get the latest/newest listings.

Diamond Dreams (red hair) with two other MGR ponies.  I got DD for a good BIN price several years ago.

Why the newest? Because there is always the chance that you can grab a great deal. Many people are using these sites to clear out old things they don’t value anymore, and they don’t necessarily do a lot of market research before they set their price.  This means that along with some crazy high prices, there are often some crazy low ones.

On EBay, sellers can also include a feature called “Or Best Offer”.  Like it sounds, this means that you can make an offer different from the set price.  You type your offer, including any extras like free shipping, and the seller has 24 hours to respond.  As with any deal, there is an art to shaving off $ from the price without offending your seller.  Proceed with caution- once you make an offer the seller accepts, you have committed to buy.

Best Finds: AG doll for my daughter, with two outfits, for 30.00 plus shipping; Lot of seven AG dolls plus tons of accessories and a horse, 200.00 (including two rare dolls I sold for over 100 each), various rare ponies for around 5.00-8.00.

Biggest Drawbacks:  Sitting with your browser open can be a time sink and distraction; you have to know your market so you can make buying decisions quickly; and you’ll see the ones that got away-I’ve spent too much time thinking about those before!

Best Strategies:  Know your market, including often misidentified items and the ones that go for high dollar, and know your timing.  For example,  a lot of toys go up for sale in the afternoon and evening, when moms and dads are home clearing out closets.  I make sure I have my browser open during those times.  Have the confidence and knowledge to buy quickly when the opportunity arises- the best deals are gone within 5-15 minutes sometimes!  I will do best offers, trying to get a good deal but not scalp the seller.  If your buyer doesn’t accept your offer you can still opt to pay the BIN price.


Well, that became quite a long entry!  I’ll cover auctions next time.  Thanks for reading!



Review: Using the Baking Soda and Foil Method to clean Silver Plate

Review: Using the Baking Soda and Foil Method to clean Silver Plate

As promised, I have used the Reed and Barton silver plate goblets I found thrifting to test the baking soda and foil method of cleaning silver plate. For those of you unfamiliar with this method, it goes like this:

  1. Boil water in a large pot- enough to completely immerse your item(s).
  2. Turn off the heat and place aluminum foil in the bottom of the pot.
  3. Place your items in the pot, in contact with the foil.
  4. Pour in a quantity of baking soda.

What happens next?  A chemical reaction that removes the tarnish from the silver surface, with no harsh chemicals, scrubbing, or polishing.  And it all happens in minutes, supposedly.  I have to say, this is one of those methods that definitely sounds too good to be true…

Our specimens:DSC_0009



As you can see, these items are heavily tarnished.  The goblets are made by Reed & Barton, a fine dining, silver, silverplate, and now Lenox dealer that has been in business since the early 1800’s; I picked up the pair for 5.99 at a thrift store.  Since I was already doing this, I also decided to try the method on another find, a cute little set of mini vases made by Two’s Company, a dustcatcher/gift and homestuff importer that sells to retail outlets.  I picked these guys up for about a dollar apiece at a different store several months ago to use both around the home and in scale scenes with American Girl dolls. It turns out to be a good thing that I included them, as you will see in the results! But first, let’s see the process.

I first checked that my goblets would fit, and put in enough water that they would be covered.  I brought the pot to boil and then turned the heat off.  Then I put in the foil, pushing it down with tongs. After that, I put in my silver and poured in a large quantity (about a third of the box) of baking soda.  Here’s how that looked:DSC_0012

I actually couldn’t see anything for quite a while- the reaction really clouds up the water.  But slowly a hopeful picture began to emerge:

As the water began to clear I could see the cups shining almost as brightly as the foil.  I’ll admit to being surprised- as I said, it sounded too good to be true.  After I pulled the pieces out, I rinsed the baking soda off them and wiped them with a soft, clean sponge. Here is the result-

This is a huge improvement; I’m not sure the photos do it justice.  Although you can see they look a little cloudy, the majority of the tarnish is gone.  However, my little vase came out differently:DSC_0020

The one on your right was treated, the one on the left wasn’t. There is basically no difference. So, not a miracle treatment for the Two’s Company items, but amazing for the Reed& Barton.  Let’s just see that again, shall we?

As for the water afterward, well-


…yeah, that stuff was dirty!

Take-Away Thoughts

So, this treatment seems awesome.  It’s cheap and easy, and doesn’t involve scratching at your item or using a strong chemical polish.  Plus, the labor it saves is amazing!  After I saw that it was working so well, I threw one of my great-aunt’s silver plate silverware spoons that I inherited.  It also turned out beautifully:DSC_0022

Again the piece on the right was treated, and one one on the left in the original tarnished condition.

What about the Two’s Company vase?  Well, I have a few thoughts. One is that the base metal layer (silver plate is silver applied to a base metal) might be different that that of the goblets and silverware, and this could have affected the reaction.  Both the goblets and spoons are serving ware, and are probably made using a higher quality non-toxic base like nickel.  The vases are decorative and might be made out of something different.  Alternatively, they might also be more thinly clad with silver.  Reed & Barton is a high quality brand and I would be that the thickness of silver on them is pretty high compared to some nice but inexpensive home decor imports.

I did go the extra step to try out some straight-up silver polish on a goblet and the small vase, to see what that might do.  The results were lovely:

Using the polish as a final step make a huge difference- this got that clear silver shine and removed some of the stubborn tarnish spots, especially inside the goblet and for the small vase.  I only had to spend a few minutes on each for them to reach a high shine.  I shudder to think how long getting that shine would have taken without the baking soda and foil treatment first!

I will definitely be using this method in the future, combined with the silver polish as a final step.  It saved me a ton time and grime compared to only using polish, and the no scrubbing helps protect the finish of the piece.  As always, I would proceed with caution for high value and family heirloom items; I haven’t heard of a downside to this method, but I don’t want you to find one with Great Aunt Agatha’s solid silver coffee pot! I also wouldn’t use this for any jewelry that soldering or gemstones, as those could be sensitive to the heat or chemical reactions. For your non-sacred home items or thrifting finds, however, I think it’s a great solution.

Thrifting Finds this week

Sorry for the long hiatus.  As a school counselor whose husband is a teacher, the March-June time period is quite hectic.  Things have finally slowed down, and I was able to celebrate yesterday with some productive thrifting.


I did my usual rounds and had time to hit several stores.  I was able to find something worthwhile at each one (I love weekday thrifting!).  My take from yesterday includes some things for the family and some things to resell.

The butterfly rearing cage is for the kiddos.  We have several Passiflora vines and Asclepias (native gardening is another interest of mine) and I’m hoping to rear some caterpillars this season.  All the milk glass came from the same thrift- someone clearly had a collection!  I think it will look amazing in my dining room, and if I fall out of love with it I can probably resell it for what I purchased it for.  Most is unmarked, but one of the vases is a Randall Co piece.


The silverplate goblets are Reed and Barton, and a combo use- I want to practice cleaning up silverplate, and there seems to be a market for them on eBay.  However, my husband declared that he needs a chalice (eye roll).  So those might stay, although we’ll see…  The cute little ring holder is a Takahashi of San Francisco piece I picked up for .99.  I’ll either resell it, or it will find a home by the kitchen sink for my rings.  The fish are chopstick holders and will be staying with us- time for a Thai dinner night!  No maker’s mark but they are charming and the color compliments the dining room.  The sphere on the stand is actually a Moon globe by Replogle.  I love astronomy and had to have it for .99.  Oh, and the cute little bag is a Bungalow 360; it might get quickly resold on Mercari as a test of another platform besides eBay.