Friday, June 18, 2010


Every time I need some extra spending money, I sell something on Ebay. The trouble is, when I’m searching for stuff to sell, nothing is safe. My husband is convinced he’s getting senile because he can’t find a lot of his prized possessions…and I’m not about to confess to him where they really went.

Anyone who’s tried to sell anything on Ebay knows that the summer months are the worst time of year to make any money. So the summer months are when I sell my cheap stuff. If I can get $3 for each item, I feel as if I’ve won the lottery.

So I was down in the basement the other day desperately searching for things to sell on Ebay, mainly because the amount of money I’ve spent on veterinary bills during the past month equals what it would have cost me for a 10-day vacation at the Hawaiian Hilton.

There were two big problems in the basement, however. The first was there were over 400 unmarked boxes of stuff down there and I had no clue whatsoever which boxes contained what. The second was the basement’s dehumidifier recently coughed its last cough so everything was pretty damp. In fact, I picked up a cardboard box that was so soggy, the bottom fell out of it.

My treasure hunt succeeded in producing a few items with summer Ebay potential. There was a set of old Andy Griffith Show trading cards, a stack of Archie and Jughead comic books, some model cars and a box of Bay City Rollers stationery.

I smiled at the stationery. Back in the 1970s there was a band called the Bay City Rollers that hailed from Scotland. The guys in the band always wore tartan. They had tartan on the hems of their pants and the cuffs on their shirts. They wore tartan scarves. They even wore tartan sneakers. Young, prepubescent girls loved the band so much, each of their concerts resulted in mass hysteria…and lots and lots of plaid.

The box of stationery contained 15 sheets of pale blue paper with the Bay City Rollers’ photo printed on them in dark purple ink. Also included were 15 plain sheets of paper and 15 blue envelopes with “Keep on Rollin’!” printed on them. The $2.50 price sticker still was on the box.

I listed the stationery (along with the other items I’d found) on Ebay with an opening bid of $2.50. I figured I’d be happy if I got back what I’d paid for it.

I ended up selling the stationery for $41 to a woman in Australia.

“She paid that much money for this cheap-looking stationery?” my husband asked in disbelief. “Our toilet paper is thicker than this! Don’t you feel guilty about making the poor lady pay nearly 20 times what you paid for it?”

“I asked for only $2.50 as an opening bid,” I said. “What happened after that was totally out of my hands.”

As I was preparing to wrap the stationery and send it on its long journey, I couldn’t help but wonder how much I might have received for it if I’d have listed it right before Christmas instead of during the cheap-o summer months. Probably double, or even triple the amount.

I then mentally scolded myself for being so greedy. After all, I reasoned, I should be completely satisfied with the $41, especially since I’d expected only $2.50. I opened the box to give the stationery one last check before wrapping it…and gasped in horror.

Thanks to dampness in the basement, every envelope’s flap was solidly stuck to the back of the envelope.

I wanted to kick myself for not having noticed it when I was listing the stationery on Ebay. I had described the set as being in mint condition. The only way anyone would consider the envelopes to be in mint condition now would be if he or she never intended to actually mail anything in them and therefore, would have no reason to look at the backs of them.

“Steam them open before you send them,” my husband suggested when I whined about the welded-shut envelopes. “She’ll never know the difference.”

I put a kettle on the stove and waited for it to steam. When it did, I took one of the envelopes and held it up to the pour spout. Half of the flap unstuck. The other half wouldn’t budge. I decided to give the flap a little help and slipped a butter knife underneath the edge of it. I succeeded only in making a big nick on the flap.

Still, I tried steaming another one. I put my hand too close to the steam and when I jerked it away, dropped the envelope into the open flame.

“Maybe you can pass off the ashes as part of one of the Bay City Rollers’ cremated remains and get a bundle for them,” my husband, who’d been silently watching me torch the envelope, teased.

Nobody likes a wise guy.

Two damp, crinkled envelopes later, I finally admitted defeat. My “mint condition” stationery had been reduced to “just-pulled-out-of-the-trash” condition. The question was, would the woman in Australia still want it? And if she did, how much would she be willing to pay for it? At the rate I was going, I figured I’d probably have to pay her to take it off my hands.

I e-mailed the woman, explained what had happened and offered to give her the stationery for $10 plus shipping.

“That’s great!” she wrote back. “I would have been willing to pay $100 for it in any condition! Bay City Rollers items are extremely collectible.”

I’m pretty sure that buried somewhere in the 400 boxes of stuff down in my basement are several never-opened packs of Bay City Rollers trading cards from 1975.

I don’t care if I have to stay down there in the dampness until mushrooms start sprouting out of my hair. I’m going to find them.