I”ve paid for Christmas with junk from my attic… here”s how you can too
Boot sale novice: Tessa couldn”tpart with her daughter”s music box
Barely dawn, it’s bitterly cold and I’m standing in the middle of a muddy field struggling with my ironing board when a woman bounds over to me. eagerly fingering the Cath Kidston cover, huge scorch mark and all.
Her face drops when I explain the ironing board’s not for sale. It’s being used as a table to display my wares on — along with the parcel rack from my car laid on two stools.
OK, they may not be the most obvious counter tops but then this is my first car boot sale.
And boy, have I got a lot to learn! I’m joining the army of Britons trying to make cash from the stuff we no longer want, need or (let’s be honest) remember we’ve got.
Recent research by www.worthpoint.co.uk — a collectors’ resource site — reveals that a third of us are turning to car boot sales, eBay or other outlets to try to make extra money to beat the recession in the run-up to Christmas.
Andit can be an eye-opener — Worthpoint has discovered that a staggering 20 per cent of us have never even set foot in our own lofts. I’m among them. With two daughters, my 96-year-old dad who recently moved in and an ex-husband who moved out three years ago, leaving most of his stuff behind, I’m overloaded with junk.
So what am I about to find Could there really be loads of cash lurking in my attic
Well, on first inspection, there’s certainly a load of junk. And it’s not just in my attic, either.
As I march through the house, looking in places I haven’t investigated properly in years, I discover piles of junk filling the shed, seeping out of drawers, cupboards, wardrobes and bookshelves. It’s even under the beds.
Some of it evokes memories I’d rather forget — like the empty photo frames which once contained my wedding pictures. Some I don’t even remember. Did I really buy that red, mock-Prada handbag
There’s everything from a baby car seat (my daughters are now 20 and 18) to an all-purpose duster (never used). I never thought of myself as a hoarder. But I must be to have kept the wrapping paper, tags and bags which my kind friends used to wrap my 50th birthday presents — three years ago.
There are four cases crammed with LPs my ex-husband didn’t want — and I certainly don’t. They’re so old, the cases have his parents’ address written on them. I’m just hoping someone out there yearns to own Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells or the Best Of The Moody Blues.
Open for business: Tessa made 215 in three-and-a-half hours by selling her old junk
I unearth an electric hammer drill I don’t know how to use and three car bike racks, two still in their boxes. There are a load of make-up bags, given free with beauty products, an old pre-digital Canon camera and a model car collection.
It takes two days to sort through it all — and another day to negotiate what my daughters are prepared to part with.
Dividing up Europe after World War II may have been hard but I bet it didn’t involve tears, slammed doors or Stalin shouting: ‘Get your hands off my Jack Wills shirt.’
Finally here I am in a field in Hampshire with a car boot crammed with boxes. I’ve paid my 6 entrance fee. I’ve got a purse stuffed with change.
Yet already I’m beginning to feel decidedly out of my depth. I’ve barely turned my back to start heaving boxes out of the boot when I’m surrounded.
‘Got any silver or jewellery’ one woman asks, as others root shamelessly through my LPs. These are my fellow dealers — the public aren’t allowed in for 45 minutes — and I’ve been warned about them.
‘They’ll catch you off guard and sift through anything valuable before you’ve had a chance to get other offers,’ my friend Laura Brown told me.
She made 300 at her last sale, so knows what she’s talking about.
Now I feel like a minnow surrounded by sharks. One woman has spied my Victorian Sheffield silver cruet set. I’m eager to sell — but I haven’t a clue what it’s worth.
‘I’d like 50,’ I say, hopefully. But she instantly homes in on the hesitation in my voice and barters me down to 25. I can tell by the glee with which she grabs my cruet that she reckons she’s got a bargain.
Work from home: Tessa also tried selling records, clothes and books on eBay
I tried to bone up on the value of some of my possessions. But haggling isn’t easy. I paid 7 for a lampshade, which is still in its wrapping. But do I start at 5 How low do I go And what about all my ex’s LPs There are over 100. I haven’t had time to sift through them all. At my local Oxfam shop I’d noticed they were asking 30 for a Beatles LP and 20 for The Who’s Tommy. Does that make Billy Joel worth 5
It’s worrying, because I’ve read that one in four novices like me pockets less than 10 for items which are worth many times more.
‘People are missing out because they are failing to scrutinise the value of what they own before selling it,’ says Worthpoint’s CEO, Maria Archer.
I vow to be firmer but I want to be nice and keep forgetting prices. I almost sell my two unused Halford bike racks (retailing at 20 each) for 10. I manage to haggle back up to 15. My drill starts at 50. There’s lots of interest but no takers. I lower the price. Finally, it sells at 30. I feel ridiculously pleased.
However, it’s the LPs which attract the most interest. I kick myself for not doing any research. A dealer from London homes in on me. He offers to take two boxes, 65 records, but balks when I want 150. He chooses 23 and offers 40. I want 70. We meet at 55.
45 per cent of people admit to binning belongings without considering their value
Some LPs go for pennies. I fear that I’m being too generous but others are charging 50p. Besides, I’m blowed if I’m carting it all home again. After two hours standing in the cold, I start slashing prices. When my lampshade won’t budge even at 2, I drop to 1.
My mock Prada bag goes for 50p. I sell all my used present bags and tags for 6 — and they cost me nothing. I’m even happier when I sell my free make-up bags for 50p each.
After three-and-a-half hours, I start packing up. I’ve sold 80 per cent of my stuff and made 215.
I decide to flog the rest on eBay. I list everything for five days at an opening bid of 99p. Most buyers only start bidding in the final hour.
The only frantic bidding is for my dad’s phone which goes for 9.01. My books, a jacket and the old Canon camera don’t sell at all. And I have second thoughts about selling my daughter’s old Peter Rabbit musicbox.
As I parcel up my sales I realise turning junk into cash is hard. When I tot the figures up, I’ve made 31.31 for six items. So, I’ve netted 246.31 in total, but eBay was far more labour-intensive than the boot sale.
It’s not a bad return for old rubbish. And it taught me a valuable lesson: one woman’s tat is another’s treasure. I’m going back on eBay with the rest of my ex’s record collection and, this time, I’ll price it properly.
I also know where to lay my hands on a stash of barely worn Abercrombie and Fitch tops. Just don’t tell my daughters…