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Funny...in Kindergarten, They Taught Us to NOT Tear Up Our Books

Updated on August 27, 2013
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Getting older doesn't necessarily mean I receive a reasonably proportionate amount of wisdom in the process. Quite the contrary.

As the years whip past me like a runaway '68 gold Mustang out for a teenage kid's first test run, I find that I'm acting quite the fool. And you know what else? I'm really loving it!

Case in point? I've found a new way to release my pent-up frustration and antisocial tendencies. How? By tearing up old books!

Not only that...I'm getting paid for my outrageous behavior!

So here's how I'm doing it.

In my sleepy bedroom community of College Place, a town three miles west of Walla Walla (the place so nice they named it twice ) in southeast Washington state, there's a thrift store owned and operated by the Village Seventh-Day Adventist Church. On Sunday mornings, I enjoy searching the shelves, boxes, and bins for hidden treasures. (Come on! How else can an out of shape middle-aged Hawaiian man ever get closer to pretending he's Johnny Depp playing Captain Jack Sparrow?)

I've been making a humble living out of selling fly tying hooks on eBay for over a dozen years, but in recent months, I've really been itching to experiment with new and different niches. So, on this particular Sunday, I was looking for something specific--an old book with lots of pictures.

Why old? Well, simply put, so I wouldn't have to hassle with copyright infringement. Why lots of pictures? Ah, there's the rub! Or should I say, there's the pirate booty!

The Village Church thrift shop is definitely a place I love to support because the net proceeds go directly into the church's Worthy Student Fund. Generous scholarships from this fund enable students with financial need to attend the Walla Walla Valley Academy, the local SDA parochial school.

Donated items from private citizens as well as leftovers from estate sales and other sources are stored in what appear to be two large outdoor garages. The left side contains books, DVD's, tape cassettes, tins, plates, figurines, artwork, and miscellaneous knickknacks. The right side contains larger items such as tools, hardware, machinery, and geriatric rehab items.

On this cold January morning, I headed straight towards the bookshelves. I hadn't browsed more than five minutes before spotting a tremendous find--an 1894 collection of photographs from the Chicago World's Fair.

Surprisingly, the book was in pretty decent condition. Initially, but for only a few seconds, I actually contemplated putting the book up for sale as is . But because I lack experience and the patience to wait for what seems to be an eternity before a book sells (like I said, I don't have much experience, but what little experience I do have suggests that I suck at selling books), I quickly shook the notion off and resolved to stick with my game plan.

The book was large, not unlike the atlases you see in libraries. The black and white plates were in immaculate condition, and my heart raced as I observed the abundant number of prints.

Like a super sleuth (actually, more like a sneaky, conniving crook), I signaled to my wife and beckoned her to come over to where I was. In a barely audible whisper, I said, "Check this out!"

I hasten to say that my better half does not understand my entrepreneurial creativity and passion (in other words, she's grounded and pragmatic), so my barely subdued nervousness and excitement elicited only a blank look on her face.

Okay , I can see I'm doing a solo walk out on the proverbial limb here.

Shrugging it off, I gave the portly woman at the desk my hard-earned fifty cents, all the while thinking that the alarms would sound because I was virtually stealing this ancient and hopefully valuable book for such a cheap amount.

A couple of days later, I tore the book up...but I did so carefully. Section by section, I rubbed off the old glue that had attached their spines to the hard cover. When that was done, I painstakingly removed the multiple staples.

Taking just one section, I detached each double page and, using a ruler, marked a straight line past the pinholes created by the staples, and used a pair of scissors to cut along those lines. (This was before I invested in a paper trimmer. Let me tell you, if you ever decide to try this out, get a decent paper trimmer. It will save you so much time!)

I ended up with about a dozen decent prints. I realized that while there were pictures on the opposite side of each page, my research revealed that the majority of successful sellers promote a single print. So there were decisions to be made, and I made them easily, mostly because I lack art expertise and don't know what I'm doing half the time. Simply put, I chose the side that appealed to me the most. When I couldn't make up my mind, I asked my wife for a second opinion.

In January, I posted my first listings from this vintage book. Again, my limited research indicated that people who had attempted similar listings were setting rather high prices. My first newbie inclination was to keep things relatively cheap...say, $5 or $10. But I fought that pull and finally set my asking price at $25. For me, that's a lot to ask for what truly is, first and foremost, just a dirty old piece of paper. But, then again, so's our currency!

Partly as a lark, then, not quite believing that I was going anywhere with this new adventure that reeked of kindergarten kid impulsiveness, I listed these prints in my eBay store at five cents a posting. Let me explain to those of you who are not aware of how eBay works that there are basically two major ways to sell on eBay. The most popular way is to put something up for auction...and that can run for 1, 3, 5, 7, or even 10 days. The hope is that interested customers will bid on your auctions. The other way to sell is by fixed price via eBay store listings. People like myself who have been selling on eBay for some time usually own (and pay up the kazoo!) their own stores on this global marketplace.

So...about a month later, lo and behold! One of my prints sold! (See above image.) Then, a couple of weeks later, I joyfully celebrated a second sale. (See image below.)

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So, in a relatively short amount of time, my efforts were blessed with two sales. And, judging by the number of watchers I now have for the other items, there are potentially more sales up ahead.

I'm having fun posting about this as I sit in one of my favorite coffee shops downtown. About an hour from now, I'll be busy posting more photos from that same old book.

You know, it's great at my age to do something I was forbidden to do in kindergarten...and--CHA-CHING!--get paid for it!

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  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    I thought your nickname for eBay was both amusing and appropriate. You're not kidding! Ever since Meg Whitman left her post as CEO, things have not been as seller-friendly. Will be in Colton, Anaheim, San Diego, and other parts of your home state for the next week connecting up with our son and members of my Hawaii family who are treating the little ones to Disneyland, etc. Looking forward to the nice break. Thanks for stopping by!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Wow--you're braver than I am! After watching shows like Auction Kings and Pawn Stars--I'm inclined to think that some (not all) of such finds would be incredibly more valuable in their original format. I'd be getting things appraised before I decided to take them apart....I gave up on E-Bay when they turned into FEE-Bay!

    Very interesting article, however--voted up and interesting.