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Oh, I Believe in Yesterday--on eBay
In 1964, the Fab 4 led the British invasion in America by way of The Ed Sullivan Show. For a country still in shock and bearing a shroud of national mourning over the cruel and premature death of its beloved President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the American debut of the English rock band was both a timely balm and a trendy, musical blitzkrieg.
I was eleven and a half years old at the time. My father, a relatively new police officer on the Kauai Police Department, happened to mention at the breakfast table one morning that he'd come across a news article in The Honolulu Advertiser about a British rock group with a silly name. Up until then, the 45 and 33-1/3 RPM records in our home consisted of a random selection of old and contemporary Hawaiian music as well as my dad's eclectic mix of Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Eddy Arnold, Elvis Presley, and Mario Lanza records.
Frankly, I wasn't really into music at the time. I was one of those nerdy kids who actually loved school, and I read voraciously. I remember meticulously chronicling every single book I'd ever read.
I also loved comic books. I collected Classics Illustrated, Superman, Batman, Action, Adventure, Green Lantern, and a few others from the Superman DC brand of comics. In later years, my favorites were from the creations of Stan Lee--the Marvel brand--and I spent a young kids' fortune (of course, comic books only cost a dime in those days) on Spiderman, Daredevil, X-Men, Thor, The Fantastic Four, and all their close cousins.
But all of that changed once I found out and viscerally experienced--as did the great majority of kids in my generation--the Beatles.
On Sunday evenings, our family would gather in the living room and watch The Ed Sullivan Show. February 9, 1964, was no exception. I can't remember the other comedy, puppet, dance, and song numbers of that particular program, but the charisma, energy, vivacious charm, and musical and lyrical genius of the Boys from Britain will forever leave an indelible mark in my mind. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll let the following video speak a library's worth of volumes to you.
Which of the following three titles are NOT Beatles songs?
- PLEASE PLEASE ME
- FERRY CROSS THE MERSEY
- BACK IN THE USSR
- GOLDEN SUNSETS
- TILL THERE WAS YOU
- I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND
- DEAR PRUDENCE
- LITTLE CHILDREN
As I was growing up in Hawaii, fads that swept across the contiguous United States wouldn't hit the islands until three or four months later. While this phenomenon made us locals appear to be culturally retarded, the good news is that popular commodities that were scarce in the mainland were still in huge supply in our island stores.
Thus, a few weeks after the Beatles tsunami had delightfully pummeled the Hawaiian psyche, I was at a Kress store in our county seat of Lihue, holding a Meet the Beatles album, engrossed in the promotional text and pondering whether I could afford the $5.20 cost.
Sheer Coincidence or Fact of Fate?
Incidentally, on February 9, 1964, the date of The Beatles' first American performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the future wife of Hawaiian Odysseus--Rita--was celebrating her 9th birthday.
Three years later, Paul McCartney received a parking citation from a meter maid named Meta Davies. Instead of fuming over the ticket, McCartney accepted it good-naturedly and wrote a song about it. The song was entitled, Lovely Rita, and was recorded and released in 1967.
When asked why he used the name, Rita, instead of Meta, McCartney replied, "Well, she looked like a Rita to me."
Based primarily upon the group's smashing performance and the inexplicable fan pandemonium I'd seen on February 9, 1964, I bought the LP album.
It was my first album purchase ever, and I daresay it was perhaps the best investment I had ever made. My only regret is that I don't know what happened to it. If it's part of the Hawaiian landfill, I know it contributed its share of raising the price of island real estate.
A year after The Beatles' amazing performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Lads from Liverpool once again invaded America. This time, the pop culture attack came by way of lovely lunchbox and thermos sets manufactured by Aladdin Industries.
- I'm Tired of Just Thinking About It. I'm Doing It!
Good ideas are a dime a dozen. The real challenge is to act upon those ideas.
My Hottest Commodity to Date on eBay
A while back, I wrote about a business dinner with my brother-in-law, Steve, regarding partnering up with him and selling collectible wares he'd found in storage bins or lockers in the Seattle area on eBay. He and I agreed upon a post-expenses 67/33 split where I would make the lesser percentage as my share. In a sense, then, this was my first foray into selling items as an eBay Trading Assistant.
In the last three months, I've sold about four of his items for a nominal amount of success. Nothing big, mind you, but enough to warrant confidence in both of us that this is something that can indeed work.
On a subsequent trip to the Emerald City, then, I met with Steve once again at our favorite pasta spot--The Spaghetti Factory in Lynnwood. As we stuffed our faces with a generous portion of noodles topped with our respective sauces (I fancy mizithra cheese and mushrooms), we talked shop.
Two youngsters talking and squealing loudly at the table next to us were the only competing distractions. We managed to somehow tune the noise out and concentrate on our business discussion.
Steve had bought more items with him for my wife and me to haul back to our home in Walla Walla County. There were a large amount of Christmas houses, snow globes, and miscellaneous collectibles from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
One of the items was a 1965 Beatles lunchbox and thermos set. Steve had done some scratch research online and had discovered that the set was selling for triple figures. I found that incredible.
Later, when I had the opportunity to see for myself, I was astounded that this particular lunchbox set had actually sold for over $1000! Unbelievable!
Currently, there were a handful of these lunchboxes where the initial bids of Buy it Now prices were set at anywhere from $200-$500, but the reason for the comparatively lower asking amounts was because the seller did not have an accompanying thermos. Having that additional item appeared to double or even triple the average price.
My heart raced as I realized Steve's set actually had a thermos.
I spent a few hours preparing the item for listing on eBay. Describing the item and taking photos of it were easy enough activities. What I found to be more challenging and time-consuming was pondering how best to present the item for sale. Do we hold a reserve auction where we have this secret expectation and start our auction out at 99 cents or even a penny? On one hand, we'd protect ourselves against the possibility of the item selling for a ridiculously cheap amount. On the other hand, however, we 'd risk losing potential buyers who have a disdain and even mistrust for that sort of strategy.
Should we simply conduct a regular auction, listing the item at a cheap price and counting on eBay buyers to determine the market value of our iitem? My wife and brother-in-law weren't comfortable with that kind of risk, and I myself was iffy about that approach.
At the end of the day, I decided to initially try a Buy It Now approach that afforded some flexibility. I would ask for top dollar on our reasonably high quality item but include room for haggling with a Best Offer tag.
(As of this writing, just a few days after posting the listing, I have one offer. Because it fell short of the bottom number I was asking for, the eBay software automatically denied the offer.)
In the event that we go for a period of, say, three or four weeks without any sale, or the traffic just isn't up to par for this item, I would then try the reserve auction strategy or wait until eBay hosts another free listing day. At that point, I would list the item with a starting bid of $500 or more. Again, it's always a pros and cons deliberation.
In my twelve years of selling on eBay, this is definitely my ultimate high ticket item to date. I'm exercising patience and wisdom in seeing this particular transaction through to its successful conclusion.
Not Today, Not Tomorrow, But...
A SIGNIFICANT UPDATE
On June 2, 2012, an identical 1965 Beatles Lunchbox and Thermos Set sold in a reserve auction for the amazing and unprecedented amount of $1,526.99!
Arbitrage is a strategic entrepreneurial term that can best be explained in the following simple way--Customer A buys an item from a Seller and then turns around and sells it to Customer B for a substantial profit. Feasibly, someone could buy my set for $900 and then employ the same strategy as the shrewd seller above and potentially make a triple-figure profit. What a rush!
Here's the eBay auction number: 221035021305. But remember, ninety days after an auction has ended, the information will no longer be available.
Do I Believe in Yesterday?
I believe in every second of yesterday.
From the glory, chivalry, and idyllic romanticism of the nouveau Camelot era of JFK and Jackie to the exuberant and exhilarating roller coaster ride of the British invasion; from the combative protests on domestic collegiate terrain to the ravaged rice paddies and napalm-torched jungles of a faraway and futile conflict; from beer-soaked American Pie and football games on Friday nights to caches of pirated drugs and munitions strategically utilized to perpetuate global unrest ...I believe in it all.
For to have missed any infinitesimal piece of it would have been tantamount to never having lived and loved at all.
And to have never lived and loved at all? Perish the thought! For then when would I have ever experienced the sheer joy of witnessing and experiencing the rejuvenation and reclamation of an old, minimally yet nevertheless rust-spotted, seemingly insignificant, and certainly forgotten piece of tin junk sell for over $1500 dollars?