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What is my collectible worth?

   I received an email from a reader this week, asking for help. The man who wrote has some antiques and collectibles that have been in his family for generations. He’d like to know what they’re worth and who to go to for that information. 

 

   It wasn’t that long ago that finding out the relative value of your heirlooms was a difficult process. It usually required taking your items to an appraiser or sending photos and detailed information. And it could be expensive.

 

   For fine, rare and unusual antiques, that is still the case. You definitely need a professional’s opinion before selling or insuring. But, for most mass-produced items made some time in the last century, there’s an easier way.

 

   Go to the crowd.

 

   Take a look at Pinterest. See what people are talking about, linking to and pinning to their virtual pin boards.  Check online auctions like eBay and vintage marketplaces like Etsy, where you can get an idea of what your collectible is worth at the moment and what such things are selling for around the world. This will give you a good idea of condition and rarity and help you gauge demand.

 

   Ultimately, most things are worth only what someone is willing to pay. Collectibles, like fashion, are subject to popular trends. What was highly prized a few years ago, may not be sought after today. 

 

   Most of us never get that Antiques Roadshow moment, finding out the trash in the attic will make us rich. But, you never know. For every treasure there’s a treasure hunter.

 

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap also writes about travel at Home Planet. She can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com 

 

Toddler buys car on eBay

She may only be 14 months old, but Sorella Stoute is already a seasoned eBay user. Just ask her father, Paul Stoute, who recently opened up his email to discover the toddler had bid on a 1962 Austin Healey Sprite — and won.

The Oregon father had left his smartphone unattended and unlocked when his daughter inadvertently opened his eBay app, according to local news reports. A few clicks later and the toddler bought a car on eBay.

Fortunately, the old auto was only $225.

“I’m just glad she didn’t buy the $38,000 Porsche I was looking at,” Stoute told KOIN 6 News. More here.

Gracious! Continuing our phone theme: Do you have a smartphone?

Local hunter rallies to salvage non-residents’ botched guided hunt

HUNTING — It's buyer-beware when paying money to an outfitter for a big-game hunt, especially when the deal is made online and payment is in person without going through a safety net such as PayPal or a credit card.

I give examples of hunters who say they've been burned by a Spokane-area man who advertises a hunting service on eBay in today's outdoors column.

  • Note: since my column was published, Sean Siegel's eBay ad for a 2013 7-Day Eastern Washington Elk Hunt has been removed.

One of these disgruntled hunters was able to salvage his trip from California through the generosity of a local man who heard of his plight at a restaurant.  I din't have room in the column for "the rest of the story:"

In 2012, Jeff Hunt of Modesto, Calif., and a friend booked a five-day bear hunt. First problem: Local hunting facilitator Sean Siegel had promised that for the price of $1,000, he would set the hunters up with a place to hunt, complete with tree blinds.

"I have it in writing," Hunt said. "But he sets us up in a ground blind. I'm glassing through the trees at daylight and I see lady doing dishes through her kitchen window. There’s a road right there. Another house. A school bus. I have a .300 Win. Mag and I’m afraid to shoot the thing.”

The clincher: Siegel later gave the men directions to timber company land on Mica Peak, but he never told them they were required to have an Inland Empire Paper Company access permit. A company security guard caught them, booted them off and called Fish and Wildlife police.

”We went to a restaurant, and we’re all pissed off about getting ripped off by this hunting guide, and somebody we don’t know from Adam hears us and offers to take us hunting,” Hunt said.

"The next morning he drives us all the way north near the Canada border and we saw several bears. We didn’t shoot one, but at least we saw some. The best part of our hunting experience was through a guy who wouldn’t take a dime for what he did for us."

Auctioning ‘Washington’ McNugget

Rebekah Speights of Dakota City is auctioning this McDonald's Chicken McNugget, which she believes looks like President George Washington, on eBay to raise money for a church summer camp. The nugget is shown in this photo. (AP Photo/Sioux City Journal, Nathan Robson)

Question: What's your bid?

Does BigDeal.com really offer shoppers great penny-auction deals?

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Nick Darveau-Garneau

Nicolas Darveau-Garneau PictureEarlier this week we called Nick Darveau-Garneau, the CEO of San Francisco-based BigDeal.com.

This site is one of the increasingly popular penny-auction sites that invite consumers to hunt down good deals on electronics and household items. 

We're posting a portion of the interview with Nick, who explains how the BigDeal  auctions and bidding operate.

The pitch that caught the eye of Office Hours was the claim that real people are finding real deals on some items, such as getting a new Kindle for less than $10. 

Here's the basic way it works: A person becomes a member by spending a minimum amount to earn bidding dollars. For now, that minimum is $22.50.

The idea is to be the last person bidding, as the auction clock runs down. Each bid you make costs you 75 cents; each successful bid you make on an item pushes the item price up one cent. If the item clock is finally coming down to 30 seconds or less, each new bid, whoever makes it, pushes the clock back to 30 seconds. 

If you don't win, the amount of money you've bid can be applied to "discounted retail" price for that same item, offered by BigDeal. In other words, if you don't win it at auction, you can buy it at a discounted retail price. And BD has the item drop-shipped.

Darveau-Garneau said the auction-sale items offered come from wholesalers and discounters. 

And yes, the auction items "won" will cost the bidder whatever the item price is at the end of the auction, plus shipping.

What we like about it:

  • Things are legit, in that the listings are all backed by BigDeal. Products are not bogus or knockoffs.
  • There's a "Bid Buddy" option that lets bidders auto-bid, within time limits.
  • It's generally a good way to buy an item you really want. If you don't get the item, you can apply the bid amount as a discount against the "competitive" purchase price.

What we don't like about it:

  • It's hard to track or find a given item. Say you want a Canon G12 camera. Good luck finding BigDeal auctions for the G12 without major effort.
  • Item prices for sale for those who don't win that item are nothing special. You can nearly always beat the BigDeal price by shopping on eBay, Amazon or Buy.com, just to use three instances.

See the rest of the post below.