Ask Jo: Dolls and Picking

Every so often I get a comment or email from a reader that I think others might like the answer to so I write about it here on the blog.  Today is one of those days.

This comes from Ruth of Pages of our Childhood.
Ruth writes:  “Hmm, Jo, you don’t mention using the American Girl dolls for your childcare business. Are the children too young for them? Perhaps you already have plenty of dolls for them. Maybe some of their parents would like the opportunity to buy the new dolls for their older children? That would be a wonderful way to make money and help others out by sharing your good luck.

Last week I was watching a salvage diy show. One of the hosts said the picker wanted $100 for this all wood kerosene powered brooder, but she got him down to $50. They fixed up the brooder and put a price tag of $450 on it. I was incensed at the huge markup. They could have paid the $100 to start with. They could have shared the profit with the picker. I’ll bet they never thought to help out the picker.

This question came after I bought some American Girl dolls on a garage sale.

I had said I was debating about reselling them as I prefer the BeForever American Girl Dolls that go with a book.

Ruth is right.  I never mentioned letting the childcare kiddos play with these.  I wouldn’t.  The majority of my kids are 3 and under.  These dolls aren’t meant for kids that age.  There are some older siblings here but parents have already gone through the arguments and convinced their kids that the generic dolls at WalMart are just fine.  I am super careful that childcare and home don’t mix.  I don’t want the dolls here and parents have to deal with “But Jo has them” type statements.

Giving them to the childcare kids also goes way against my philosophy that if a child were to get a doll at this price, it’s something they need to earn or work for.  Our daughter Kalissa got Kit.  She had to read all of the books first.  She also bargained and rather than getting our usual three Christmas presents that year.  She got one.  Because of that…she cherished the doll and took really good care of her.  None of my kids here regardless of their age could do that.

I have more age appropriate dolls that are babies.  They love the bottles and blankets that go with these dolls.  I have a set for inside and outside.  There are plenty of dolls here.

Now of the topic of marking things up.  I will admit that in theory I think that was a large mark up but I mark things up too.  Here’s my example:

Last week at an auction I bought this red cabinet.  There was room full of people there.  Any one of them could have bought this piece.  I got it for $5.  Yes, $5.

It has nice shelving….

It has a really fun closure with the pin.  See?

I have no idea why it sold so cheap.  In my mind it was worth so much more.  The only thing wrong that I noticed was that the knob of the drawer pull was missing.

I brought it home.  I gave it a good wash and found a knob for the drawer.  I listed it on a Facebook for sale group for $45.  I go it.

Now that was a high mark up compared to the price I pay….BUT remember these things….
1-I drove a half hour to the auction.
2-I stayed at the auction for two hours
3-I drove home.
4-I cleaned it
5-I found and put on the new knob
6-I took pictures and listed it for sale
7-I monitored the sale group and answered questions
8-I made arrangements for a showing the following day
9-I showed it and helped load it
10-I went back and removed all the listings on the for sale site

I didn’t see the show so I can’t tell you my personal feelings on whether the sale of the brooder was fair or not.  For the pieces I sell…I try to do a combination of fair for all.  At the auction, I could have waited around from the auctioneer to lower the asking price lower than $5…I didn’t.  I paid what was a fair price for the day.  When determining a price on this, I thought I would be thrilled if I could pay only $45 for such a cute little cabinet.

One other thing to consider is this…
Some days a picker doesn’t get an “as good” price and they sell another thing at a bigger mark up to make up for the item they can’t mark as high.  Dealers do it all the time.

The more thing to consider….
When watching a television show, even though they make it look like reality and it’s unscripted, it usually is not reality and it usually is scripted.  Have you watched Fixer Uppers?  Really…could every single time the crew find something that is going to put them over budget?  These shows are made to look more dramatic than things actually are.  They want to catch viewers.  They do it by scripting the shows.

One final thing to consider.  Anyone can ask any price for anything.  The question is….will someone pay it?  So if I put a price tag on that red cupboard of $200 unless someone actually pays that amount, the asking price did not determine the worth.  The actual price paid did.  When we started pricing thing at the antique mall we asked for a “rule of thumb” on pricing.  We were told this….go on ebay.  Look up your item.  Go on the left side column, scroll down.  There is a filter.  Press the sold items….then you can see what things sold for.  Not the asking price.  He said then in our rural area and our customer base take the price down even more.

I think it’s important when I do this to remember that
1-I like a deal
2-the customer likes a deal
3-buying and selling an item cannot end up costing me money

…and that’s my philosophy on buying and selling.

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6 thoughts on “Ask Jo: Dolls and Picking

  1. Janet B

    I think you are very reasonable in your markup. I don’t like the tv shows where they badger the sellers for $20 and then mark the item up three-fold. Like you say, it’s all scripted.

    In one of your “ask Jo’s,” can you talk about piecing quilt backs. I typically buy wide backs because I like the convenience for quilts that I keep or gift. I have some charity quilts and need to piece the back and I’m procrastinating because I’ve never done it. Do I just start whacking fabric and stitching it together, or it there a method to the madness? Nobody does YouTubes on pieced backs.

  2. Barbie

    I’ll throw in my two cents worth for Janet’s question about piecing a quilt backing as I often piece mine. I start by determining if I have additional blocks or sections from the quilt front that didn’t get used. It isn’t unusual for me to make a top and have an additional blocks. Then I see if have additional fabric that was also used in the top. That gives me a terrific start as I can often piece a vertical column out of components used on the front. Depending on the size of your quilt you can built out from that and that might mean piecing more pieces or finding some yardage that will coordinate and adding that.

    I’ve seen all kinds of pieced backings and the sky is the limit. I once just pieced a bunch of solids in big chunks as the front had a lot of small print pieces and the back turned out to be as interesting as the front! Start small and play with what you have. Good luck!

  3. Ruth

    You are very wise, Jo, to keep expensive toys out of your childcare business. Thank you for answering my question. I think your price on the red shelf unit was suitable.
    I so enjoy reading about the wide variety of things you and your family do!

  4. Donna

    Jo my theory on why that cabinet only went for 5.00 is its an oriental style and you live in small town Iowa. That cabinet would have went much higher in a big city. You priced it right for your area. I totally agree with you on not allowing the American Girl dolls to be toys for the childcare kiddos. Those are expensive dolls and should be treated as such.

  5. Janet Rice

    That cabinet was a steal for that price, no matter what you paid for it. Like you said, much of your time and effort went into getting it and presenting it for sale. I love to hear about your finds.

  6. Pam

    I’m sorry but I really don’t think it is anyone else’s business what you do with the things you buy or what your markup is. It is the nature of the business. When you go to a thrift store they have marked up a FREE donation item. Yes, it is a business but so is what you are doing. Most store merchandise is marked up 110%. Keep doing what you are doing Jo. You really don’t have to explain anything to us.

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