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Trouble dealing with a local seller with a massive hoard

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MrFahrenheit

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In my locale, an elderly man was a vintage Apple collector/hoarder.  He passed away, and the person he willed his estate to is selling it.  However, she's also being very difficult to deal with.

My friend called me to the 'garage sale' that had Vintage Apple's because he purchased some LC5xx Macs for $20 each.  He then told me there was everything, you name it, it's there.  I dropped what I was doing and drove across town to see it.

When I got there, sure enough, 150+ Macs on shelves.  Everything.  128k all the way up to PowerMac 9600 and G3s, G4, G5 iMacs.  Every single model of PowerBook.  Many multiples of some.  Printers, monitors.  It was all there.

I asked about a few items, and I was presented with prices significantly higher than my friend paid.  Example, a Mac LCIII, untested, bare, $200.  They wouldn't budge with pricing.

I was able to get her to email me the list of the items, but she refused to give me the prices.  They didn't want someone 'cherry picking' the lot.  ...okay... ?

I asked about 25 items, and her response was maybe I'd like to just buy the whole thing.  It hadn't really occurred to me.  So I think about it, and I ask her what she wanted for the lot.  She tells me a man had shown up on Saturday morning with $10k in cash and she was insulted with the amount and told him to f-off.  ...okay... ?

So I go through the items, and basically it's a $30k blow-out on eBay, providing each 'box' has guts inside.  It's a huge gamble.  She makes the first move and says she wants $15k.  I counter with less than that and she says there's gold here.  Like, literal gold.  She is convinced that someone could extract all of the gold from the machines and be $50k+ ahead.   ...okay... ?

Then I tell her the boards are actually made of copper, not gold.  Components are soldered with lead solder, not gold.  etc.  She's not convinced.  Then she says broken computers are worth far more than working ones, because the parts inside are worth more than an entire computer.  Obviously she's browsing eBay, and seeing disk drives sell for $50 when the computer sells for $30, etc.  I tell her that's not the way it works.  She isn't convinced yet again.  Then she tells me that people take these same computers and turn them into an iPad holder and sell them for $2200.  Sorry, I'm not convinced.

Then she tells me any one of these machines could be cleaned up and fixed up and sold for over $3000 each, and there's a 'goldmine' here... (remember, these are everything, IIci, IIvx, LCs, SEs, Classics, but all of the 'unicorns' have already been picked out by a couple of local collectors for peanuts [she sold them to them as 'monitors']).

How in the world do you talk straight into someone like this without losing your cool and without losing the deal.  Because I think in the end, she's going to discover it's not what she thinks, and either she's going to destroy them all 'looking for gold' or blowing them out to someone else for pennies on the dollar, or keeping them until they're wrecked from weather (they're currently being stored in a non-climate-controlled garage, with 90%+ humidity, 100' temperatures during the day, and 50' temps at night.  If she doesn't sell them before November, they'll also be in temps of -40'.

I've given an offer that I placed an expiration time on, but it's a huge gamble.  Anyone else encounter someone like this ?

 

Byrd

Well-known member
How in the world do you talk straight into someone like this without losing your cool and without losing the deal.  Because I think in the end, she's going to discover it's not what she thinks, and either she's going to destroy them all 'looking for gold' or blowing them out to someone else for pennies on the dollar, or keeping them until they're wrecked from weather (they're currently being stored in a non-climate-controlled garage, with 90%+ humidity, 100' temperatures during the day, and 50' temps at night.  If she doesn't sell them before November, they'll also be in temps of -40'.

I've given an offer that I placed an expiration time on, but it's a huge gamble.  Anyone else encounter someone like this ?


Haggling is a fine art, and it's not uncommon to hit a wall like this especially if there is an emotional connection (for example the seller/carer may not care about the items they are selling, but want to do their best in getting the best amount to assist their friend/family to help in a trying time).  You also need to build up rapport - kind of like dating - and them perhaps the walls will come down a little.  If I've learnt anything from haggling, offer to pay full price for some items to show you are a serious buyer, then bundle bundle bundle the things you want in  larger qualities.

In this instance, as much as you like the items, there is good chance it'll sit there and the seller will become more and more frustrated with low ball offers while thinking they're sitting on an absolute goldmine (when they're probably not) and eventually realise they're not going to get $3000 a machine.  I'd give it a few days and try again, with empathy, and if you get the same response again it'll probably sit there forever.  The more you push with explanations of prices, trying to "teach" them something, the less of a good deal you get.

 

erichelgeson

Well-known member
Anyone else encounter someone like this
Not exactly like this - but I was told a broken SE/30 had "$250 worth of gold in it if he recycled it" - so it's an oddly common idea people have.

I guess just keep cool - she's going through a tough time/loss in her life and seems to feel like people are out to get her. (which it sounds like you're doing). EDIT: it sound like you're keeping your cool, not out to get her! wording!)

I wondered what someone would do with my stash once I'm gone - hopefully my kids each take a few to play some games on, but the nostalgia train will be gone.

 
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Unknown_K

Well-known member
Lets assume you are correct that the lot would sell for $30K on ebay. 

For that to happen you need to clean, test, repair, install an OS, replace missing or broken items (HDs, floppy drives, etc), take pictures and store then ship it all.

All of that takes lots of time and money even before you pay ebay and paypal fees and nobody stiffs you in the process.

Anybody who flips for a living pays pennies on the dollar because of the risks involved and you are buying unknown condition goods in bulk.

As you said collectors have snagged all the good stuff. Tell the old lady your offer is $4K or she can pay somebody to scrap it later.

 

MrFahrenheit

Well-known member
Not exactly like this - but I was told a broken SE/30 had "$250 worth of gold in it if he recycled it" - so it's an oddly common idea people have.

I guess just keep cool - she's going through a tough time/loss in her life and seems to feel like people are out to get her. (which it sounds like you're doing). EDIT: it sound like you're keeping your cool, not out to get her! wording!)

I wondered what someone would do with my stash once I'm gone - hopefully my kids each take a few to play some games on, but the nostalgia train will be gone.
I used to do the gold refining accounting for the business I worked for, back 10 years ago.  I remember an elderly gentleman came in and wanted a million dollars.  He was serious.  He had a big 20 gallon pail full of 'gold'.  We weighed it, and it was very heavy, like 50 lbs or something (can't remember).  Asked where he got it, and why he thought it was gold.  He said he used to hoard electronics and computers, and then he found out there was gold inside, so he had spent the prior like 5+ years sitting in his garage getting every 'gold' piece he could out of all of them.  Okay.

We sent the lot off to be refined, and we told him we would pay him based upon the result of the refine.  We get a phone call a week later from the refinery.  "What the HE77 did you send us to melt??  It messed up our furnace, we're billing you $3000 for cleanup, and you can have this crap back".  They shipped the 'gold bar' back to us.  It was a massive melted bar of lead, copper, tin, etc.  No gold.

The man was devastated.  He had saved this stuff up for years hoping to live off of it, and then leave the windfall to his children.  And...  he wrecked many hundreds, if not a thousand computers to boot.

Over the years after, we had a lot of people bring in bags of clippings and such that they claimed came from computers, and were solid gold.  A simple demonstration of placing it inside a glass with 90% nitric acid proved otherwise.

I don't know where the notion has come from that the 'gold colored' bits in a computer are actually pure solid gold.  It's a myth.  Manufacturers used copper, and gold-plated pieces, but never solid gold.  At least that's been my experience.

 

Byrd

Well-known member
Kind of similar story to share.

I recall buying half a dozen compact Macs a few years ago, sold as "Mac toasters" on eBay (for some inexplicable reason assume an After Dark reference?).  I turned up first to a rural address, and the seller also had several other Apple and non-Apple computers that had been stored in shipping containers, very poorly, for years (think half open containers and lean tos in cold and hot Australian environments).  There was no chance anything would work without very careful checking.  When I arrived, old mate pointed out the Macs then told me "the other guy buying one said he'll have all your keyboards".  I explained these were required for each machine, and as I was paying the most and was first in line, surely they would be included.  To him this was scrap, but the crusty old codger then got all offended and no matter what else I said, he was done and I was pissed off.  By then the relationship had soured considerably, and I told him to shove it.  I contend some mental health concerns were present here noting the extent of hoarding and difficult behaviour encountered.

Contrast this to other collections I've come across (Apple or otherwise) I've offered to paid cash even when free knowing there is high retail value in what I'm receiving.  This in turn has encouraged more of the collection being revealed ... and second or third trips back, again with me paying cash and the seller knowing it's going to a good home, not an eBay store. 

JB

 
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MrFahrenheit

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Lets assume you are correct that the lot would sell for $30K on ebay. 

For that to happen you need to clean, test, repair, install an OS, replace missing or broken items (HDs, floppy drives, etc), take pictures and store then ship it all.

All of that takes lots of time and money even before you pay ebay and paypal fees and nobody stiffs you in the process.

Anybody who flips for a living pays pennies on the dollar because of the risks involved and you are buying unknown condition goods in bulk.

As you said collectors have snagged all the good stuff. Tell the old lady your offer is $4K or she can pay somebody to scrap it later.
I totally get it.  That's why I'm offering an amount lower.  My rule of thumb is maximum 40% what the trend shows it can sell for.  No more.

In 2012 I was heavily into LEGO.  I was introduced to a local collector who wanted to sell a couple of pieces.  I bought.  Then he thought I might be interested in the entire lot.  Okay, I'll bite.  I got the list from him, and ran it through a computer system I wrote, and came up with an eBay average low value for each item (as in, on average, I would be pretty much guaranteed that value) and offered 40% of that.  He was almost offended.  He wanted full eBay price.

I explained that this was business, and I wasn't keeping it all.  In fact, I was only keeping 10% and selling on the rest.  He then tells me he was going to sell it all himself.  A few days go by.  Then he asks if I'm still interested.  At this point I explained that the reason I offered 40% is because eBay fees and PayPal are 10%.  Listing and packing and shipping is worth about 10%.  That's now 80%.  I split the amount 50/50 to be 40%.  I was accounting for anything wrong with the lot.  He mulled it, and a few days later, I owned 300+ LEGO sets.  This was a $15k deal.

One-shot lots are worth a lot less to a seller than one at a time.  I always wish someone luck with the effort of selling it all one-by-one when I'm done with deals like this, and they don't turn out.  I've just never negotiated like this with computers.  The 'there's gold in there' part really got to me.  And the 'you can turn it into an iPad holder worth $2200'.  

 

MrFahrenheit

Well-known member
Kind of similar story to share.

I recall buying half a dozen compact Macs a few years ago, sold as "Mac toasters" on eBay (for some inexplicable reason assume an After Dark reference?).  I turned up first to a rural address, and the seller also had several other Apple and non-Apple computers that had been stored in shipping containers, poorly for years.  There was no chance anything would work without very careful checking.  When I arrived, old mate pointed out the Macs then told me "the other guy buying one said he'll have all your keyboards".  I explained these were required for each machine, and as I was paying the most and was first in line, surely they would be included.  To him this was scrap, but the crusty old codger then got all offended and no matter what else I said, he was done and I was pissed off.  By then the relationship had soured considerably, and I told him to shove it.  I contend some mental health concerns were present here noting the extent of hoarding and difficult behaviour encountered.

Contrast this to other collections I've come across (Apple or otherwise) I've offered to paid cash even when free knowing there is high retail value in what I'm receiving.  This in turn has encouraged more of the collection being revealed ... and second or third trips back, again with me paying cash and the seller knowing it's going to a good home, not an eBay store. 

JB
I showed up to a meeting with her today with $12k cash in my pocket.  She laughed at me.

 

MrFahrenheit

Well-known member
Well, this is probably officially done now.  She's 'offended' by my offer.  I'm not emotionally attached to this deal or the items.  I'm not wasting any more energy on this.

On this same topic, I'd love to hear any other large lot stories, and offers, and similar situations.  Just for 'coffee' discussions.

 

Byrd

Well-known member
It's a great topic - yeah if you had $12K cash (far out!) and were laughed at there and then, sadly move on - it won't sell unless some sucker comes along.  Imagine the time spent testing, repairing (hitting your head against the wall) - for what is meant to be a hobby, not a job.  I've sometimes purchased Macs knowing I will flip, but not without dozens of hours spent on each machine (the hourly rate would be shocking), then onsold to have pocket money to sink back into something else I really want to collect.  I've never met a seller like myself that gives so much of a damn, and even then I still have encountered issues with buyers that I have to give up selling for a while.

For haggling tips, I've learnt a lot watching "American Pickers"; I know some things are scripted, but their approach to making deals and dealing with human behaviour is really fascinating.  Of course with lots of practice and doing it daily you'd get really good at making deals, knowing where and when to bite, etc.  I suppose for many of use a big lot only comes up once or twice per decade so you can get rusty on your technique pretty quickly. 

 
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MrFahrenheit

Well-known member
When covid was starting I withdrew money from the bank as a safety blanket. I’ve been meaning to put it back ...

 

joshc

Well-known member
Walk away. She will be in touch again after the collection has been sitting there for months unsold.

I would also be very careful paying out that kind of money for a collection unless I saw everything in person and opened up every machine - how do you know half of them are not PRAM battery disasters or have other major problems?

 

MrFahrenheit

Well-known member
Walk away. She will be in touch again after the collection has been sitting there for months unsold.

I would also be very careful paying out that kind of money for a collection unless I saw everything in person and opened up every machine - how do you know half of them are not PRAM battery disasters or have other major problems?
I have decided to do just that. It’s not worth it. I’m not so passionately involved that I will pursue this.  I was seeing them personally but no real opportunity to open or test anything. So basically buy it all as non working parts only. Not for me. 

 

Daniël

Well-known member
Is this in Canada? Because I've heard elsewhere about a garage sale loaded with Macs, with the guy getting a $20 LC575 there, because the seller thought it was just a broken monitor. He did mention the rest of the prices were "eBay motivated". Would seem very coincidental if not.

 

Byrd

Well-known member
This is wild. She will perhaps in time regret turning down this easy one-shot cash sale. 


Yeah, ETA call in four weeks "OK I'll take the $12K cash and I'm doing you a favour there are kilos of gold in them thar hills" ... then you offer $3K.  I'm betting the machines are bone stock with little surprises, apart from dust, leaky batteries and caps. 

 

MrFahrenheit

Well-known member
Is this in Canada? Because I've heard elsewhere about a garage sale loaded with Macs, with the guy getting a $20 LC575 there, because the seller thought it was just a broken monitor. He did mention the rest of the prices were "eBay motivated". Would seem very coincidental if not.
It is the same one, yes. 

 

MrFahrenheit

Well-known member
Yeah, ETA call in four weeks "OK I'll take the $12K cash and I'm doing you a favour there are kilos of gold in them thar hills" ... then you offer $3K.  I'm betting the machines are bone stock with little surprises, apart from dust, leaky batteries and caps. 
The man who passed away was a highly intelligent hoarder. He had all kinds of stuff in very large quantities. One discovery to add, so far from those who did buy machines at the “sale”, all but one would not boot. The ones a friend of mine bought all were missing RAM. 

When I went yesterday for one last try at negotiating I noticed that Macs with a CPU slot were missing their CPU. I’m going to guess the guy took everything out of all of the machines before storing them. Who knows if there are boxes with working parts somewhere. 
 

Someone else bought a bunch of software, and paid quite a bit. When they got home discovered all of the boxes missing disks. 
 

Another person I have been talking to bought a few Apple II monitors. Only 1/2 of them worked. 
 

So it was definitely good to err on the side of caution with this lot. 
 

I’m all for being a hobbiest, collecting, repairing either for fun or for resale and profit, and the potential to make

money on a deal (which I’ve done a couple times in the past with other hobbies), but at some point you just have to separate yourself from your emotions and let a deal go. 
 

When you’re going to have to spend $300/month on a storage unit for an acquisition, and it’s a 1-2 year project, you can’t just jump in being emotionally attached. Especially when it involves a layout of $10k or more up front. I’m not rich. 
 

Additionally, there’s the exchange rate that you have to consider. I would be paying in Canadian dollars but sales on eBay are essentially pegged to USD. Trends on collectibles could remain the same but if the dollar dropped in value 20% that’s a loss of 20% without even doing anything. 
 

Conversely it could go the other way. It’s a gamble. I won with LEGO that way, having bought almost $5k in 2010 when exchange rate was almost par or better than par, and selling when it was 1.45, netting the rise in price in addition to the exchange rate. On some that I bought for $75, I ended up selling for $750. One I bought for $150 sold for $2000. That was an investment that worked. 

 
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