In a worldwide marketplace, one man finds a way to sell his trash to others who will treasure it.
At some point between that first gray hair and the first letter from AARP, you realize that many of your belongings have evolved into collectibles. Sound farfetched? Put an old turntable for sale online, slap the word "vintage" in the title and see what happens.
Until last month, these "collectibles" were collecting dust in my basement:
A pair of 31-year-old Cooper goalie leg pads, used hard for four years in the late '70s.
Two fiberglass goalie masks, which I made in 1982 after my professionally crafted model took one too many shots.
A six-year-old box of Moss' Magic Crunch cereal, won in a radio contest and autographed by Randy Moss.
What to do with this stuff? The hockey masks had a rough, amateurish feel -- and were custom-fitted to my face. The leather goalie pads, while in good condition, would get laughed off the ice today. Play It Again Sports wouldn't take them. Nor would Goodwill. They have that hockey smell.
All but Moss seemed destined for the trash. But ... what about eBay? My account with the online auction house had been largely dormant since 2000, when I dumped dozens of my daughter's stuffed animals in the Great Beanie Baby Panic.
I logged in, checked the completed auctions and found an unexpected interest in my kind of junk. So I posted each item for sale, along with photos and descriptions fully disclosing their ages and flaws. And then I sat back and watched. Or obsessed, some might say. (OK, they did say.)
At home, at work, at other people's houses, wherever there was a computer, I was checking my auctions. The seven-day auctions started slowly. The masks and Moss box drew $10 bids. The leg pads started at $5, then went to $25. Days passed with no activity. In the final hours, I found myself adjusting my schedule to be close to a computer. The bidding -- and the prices -- heated up. And then, suddenly, it was over.
The leg pads went to Pierre Girard of Granby, Quebec, for $92. One mask sold for $82; the other for an astounding $150, both going to a Massachusetts collector. That's $324 for junk I was going to throw away.
The cereal box? It fetched $20.50 from a Moss fan in New Jersey. He still hasn't left me feedback, positive or negative. Like Randy, I guess he'll play when he wants to play.
Pierre was more old school. He sent me this giddy, touching note moments after the Cooper auction closed:
"Yes! Yes! Yes, I got them. Wow. Am I ever happy. You know, Ben, I am 61 years of age. When I was young, I wanted pads like these and my parents couldn't afford it. I was not a good goalie. So I forgot all about it. And now, being nostalgic of the good old days, I decided that I would fulfill that dream. So I waited and waited, lost a couple of well kept-pads [in eBay auctions] and I decided this time, I will give a decent fight to get them and now, I am a proud owner."
Lucky Pierre! And lucky me: Flush with more than $300, I'm cruising eBay for new hockey gear.
Ben Welter 612-673-7187