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Cash in on your spring cleaning

Marketplace Staff Apr 13, 2007

Cash in on your spring cleaning

Marketplace Staff Apr 13, 2007

This is Marketplace Money from American Public Media. I’m Tess Vigeland.

It’s springtime.
The perfect opportunity to rid the world — or at least your house — of dust bunnies, and old newspapers, and shoes you haven’t worn for the last five years.
But before you take out the trash, ask yourself: Could I make money on this pile of junk? Sally Herships tried.

SALLY HERSHIPS: My friend Andrea came over a couple weekends ago and Vastu-d my apartment. That’s like a Hindu version of Feng-shui. We reorganized, and I ended up with a huge pile of junk in the middle of my living room floor. Books, cds, clothes, even old baseball cards.

I thought about donating to charity or selling on eBay. But before I packed everything up I wanted to know: which would be better for my bank account?

So I went to talk to Eveyln Capassakis, a tax adviser at Price Waterhouse Coopers in New York.


EVELYN CAPASSAKIS: You must be Sally

HERSHIPS: Hi, nice to meet you.

CAPASSAKIS: Nice to meet you.

She said the decision really depends on your tax situation. If you’re someone like me — a poor independent radio producer who itemizes their tax deductions — then it can be financially savvy to donate to charity.

CAPASSAKIS: If you’re a freelancer or your
other deductions go above this 5,000 and change limit, then you would benefit from a tax perspective by taking a deduction.

But before I donated, deducted or itemized anything, I asked Evelyn about a strange new law I’d heard of — something to do with socks and underwear.

HERSHIPS: What is this about socks and underwear?

CAPASSAKIS: Well last summer, Congress passed a law requiring that goods that you give to charity be in “good used condition.” They wrote in little provision that said that this is to prevent people doing what was thought to be relatively rampant, which was giving away socks and underwear in not-usable condition.

The new law says you have to get a receipt — no matter how small your donation.

Seemed like a lot of work, so I asked Evelyn what she would do if she were in my shoes . . . in my living room . . . next to my giant pile of junk.

CAPASSAKIS: If I can get money for it, I will get money for it — as opposed to trying to take a deduction for it. Because taking a deduction for it has all those built in hassles. So if I thought I could sell this whole lot of stuff, I mean I would sell it, if I thought I could.

So I decided to try. I cleared off a shelf of my old high school books and listed them for sale on half.com: Anna Karenina, The Great Gatsby, and of course the classic “Buns of Steel: Total Body Workout.”

HERSHIPS: That is the sound of sleet and rainy snow hitting the air conditioner outside my window. It’s really nasty out and I don’t want to go outside, but I have to because I’ve sold this book online.

The books I listed sold — a whole bunch of them, but at prices like 75 cents each, it just didn’t seem worth the repeat trips to the post office.

I decided it was time to get serious. I broke out my collection of baseball cards, which I’d purchased at a 1980s-era yard sale for $4. I planned to bring them to one of those stores that sell things on eBay for you. I’d save time, make money and stay warm!

HERSHIPS: How do you feel about baseball cards?

JOE ARLIA: Baseball cards, in general, do well, but specifically rookie cards. And, uh, also if it’s graded . . .

That’s Joe Arlia, he’s a co-owner of “I Sold It,” part of a franchise that sells your stuff on eBay for you. I asked him how it works.

ARLIA: The main criterias are as long as the item sells on Ebay for a minimum of $50 or more, we would gladly accept the item. The only exceptions that we normally don’t handle would be clothing or furniture. When it comes to clothing, it would have to be extremely higher end designer with the new with tags. . .

That ruled out a lot of the stuff I want to sell. Plus, the store takes a 30 percent commission on the first 500 bucks. Ouch! But, I didn’t want to have to go back to the post office.

HERSHIPS: We’ve got two George Brett rookie cards

ARLIA: We’ve also have Ozzie Smith, this may be his rookie card as well. This Nolan Ryan card. You have Dave Winfield’s card here – another Dave Winfield. . .

Turns out some of my old junk may be worth something.

HERSHIPS: Did you just say the few hundred dollar range?

ARLIA: Yes, I would say – on average, conservatively, about 5 to $600, if it was graded.

HERSHIPS: Wow, sign me up

My George Brett rookie card only sold for $13.50. Turns out I didn’t take very good care of it. But that’s still a profit of two hundred percent. If there’s money out there then I want it. If I sell my stuff I can write a check to charity and I don’t have to worry about getting a receipt. So in this case, it does seem like one person’s trash, at least the pile in my living room, is someone else’s treasure.

For Marketplace Money, I’m Sally Herships.

The changes in the law from last year also apply to another common charitable gift: used cars. If you turn over your keys to a charity be sure to get a receipt from the organization with the price they sold it for.

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