Who would have thought there was money to made buying somebody else’s old photos and postcards??
For the past 17 years I’ve done just that and have only scratched the surface of an ever growing collectible trend.
18 years ago bored to tears working shift work, punching in and punching out with the masses, I wanted to break free, before my mind became numb, thinking that 9 to 5, or 7 to 4, was ‘normal’ and expected. I wanted to choose my own hours, make what I needed and then stop and enjoy life for a while, work a little play a little, not work my guts out, wait eagerly for my retirement at 60, only to die a back ridden arthritic on a cruise I wish I took 30 years before!
I enjoyed people, I liked hearing their stories and adventures, it was easy to listen because so many people found it easy to talk. Along with their memories came photos, postcards, tickets and letters, all of which, to my amazement actually had a commercial value. It was hard to imagine that somebody actually wanted to buy somebody else’s old black and white postcard of the Sydney Harbour Bridge back in 1932 (when it officially opened), or a snapshot of someone’s Dad with his brand new FJ Holden down at Bell’s Beach in 1956, a small photo of The Royal Show in ’65, and what amazed me even more is that people were throwing these things out, the next generation of the family weren’t interested, if it didn’t have a name or writing on the back….chuck it! You see the people who were buying, weren’t always buying a photo, they were buying an experience, or should I say re-capturing a lost memory.
So I started to go around the neighbourhoods offering cash for unwanted photos and extras. Cold call door knocking. It was actually exciting, and surprisingly easy. People found it a welcome change that someone came to their door, not to sell, but to buy!! Sure, in the beginning, I didn’t have a clear cut idea of what to pay, as I didn’t know what things would sell for. I made sure I sought out a few collectors that wanted specific things, I read books (the internet wasn’t an option back then), sought out postcard clubs, and even spoke to stamp collectors and used various ads. It was a thrill to buy full albums of photos and postcards and find just the right buyer who found the contents like cool water on a scorching day. To take the memories from one person who had no further use for them and transfer them to a person whose face lit up like a kid finding a lost toy was actually very satisfying, and I was being paid for it!!
So naturally the next step was to quit my ‘real’ job and do this instead….how do you tell your wife and Bank Manager this without looking like you’re nuts?? You don’t. You get up really early like you’re going to ‘work’, you take a couple of hundred dollars in cash and go to a nice flat suburb with lots of trees. You talk to people you’ve never met before, they invite you in and you a have a coffee, white with three sugars while you look through Aunt Ethel’s old ‘snaps’ album of her trip to Tasmania back in 1940. There are a couple of postcards in there from WW1 that her Uncle gave her, there is even a photo of Don Bradman (who knows where that came from?). In the same box, there is a random collection of cigarette cards and a Ticket to see Dame Nellie Melba. “Nobody will want this, we were going to bin it”, a common statement that fills my little heart with joy. You tentatively hand over $120 dollars (now you do feel like you’re nuts) and proceed to 2 collectors that you pray are either filled with the same enthusiasm as you, or drunk and vulnerable (most dealers are the latter)!!
After an hour of run around, a spot of show and tell boosted by the supporting stories you’ve just been told, and another coffee with a cheap biscuit (shop’s supply), the initial ‘investment’ of $120 dollars has magically turned into $395 dollars. That’s $275 Dollars! It’s 1994!! It’s only 1:30 in the afternoon!!!
You invest 5 more dollars on a good bunch of flowers, rock home at 2 pm and tell your wife… Honey I’m Home!!
P.S. Just in case you meet her, the story goes, I only made $220 that day, OK?