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Side of Ranch

Don't be a knucklehead. Take an eBay class at the Braden River Library.

Mike Ivankovich, an eBay guru, offers free seminar about how to buy and sell online.

Braden River Library is one of seven locations in the Manatee County Public Library System.
Braden River Library is one of seven locations in the Manatee County Public Library System.
Photo by Liz Ramos
  • East County
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A couple of decades ago, I had a used tool store in Concord, California, which was a side business to earn a few bucks to go with my sportswriter's salary.

It was a fun job, too, except for those 5 a.m. wakeup calls so I could be first at an area garage sale that promised to have "old tools" in its newspaper classified ad.

One morning, I grabbed my teenaged son, Billy, and headed out the door because I noted the advertised sale included "old hand planes." Those are tools that trim and smooth wooden surfaces.

Unfortunately, those planes rarely were identified in the garage sale ads, and since today's hand planes look similar to those made 150 years ago, you didn't know if you were wasting your time. Unfortunately, anyone who wanted to "turn over" such tools for a profit on eBay, had to show up because ... well ... you never know.

Call it a business, or a hobby, success often aligns with the early-bird-gets-the-worm principle.

Billy and I drove up to a home in the dark, and positioned ourselves at the front right of the closed garage door. The homeowner came out in a bathrobe and told us that he wasn't opening the door early, so we could have a long wait before the 8 a.m. opening. Billy and I chatted over the course of an hour, as potential customers lined up behind us down the driveway and into the street.

You have to understand that regular garage sale shoppers have a code, where you respect the people who arrived before you. Not to abide by such a code causes chaos, and prompts the rest of the regular shoppers to plot against the offender at future sales. Once the regulars know an offender's interests, everyone can work together to grab such items, even if they aren't interested in them, and hold them for a nicer person.

Other strategies would exist, too. Ever been caught behind the limping, old ladies brigade?

On this particular day, no one was going to pay attention to any code. When the homeowner came out to open the door, several knuckleheads from the street rushed up to the front left side of the garage door. Billy and I held firm on the right. The door was lifted, and egads, the garage was packed tight except for an opening aisle way to the left. We were on the wrong side.

I peered inside the garage, and there on the right side were the hand planes, so close, but with no entry on that side.

Mr. Knucklehead scanned the contents and raced down the aisle on the left, then down the corridor at the back of the garage, before turning down the aisle on our side, and coming back toward us. This senior wasn't sprinting, but he was at Mach speed for a 60-something.

I gave Billy a smile and a nod, and I leaned my body onto a table, stretching my arms as far as they possibly could go. Mr. Knucklehead saw what was happening, and his eyes grew large. Noooooo!

The very end of my fingertips pulled the four hand planes toward me, and I grasped them, pulling them to safety. Fortunately, Mr. Knucklehead wasn't armed, or surely he would have shot me. Some very nice early 1900s planes, and I was going to make a nice profit.

I soured, though, on this ritual, and left the garage sale, auction, estate sale shopping to others. I still love finding Goodwill bargains, but only for my own use, because I don't want to deal with selling things on eBay. I know I couldn't possibly figure it out.

Or could I? Now I know about Mike and Sue Ivankovich.

If you aren't in the resale business, the couple are eBay gurus, who often travel the country making presentations about how to sell and buy on eBay. They will be offering a free seminar 1-3 p.m. Feb. 17 at the Braden River Library in an event sponsored by the Friends of the Braden River Library.

Now that we have our Lakewood Ranch Library open, we shouldn't forget that the Braden River Library isn't very far away, and the staff there is welcoming. Plus they have many interesting programs.

The Ivankovich couple is from Doylestown, Pennsylvania and they both have been involved in the market for decades.

"With the advent of COVID, libraries stopped having in-person programming," Mike Ivankovich said. "We took it to Zoom. In 2022, we gave more than 600 programs on Zoom that (were focused) on 29 states. And now the in-person programming is coming back, too."

This will be the couple's 15th presentation in the region, but not all were in consecutive years. This will be their third stop at the Braden River Library.

"Our specialty is antique appraisals and we mostly deal with older people, some who are downsizing," Mike Ivankovich said. "But we do get kids, who often know how to use eBay better than the older folks."

At the Braden River Library, they will teach those new to eBay how to sell or buy on the site.

"It's eBay 101, the business of buying and selling," Mike Ivankovich said. "We help with things such as how you register for an account. We help with how to sell, and how to shop. What are the bidders looking for? What works, and what doesn't? All the pros and cons.

"You don't want to sell a bicycle there, because you are not going to want to ship it."

The topics get more advanced depending on what the audience wants.

Those who want a taste of their expertise can go to on Fridays from 9:30-10:30 a.m. for the What's It Worth show. The show, based in Philadelphia, celebrates its 10th anniversary in July. 

But when it comes to finding bargains, Mike Ivankovich likes a big score just like the rest of us. He talks about finding Elvis Presley photos three years ago in a Lambertville, New Jersey flea market. The photos were from an early concert in Tupelo, Mississippi that Elvis had taken with his parents. He paid $20 for the photos and put them up on eBay. Of course, eBay reaches millions all over the world, and he found a buyer in Sweden who paid him $1,200 for the set.

He didn't even have to outrun Mr. Knucklehead.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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