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Get Rich Quick!

[whitespace] How I made my fortune on the Internet. No, really! Well, sorta ...

By Mariane Matera

MY INTERNET FORTUNE is slowly approaching about $50 right now. I am puzzled by this low sum because I keep reading about people making money on the Internet, specifically at auctions. In the last week, I've seen two news segments on people who quit their day jobs and now support themselves from home, selling stuff on the Internet.

One woman was on welfare and about to be kicked off. In desperation, she bought a bunch of little sewing kits, sold them all on eBay, and turned a profit. So she bought some more. Now that's her job. She stays home all day and sells stuff on eBay.

Another couple closed their art store and now sell their framed paintings, the kind of stuff you see in motel rooms, on eBay from home and do even better. Instead of just being limited to people walking by their store for a customer base, they have the entire world.

I started thinking about what I could sell on eBay to make my fortune. I went scrolling through the sales to see what was hot.

There are many people selling, many of them dealers unloading mass quantities. There are more people selling than bidding, because much of the flotsam and jetsam pumping through eBay goes into the final hours of bidding without an offer. And you still owe eBay a posting fee even if your item doesn't sell.

I started small on a smaller auction site, AuctionMac, just for MacIntosh people, whom I consider a superior genetic breed compared to the Microsucks and less likely to cheat you. I unloaded a half dozen games and programs I no longer used, but for a pittance. Mac people, as I could have guessed, are too smart to pay more than a thing is worth, and there's no point buying used unless you're getting a bargain. I did decline to mail a Maniac Mansion game to a guy in Greece who bid a quarter for it. I asked him if he really wanted to pony up the postage for a quarter game and didn't hear from him again.

I also get heartwarming e-mails from a woman in Oregon who bought my Sam and Max Hit the Road game for her two little boys. I could never get Sam and Max out of their living room and I have a college degree. Her toddlers, she tells me, not only got them out, they've driven all around the United States with Sam and Max at the wheel. Babies are smart.

My first Internet fortune made, I blew it all on a Microsoft FrontPage program that was being advertised "new in the box." I paid $50 for it. It sells on the shelf for $139. If it actually comes, that'll be a deal. I didn't need it or particularly want it, but the price was irresistible, especially when I realized the other person bidding on it was going to get it for even less.

Now that I knew the ropes, it was time for the big time. I registered at eBay, photographed and loaded up my prized possession: a Mark Eden Bust Developer from 1967, that little pink clamshell pushing contraption they used to sell in the backs of magazines. Somehow, although I've lost nearly everything I've ever owned in the course of my life, this thing stuck with me.

No one else on eBay was selling one, and there was no category it fit. I tried several, from Weird to General: Vanity, without a single bid. My second Internet fortune was already in the minus dollars through reposting the item. Finally, when it closed again without a sale, I got an e-mail from someone in Colorado who wanted to know if I had the manual for it. I wish I did. I recall the manual featured many photos of a very lovely, busty blonde in a bikini, pushing away at this clamshell device. We made a deal anyway, and the bust developer, after 32 years of being ignored by me, was off to a new life in Boulder.

If I see it on eBay going for a fortune in the right category, which I realized too late was probably Vintage Exercise Equipment, I am going to weep.

EVEN MY LIMITED knowledge of economics tells me if I buy something for $19.95 in 1967 dollars and sell it for $15 in 1999 dollars, my fortune is going to be a long time in the making. This is the story of my life. When I have money, I buy retail, and when I'm broke, I sell flea market.

Then I read an article about a woman buying used clothes from eBay. I had no single item of value, but I decided to try another plan. I would put all my clothes in one big box and sell the entire lot as a Box o' Clothes. I pulled seven dresses out of my closet that no longer fit, wrote out a description, and loaded it up. Within days, the bidding was up to $16.50. I ran to my closet and made up more boxes. My Wonderbra, which I never wore because it felt like a bulletproof vest, is currently going for $16.50. They sell for $24 new.

People from all over the United States write me about my clothes now. They give me categories to choose: Used, Slightly Used, Slightly Worn, Very Worn? They want me to measure waistbands and count pleats. It is all quite bizarre. Unfortunately, I've already spent this second Internet fortune on a Bruce Springsteen album that was recorded in 1971 in the Virginia Commonwealth University gym in Richmond, Va., assuming it actually exists and it comes.

Hunting for more things to sell, I found a matchbox with the wedding photograph of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor on it. It was from a restaurant in D.C. called Mrs. Simpson's. What the heck. People who collect royalty junk might actually bid on it.

They do. It's up to $3.50, with two days to go. Knowing the right category seems to be key. I sold a photo of Elton John for $6 and a Paul McCartney video for $40. People are bidding on a snake-sucking photo of Marilyn Manson, and I have that same photo! I could get in on some of that snake-sucking rock-and-roll money!

And, hey, I've got an impacted wisdom tooth that was pulled out of my head in 1975 and three of my son's baby teeth in my jewelry box.

Do you think?

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From the July 1-7, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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