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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Featured EBUG Member - DJ of Keen Eye Finds

This week, we're getting to know DJ a little better! DJ sells on both eBay and Bonanza. He posts on eBay Underground as = Dj PHX = (or some form of that, depending on the day - lol)

I was born in Los Angeles, California in the early sixties. My parents were hip and eccentric in the way they were ambitious, Navy, rockin the 50’s SoCal innovative mayhem. They threw big parties, enjoyed the cocktail era, loved all types of music and foreign foods, embraced Hawaiiana and Mexicana and incorporated it into their lives, influencing their kids along the way. My mother sewed her own clothes (and many of her 4 kids) while my dad was a officer in the Navy and worked for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) in North Hollywood.

By the time I was 6, we moved to the most beautiful place a kid could be, Lake Tahoe, Nevada. My father was the general manager and vice president of the Ponderosa Ranch Home of Bonanza tourist attraction and amusement park over looking Crystal Bay.

From there, we moved to Tucson and I’ve lived in every major city in Arizona since 1974. Since 1994, I’ve been living in Scottsdale and Phoenix, land of sun and citrus. In 2000, I met Avril, the woman of my dreams, who was from Dublin, Ireland.

I’m tour director by trade and take groups or private parties on excursions all over the US and countries worldwide. No place too far! Oh, the stories I could tell.

Recently I’ve begun to practice writing, building a style. Hopefully my two main experiences will come together in a blog near you. One will be based on Dewey Tours and the other will rally around Keen Eye Finds.

How long have you been selling on eBay?

I’ll soon be celebrating my tenth year on eBay with more than 2000 transactions. I began selling auctions on eBay since 2002. From 2008-10, sales were so slow, I had to retreat waiting for the market to turn. Sadly in my case, it never did. In July of last year, I began to retool and change my thinking. Particularly after joining eBay Underground in the summer of 2011.

Why did you start?

I love to sell creatively. I took to selling on eBay like a duck to water. It felt natural to research, describe items, take photos and build creative listings. 

We have always had ‘stuff’ and things lying around “because someday it’s going to be worth a fortune!” mentality. My uncle was a born opportunist. In the early 60’s, he took over a surfboard shop and learned the fast growing industry and was already part of the culture. When the shop folded, the popular items of the day were decals and magazines. One day, a box of mint condition surfing magazines that sat in my grandmother’s garage for 20+ years was handed to me, which in turn, sat in my garage for another 15 years. Late to the eBay phenomenon party, I finally dove in 2002. Much to my surprise, I hit the market with perfect timing and sold most of those magazines and decals for more than $4000. I went on to sell vintage Playboy Magazines (complete sets, 1954-59) and many, many other items.

Do you remember the first item you sold?

A pristine 1960’s Southern California Surfing Magazine. The biggest sale ever made was three very rare surfer magazines for more than $1100 (that market is nothing like that now!).

What keeps you going during slow sale periods?

Until recently, I could duck out during the slow times, but now that I’m selling full time, it gives me great frustration when there are down times. But slow times allow for creativity and ingenuity.
One thing to do is look at items that have been sitting around and try to refresh its image and get them listed.

Sometimes, I’ll go back through all the nice comments in my feedback. A pat on the back goes a long way.

Tell us about your favorite buyer.

A surfboard shop owner was the winner of 20-30 auctions of much of my unusual collection of pristine surfing memorabilia. I never knew how he had so much money. Out of all those checks he sent, not one ever bounced.

I’ve had so many grateful buyers. But one other stands out who also purchased a surfing magazine. When it arrived, his kid’s friend grabbed it in awe, and tore the cover clean off! Mortified, he was so disappointed it happened. I heard wind of what happened and shipped out another copy (it was one I had 6 copies of) no charge and then he was REALLY flummoxed. Happy, but flummoxed. It was his heartfelt thanks that made my day. That magazine is still untouched, protected in Mylar, with an acid free sleeve backing it up, proudly displayed to this day, way out of reach of…

Tell us about your worst nightmare buyer & how you handled it.

Every problem I’ve had with a buyer was created one way or another by me. Only two negatives in 1000 trades and (I think it’s the way I package things). I think the key to great customer service is anticipating their needs, long before they need it.

The worst thing that happened was when I shipped two packages to the wrong buyers. It all worked out, but I paid for that experience in the end.

What was your best sale?

Recently, I bought a box on a fancy thrift store table for a dollar. As a former user of such an item, I didn’t think anything of it. The box sat on the shelf in the garage for a good 4 months. After awhile, I researched what I had and couldn’t believe my eyes. The numbers were astounding. I looked through the box and saw there were two items instead of one. I cleaned everything up and put the two on separate auctions. The first item, a tiny SVEA backpack stove soared to $148 and the separate pump sold for $129. I was SO excited. That my friends, was a homerun, woohoo or whatever you want to call it!

A few years ago, my wife’s business associate took us out to dinner. They talked shop (real estate), and after a while, the guy told us he was an Elton John fan since 14 years old and was a collector. He had been collecting fan items for more than 35 years. His goal was to collect ‘one of each’. Fascinated, asking just how much was he talking about, he said, two storage lockers full, 10x10 ft times two. As we parted ways that night, I let him know if he was ever in the need to part with the stuff, I was the guy.
A year later, he decided to let go of everything. Short story long, I sold off the inventory for more than $11,000. It was hard work; items were shipped all over the world. You can’t imagine how much memorabilia there was. I know a lot, maybe too much about Elton John now. The experience was like working in Rock n Roll. Elton has a lot of fans, particularly overseas.

What purchase for resale did you buy that turned out to be a big mistake?

Toys at 75% off. But what I found out, they get popular again about two years later, after the hype is long gone.

Do you have a niche? What is it and why?

I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting items that sell. Often times I buy on instinct or use my smart phone to work a hunch.

I have done well with massive private collections and advertise on outlets such as ebay trading assistant.

I may not know much about the items in the beginning, but love learning all the nuances, facets and quirks about new things.

As for a single niche, it still eludes me, but I have ramped up men’s & women’s shoes, collectibles

What is your favorite thing to watch for when you’re out thrifting?

I just have a keen eye. I feel like the owl or the eagle after prey. So many things jump out at me. On the other hand, what about all those things I PASSED BY that I wasn’t aware of? ACK!

Tell us one thing you have learned on eBay Underground.

Selling shoes. Selling, yes, but finding, identifying, cleaning, refurbishing, polishing, and then marketing the shoes. It’s a whole new skill set. And, all the effort really does pay off (I have Jessica to thank for that!).

Anything else you’d like to comment on?

Ebug, as we affectionately call our forum, is not for everyone. Its hardcore truth about a full time job selling on the internet.

I am grateful for being a student and commentator on eBay Underground. It's easy to admit, for the past three years, I was in denial about static ‘Buy It Now’s selling over auction format. Once I joined eBug in July, 2011, it took a little prodding, research and REALIZATION that my path on internet commerce needed a makeover … and fast! Through nurturing and being a nurturer, a balance starts to take place. The buzz on the forum is infectious.

Some people realize its harder work than they thought. Others find excitement in learning or sharing and teaching. It’s a remarkable place in time to be a part of it all.

Buying low and selling high is just a small part of selling on the internet. There’s marketing, advertising, style, photography, procurement, master shopping, product enhancement, pricing, copywriting, customer service, learning, accuracy, clarity, research, antiquing, public relations, teaching, education, new skills, reviving old skills, reading, shipping & handling, selling, effort, SEO, sacrifice, markdowns, clearance, internet commerce savvy, communication skills and … a keen eye for detail just to name a few. Some might compare it to running a ROSS store, but I think of it more like a unique a store as Neiman’s Mark-ups!

I love it!

What are you working on now?

I’m excited about listing some of my items I’ve held away from the public eye for awhile. Hopefully I’ll hit the market just right. So, now I’m off to list, List, LIST! as we say on ebay Underground.

Thank you for having me Jessica, you ROCK!

Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your life, DJ! 

Please be sure to stop by DJ's eBay and Bonanza stores and check out his Keen Eye Finds!

And check here for Tour Director Inquiries!


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this member feature, very interesting.
    DJ~Kudos to you for building such eclectic educational and real-life experiences.
    QUESTION: How do you handle the store when you are away on an extended sight seeing tour?
    I too was resistant to buy it now, even as a new ebay seller. But this blog helped me see the light!

  2. Rachael - I wondered the same thing! I'll forward your question to DJ and see if he'll fill us in :)

  3. This was great DJ. I always wondered who the man behind the great advice was. :)

  4. Rachael, thank you for the compliments!

    Thankfully, if there is an extended absence, there is vacation mode where I hide all my items in the store. About five days before I get back, I open it back up again, always writing to the buyer letting them know about a short delay getting the item to them. A lot of my work is short term.

  5. DJ PHX, Chelsea here from Kiss My Brass on EBUG! Now I know who to look for when purusing the thrift stores when I make the trip up to Phoenix from Tucson! Your story is very interesting, you sound like you are very successful with selling!

  6. Hi Chelsea KMBrass,

    Yep, always looking for the next homerun, or house full of stuff!


  7. I am a big fan of your writing style Dewey!

    :) Sunny

  8. I'm impressed by your professionalism, style, attention to detail and your willingness to learn, adapt and change. Great interview, DJ!

  9. I really enjoyed getting to know DJ; such a warm and caring feller. I hope you soon find your next big house full of stuff! and that you continue to follow your writing dream as well.