The Consignment Assignment (Another Man's Treasure?)

Our first (of many? annual? and last? ) Consignment Assignment has come to an end. If you haven't read part one of our saga: Consignment Assignment (One Man's Trash), I am legally obligated to suggest you do so. If you've already met you quota for blogs read for the day, allow me to summarize:

My girlfriend and I each took five bucks and went shopping at Thiftko, a second (at least; possibly third) hand store. The goal was to use that money to find items that would sell for the highest amount on eBay. I listed them last week and seven days later, we have a winner.

Before we begin the coronation, I wanted to take a look a where the auctions stood as of Monday night; approximately one day prior to the auctions' close.

Keep in mind that my items included the Peter Pan doll and the Dragon puppet. My girlfriend's game pieces were the Native American Bear and the Electronic Keep Safe Diary.

With just under twenty-four hours left to bid, not many people had exercised that right. Only the Dragon puppet (my item) had any bids at all. Now, obviously these numbers are not what we were hoping for. We all wanted bidding wars; buyers fighting tooth and nail; taking out second mortgages on their homes to afford the Keep Safe Diary with most of Dannielle's name written on the front. But entering the final day of bidding, it looked like we would be lucky if the items sold, let alone funded a Hawaiian vacation.

All hope wasn't lost, however. Commonly the majority of bidding on eBay will take place in the last few hours (if not seconds) of an auction. Bidding ahead of time doesn't do the potential buyer any favors. Early bidding gives other perspective buyers the time to scrape together more money to trump your current bid. Because it benefits buyers so much to bid at the last possible moment, developers have created programs that allow eBay users to bid at the absolute last opportunity. This practice is known as sniping and sellers hate it. Buyers who lose out to snipers also hate it. The only way to beat an eBay sniper is to place a maximum bid higher than any sniper is willing to pay. Sellers like that.

Views represent how many times your auction has been accessed. It doesn't necessarily indicate unique hits, however, so the same person could have refreshed the Keep Safe Diary page 14 times. He sounds very indecisive. Watchers is a somewhat better indication of potential bidding. In order to watch an auction, you have to be logged into your eBay account and add the auction to your watch list. The intention is that a watcher wants to keep track of the auction to eventually bid on it, but many times people will watch an auction for an item they intend to sell themselves. I do that a lot. Sellers hate that. There really should be separate watch (with intention to bid) and watch (just looking) options.

That's enough stalling. Let's see who took home the gold.

Halloween Horror Nights - Scare Package

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
Rust covered irons and necks that have been bitten.
Halloween swag wrapped in blood covered burlap.
This is just some of my favorite crap.

Universal Orlando has received its share of fanfare in recent months surrounding the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but starting this weekend, the Boy Who Lived takes a backseat to the living dead as Halloween Horror Nights kicks off its twentieth year of fright and fun.

Now though Halloween, Universal transforms a number of its attractions into some of the most impressive haunted houses a Halloween fanatic could ever hope for. Universal employs thousands of Team Members specifically trained to scare the daylights out of anyone brave enough to set foot through the turnstiles.

The cost of admission is comparable to a day pass to the park, but Universal makes sure its guests get their money worth. "Scareactors" roam the streets, invading your personal space and sending groups running and screaming to the next haunted house.

Horror Nights is a big deal in Central Florida. Ticket stands are erected in Publix grocery stores and the local media heads to the park for live reports. In an effort to spread the word, this year Universal sent out special "scare packages" to select individuals along with an invitation to the event. The parcel arrived in this "blood" coated wooden box that opens to reveal a double-X branding iron, signifying the twentieth year of Horror Nights.

Notice the faint hand print on the fabric? Nice touch.

As I have mentioned in the past, I love free stuff. I especially love free stuff that not everyone has access to. I'm not important enough for Universal to send me free promotional items, but luckily I have a friend who is. I'm going to make that my goal; become important enough that people send me free stuff. If anyone out there needs their product reviewed, send me a sample, I'll be kind.

Hip Bones - Greatest Skeleton Action Figures of All Time (Part 1 of TBD)

I have a bad habit of waiting too long to flip the pages on my DOMO wall calendar. I missed almost all of June this year. I blame my habitual calendar tardiness mostly on apathy; I don't actually use the calendar as a calendar; I just like the big pictures of DOMO. But maybe, just maybe, there is a small part of me who is desperately trying to slow the proverbial sands of time from falling through the hourglass.

Even though October is still more than a week out, I can feel Halloween slipping away. Soon I will be lamenting that I waited too long to put together a costume and I never found anywhere to go to wear said costume. From the corner of my eye, I can see Christmas lights and tinsel encroaching on the ghosts and goblins. Hold your reindeer, Santa, you can have all of November and December to be fat and merry. Let Halloween have its time in the spotlight.

This Halloween countdown needs a shot in the arm and if there's one thing that can inspire a blog more than a countdown, it's a countdown within a countdown - all Inception style, y'all. Thus, I present the Greatest Skeleton Action Figures of All Time countdown.

I won't set any limits on this countdown. It could theoretically continue until next Halloween. Unlike Frankenstein and the Mummy, skeletons are universally accepted all year round, so why limit what will undoubtedly be the greatest countdown in the history of countdowns?

That would be a bone-headed thing to do! (Yeaaaaaaaaaah!)

Bad-to-the-Bone Ghost (The Real Ghostbusters)
When Columbia Pictures released Ghostbusters in 1984, they were sued by Filmation, the company responsible for The Ghost Busters, a paranormal detective comedy series produced in 1975. The lawsuit was settled out of court and Columbia agreed to amend the name of its animated Ghostbuters adaptation to resolve any confusion between it and Filmation's Ghost Busters. Hence The Real Ghostbusters.

Unlike Mattel's current line of movie-based Ghostbusters, Kenner wasn't afraid of no ghosts. The Real Ghostbusters line included an entire sub-set of ghosts for the heroes to tangle with. Bad-to-the-Bone Ghost, H2Ghost and Bug-Eye Ghost joined the already established Stay Puft Marhsmellow Man and Slimer in the first series of ghouls. Bad-to-the-Bone Ghost was one of my favorite figures despite the obvious handicap of not being a ghost. He was larger than the human figures, so kids could trap the Ghostbusters inside his ribcage while the tortured figure's head stuck up through Bone Ghost's skull.

The origins of the specters in the Ghostbuster universe have always remained a mystery to me. Some were clearly the remnants of the dearly departed, but others appeared as if they were never human. From the waist up, you could assume Bone Ghost was the skeletal remains of an abnormally large human, but instead of legs, Bone Ghost stood on a crescent appendage resembling a fish tale. Was Bad-to-the-Bone Ghost a mermaid or did Hasbro's design team run out of steam before they could sculpt a proper set of legs?

Halloween Blogstravaganza - Gummy Face

Gummy Faces - bouncing here and there and all over the places - high adventure that's beyond normal paces - they are the Gummy Faces.

There, now you have the Adventures of Gummi Bears theme song stuck in your head. Enjoy humming that tune for the next three days. Once it's in, you can't get it out!

Speaking of getting things out, Walmart has finally started to roll out their Halloween selection. Finally. It's almost the third week of September! Even the curmudgeons who complain about stores putting out their holiday displays earlier and earlier every year were starting to wonder what the hold up was.

Whereas Target traditionally creates a theme or a set of characters to incorporate into much of their Halloween fare, Walmart tends to go the more generic route. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. I'm not entirely thrilled with Target's little monsters motif this year, so Walmart's broader approach to the season may actually be more appealing.

Gummy candies have become huge in recent years; both in popularity and sheer size. Last year there were giant gummy frogs filled with goo that you could dissect with an included scalpel. This year there are faces. The frog was probably more appealing.

The Gummy Face is about the size of my hand; significantly smaller than a normal human face. That's a little disappointing, especially considering the Gummy Face is made up of a thin layer of gummy candy and is not an entire solid head as you might expect.

The face also looks disproving. He does not agree with the choices you have made. Maybe that's more incentive to eat him. I also would have liked it if they had drawn some eyebrows on Mr. Gummy Face. A mustache would have been great, too, but that's more of a personal preference. A gummy version of Wooly Willy with Nerds-like candy for the hair instead of magnet balls sounds like a cracker jack idea to me.

Somebody get me the number for Willy Wonka!

I didn't think to look at the nutritional information on the back of the box, but I bet the serving size is one face and really, that makes up for any of Gummy Face's downfalls.

Magic and mystery - a part of their history - along with the secret of Gummy Face juice - their legend is growing -  they take pride in knowing - they'll fight for what's right - in whatever they do!

The Consignment Assignment (One Man's Trash)

The Consignment Assignment (patent pending) is a fun game you can play at home with your friends and family. All you need is a couple bucks, a second-hand (or consignment) shop and a discerning eye for worth.

The rules are simple. First, set a predetermined allowance for your game. In my case, Thiftko was having a 50% off everything Labor Day sale, so I set our spending limit at $5, which would net us $10 worth of merchandise to play with.

Next, take your cash and spend it! You can buy as many or as few items as your budget will allow. The goal is to find items that you think are worth more than their thrift store price tags indicate.

Once you have your items, it's time to turn that trash into cash. List your items on eBay, starting each auction at the same amount. List low. You might think your haul is worth a lot, but it's up to the bidders to decide who's winning this round.

The winner is the individual whose combined auctions net the most profit.

The first item my girlfriend chose was an electronic "Keep Safe Diary". Unless you know the code, you can't access the diary's secret-laden innards. Fortunately for us, the code resets to A-B-C-D when you replace the batteries. Unfortunately once we got the diary open, we found a whole lot of nothing. There is an indentation where a pad of paper might have once been, but nothing more. Obviously I had hopes of finding a repeat of the little girl's journal I reviewed several weeks back, but since this is my girlfriend's game piece, maybe it's for the best that there are no added incentives.

We had been inside Thiftko for a good twenty minutes and the increasingly poor air quality was starting to have a negative effect on our well-being. I had two items, but my girlfriend only had the journal, so she decided to take a blind leap of faith and grabbed the closest item. She wound up with this tiny Native American Bear. A strong, if not desperate choice. People love bears and they respect Native Americans. With Thanksgiving just a scant few weeks away, I could see this cub being a big hit on the auction block.

As a side note, my girlfriend had been carrying around a painting for most of our time inside Thiftko. It looked like something the art teacher at your high school would hang on the walls by the auditorium before a school concert. It was more a gag item than a serious contender for the prize. I think once my girlfriend saw how furiously I was checking every shelf that she realized she better take this competition at least semi-seriously as well.

I'm admittedly nervous about my picks. I chose this three-headed dragon puppet based mostly on the fact that it still retained its original tag. Not only did it have its original tag, but there was an orange sticker on said tag that boasted a price of $19.99. I don't know who originally priced this puppet at twenty bucks, but if I could achieve a bid of anywhere near that price, I would have this contest all locked up.

In general, stuffed animals are not good choices for re-sale on eBay. However, puppets do marginally better than toys without holes you can stick your hands in.

Captain Hook and Peter Pan here are actually one item. When you see Hook, he's sitting on Peter. When you see Pan, he's sitting on the good Captain. The opposite figure is ingeniously hidden within that inconspicuous burlap sack on their butts.

If I lose this game, I will have no one to blame but myself. I chose two stuffed toys when I know that stuffed toys don't perform well on eBay. At least with the dragon, I can hold onto the hope that someone will want him because he looks new, but Captain Peter here looks like he was made for a school's craft fair. Their faces look like the puppets they taught us how to make in school by scrunching up cotton inside pantyhose. Other people were taught that, too, right?

No one is going to want this abomination. I don't even want it. I think the Thriftko fumes had started affecting me by this point. I was like an infant mesmerized by a game of peekaboo. Oh no, it's Captain Hook! Where's Peter Pan to save us? There is he! Now where's Hook? There he is!

I'm not feeling confident about this one.

Also, Peter looks more like Link from Zelda. Maybe I'll list this one under 'video games'.

I will probably list the auctions on Sunday. I heard somewhere once that auctions that end on Sundays perform better. I guess people have more time to surf the internet on lazy Sunday afternoons. I'll update this post at least once more with the results, but I'll probably post again once the auctions are live.

Place your bets in the comment section on who you think will win. Remember, my items are the 3-headed dragon and the Peter Pan/Captain Hook atrocity. My girlfriend's items are the electronic diary and the Native American bear.

Halloween Blogstravaganza - Truth Lies Six Feet Under

There are plenty of ghouls getting hitched this Halloween. This happy couple is just one example of the many matrimonial adornments I have already unearthed this season. You can find this pair hanging alongside the undead ensemble at Big Lots. At fifteen dollars each, they're not quite the great deal the ensemble is, but who can put a price tag on true love?

On a related note-

My girlfriend is somewhat of a compulsive liar; specifically in situations where the truth would suffice.

A couple years back, when my girlfriend and I were living up North, we planned a pilgrimage to Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween. The area is historic for the Salem witch trials and subsequent Salem witch burnings that took place around what is now present day Salem. Throughout October, scores of costumed out-of-towners swarm upon the normally sleepy town, but to be present on Halloween proper is to witness a special kind of spectacle.

When my girlfriend requested the day off from her job, she - for reasons known only to her - felt that going to Salem on Halloween wasn't a good enough excuse to miss work. (Keep in mind that, at no point, did anyone ask her why she was taking a day off.) Instead, she constructed an elaborate fib that had us attending a Halloween themed wedding in Salem. How romantic.

The lie itself was believable enough on its own (again, no one ever asked), but my girlfriend wanted proof (albeit fabricated) to back up her embellishment. She assumed that since we were attending a wedding, her co-workers would naturally bug her to see photos from the event (they didn't).

To accommodate her co-workers' hypothetical request, my girlfriend proceeded to print out photos she found on the internet of an actual Halloween-themed wedding. Not the wedding of anyone we know, mind you, but a Halloween-themed wedding none the less.

Their cake looked delicious!

Halloween Blogstravaganza - Subliminal Pac-Man

Pac-Man, as we know him, was originally intended to be named Puck Man in the United States, after "paku-paku", the Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound made by opening and closing one's mouth. However, the game's creators were concerned that the name "Puck Man" would be too easily vandalized. (Source: Scott Pilgrim vs the World)

Despite appearances to contrary, this is not Pac-Man; but "Inflatable Runaway Ghosts" are not fooling anyone. These three ghosts might as well be wearing name tags that read Blinky, Pinky and Inky (Clyde not seen here), because there is no way to objectionably look at this box art and not associate the characters with Pac-Man.

Even the font they chose for the "trick or treat" banner looks similar to the blocky "game over" you inevitably see after losing your last life.

Actually, upon closer examination, nowhere does it mention that the Pac-o-lantern is even included with this set. If Walmart expects me to pay 50-dollars for three gumdrop shaped, Pac-imposter ghosts, then they have another think coming.

Epilogue: I wasn't sure about the idiom I chose for that last sentence, so I googled what, I thought, was the actual phrase; "they have another thing coming." Apparently the correct expression is think, not thing, which I think is stupid. I also thought it was "wise tales" instead of "wives' tales".

Normally I could care less, but--dammit, that's another one!

Non Denominational October Holiday Blogstravaganza

Christmas may be the de facto holiday of choice for most, but tinsel and ribbon can't hold a candy corn-scented candle to giant inflatable jackolanterns and animatronic dancing skeletons. For that reason (and more) I have decided to dedicate the next 8-12 weeks of blog entries to celebrating the holiday that somehow makes me even more excited to shop at Target: Halloween!

Some may say that the first week of September is too early to start celebrating Halloween. But some people like Justin Bieber. You can't let the opinions of others direct your life. If you want to buy zombie wall hangings in September, then you go right ahead. Target, Walmart and Big Lots have your back.

Speaking of the latter, our first Halloween Blogtravaganza entry comes from the land of discount home furnishings; Big Lots. For me at least, Target has become the go-to store for devilish decor, but Big Lots have really stepped up their game this year.

This trio of hanging horrors are legitimately spooky. Most mainstream stores tend to cater to the silly or cute side of Halloween, but Big Lots is clearly going for the throat with their selection. I think the zombie in the middle is supposed to be screaming, but it looks more like he's belting out a powerful note in an all-living-dead opera.

These guys are about 12-inches tall from the tips of their rotting heads to the bottom of their flowing robes. Their arms are made of bendy wire, so you can pose them in all sorts of evil or embarrassing positions. They're only 5 bucks, so you should buy all three and keep the family together.