One Sunday morning in early August 2012 I went along to a Car Boot Sale with my wife and son. It was a lovely, sunny day and we found ourselves at a large sale with hundreds of stalls that took up most of a field in rural Staffordshire. As is usual when we visit such things, I was interested in one thing, and one thing only. I wanted to dig through the dusty boxes of vinyl records that were dotted about the site and unearth me some treasure.
As anyone who pans for gold at Car Boot sales and Charity Shops will tell you, it’s an often cruel and pointless game that involves a huge degree of dumb luck. Very occasionally you get very lucky indeed, and that’s why we all do it, but more often than not you end up coming home with nothing more than knocked faith and a sore back.
It so happened, though, that on this occasion I wasn’t to be disappointed. I picked up vinyl copies of two Kraftwerk LPs for £1 each, Hot Lemonade by A Guy Called Gerald and EFIL4ZAGGIN by NWA, both for 50p, and a pristine 7″ copy of No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn by The Beastie Boys for just 25p, plus a handful of other gems. All told I left the Car Boot Sale with 16 ‘new’ records to add to my collection, and what’s more I had managed to bag the lot for just £6.50. As I would normally have expected to pay in the region of £4 each (and possibly more) for the Kraftwerk records alone, I’d had a very good morning.
As we drove off to get some lunch my wife asked me what I thought my haul was worth. I did some quick sums and reckoned that, had I picked up the same tunes in a 2nd hand record shop, it would have cost me somewhere around the £30-£40 mark.
“That’s very good”, she said, genuinely pleased for me, before adding after a pause, “but as you’ll never, ever sell them, they’re only worth £6.50”.
She was right. I would never sell them, so in actual fact they were worth minus £6.50. She then suggested something that had never occurred to me in over 20 years of collecting records. She suggested that I use my ‘skills’ to pick up records and then sell them on at a profit. I struggled with this concept and pawed at it for a bit before letting out a confused whimper, like my dogs do when they are presented with a piece of fruit.
If, I reasoned, I happen to find a great record for a bargain price, why on earth would I want to let it go, regardless of what it may be worth? I am a vinyl hoarder and music anorak, not a rare record dealer. And with that, we went off to lunch.
A week or so passed and one afternoon I found myself mooching in a Charity Shop. As I was digging through the Mantovani and Dubliners LPs, hoping to find something special, I spotted a Frankie Goes To Hollywood tour program. Despite the fact that it was in very good condition, and was just 50p, and even though I’m a big, big fan of Welcome To The Pleasuredome, I didn’t particularly want it for myself. Evidently, however, the seed of an idea had been planted that day in Staffordshire and it dawned on me that this piece of Frankie memorabilia could well be worth a few bob. So, I bought the item and took it home.
A search online revealed that my hunch was correct. It took me a little while to actually find one for sale, which suggested that the world isn’t exactly groaning under the weight of these things, and then, when I eventually found one website where the program was for sale, I was pleased to discover that it had a price tag of £25. I immediately put mine on eBay and 10 long and nail-biting days later, it sold to a nice gentleman in Germany for £10. I had just made £9.50 out of thin air! Isn’t the internet marvellous? It was then that the idea for this project began to come together.
What would happen, I wondered, if I invested the £9.50 I had just made, not in celebratory lager, but in more bargain bin records and music memorabilia? What would happen if I managed to sell those records on at a profit, and then reinvested the new, bigger profit into yet more records? In fact, what would happen if I just kept on repeating the process, over, and over again?
Shortly after following this train of thought for 30 seconds or so, I managed to convince myself that the answer to these many questions was: “I will become a multi-millionaire in about 3 months”.
As I saw it, and it was completely obvious to anyone who cared to examine the plan, as each pile of records sold at a profit, the piles of new records would grow exponentially larger, as would the ensuing profits, until at some point I would achieve a kind of terminal financial velocity and I would finally be able to fulfil my lifelong dream of doing absolutely nothing for a living. I was overjoyed, as you can imagine.
Whilst I was busy resolving to make sure that, despite my fabulous wealth, I would always remember to play golf and get roaring pissed on Wednesday afternoons, just to break the week up, the harsh reality of the situation hit me like a tonne of bricks: Just because I had bought a record for £x, it did not necessarily follow that I would sell it for £x + some.
In fact, and this was a bitter pill, let me tell you, there was the distinct possibility that I may not even be able to sell the record at all! I might just end up with a pile of records, and my £9.50 of clear profit and dreams of glorious indolence would disappear in a puff of scratched copies of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.
Clearly, then, something had to be done. As much fun as this shiny, new project of mine sounded to me, it sorely needed some ground rules, otherwise there would be tears before bedtime. So I set my mind to thinking about what form these rules, these checks and balances, might take, and how I could manage to move forward in a manner that kept the idea fun.
Despite this rare outbreak of sensible thought I was nevertheless totally committed to the idea that I would Keep On Truckin’ regardless of the potential pitfalls. Afterall, I had £9.50 to spend on records….