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April 17th, 2013 BRANDON WIDDER | Headout
 

Headout: Pickin’ ’n’ Grinnin’

Thrifting advice from a man who makes a living reselling Goodwill finds.

headout_3924ILLUSTRATION: Yina Kim
     
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You won’t see any photocopied fliers or crooked yard signs for “Portland’s largest garage sale.” This Saturday’s swap meet at the Expo Center doesn’t have such ragged charm. But that doesn’t mean people like Landon Fowler will sit it out. Fowler, a friend and neighbor, is a scavenging picker who’s living the Portland dream—that is, he makes enough to pay his bills without a day job just by buying and reselling thrifted art, music memorabilia and video games. This leaves him plenty of time to practice harmonica and watch basketball. We got what we could out of the 26-year-old Idaho native, who spoke hesitantly, afraid of divulging too many secrets of his trade. 

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ILLUSTRATION: Yina Kim

WW: What do you look for on the hunt?

Landon Fowler: You want to find antiques that would be super old or seem to have some value—pull out your smartphone and check online to be sure. Anything you can sell for five to 10 times the value on eBay or elsewhere is worthwhile.


How do you make most of your money?

For estate sales, you can typically work out a bargain with the professionals running them. The items are often overpriced, but you can usually get 25 percent off if you are buying more than five items. The last day of the sales, items over $50 are usually 50 percent. Goodwill has a different promotion every week based on color tags, so wait if there’s an expensive item worth reselling.


What are some of Portland’s premier thrift spots, and when should you go?

The Goodwill Outlet (aka “the bins”) in [Milwaukie] is great. You purchase by the pound—it’s around 89 cents if you gather over 25 pounds, $1.40 if you are under—but large items are simply priced out. You have to have an eye for how to grab stuff, but good bikes, furniture and massive amounts of clothing roll in all the time for cheap. It varies for thrift stores since they receive items every day on rolling basis, but you can view items for both estate sales and Goodwill beforehand online.


What are some of your favorite finds?

An early ’60s tube amp, a rusted World War II United States Marine Corps knife, and an old 1830s muzzleloader with accompanying love letters to a girl.


What are common amateur pitfalls?

Not doing your research. Make sure to look online before you buy, know the return policy and wear your gloves to the bins. That shit’s nasty.


GO: Portland’s Largest Garage Sale, featuring more than 400 vendors, is at the Portland Expo Center, 2060 North Marine Drive, 736-5200, on Saturday, April 20. 8-5 pm. $20 advance-sale early bird (7-8 am), $4 adults, kids 12 and under free.

 
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