The steering wheel

In March 2015, we had the grandkids over for the weekend.  There was an auction that had a few items that I was interested in, but I could not go due to the responsibility of the taking care of the boys.  No matter.  I knew the auctioneer and thought I would give a left bid.

The dealers who were there that night had sold from an estate a month before of someone who had a serious interest in Shelby Mustangs.  I had wondered if they had any more Shelby items.  The pictures came up of the upcoming auction, and I saw a steering wheel.

I had previously purchased a Chevy II Nova steering wheel from a yard sale for 15 dollars.  Unfortunately one of the spokes had broken off, but I was still able to get $25 for it.  So, I knew that these were desirable even if they were broken.

The small single photo of the steering wheel came up on  It 3 spokes and some holes through each spoke.  I tried to compare it with some Shelby Mustang Steering wheels I had hoped it was.  Not quite sure, but it looked pretty close.  The values of the Shelby Steering wheels were pretty high.

So, I called Len, the auctioneer and told him I wanted to leave a left bid on the steering wheel.  He knew I had an interest in the Shelby items from the previous month.  He said, David, I don’t think it is a Shelby steering wheel.  It says Made in Italy on the back.  I immediately felt deflated.

But then I thought – maybe is was a Fiat or Ferrari or some other fancy Italian car.  I thought it was worth the gamble.  But not knowing what it was made me put in a low left bid.  I told him to put a bid down for $40.  Knowing that Len would start the bidding at 60% of my left bid.  So, without me there, he started the bidding at $25.  No one else bid.  I got it.

The next week, I went to pick it up.  On the back, it said Made in Italy, EFFPI.  Once I brought it home, I started my research and found that it was indeed a steering wheel for a 1967 Shelby Mustang.  Only about 3225 were made in 1967.

I had no idea what it was worth, the sales figures were very hard to find.  I did find a few  1968 Replica steering wheels that sold for about $1000 restored.  The 1968 steering wheel was not as desirable  as the 1967 and there were differences.  So, I did not have a price to go by.

I thought about getting it restored myself and then selling it.  I found a guy in South Carolina and contacted him about restoring it.  But he did not return my calls.  So, I decided to list it for auction.  It was unrestored.  It was in bad shape.  It did not even have the horn button on it.  I started the auction at 99 cents, but put a reserve for $500.

It sold for a little over $1500.

Then the difficulties began.

The buyer wanted me to ship it to California Priority Mail.  OK, not a problem – I know it is big package, but I was willing to pay more for shipping to get it there in 2-3 days.

So, I was used to going to a Post Office near my place of work, just before getting to work.  I used to come in an drop my packages off at the counter, say my hellos to the guys behind the counter who knew me well and be on my way to work.

As far as I was concerned, once it was on the counter, the Post Office became responsible for the package.  It was tracked and insured.  It was going to be there in 2-3 days, not a problem.  I did this the same whether it was a $1 item, or a $100 item.

But this was a $1500 item.

Now, what they are supposed to do is take these boxes on the counter, scan them, then put them in the right bin to send to the next stop on the way.  It is tracked along the way.

So, I did my usual thing, and dropped it on the counter, said my hellos, and went to work.

So, 2 days go by and I get an email from the buyer.  “Where is my package? It looked like you haven’t even shipped it yet.”

I started to get worried.  It should have been there by now.  I checked the tracking and the only tracking that it got was that I printed off the label.  As far as the tracking was concerned, it was still at my house.  I said to myself, this is not good.

I went back and forth and the buyer telling them that sometimes they miss the scan at the counter.  He sent me emails in all caps, said it was fishy.  He angrily told me that it is against post office policy to leave it on the counter without it being scanned.  The buyer expected me to show a receipt proving that it got scanned at the counter, otherwise he was going to call me a fraud to ebay.  It was getting ugly and scary.

Finally, after 4 days, the box gets another scan on a Saturday and the expected delivery date was Monday.  So, I emailed the buyer the good news.  But he still cursed at me and called me a miserable liar.  I was deflated.

Even worse, the post office was wrong, it did not get delivered for another 4 days.  So, the package going priority mail took about 8 days to get delivered.  Fortunately, I never heard from the buyer again.

I always try to deliver fast and give excellent customer service, but things do happen beyond my control.  It is something that you just have to get used to in this business.

Lesson learned – I should have gotten it scanned at the counter or sent it Fedex or UPS – something with better tracking for an expensive item.  It turned out that this Post Office had a history of not scanning the packages in.  I received other complaints afterwards about not getting scans with items left at the counter.  So, I finally stopped going to that Post Office as well.



The 1914 Cole Car

Growing up in North Carolina, living with my nuclear family, I was separated by a thousand miles from the Grands, the uncles and cousins.  It was hard to find out the real history of my ancestors.  The one I remember that seemed to spark the most interest was my great grandfather Charles Crawford.  They told me that he helped design the Stutz Bearcat.  It seemed to be the pinnacle of his career.  But I found out that he did much more than that.

After finding a few vintage auto parts here and there at yard sales, I discovered there was quite a bit of demand for them on ebay.  After going to several car part auctions, I started to discover what sells and what does not. Doing this research and going through my hauls, I learned about what part fits what car, and what that car looked like, and so forth.  This research led me to look into what my great grandfather had done in his day.  I was able to get some information from my uncle Chuck what I had not heard before.  Under my own further research I had found a number of patents under his name and some of the companies that he worked for.

He was a chief engineer for a company that made car parts like carburetors and so forth.  He then worked for Cole Automobiles.  Now it was Cadillac that built the first V8 engine.  But it was him and Northway motors (A division of General Motors at the time), that helped design and build the second.  After that, all of Cole’s motors were V8s.  If you wanted the fanciest vehicle you could find in the teens, you either got a Cadillac, or a Cole.  Later he worked for Stutz.  Stutz had already built the Bearcat before he joined with them.  But he brought the V8 to Stutz and then started building Super Bearcats.  GM came knocking on his door after Stutz and he ran the Opal Factory in Germany for 5 years.  Sadly, he passed away in 1935 after a battle with Pneumonia.

In the year 2014, I believe that his spirit came to me to give me a “Hello” to tell me more about himself.

A high priced auto auction was being held in South Carolina, and I thought it would be a worthwhile road trip to get out there and see if I can get some deals.  The auction started going and I found myself surrounded by a bunch of auto professionals and collectors.  It was going to be difficult to get any good deals.

One of the lots that came up was several file cabinet drawers full of Antique Automobile and Horseless Carriage Gazette magazines.  They were from the 1950s to the 1990s.  No one seemed interested.  I won it all for $5.  I figured I could sell those for $1 or 2 a piece.  Nobody seemed to want to bother with them.

So, I took them home and found out that most of them were in very good condition and I was putting them in individual bags and a board behind them (like they do with comic books).  I ran across one that was dated 1964.  I found this one in particular,  had sticky pages.  So, I sat in front of the TV peeling the pages apart one by one almost through the entire magazine.  The back section had personal ads in it and I came across a very peculiar one at random.

The 1964 ad said -Looking to buy a 1914 Cole – Charles Crawford Ellsworth – and it gave an address.  I thought that was interesting – my great grandfather’s name was Charles Crawford – I wonder who this guy is.  Hey – waiting a minute, isn’t my uncle Chuck’s last name Ellsworth?  Must be, since that was my mother’s maiden name.  Was this an ad that my uncle placed 50 years ago?  Why was he looking for a 1914 Cole?

So, I got the number for my uncle Chuck and called him up.  And I asked him if the ad was his.  After a few minutes of recollection, he said it must have been his ad.  He had been searching for a 1914 Cole.  He asked me if I wanted to know why, and I said I did.

He told me that in 1913, there was a convoy of vehicles by a number of Indiana automakers that made a journey from Indianapolis to San Francisco.  Great Grandfather took that journey in a brand new 1914 Cole. He ran a few days behind the main pack, but arrived only a few hours after the main pack got to San Francisco. There is actually a book on this journey that I found on Amazon. The journey was to encourage the building of paved roads.  At that time, there were paved roads in the cities, but mostly dirt roads between the cities.

When he got there, he took the car apart to show how little damage had been done to the car after going on such a journey.  He then put the car back together and then drove up to Canada, then drove through Canada and back down to Indiana.  The trip was about 5000 miles.

Chuck told me that he actually did find someone who had a 1914 Cole.  But when it was delivered to him, it was a pile of parts, and he did not have the skills to put it together.  So he ended up selling it.


Sunflower Trading

Welcome to Sunflower Trading.

Buying and selling has been a hobby of mine for a while.  During the day, I am a computer support person.  It pays the bills, but not as much fun as looking for treasures.  This blog is about the success and failures that I have made buying and selling.  Hoping you can learn from it yourself.

I saw that my old company was dying.  Actually, the whole industry slowing getting the squeeze.  So, I was quite active doing part time ebay for about 3 years.  It finally died at the end of 2015 and I was able to purchase a lot of equipment and sell it on ebay.  That kept me busy for about 5 months.  After I was let go, I didn’t apply for unemployment, didn’t send off a resume, didn’t even look for a job.  I was going to make a big go of it until my old colleagues called me up to tell me to work with them at a new company.  So, I went back to a normal day job.

I had failed – kind of.  I got lazy – thinking there was more money in the bank.  Started watching too much TV and not enough time creating listings and getting organized.

But I still love buying and selling, finding things I have never seen before and cashing in if I do it right.


My basement is full.  The garage is full.  The Storage Locker is full.  The Guest Room and Dining Room are full- of stuff.

It IS overwhelming – you might call me a hoarder.  My wife is embarrassed to let anyone over.  It is hard to go through this amount of stuff.  But I want to keep buying.  I need to stop and get things sold.  Or at least organized and listed.

I actually do have quite a lot of items listed.  Most of them are in the basement – some in storage.  But I also have many unlisted items in the basement, storage and everywhere else.

It is an ongoing project getting things organized.  I really don’t have a problem letting go of stuff.  Just have a problem with which items to let go of – or not having time to list them.

I did finally clean out the dining room – my wife said that was the most embarrassing place to have junk.  But it is the most efficient – because after all – there is a table there to work on.

The next place is the guest room – we have not had guests over in a while, but you never know when they might show up.  and when they do, that stuff has to go somewhere.  Usually – that stuff would go back to the dining room or down to another corner in the basement.

So the basement always has these corners piled high of stuff that I can never seem to get to because once the guests leave, I find another auction to go to and fill up the guest room again.

This really has to stop.  All of this moving around of stuff creates a lot of inefficiency.  It takes time to move things, and then the stuff gets lost.  And oh, how I hate when I sell something and I cannot find it.  It is one of the worst things that can happen.

The basement on the other is a little better – I have things generally organized into sections.  I have boxes, packing, books, car parts, toys, business/Industrial, household and so forth in separate sections in the basement.  So I know where pretty much where every thing is.  Pretty much.

But there is just so much in the basement, that it is difficult to walk through.  Just need to clean out and get things sold.

This is an ongoing project – but I must finish this before my day job ends and I need to do this full time again.