Money talks, people mumble, that statement could have been written to sum up the art of auto jumbling. In this technological age is there still a demand for the once popular humble jumble? Back in 2013 I decided to put my money where my mouth was and find out.
There’s nothing better than having a deal, performing a transaction and achieving a satisfying result, there is no better place to demonstrate this than at an auto jumble. I started jumbling back in the late 80s, at first I thought it was just old men with piles of rust, but like the cliche goes, one mans muck is another mans treasure. Before the internet arrived on the scene other than a advert in the motorcycling press you were often stuck for a way to shift your unwanted parts from projects etc. In my opinion the height of the jumble was the years just before the millennium, every major outside show and event would have a healthy jumble scene attached to it, the BMF show at Peterborough was a classic example of this, once upon a time there were fields of jumble, traders and one man bands. Having been bitten by the bug I ventured further north from my Romford post code, that’s when I discovered the Newark jumbles. Much like an animal made of bacon wallowing in crap best describes how I enjoyed those heady jumble days, I’d even pre book to be assured of a good pitch and travel up the night before, often sleeping rough so me and my mates could be unloaded and ready to trade the second the traders arrived. The witching hour was 7am. I did this religiously every month or so for several years, I perfected the art of jumbling from a sellers point of view, something a trip to Newark in June showed me had long since been lost. The art of haggling is dying, it’s not how you ask, it’s how you say it when offering less than the advertised figure, prices can change according to attitude, please remember that.
Having a mooch around I overheard various traders all muttering the same standard reply to anyone who tried to barter, “I can get more than that on eBay” in some cases that may be true, so why bother taking stuff to a field if you can sell it from the comfort of your mobile phone to a worldwide audience? This got me thinking, if traders are the majority then where are the genuine bargains going to come from? My suggestion is from you, the very person reading my attempt at trying to persuade you not only to go to a jumble but to fill your car, top box or Transit and sell some of that unwanted tat in the garage, workshop or behind the shed.
I decided to go back to basics, and take some bits to the next Newar. I didn’t bother taking anything that owed me any money, instead I had a dig about and found bits that had ended up under the work bench, those odd bags of stuff that were falling down the back of shelves, I even went through my scrap metal pile outside and bought a few bits back in from the cold. Like my old head master would preach at school assemblies, failing to prepare is preparing to fail, or something like that, so I started gathering the assortment of bits and I even cleaned some bits up, like a really bad episode of the Apprentice meets one of those shows where the boss goes back to coal front I had my jumble head on, over the next few weeks bits I’d usually throw away or just give away suddenly were neatly labelled and wiped in WD40, other forms of lubricant spray are available….
What started out as one empty crate quickly became four full ones, my next decision was that I would charge no more than a maximum of a tenner a part, ideally I wanted to have a pitch full of parts where no single item was more than a fiver. This process also had another plus, suddenly my workspace in the garage was also much tidier, the nearer jumble day loomed the harder I rummaged, in total I filled 9 crates with dregs from various bikes I’ve dismantled the last few months, not one of the pieces were anything I’d of sold on eBay either, either because they weren’t in perfect condition or mostly because the postage would slaughter any hope of selling the part, for example in amongst my five pound wonders were things like fairing panels that would probably cost nearer £15 to send, also weighty items like engine parts, the odd starter motor etc. My philosophy was simple, like the days when I travelled to Newark with a van full, the plan was to come home with nothing, stack it high , sell it cheap. You wouldn’t be hearing me saying “It’s worth more on eBay”.
The downside of jumbles is the anti social hours, an alarm ringing its head off at 5.30 am is never a pleasant thing, least of all on a Sunday morning, I’d been wise enough to load the car up the night before, this saved me time and also added purpose, no cold side of the pillow of me and turning over. The 40 miles to Newark were dispatched and I arrived bang on 7am. The place was already at work though, the early bird catches the bargains, it isn’t just jumblers who arrive early, so do buyers looking for that elusive bargain, one of my first sales was a set of dried out carb rubbers and a GSX-R1100H loom from a box of odds of sods, both sold to a chap who was going to put them not on his bike but back on eBay, he deals in GSX-R parts, sure enough when I searched the next day I found the rubbers and the loom up for £35 …each. I had a quick wander around but stayed focus on selling, besides if I didn’t sell they’d be no room in the hatchback to take anything new home anyway. With my plunder laid out it suddenly looked less than I thought I had but the buyers arrived and picked over my stuff with the grace of vultures pecking at a road kill. My attention to detail worked though, just because I knew a caliper had come off a ZXR750J didn’t mean the punter would, my pretty little blue stickers made me look OCD which I can assure you I’m not, besides shouldn’t it really be CDO…?
After an hour or so the traders had stopped coming by, now it was the early bird punters, they pay a premium at the gate to get in early, I’m surprised eBay don’t do this, charge its users to see newly listed ads an hour before the rest of the world? See, told you it was like the Apprentice TV show.
With my stall set out regarding prices I avoided the countless questions on how much is this mate that my jumbling chums where receiving, by the end of the day I knew exactly how much everything was on both their pitches, my approach was more direct, with all parts labelled I just stuck everything is a fiver a piece, even at a fiver people want to haggle, which is brilliant! I was there to prove a point, that shit sells, having not taken anything this time that owed me folding I could afford to sell stuff cheap, therefore creating genuine bargains for people, which in turn will mean people might start thinking differently when loading up for jumbles? If more people took stuff they didn’t want to take home again I bet they’d be more people buying, I’ve seen parts on the same stalls time and time again, not just at Newark but also at Stafford, the king of jumbles!
Come midday and the place is packed, this gave me an idea, given the fact men aren’t designed to consume curry and beer on a Saturday evening and be expected to function on a Sunday morning maybe the organisers, could look in to the possibility of having a section for the Lazy Buggers Jumble, the reverse of the early bird, many jumble visitors are already aware the bargains were probably bought at 7am, no doubt for sale at a higher mark up on someone elses pitch, I salute that but say the average bloke arrived with the unwanted contents of his shed at midday , you’d hang around for a nose wouldn’t you?
Getting back off my soap box I better tell you how I did? My pasting table was my display table for my £10 a part items, which I sold one part for full asking before chucking them all on the deck with £5 pokes, I also created three tubs of £1 a part gems, useless things like tax disc holders, odd levers, relays, and other dirty little bits actually sold rather well, I even got £2 for two mini indicators when I probably only meant a £1 for the pair, whoops. With the home time bell looming I chucked more of my creamy fiver bits in the popular pound a poke boxes, I then promptly took most of them out again, jumble fever had struck. At just before 2PM I loaded up and counted up, the 9 crates worth of bits now fitted inside just 3 crates, the pile of odd fairing panels and seats I gave to to the bloke next door, it saved me dumping them or worse falling over them back in the garage, after all like the classic Bros tune “you owe me nothing”.
Counting up the coins and the notes revealed I’d taken £135 for a stack of stuff that would probably still be in my way in the garage if we hadn’t gone?
So, in answer to my opening question, I think there’s plenty of life in the jumble, infact I’ve got the jumble bug again, if you’re one of those who used to jumble but gave it up think again.
Jumble tips for the seller.
Load up the night before, it saves time at silly o’clock on Sunday and commits you from turning over and hitting snooze.
Take a float, nobody ever as the right money, take change and plenty of fivers.
Identify the parts, a small label is all it takes to save a million..“What’s this off mate”
Have a laugh, banter, engage, some buyers are often blunt in their approach.
Take some bags! Offering a carrier bag not only is a pleasing thing to do but also means they can carry more bits!
Don’t try selling something that’s too good, you won’t get top prices in a field.
Try not to get a pitch between people selling car stuff, ideally get your mates to sell too, get a few pitches together, maybe the organisers could stick all bike related pitches togther?
Don’t leave your pitch, you’re there to sell.
Top 5 characters of the day.
The bloke who bought 4 sets of new brake pads, when I asked him on his fourth visit what were they for, he said his bike..of course.
The GSX-R specialist, picking up anything Slabby or Slingshot and then selling it on eBay.
The bloke who tried to tell me the NC30 switch wasn’t an NC30 switch, after I put in the car and said I don’t sell parts I don’t know what they’re off he gave me my fiver.
The ZXR750J hoarder, he bought the rear brake disc, rear pegs, few other bits and then a broken carbon can I had, he ended up with a splinter, add take a first aid kit to Jumbling tips.
The chap who spent five minutes dismantling a tax disc holder, then reassembled it and didn’t even bid me when handing his pound coin over.