Scott Laronge

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Arbitrage Books

February 1st, 2010 · No Comments

There’s an old story about a guy walking out of a warehouse with a wheelbarrow filled with junk.  Thinking that the guy is trying to steal something, the guard goes through all the items in the wheelbarrow but can’t find anything, so he lets him pass.  The next day the guy is back and the guard goes through the same routine.  Still can’t find anything suspicious, so he has to let the man through with the wheelbarrow.  After a week of this, the guard gets exasperated and in frustration asks the man what he’s stealing.  “Wheelbarrows,” replies the man.

Thanks to the TV show Hoarders, I’ve been cleaning out the closet, garage and storage unit.  For some reason, I’ve always had a problem in getting rid of books, and have held on to textbooks from undergrad at Berkeley (though I had no problem in dumping what I picked up in South Carolina for the MBA.)  But in the past few weeks, the SacLibrary system got a couple of boxes, the Mira Loma HS library is getting some, and whatever I found had some value is posted on half.com.  To be honest, this has the double function of cleaning out some space so I can downsize the storage unit, and puts a few bucks back in my pocket, so I’m happy.

Today, my copy of The Glory and the Dream (which I bought for AP US History in sophomore year) was purchased by an outfit based in Chazy, NY.  Some other sellers deduced that a company is basing themselves out of Canada and purchasing books in the US, to be shipped to a town near the US border.  Then reselling the books on Amazon.ca for a little arbitrage opportunity.  I sold my copy for about 14 USD, but was being listed for around 220 CAD.  Ebay.ca had the book for around 25-30 with some crazy high shipping rates, which means this is a pretty good arbitrage opportunity for someone just loading up their trunk with used books and coming across the border.  Current forex is .93 USD/CAD.  If the warehousing costs are more of an opportunity cost than a fixed cost (e.g. using your garage vs. renting a storage space), then this could be a pretty good idea. 

And why the wheelbarrows?  Simple, sometimes the junk can be recycled at a decent profit.  I do love how markets evolve themselves.

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