Swap Meets: The Great American Parking Lot Treasure Hunt

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August 17, 2010 | By: Jake Herring

If you’re looking to save some serious change, motorcycle swap meets are the perfect place to buy, sell or trade parts and accessories — and have a blast while you’re at it. Let’s face it, not everyone has deep pockets or can afford to throw a bunch of dough into customizing their bike. However, most of us have a goal of owning a bike that gives us optimum performance and looks as good as can be.

Over the years I’ve been able to drape my ride with the latest gear and still afford to put food on the table for my family. How, you ask? I sell my old, unwanted parts at motorcycle swap meets. I’m fortunate enough to live in Daytona Beach, Fla., a motorcycle Mecca, so I’m guaranteed there’s a swap meet I can attend within a 50-mile radius every weekend of the year.

Here’s how I prepare for those Super Swap Sundays:

  1. First off, I casually mention the event to a couple of my bros. They might have a need to get rid of some stuff, which means we can split the price of the vendor space. No huge savings there. A space usually goes for between $10 and $20, but when you’re trying to save money, every little bit counts.
  2. Once I figure out who’s coming with me I hit my garage to see what gems I can stand to part with.  After playing mental tug of war with myself for a couple of hours, I generally have a decent pile of parts to clean up for their next owner.
  3. Now that you’ve got your pile of treasures in front of you it’s time for the next big decision — to clean or not to clean? You can either clean, polish or paint your old parts in an effort to get the biggest dollar return. Or you can and just lay them out as-is and hope for the best. My recommendation? Spending a little time refreshing a rusty set of pipes that would normally fetch $20 to $30 will easily bring in $100 with a little polish and elbow grease or BBQ black heat paint.
  4. With your designated sacrificial lambs sorted and cleaned, you’re ready to organize your equipment and load up. After tossing everything in the bed of my truck my first couple of trips, I got smart and bought a couple of Rubbermaid totes to haul my goods around. This makes the loading and unloading fast and easy. These handy totes also keep the elements off your stuff should you happen to stop by your favorite watering hole on the way home. I’m not saying I’ve done that before — it’s just a suggestion.  Oh, and if this is just going to be a one-shot proposition for you, cardboard boxes work just fine.
  5. Now, where I come from, it’s always hot. So I make sure I bring a cooler of frosty beverages and some shade in the form of a tent to sit under.  Another must is this: Bring someone with you. If your buddies can’t make it, bait your old lady into going with a promise of dinner from the profits —McDonalds, Burger King. Certainly nothing too fancy because you’ve still got new bike parts to buy. The point is you really need someone to watch your stuff while you treasure hunt around the parking lot. Tell your sweetie to bring a book.
  6. For the swap meet tour, the first thing I do is make the rounds to see what’s out there. I try to do that when I first arrive, just in case other folks have their eye on the same treasure I do. I bring along a J&P Cycles catalog with me to identify parts and the value they hold. When I do come across something that I can’t do without, I insult the current owner of said part with a lowball offer that is 75 percent certain to be shot down immediately. When that happens to you, don’t stand there with your feelings hurt. Make another offer. If the price is still too steep, it doesn’t hurt at all to mention that you’re also there peddling your wares. That way the guy can lumber over to your booth and have a peek.  It is a swap meet after all! You may be able to work out a mutually satisfying trade.  If not, then get back to your table and push your stuff like a used car salesman until you can afford what you absolutely have to have!

I’ve been at this for a while now and I’ve been pretty successful. I usually bring home at least $75 or a bunch of someone else’s junk that happens to be exactly what I need.  Hell, if nothing else, you have the opportunity to hang around a bunch of like-minded chopper jockeys and talk about the thing we love more than anything else— our bikes. So round up some help, get your parts pile started and hit the web to find your local parking lot treasure hunt. I recommend checking out www.motorcyclemonster.com, which lists all the local happenings in your neck of the woods. I’ll see you there!

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Comments (3)

[...] Swap Meets: T&#1211&#1077 Gr&#1077&#1072t American Parking Lot Treasure Hunt … [...]

[...] “diamond in the rough” when you find it. Bud and Jake have both given you some tips on what a swap meet is all about on these pages, and it’s always a thrill to find that one item you’ve been [...]

In the last few Sundays I scored a Thunderheader for a hundred bucks and traded a Mustang 2-up seat for a Corbin Gunfighter. I also sold a bunch of stuff to offset the cost of the pipe and my vendor space fees so swap meets have been good to me so far.

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