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Mary Kay makeup and supplies lot, $20.

Let's face it, there are countless brands of makeup to be found at yard sales. The problem is, which are worth bothering with and which aren't? So, we're back to the Auctionbandits 'sweet spot,' where we sort through the confusion and go straight for that one area where we're most likely to be able to make money.

Let's take a look at a few of the powerful advantages that Mary Kay makeup offers us as eBay sellers:

It's not for sale in stores. You can't just wander into your local department store or mall and load up on Mary Kay stuff. It's sold exclusively through Mary Kay representatives, who understandably have to keep an inventory on hand for their customers. Representatives also sell through parties and get-togethers, another reason they have to keep an inventory of product on hand.

It's often available in quantity. I think the fact that Mary Kay representatives tend to keep a load of the stuff at the ready as inventory is the reason we tend to encounter it in such mass quantities. A representative may get overzealous and buy more supply than she can sell. Maybe she finds that she doesn't enjoy the business as much as she thought she would. For one reason or another, though, representatives get out of the business, often leaving the balance of their inventory to sit idle until yard sale time comes around. Of course, Mary Kay reps can return their merchandise to Mary Kay for a refund, but it's a one-time thing because they then forfeit their right to be a representative in the future. Many people apparently don't want to burn that bridge.

It's relatively expensive. Even a lot of makeup this large may not be worth bothering with if the makeup itself isn't fairly costly to begin with. A quick search for Mary Kay stuff on eBay will reveal that even single pieces of makeup regularly sell for $10 to over $20. And as as you can see, that means there's quite a bit of eBay profit here.

It has a strong core of dedicated users. In the final analysis, any item is only worth what someone will pay for it. The most expensive makeup in the land won't sell if nobody has enough interest in it to buy it from you. One of the most powerful allies you can have as an eBay seller is a product that people actually search for by brand name, and Mary Kay is a perfect example of this.

I guess the next logical question at this point is, how do you tell how old the stuff is? After all, even a truckload of expensive makeup might not be worth buying at any price if it's 25 years old! So, let's take a few minutes and discuss the topic of 'shelf life,' which is defined as the period of time during which a product can be stored unopened, under specified environmental conditions, and still remain suitable for use. Here's the official information that Mary Kay provides its sales people:

"Most Mary Kay® products are manufactured to have a minimum shelf life of three years from the date of manufacture. This is the standard for the cosmetic industry, not a regulation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the shelf life of over-the-counter (OTC) drug products such as sunscreens, anti-perspirants, etc., as follows:

If the shelf life is less than three years, the expiration date of the product must be clearly indicated on the package. This is not required if the shelf life is greater than three years. Some Mary Kay® products (e.g., Acne Treatment Gel) may have an expiration date because they have a shelf life of less than three years. For these products, it is particularly important to check the expiration date before using them.

We recommend storing products at a temperature between is 59° - 86° Fahrenheit. When products have been exposed to very high or low temperatures, examine them carefully. Note the appearance, odor, and color of each product. If these appear normal, the product has probably recovered completely. Occasionally, separation or an "off odor" will develop several weeks after exposure to high temperatures, but this is not usually the case. If your products have been overheated or frozen, it is NOT a good idea to refrigerate or heat them. Let them return slowly to room temperature, and then examine each product."

As you can see, this lack of expiration date on most Mary Kay products tells us that they have a shelf life of more than three years. In more practical terms, unopened and properly stored cosmetic items will normally last from five to eight years. After that point, some products start to deteriorate and lose their effectiveness. Some common warning signs that your items have gone bad:

an "off" or rancid odor....
cream eye color that is cakey or dry....
makeup that has separated significantly in the bottle....
lipstick that's grainy or difficult to apply

Obviously, you should do your best to detect any of these characteristics before you buy a large quantity of the stuff! From my experience, by the time any makeup exhibits these characteristics, the boxes and bottles/tubes are already looking pretty miserable. But here's the real way to tell the age of a Mary Kay product for sure.

All Mary Kay products carry what is known as a 'Date Code' - a four-digit code consisting of two letters followed by two numbers. It's normally located on the bottom of the bottle or on the crimp of the tube. Remember, this date code tells you when the item was manufactured, not the date it expires! Here's the code:

The first character indicates the year in the decade in which the product was produced. Note that they skip some letters to avoid confusion:

A=2000 H=2005
B=2001 K=2006
C=2002 M=2007
D=2003 R=2008
F=2004 T=2009

The second character indicates the month of year in order. Again, note the skipped letters:

A=January K=July
B=February M=August
C=March R=September
D=April T=October
F=May V=November
H=June X=December

The last two numbers simply indicate the day of the month, from 01 through 31.

So a date code of CT14, for example, tells us that the item was manufactured on 14 October, 2002. A date code of FX05 indicates December 5, 2004.

If you ever encounter a date code beginning with a number, you're dealing with an item that was manufactured before 2000. Here are some of the pre-2000 codes you're likely to encounter:

5 = 1995
6 = 1996
7 = 1997
8 = 1998
9 = 1999

I know all that sounds like a lot to remember. But keep in mind that when you run across a pile of it, all you really have to know is the year it was made, right? I don't much care about the month because it won't normally have a bearing on my purchasing decision. So, I just remember that if the first digit is a number, it indicates the year in the 1990's, and means I'm definitely not interested. And as for years in the 2000s, the letters start with A for the year 2000, and if I can just remember A,B,C,D,F and H, I know every year through 2005.

Because of Mary Kay's immense popularity, you may notice some unusual activity going on among the people trying to sell it on eBay. eBay is full of bona fide Mary Kay representatives who are all trying to hawk their own supply, which means that they're likely to try and undermine folks like us, who are just trying to unload a bunch of the stuff we happened to pick up on the cheap. They'll have people believe that if the product doesn't come from an actual Mary Kay representative, it must be out of date and rancid, having spent the past five years in a tool shed or the trunk of a car, baking in the summer heat and freezing in the winter cold.

The fact is, most cosmetic items are pretty hardy. They just don't go bad as quickly as some folks would want you to think, nor are they as sensitive to temperature fluctuations. But from all the lots of Mary Kay stuff I've run across over the years, abuse has never been much of a concern, because nearly all of it had simply been sitting in a spare room, unopened and unexposed to extremes of any sort.

A very interesting thing I learned from my girlfriend is that many people on eBay are actually looking for discontinued Mary Kay items, which they can't get anywhere else today. And in such cases, the item's age will understandably be of little concern to these folks. Just something to think about!

What I can't understand about this container of cash is why nobody had already rooted through it to at least dig out the more choice pieces. Although every piece in this lot is worth at least a dollar, the larger pieces are worth $10 and up. I guess this is just another example of how you never know what you're going to find or when you'll find it.

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