What’s Hot, What’s Not – Part II

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This is the second article in a series that will highlight items that are selling well versus items that are selling poorly, based on personal observation.

What’s Hot

Vintage Bakelite Jewelry – Bakelite was developed by Leo Baekeland in Yonkers, New York, in 1907. As an early plastic, it was used primarily for electrical insulation due to its nonconductive properties. Use eventually spread to radio cases, kitchenware, toys, smoking pipes, and even firearms. However, our focus will be jewelry.

The most collectible bakelite jewelry tends to be beaded necklaces and bangle bracelets, although whimsical brooches are very popular, too. Vintage cherry amber and egg yolk-colored beaded necklaces can command hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a single necklace, depending on the size of the beads. Bracelets of all colors with interesting designs or carvings tend to be very popular amongst collectors, as are apple juice-colored bracelets that may have flowers, fish, or other designed carved or painted on the inside. Pin subjects vary widely – from patriotic pins and banjo playing frogs to pipe smoking dogs and pencils with dangling school charms. The more unusual, the more collectible they seem to be!

Vintage Rock N’ Roll Memorabilia – Whether you were a flower child from the 1960s or a wild child from the 1980s, some of the souvenirs from the concerts and your favorite bands may be quite valuable now. Original concert posters are very desirable amongst collectors, with many fetching several hundred dollars to a thousand dollars or more. Extremely rare Beatles or Grateful Dead posters can even jump into the five-figure range.

In addition to posters, ticket stubs, programs, even old concert t-shirts are collectible. 1980s hard rock t-shirts frequently resell for $50-$100+, and if you were lucky enough to acquire and hang onto original rock shirts from the 1960s or 70s, those can be worth even more.

What’s Not

Silver plate – Historically, silver was originally only affordable to the very wealthy. However, in the mid 1700s, Thomas Boulsover of Sheffield, England, invented a process in which he could bind a fine layer of silver to other metals, giving the appearance of silver at a fraction of the cost.

Today, while silver remains popular for use in jewelry and decorating, most buyers prefer to have sterling silver over silver plate, as both require the same degree of care and maintenance, but sterling objects hold their value much better.

How do you know if your item is sterling or silver plate? Sterling items are typically marked “STERLING” or “925”, as sterling is 92.5% pure silver. Silver plate objects may be marked EPNS (Electro-plated nickel silver), Quadruple Plate, Silver on Copper, etc. Also, sterling items won’t be attracted by a magnet, whereas sometimes silver plate objects will be.

Beanie Babies – Beanie Babies were launched in 1993, but didn’t start becoming a collectible phenomenon until 1995. Their story is a fascinating lesson in supply and demand, when production of the beanies was limited on purpose, leading to a massive secondary market. At the peak of their popularity, they accounted for approximately 10% of the sales on eBay where they could be flipped for as much as a 1000% mark-up.

However, like most collectible crazes, the era of the Beanie Baby has come and gone. Most people that collected large quantities of the stuffed critters are disappointed to learn that their investment is most likely worth pennies on the dollar now. Due to their low resale value, I recommend that people who wish to depart with their collections donate them to police or children’s hospitals, so that they may be enjoyed by younger generations in need of some cuddly comfort.

What’s Hot, What’s Not – Part I

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I receive inquiries almost daily about selling stuff. All sorts of stuff. Inquiries from the last month alone have ranged from selling high-end estate jewelry to the liquidation of a vintage beer can collection. I even took some time to go out and view an antique radio collection stored in an old school bus. I love hearing about / seeing unusual collections, which is what keeps my job fun!

I’ve decided to start a series of articles that detail items that are selling well right now in the market versus items that aren’t. So here we go.

What’s Hot

Late 1950s to Early 1960s Barbie Dolls and Accessories – The first Barbie I ever sold was a 1959 #2 Barbie. She sold for $3938 to a collector in California. Ever since then, I kept an eye out for early Barbie dolls and accessories. The most valuable dolls are going to be the earliest dolls, from 1959 to 1960. They can be identified by their facial features, body markings, and even the holes in their feet. Whether the doll is a #1 or #3 Barbie can make a big difference in the value. A near mint #1 Barbie recently sold on eBay for $4500, while a pristine #3 Barbie with box may sell for $1500 – $2000. Original, vintage outfits and accessories can go for a lot, too, and are oftentimes worth a lot more than the dolls that may be kept in the cases with them. Hard-to-find individual outfits may sell for hundreds of dollars each and even partial outfits can still sell for $20 – $50.

Iconic Toys from Every Era – Toys have been collectible for a long time and will continue to be collectible into the future. People develop a special attachment to toys, especially from their childhood, as it reminds them of a simpler, more innocent time in their lives. Toys that are in the highest demand from collectors tend to be iconic examples from their era and are in very good to excellent condition. Ideally, the original box and/or accessories are still available. Some examples include cap guns, tin toys, and Tonka trucks; vintage dolls and play sets; original board games, video games, and action figures.

What’s Not

Dishes – Most People will inherit at least one set of china from a parent or grandparent. Unfortunately, the market for reselling most china and other porcelain tableware is very poor. There is simply way too much supply and not enough demand. Younger generations have different tastes than their elders and many of them do not formally entertain like people did in the past. As fine china is often too fragile to put in the dishwasher, people simply don’t want to bother with it most of the time. Consider gifting to a friend / family member that would appreciate it or donate it to a worthy charity. If you must sell it, local consignment or auction is a possibility, but don’t expect to get much for your set(s).

Limited Edition Prints – I once worked with a couple that had purchased dozens of beautifully framed Ducks Unlimited prints, “back when [they] had more money than sense”. They had paid several hundred dollars for each work, hoping to recoup their investment or perhaps even make a profit someday. Sadly, when you have hundreds or even thousands of copies of a particular work, it tends to dilute the resale value for the piece. I was only able to sell a handful of the prints for $100 or more apiece, while the remainder had to be liquidated at local auction for a fraction of that.

A truly limited edition tends to be 100 copies or less. And ideally, the work is signed by the artist and has been kept away from sun or moisture, to minimize the chances of fading or spotting. If the print is large but perhaps only worth a few hundred dollars, it may be best to sell it locally or remove it from the frame for easier (and much cheaper) shipping.

A Priceless Gift

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My father recently turned 70-years-old. For the last few birthdays, I had either sent him gift certificates to his favorite local restaurants or had offered to cook for him during his next visit. I mean, what are you supposed to get for someone who already has everything he wants and doesn’t really need anything else?

I racked my brain for several days for gift ideas for him. Since I am well past nine-years-old, a new bottle of Old Spice aftershave no longer seemed appropriate. Dad enjoys movies, but fussed a bit about having to set-up a Netflix account last time I got him a pre-paid subscription. What would be something small, yet simple that he would like?

My parents have lived in my childhood home for nearly 30 years. Over the years, they have added and removed walls, bookcases, closets, etc. Storage space has been maximized to the fullest extent, as my father is obsessed with storage and organization. So needless to say, their house is full of tchotchkes and other things that my siblings and I don’t want.

Out of all of the stuff in my parent’s home, the one item that I hope to inherit someday is my father’s Mickey Mantle dinner plate. Although Mickey Mantle was best known for his hitting prowess while playing for the New York Yankees, he diversified into a number of different business ventures after his playing career, including opening-up several Mickey Mantle’s Country Cookin’ restaurants in Texas in the late 1960s. These restaurants focused primarily on country favorites such as fried chicken, catfish, and ham sandwiches. Unfortunately, they were poorly managed and didn’t stay open more than a few years.

Dad acquired the plate at some point through his various Saturday morning garage sale expeditions. I remember when he came home with it, he was really excited to have his own special dinner plate. When I was growing-up, my siblings and I always seemed to be heading in different directions during our daily activities. However, dinnertime was the one time during the day that we would regularly sit down and spend time together. Of course, it may have involved some loud talking with hand gestures (Italians do love to speak with their hands…), but it was quality family time nonetheless.

For my Dad’s birthday this year, we threw him a modest surprise party consisting of family friends and a handful of old co-workers. Of course, we had way more food than was necessary, including a pair of giant party pizzas that were so large, I had to turn the boxes sideways just to fit them inside of the house.

My daughter, Lily, was the first person to jump out from her hiding spot, and my father immediately broke into a big smile and started laughing. He was even happier when he learned that all of his children were there, as we hadn’t been all together for several years.

After the party, my father opened a small pile of cards and gifts from friends and family. He opened my present last. I had managed to find a small Mickey Mantle’s Country Cookin’ soup bowl on eBay that Mantle had signed. It came with a certificate of authenticity, which would make it easy to sell or trade at some point in the future.

And while Dad enjoyed the bowl, I realized after giving it to him that his favorite gift of the day wasn’t something that could be bought or sold. It was the time and effort that his family put into his special day. And that is a priceless gift.

Collectibles as an Investment

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People collect all sorts of things. I’ve seen doll collections, Hummel collections, sewing machine collections, mahjong collections and porcelain Collie collections, just to name a few. People often spend thousands of dollars and years growing their collections, only to find out that the value for most items tends to decrease over time. So how do you put together a collection that is more likely to appreciate in value over time and get the most bang for your buck when it’s time to sell?

  1. Buy the best that you can afford. In the beginning, quantity may take priority over quality, just to fill up your shelves. However, the best collections are carefully cultivated, with top specimens often taking years to acquire either due to cost or scarcity. As your budget permits, buy the best examples that you can afford, as you might not get another chance for a long time.
  1. Trade up. After a while, many serious collectors may find themselves with duplicates or less than ideal examples in their collections. When the opportunity is available, try trading-up some of the less desirable specimens for better quality ones. In fields such a coin or sports card collecting, sometimes a minor improvement in a single item can increase the value of your collection by thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
  1. Keep an eye on the collectibles market. Just like the stock market, the market for collectibles can experience ups and downs. What may have been valuable years ago may only be worth a fraction of the value now (and vice versa if you’re fortunate…) Published identification guides often include price sheets, but they tend to become out-of-date very quickly unless the publication is only 1-2 years old. It’s best to use recent prices realized on eBay and auction house websites as a reference for the value of you collection, as they will more accurately reflect current pricing trends.
  1. Follow the golden rule of collecting. Collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect. If you find that this mantra is no longer true, it’s either time to downsize or sell your collection.
  1. Don’t burden friends or family with your collection. Unless they share the same passion for the items that you collected, most people are not terribly excited at the prospect of inheriting a collection, even if it’s valuable. Storing and insuring it can involve a great deal of time and money and selling it can be even more of a hassle, especially if they are in a time crunch to clear out an estate or storage unit.

If your intended recipient(s) would find the sales proceeds more beneficial than the owning the collection, take some time to find a reputable dealer or seller that can get you the best prices for your items. To make things easier, be sure to maintain an inventory of your collection with notes such as value and provenance, which can be very helpful when it’s time to sell.

 

The Catch of a Lifetime

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I was recently fortunate enough to travel to Alaska for the fishing trip of a lifetime. Amongst all of houses and small cabins that dotted the small fishing town that we stayed in, I wondered what sort of fishing treasures of yesteryear existed.

Antique fishing lures and equipment can be highly collectible, with certain items bringing hundreds or even thousands of dollars each. For quick reference, most of the “good stuff” is from the mid 20th century and earlier, so if it were handed down from your father or grandfather, there’s a good chance it’s of the right time period.

Lures tend to be the most attractive items left behind in old tackle boxes, especially if the original box was saved, too. The earliest lures are typically carved from wood, although there are some highly desirably metal spoons and even a few glass lures, too. Some of more collectible manufacturers include Heddon, Shakespeare, and Pflueger (all are still in business today), although some of lures produced by regional manufacturers or individuals can command strong prices as well.

Old fishing reels can sometimes produce eye-popping prices, too. The most sought-after reels tend to be either early fly fishing or baitcasting reels and typically need to be in very good to excellent condition to command top dollar. Unlike lures, most reels have their original manufacturer and model number stamped on their sides, so it may be possible for you to look-up their values online if you are interested.

The most popular types of fishing rods to collectors tend to be old bamboo fly rods. You’ll typically find these rods in 2-3 sections kept in their original cloth rod sleeve or metal travel tube. Collectors enjoy them due to their craftsmanship as well as the additional action they can provide while fighting a fish. These rods frequently sell for hundreds of dollars each, with the most coveted examples capable of selling for several thousand dollars.

So next time that you’re poking around the garage or attic, take a few minutes to look at those old poles or the rusted tackle box that’s been sitting in the corner for ages. Who knows what fishing gems you may have laying around, collecting dust?

 

Fine Jewelry for Fine Prices

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As a young officer in the Navy, I followed engagement ring tradition and scrimped and saved three months’ worth of Ensign pay to buy a brand new ring for my future bride. Had I known then what I know now about estate jewelry, I could have either saved quite a bit on the ring I was after or would have been able to get a lot more bang for my buck with my full budget.

Estate jewelry is simply another term for “pre-owned” jewelry. It may be antique (crafted over 100 years ago) or as recent as a few months old, if the piece happens to be from a broken engagement or divorce. And depending where and how you shop, you can save a significant amount over the retail price of what you seek.

Two favorite buying venues of jewelry deal seekers are estate sales and auctions. Estate sales are typically held at the home of the owner may include the sale of fine jewelry amongst home décor, art, clothing, and other household objects. Jewelry sold at estate sales should be listed at a fixed price that is competitive to similar pieces in the market or online. The greatest selection of pieces is available during the first day of the sale, when everything is listed at full price. You may be fortunate to get a discount on pieces if they are still available on the second or third day of the sale.

Auctions are another great way to get super deals on estate jewelry. Whether you buy locally or online, be sure to set a budget for yourself and factor in any additional fees and taxes beforehand so that you don’t end-up overpaying for pieces that can be found elsewhere. Some of the most expensive and desirable estate jewelry is sold via auction, so it’s a great way to find a variety of high quality and designer pieces at wholesale prices.

Last but not least, do your homework before and after you buy estate jewelry. Be sure to inspect anything you plan to purchase beforehand, looking for signs of damage, repair, or missing stones, which should be factored into the price. A jeweler’s loupe with a 30x to 60x magnification can be purchased for a mere $10-$15 online and is a great tool to have for examining jewelry.

You’ll want to ensure that you’re purchasing from a reputable seller with a fair return policy, should you encounter unexpected problems with the authenticity or quality of the piece after purchase. Additionally, any valuable jewelry should have an appraisal performed by a certified independent appraiser, who can provide a more rigorous evaluation of a piece than what is oftentimes provided by a staff appraiser.

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Selling Furniture Online

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At some point of time or another, we all have furniture that we need to sell. Decorating styles change over time, we outgrow things, or sometimes we simply run out of space for everything that we’ve acquired. For the do-it-yourself type, here’s a guide to selling furniture yourself online.

 

Photos count. Most online buyers don’t expect pictures of used furniture to look as though they came from a Pottery Barn catalogue. However, furniture should appear clean and free of clutter and photos should be well-lit and as clear as possible. Taking pictures from multiple angles will give potential buyers a better idea of how the piece may appear in their own home. Don’t forget to show pictures of drawers opened and closed, in addition to any special details or damage.

 

State the facts. Be sure to include the name of the designer / manufacturer and the type of wood or fabric used, if available. Another obvious but frequently overlooked detail would be the dimensions and weight of the piece. If you’re not sure of the weight, a best guess will suffice.

 

Make the sales terms clear. Can you accept a local check or will only cash suffice? Should the buyer bring assistance to load the furniture? Are you willing to deliver it locally or ship it? More flexible terms require more effort from the seller, but typically result in faster sales and/or higher prices.

 

Be prepared to negotiate. No matter how great the deal is on the furniture you’ve just listed, everyone always wants a better deal. Try pricing your furniture a bit higher than what you’d expect to get for it, then be prepared to field lower offers and negotiate back to your preferred price. If you absolutely can’t go any lower on a price, be sure to state that the price is “firm” in your description.

 

Sell local, unless valuable. The market for secondhand furniture tends to be local, as furniture is large, heavy, and very expensive to ship. Unless you have a highly desirable piece of antique or mid-century modern furniture that’s worth thousands of dollars, than most pieces should be sold locally, with Craigslist being the preferred sale medium. If you do have something more valuable, considering offering it on a nationally advertised venue such as eBay, with local pick-up available. You can also offer to help make arrangements for freight transportation or through a website such as uShip if your buyer isn’t local and is willing to pay extra for shipping.

The Art of the Deal – Part II

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The Art of the Deal – Part II

Last issue, I provided several tips for sellers to improve their negotiating skills. This time, we’ll focus on suggestions for buyers.

 

Tips for Buyers

  1. Do your homework, too. Not every seller is always aware of the condition, value, or authenticity of an item they may have for sale. And occasionally, the seller may not be completely truthful about an item, either. This is why it’s important for buyers to take the time to educate themselves on an item before making a decision to purchase it, especially if it is expensive.

Be sure to purchase authentic items from a reputable source and ask if there is a return policy incase you have an issue with your item later. If the item is used, you should research comparable quality items that are for sale or that have sold recently to have a better idea of what you should be paying. This information can be used as leverage for the next step.

 

  1. Start low, then work your way high. As the buyer, one of your main objectives is to get the lowest purchase price for your item. If you’ve done your homework and have a sense of the market for a particular item, you can better negotiate to get an item at or below the market price. It is always easier for a buyer to negotiate an acceptable price by making a lower offer and gradually negotiating upward, versus the other way around (just don’t start too low, or else you risk insulting the seller.) When in doubt of what is considered reasonable, simply ask the seller what they’re best price is for a particular item.

 

  1. Buy in bulk for the greatest value. If you’re buying for re-sale, then purchasing items in large quantities or as a lot typically results in the best price per piece. Additionally, you may find the occasional valuable item in a mixed lot, which may pay for the entire lot (such as finding a piece of fine jewelry mixed in with a bunch of cheap costume jewelry.)

 

  1. Stick to your budget. It’s hard to walk away from things we really like or want, but sometimes its necessary when an item is priced too high or doesn’t meet our expectations. Unless an item is one-of-a-kind or extremely rare, then the buyer will typically have the upper hand when negotiating a price. Sometimes, however, sellers are unwilling to budge on their asking price and you may need to walk away if you don’t consider it a good value for the money.

 

  1. Build a network. If you frequently collect or purchase for resale, it’s a good idea to build relationships with the people that you purchase from the most. Showing an interest and appreciation for your sellers may result in first choice of new merchandise, preferred buyer’s rates, and introductions to other sellers.

The Art of the Deal – Part I

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You don’t have to be a blustery real estate mogul to be good at making a deal. Being a good negotiator is part science and part art, so anything you learn from a book or article needs to be practiced frequently in the real world before you can expect to become good at it. This article is the first of a two-part series intended to offer some tips to improve your negotiating skills when selling and buying.

Tips for Sellers

Do your homework. You can’t sell anything very well if you don’t know much about your item. Some basic questions you should answer first include:

  • What is demand for this item?
  • Is it authentic?
  • What’s it worth?

Before I sell anything, I always verify that there is a good demand for an item. You can browse the current listings on Craigslist for large, common items such as furniture or household goods, while the sold listings on eBay provide a good overview of market prices for smaller items.

If your item has significant value in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, be sure to have it authenticated before your attempt to sell it. If you didn’t purchase it directly from the manufacturer, artist, or a reputable re-seller, then consider seeking out an expert in the field or appraiser to verify your item is authentic.

Once you’ve verified it’s authentic, determine a range of value based upon comparing the condition of your item to similar or identical examples that have recently sold. Again, you can use Craigslist or the sold section on eBay to find this type of information.

 

Start high, then work your way low. As a seller, your objective is to try to sell your item for as much as possible, while the buyers try to to buy it for as cheaply as possible. If you have a certain price in mind that you want an item to sell for, try marking-up the price, then gradually reducing the price over time until it sells. For example, price an item worth $75-$100 at $125, then lower the price by $15 – $25 every other week until it sells. You may even get lucky and have someone that really wants the item pay your initial $125 asking price.

For a quicker sale, advertise that you’re willing to consider a “Best Offer” and negotiate with potential buyers until someone offers a price in the “sweet spot” that you’re willing to accept.

 

Know when to hold, and when to fold. If you happen to have something that’s rare, valuable, and in-demand, then you can almost name your price when it comes to negotiating with a serious buyer. For example, a 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle baseball card in poor condition is worth enough to send you (and your family) on a nice vacation. Better examples could pay for a car… or house! That’s because this particular card is considered a cornerstone of any serious baseball card collection and is difficult to find in any condition, let alone excellent condition.

On the other hand, having large collection of common items (such as newer baseball cards, rocks, and travel mementos) is typically much more difficult to sell. This is due to the time involved to sort through and identify more valuable individual examples and also because of low demand in general for those types of items. In those cases, sometimes it’s a good deal for you simply to be able to locate someone willing to pay you a reasonable amount to haul off the collection and do the work themselves.

A Beginner’s Guide to Selling at Auction

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This is the second part of a two-part series on buying and selling at auction for beginners. In this article, I’ll provide some guidelines for choosing an auction house.

Pros and Cons. Selling at auction can be a great way to sell an estate or collection quickly and efficiently. A well-organized auction can attract a lot of buyers and can turn the entire contents of a house or collection into cash with a day or two of sales. If the auction include items that are, rare, valuable, or have interesting provenance (history of use or ownership), then it’s possible to exceed the original estimates if a bidding war breaks out.

On the downside, most items sold at auction are sold “without reserve”, meaning there is no minimum sales price established for an item and it may sell for much less than you wanted. Larger auction houses may be willing to set a reserve if an item qualifies for one of their specialized quarterly or semi-annual sales, but that means that you may be waiting several months or longer for your item to be listed for sale (and even then, there are no guarantees that it will sell).

 

Understand the fees. Auctions are essentially a form of consignment, but the fees they charge may not always be fully understood by the consignor (seller). An auction house receives a sales commission (percentage) based on the final bidding price of an item. The consignor’s commission rates can vary widely, anywhere from 0% to 40%, and often depend on the value of the item(s) being sold. A second commission called a buyer’s premium is charged separately to the buyer. This fee may be anywhere from 10% to 25%, depending on the auction house and the bidding method utilized.

Additionally, fees may be charged for services such as pick-up, advertising, appraisals, or even if an item fails to sell. Generally, the more valuable an item or an estate may be, the better chance you may have in negotiating a better commission or reduction of certain fees.

 

Reputation. An important consideration when deciding on an auction house is their reputation. Is the staff friendly and knowledgeable? Do they specialize in a particular type of item, and if so, how have their past sales been? Are there any reviews / testimonials available from past consignors online or in person? It certainly never hurts to do your homework in this area to ensure that your expectations will be met.

 

Presentation. In sales, presentation is everything. Auctions are no different, and top auctioneers know that. Before the sale, what sort of preview does the auction house provide? Are there photos and descriptions of the items available online, and if so, are they of good quality? Does the auction house only sell locally, or do they accept phone and online bidding as well? How are items presented when they are being sold?

If at all possible, try to attend a live sale before choosing an auction house. You’ll get true sense of the staff, their clientele, as well as how things run. Ideally, a sale should run like a well-oiled machine, with knowledgeable, friendly employees available to address any questions or concerns. Choose anything less and you’re selling yourself short.

Latest Blog Post

What’s Hot, What’s Not – Part II

This is the second article in a series that will highlight items that are selling well versus items that are selling poorly, based on personal observation. What’s Hot Vintage Bakelite Jewelry – Bakelite was developed by Leo Baekeland in Yonkers, New York, in 1907. As an early plastic, it was used primarily for electrical insulation […]

What’s Hot, What’s Not – Part I

I receive inquiries almost daily about selling stuff. All sorts of stuff. Inquiries from the last month alone have ranged from selling high-end estate jewelry to the liquidation of a vintage beer can collection. I even took some time to go out and view an antique radio collection stored in an old school bus. I […]

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