Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brian Adams Turns His Pop Culture Passion into a Dream Job

One of my daily blog stops is Brian's fun pop culture and toy saturated blog Cool & Collected. He's a graphic designer to pay the bills, but this blog is where his heart is. As a successful blogger, collector, and thrifter extraordinaire, I had to ask him a few questions! (After all: Who wouldn't want to get paid for their love of collecting toys? Hot damn, I love toys!)

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Brian.

I've been a graphic designer for 21 years and run my own home-based studio, Big Fish Design, with my wife by my side and our two young boys running circles around us. In addition to our design business, we run a few web sites including The District and Funology, so we tend to keep pretty busy. Cool & Collected is a site I where I can just be me, and write about things I really enjoy.

What are your top tips for working as a freelancer?

Get up and go to work! if you look at the clock in the morning and think, "I can sleep another 15 minutes," you are not going to make it as a freelancer.

2. Your home is an office. You need to make sure your work zone is in fact a place of business, where you can receive a phone call without dogs barking and kids crying in the background.

3. Take a break. Working from home is hard, but it certainly has its perks. When your brain starts to hurt, go to the post office or run to the bank. Get out of the house and take that mental break.

What are the top 5 things you think every blog needs?

(Note: I probably don't practice all of these , but...)

1. Pretty pictures. Sorry, but I'm a visual guy. If you don't have pictures on your site, I'm not going to stick around.

2. Personality. A blog is so much more enjoyable if you aren't pretending to be someone you're not. Just be yourself, and people who like you for who you are will start hanging out with you.

3. Audience participation. A good blog has an active audience who comments regularly. I try to reply to every comment posted on my site, which helps make sure those commenters know they are heard.

4. Contact form. If someone wants to get in touch with you, there better be a way to do so, or you just might miss out on that big advertiser.

5. Social media. I can not stress how helpful Facebook and Twitter have been in steering traffic to my site and helping me meet some great folks.

You always yield amazing yard sale and thrift store finds, what are your top 3 thrifting tips?

1. Look in the box! Get down low and open those unopened boxes under the tables. That's where the good stuff is hiding!

2. Search for icons. I'm all about pop culture, so if I find a recognizable character toy, chances are, someone out there will want it for their collection.

3. Buy anything from the 70's and early 80's. This area is starting to get noticed, but there are plenty of bargains still out there at yard sales and thrift stores.

You re-sell to support your collecting habit and make some cash on the side. You're successful at it, too! What are your top 3 reselling tips.

1. Explore different avenues of selling. "FeeBay" can really eat into your profits. I've been having good success with CraigsList and am looking into setting up a store on my site, much like you did with your StoreEnvy.

2. Buy in bulk. If you buy a large collection, you can typically make back your investment by selling a few of the choice items in the lot. Everything else you sell is just gravy.

3. Buy low, sell high. If I don't think I can at least triple my money, I won't buy an item for resale.

Your brain is a super computer of valuable pop culture relic knowledge. What are a few things resellers should never pass up at a yard sale or thrift store?

1.LEGO sets, especially Star Wars ones. The minifigs can be worth $30-50 by themselves!

2. 80's toys such as GI Joe, Star Wars, or He-Man, with their original box. Believe it or not, collectors will buy just the empty box.

3. Interesting things. If it looks cool, and you've never seen one before, go ahead and drop a dollar for it. You never know!

How many different collections do you own?

Last summer, I challenged myself to photograph a collection a day. I got to 68 before burning out. (Collection A Day) Later this summer, I think I might pick up where I left off.

A cosmic force tells you that you can collect only ONE thing for the rest of time- what would it be?!

What a horrible cosmic force that would be! I guess I would have to say movie posters. As a graphic designer, I never get tired of viewing other designer's work, and the artwork on vintage movie posters is enough to keep my creative juices satisfied.

Dinosaurs or Robots? (There can be only one!)

Dinosaurs, of course!

I know it's a lot to take in
, but Brian had so much knowledge to mine, I couldn't resist squeezing it all out of him. Now you know what it takes to be a successful freelancer, how to find the best toys while yard sale hunting, and which toys and pop culture bits will equal the best returns when reselling. Thank you for the tips and inspiration, Brian! Time to get hunting and working!
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Ahhh doesn't it give you hope that those dream jobs do exist...

  2. Yes indeed, it leaves me inspired and hopeful for the future. Let's keep working toward the dream!

  3. Great interview! I've enjoyed all of them, but this one really jumped out at glad I follow you :)

  4. this was a great post Van, very interesting and I appreciated Brian's insight. I've never thought about 80's stuff as being cool before, but it really is x

  5. TinyMatchboxStudio: Dinosaurs have that affect on people :) Seriously though, he did a perfect job breaking it all down for us.

  6. Kylie: 80s nostalgia was tailor-made to wrap itself around children's hearts like an evil pop culture snake! They've created fans for life, I'm learning that it's worth it to buy 80s toys as a reseller, someone out there will want them!

  7. Great interview! I learned a lot, and it's nice to know that I'm not alone with my collecting. I'm trying to transition to reselling things, so this had a lot of nice tips.

  8. Hi Will: Collectors have to sell some bits to make room for more, the Neverending Story! And it's fun to "rescue" abandoned toys and give them a loving new home.

  9. Fun! Thanks for sharing and I'm always happy to have a new blog to check out.

  10. Good Advice, posts like these are very helpful!

  11. i always wonder about the Facebook thing. I don't have a Facebook page tied to my blog yet, and often wonder if i should. I"m on facebook all the time and let friends know on my personal page when i post a new blog. Do you, Van, also have a personal facebook page, on top of your thriftcore one? how often do you update either one?

  12. Into Vintage: Cool and Collected has something for everyone. If you're not a rabid toy fan like we are, he does share he yard sale finds and reselling tips often!

  13. Jil: I'm glad it was helpful! :)

    Angelika: Facebook...a necessary evil! I'm not a fan of the banal bits people post all day BUT my personal one is great for networking and events/event planning. I update/check it on a semi-daily basis. (The personal one)

    I update the one for my website every week day with the blog post & with an occasional surprise link and giveaway sporadically. Local and national readers find me with it and it's a great way to chat with people on a personal level. I do get more readers from it, so I recommend setting up a Facebook page for your site.

  14. love this! thanks for all your interviews. i learn a lot from them.

  15. Drew: Everyone in this community has so much knowledge to share, I love it!

  16. Great interview! Heading over to check out Brian's sites.

  17. wow,so nice pictures. I would love to avail this . Great post,your post provide more useful info`


I love reading your comments. Thank you for adding to the discussion! I always reply to any and all questions.

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