Dusty Hunting Guide – Part 1

One of my favorite pastimes is “dusty hunting,” or going to nail salons hunting for old polishes that I can’t get at the store anymore. Usually when I return triumphant from an expedition, I get a lot of questions about how I found them, so I wanted to put together a guide to the hunt. Today’s installment is what you need to assess before you go. Take some time to chew on these things before you jump in your car and ride off to the salon.

First, ask yourself what your goals are. Are you trying to make some money (probably to support an insane buying problem – I mean, this is what I’ve heard) or just round out your collection? A combination of the two? Think about these things. My main goal is to make enough on reselling some polishes to pay for the ones I buy to keep for myself. I’m not trying to get rich. I am also trying to not default on my student loans because I bought too many polishes.

Next, you need to know what you’re looking for. If you are just looking for things you think are pretty, you can wing it. Sometimes though I have done this only to realize I paid a salon $9 for a bottle I could have gotten on eBay for $5 with shipping. If you’re trying to buy for resale, you’ll want an organized list. I’ve learned that there are colors that do not appeal to me that appeal to the rest of the world, and I’d never have picked them up if I hadn’t painstakingly done my homework. I created an Excel sheet with all the OPI colors. I then spent weeks doing price research on eBay so I knew what I could definitely resell for good money, what was a coin toss, and what to leave unless I wanted it for myself. Know as well what you already have at home, unless you want duplicates. I upload these files to Dropbox so they’re accessible on the road via iPhone. I have a shortened list of “highlights” (there are almost 1000 OPI colors in total and about 75 I want). On that list, polishes I can sell are in bold, and polishes I want for myself are underlined. Some are both bold and underlined.

Think as well about what you’re OK with in terms of newness and quantity. When I buy for myself, I don’t care if a bottle is half full. I’ve bought partial bottles of rare color for my personal use and married them, like ketchups. My personal My Private Jet is 1/3 full and I don’t care. If you get on average 40 manicures from a bottle of OPI, I’ve got a good 10 paintings in there before things go bad. If you are buying to resell, though, it’s a different story. You can probably sell or swap a partial or opened bottle of My Private Jet for $15-20 but nothing near the value of a new unopened one. In general that same polish that might sell for $20 brand new is worth $6 if it’s “full but opened” or “full but swatched.” It’s just the way it is. People are picky like that. If I find a bottle of Sanderella that is half full, I am thrilled because the fact that I can’t sell it means that I am “stuck” keeping it for myself.

Know your colors. Salons have a dirty habit of reusing polish bottles. This would make me angry as a customer (Oh, this is OPI Ink on my toes, let me go buy a bottle at Ulta to do touchups – then getting to Ulta and finding out it looks NOTHING like what’s on my toes and I now have no idea). I bought a bottle of Affair in Times Square. I had never seen it in person. I sent it to a buyer who realized it was wrong – it was a shimmer but AITS is a crème. No idea why the salon would have done this, but it was my fault for not knowing what in the world the polish should look like when I bought it. I’ve come across a lot of mislabels on colors I knew well, though those are usually partial bottles, and I don’t doubt that salons pour partial bottles together to mix color.

Plan your area. I have had very good success with smaller towns. I tend to like holos and purples and things that small towns apparently don’t look kindly on for manicures, and logic says the less traffic you get through a salon, the more likely you are to find something obscure. Every time I go to an area I haven’t it, I plan to make a few stops along the way. When I got out locally and I’m on a road I haven’t been down in some time, I look along the way. If I were just going to spend a day purely dusty hunting, I’d pick a direction I hadn’t been, and just drive to the nearest town. Wear comfortable clothes. You may well be squatting, or lying on your back on the floor looking up through a glass shelf to read bottle labels.

Take some cash. I am guilty of not doing this, because I never carry cash. I’ll get to a salon and find one polish I want that they only want $4 for. I then feel guilty if I try to charge it, or I have to buy things I don’t want until I hit a reasonable amount in my head. When I found my bottle of My Private Jet holo, it was $8. The store had a $10 minimum for charges. I really didn’t want anything else, so I just asked them to charge me $8 for it. Better if I’d just had cash though.

Network with your friends. Ask them if there’s anything they’re looking for. I had a friend who wanted the Shrek colors and didn’t mind if they were half full. In one afternoon I found all the ones she was missing for her.

Next up – the actual hunt.

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