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6 weird things people sell for cash

Your chicken coop could be a gold mine.

By Karen Datko Sep 30, 2009 5:05AM

This post comes from Linsey Knerl at partner blog Wise Bread.

When the recession began to really hit home, there was plenty of chatter about selling your plasma, undergoing paid medical tests, and even cutting off your lovely locks for a profit. Here are some of the more off-the-wall commodities we found, and they are making some people a bit more comfortable these days.

Mother's milk. As a mom who nursed three of her four children, I completely understand the benefits and time commitment of breastfeeding. When situations prevent a mom from being able to do this herself, there are some options to keeping the milk flowing, even if it's not her own. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of mothers nationwide, milk has been made available to those who need it via milk banks and other donation centers. The Human Milk Banking Association of America is a good place to start learning about the guidelines for donation, storage and transport.

How do you go about making cash from your milk? Unfortunately, in the U.S. at least, finding a legal, organized place to sell your milk to others is very difficult. That's not to say that it hasn't been done. Craigslist ads have been notorious for offering milk for sale, and if you head over to this "How to buy breastmilk" article at, you'll see people offering their milk for sale in the comments. The going rate for buying milk from a milk bank is $2 to $3 per ounce, which professionals claim is only a portion of what it costs to collect, screen and store the milk.

In addition to the growing number of mothers who find a qualified stranger's milk to be a lifesaving alternative, there are a few other "commercial" uses for it: Certain fetish groups have always paid for milk on the black market, and a few pharma companies pay a small fee for milk that will be turned into supplemental products for premature infants. (And let's not forget the potential for an increase in demand for milking moms when Ben & Jerry's was approached with the "opportunity" to incorporate human milk into its production line.) Whether you buy, sell, or just want to learn more, I recommend this enlightening article from

Dog hair. For those of us who have been struggling with the constant shedding of our pups, armed with Swiffers and lint rollers, the news that dog hair is a commodity may be too good to be true. Apparently, dog hair spun into yarn (or "chiengora") is an old art form that dates way, way back.  (Before sheep wool was the thing to spin in the U.S., people would use the hair of a dog.)

Fans of the stuff claim that it holds in warmth and repels water better than other fibers. (When found for sale, however, it is usually combined with sheep's wool.) Believe it or not, fans of spinning dog hair are a very helpful group (just check out "Knitting With Dog Hair," a book that shows you how to cut, collect, spin and use dog hair for everyday knitting projects). There has been some question as to the legality of selling dog hair (big surprise), and states like New Jersey actually have language forbidding the sale of dog or cat fur.

How do you go about selling (or even buying) dog hair? The verdict on this one is similar to other items on our list. Ask around, place ads in places that don't specifically prohibit it, and make sure that the state you're listing it in allows it. If it's not possible to sell the dog hair straight out, you may be able to spin it first and offer it as a yarn.

Chicken poop. If there's one thing I've learned by living on a farm most of my life, it's that people will drive many miles and offer most anything for a pickup truck full of crap. That's no lie. The amazing benefits that come with the use of natural (or "organic") fertilizers on anything from rose bushes to potato plants is fairly common sense. What most people don't realize, however, is where that fertilizer comes from.

Because most commercial products are simply a mixture of aged chicken poop and other organic materials, it's possible to mix up your own batch with little effort. (See this article on how to use chicken poop effectively.) To sell chicken manure, which can be done via online ad, small local newspaper, or through your local farm or garden supply store, you'll need a good amount of chicken manure and a way to bag it or haul it effectively (which is what people are really paying for). Pricing will be minimal and may vary by region.

Cardboard boxes. As someone who deals with daily deliveries from UPS, USPS and FedEx, I can understand the cumbersome nature of the cardboard box. Generally, I have been pretty good at the art of recycling, using them for moving, composting, reshipping, and even art projects with the kids. While I also strongly support sharing used boxes with the community for free, we all understand that sometimes it's necessary to try to recoup our costs -- especially if we need to cut business or home office expenses.

While many companies offer to buy in bulk lots of boxes in the same size and shape, there are a few places that buy boxes in good condition with a minimum of three or more boxes. BoxCycle, for example, takes the work out of selling your boxes by listing them for you, communicating with the buyer, and handling all payment processing. All you have to do is list your boxes with them, wait for a seller, and cash out when your payment totals $25. (While you won't get rich from this, it is a great way to get rid of wasted space caused by bulky boxes, and it puts a few bucks back in your pocket.)

False teeth, braces and prosthetics. So these aren't exactly in a category together (but they are most certainly in one all their own). As the market clamors for more gold commodities, and places like Cash4Gold keep turning consumers off from the idea of selling their jewelry for extra money, consumers are getting creative with how to make a quick buck via another buyer. Pawn shops have eagerly reported an increase in the amount of business they've gotten for items containing gold -- any items -- and this includes caps and crowns made from precious metals. What else are they getting? False teeth (dentures), braces, and prosthetics have all been (sometimes) reluctant purchases by pawn brokers over the years. They won't get you rich, but if you happen to have them lying around, and don't feel comfortable putting them in your next yard sale, it doesn't hurt to ask.

Pig ears and bull "sticks." This is a niche market that most of us wouldn't be in a position to tap. However, I felt it was worth mentioning. While most pet stores carry starch-based alternatives to the popular pig ear dog treat, some still offer the old-fashioned variety, made from 100% authentic swine ears. Another interesting item for dogs to chew on? Bull sticks. Touted as healthy and fun for dogs of all breeds, these treats are made from bull "parts." The company that makes them doesn't buy them directly from U.S. suppliers (the hormones and antibiotics are a big no-no) but rather imports them. (Does this mean that the first person to meet the market here in the States could be in the next "bull market"?)


Do you represent an exclusive niche market that sells unusual wares for profit? Care to share it with the rest of us? We'd love to hear about it.

Related reading at Wise Bread:

Published Aug. 12, 2009


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