Saturday, July 12, 2014

The 1, 2, 3's of Shopping at Yard Sales

 Ah!   During yard sale season (which runs from March until early November here) a sign like the one pictured brings joy to my heart.  As a vintage seller (children's books, cookbooks, and cards), I shop yard sales for work.  The treasure hunting aspect of yard sales is real and fun.

I usually shop with my best friend, who hunts for vintage books, religious art, architectural items, and the quirky, unusual, and fun.   We have a rating system for yard sales:

1.  This is a great sale, usually either multi-generation, multiple families, or an older person conducting the sale.  Vintage items abound!  Prices are fair.  Items are on shelves or tables and easy to see.

2.  This is a good sale with nice things, occasionally something for us, but often things we don't buy - i.e. baby clothes, electronics, CDs, DVDS, etc.

3.  This is the sale with boxes of junk pulled out of a basement, broken items, old mattresses.  Yikes - how soon can we get out of here?!

Most sales we find are 2's on our scale, with perhaps one or two 1 sales on any given day.   Those 1 rating yard sales make it all worthwhile.

The most amazing sale I ever went to was a multi-generation estate sale, family run, that went on for a whole weekend.  I kept going back and back and buying car loads of treasures.  This was perhaps 10 years ago -- I bought paper dolls, vintage children's books, vintage toys, and more.

I almost purchased a First Edition of Gone With the Wind at that sale.  It had a long two page inscription to the original owner from Margaret Mitchell.  Just as I was checking out, someone from the family holding the sale decided they couldn't part with the book ... so I lost out.

The nicest find I ever purchased at a yard sale was a baseball book called The Splendid Splinter about Ted Williams.  I know very little about baseball, but purchased this on a whim for $1.00.  I could not find an online reference for it, so I started bidding at $49.99 on eBay.  Someone immediately wrote me and asked if I would close the auction for $100.  I knew at that point that this was a great find.   It sold for over $600 to a baseball collector, and I was thrilled.

My most embarrassing yard sale story was when my friend and I were going through a neighborhood and stopping at neighborhood sales marked with balloons on the mailbox.  One house had balloons of a different color and style, but we assumed this was just coincidental.  There were a lot of cars out front.  We went into the garage, which was crowded with great stuff.  I took two vintage pictures off the wall.  We didn't see a place to check out, so we assumed the sale was inside the house as well (as sales sometimes are).  We opened the door ... to find a birthday party being held for an elderly man.  It was not a yard sale at all!  We were mortified and highly apologetic.  We left as quickly as possible.

I have many more stories, and more blog posts to come about yard sale adventures!

I will offer three tips for you about yard saling:

1.  Take small bills.  Don't lose out on a sale because a seller cannot make change.

2.  If you are purchasing a stack of items, ask for a bulk deal, i.e. "what would you take for this stack?"

3.  Be friendly!  Be nice!  I always speak to the seller as I enter the garage or house, and usually say something nice as well (i.e. "beautiful day for a sale!" or "you have lots of neat things here").  I am chatty and often find that sellers will show me other books that they hadn't put out.  I have found some of my best estate lots just by being friendly.

Sales have been a little sparser this year.  Maybe it's the economy, or the extreme heat and humidity we have had in Georgia recently.   The little stack you see below is what I found today:  10 or 12 children's books, a sewing pattern, and a community cookbook.  But -- we had fun, and I know there is always next week waiting!