As I write this, my husband has taken the local paper and is off to a garage sale. I cast him a warning look; I don’t even like my own junk, let alone someone else’s. And yet he has bought some interesting (and even valuable) things over the years. Here are three things I learned after living for decades with an inveterate garage saler. Some observations defy conventional wisdom, others not.
Early or Late – Both Good
Get to a sale when it opens and you’ll get the largest selection (but be respectful if the garage sale sign says, “No early birds”). Get there the last hour of the day, and you’ll get the best bargains.
And best: plot your course so you can hit a number of sales without driving back and forth around town: some newspapers feature printable online maps.
The Better the Neighborhood, the Better the Stuff
But not necessarily. I am sometimes amazed that someone who lives in a mini-mansion thinks she should sell a child’s scribbled-in coloring book or her husband’s used shaving equipment. But maybe some people get rich because they are so very thrifty. My husband has bought some of the best stuff – art deco lamps, china, first edition books – from yard sales in modest, working class neighborhoods.
Particularly good finds are when older people are moving out and down-sizing. When I was first married, I bought a set of china from a sweet grandma who said the dishes belonged to HER grandmother.
And Stay Away From . . .
… people who will sell anything rather than throw it away; old baby cribs (which might be lead painted); infant child seats which do not meet safety standards; old hair dryers or other suspect electrical equipment; old mattresses ( just reading about the recent infestation of bedbugs should turn you off to this one).
Also, although garage sales are a great place to buy children’s toys, beware of toys in categories that have been recalled. These include painted toys from China (Thomas the Tank Engine trains), magnet-containing dolls and construction sets; the Aqua Dots bead kits. Check KidsInDanger.org for others.
The Most Disgusting Items Ever Seen at a Garage Sale: plus-size grey bras which were once white, a toilet plunger, plastic baby bottles with dried milk in the bottom, a parakeet cage encrusted with dried poop (anyone ever heard of bird flu?)
The Best Things My Husband Ever Bought at a Garage Sale: a pile of Beverly Cleary books for our granddaughter; designer ties from the 1930’s; a fake fireplace which I have in my office at school. It has a mantle and “glowing” logs.” It’s a real conversation piece.