Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bargain Basics

It's yard sale season once again and I love it! Hunting bargains early on Saturday morning is a time honored tradition in my family. We're all trained at an early age to spot those tiny pieces of cardboard taped to traffic light poles. But we can never have too many tips, so here is an article I looked up to give us all some good advice on maximizing our finding potential.

Garage, tag or estate sales might not be the preferred method for finding your special collectibles, but it can happen, especially if you don't collect high-end items.

Think of it as a treasure hunt that takes luck and being persistent since you'll likely be going to many garage sales before that "jewel" is found,

It can be time consuming to go to garage sales every weekend, but it's also a lot of fun. But it's even more fun when you bring a few treasures home.

Read Craig's Lists, Classifieds and Watch for Signs

Barbara Crews
Find out when sales are the most popular in your area. Read the newspapers and check online sites, such as the local Craig's List. Keep an eye out for moving and estate sales when folks are emptying out the closets and attic.

Look for newly posted signs at intersections for a quick stop even when not garage saling. If most sales are held on Fridays, a sale starting on a Wednesday may not be on most folks radar and just might yield a few treasures.

When you get ready to head out, highlight the relevant ads in the newspaper, print the Craig's List ads and figure out the best route for the most sales with the least driving.

Know the Best Locations

Older neighborhoods where folks are retired or are moving are my favorite haunts to find vintage kitchen stuff and fifties decor. These are also the sales where I've found old costume jewelry, postcards, vintage Christmas and figurines.

Ritzy neighborhoods, as a rule, are not necessarily good for collectible types of items in our corner of the world. These sales are usually good for items, such as clothing, newer accessories, and household items, items from remodeling and/or furniture.

Church Rummage and Neighborhood Sales

I've also made some great buys in neighborhood-wide sales. Lots of times people who wouldn't otherwise have a sale, will dig out a few things from their closets and stick them on a table. If I'm pressed for time or getting tired, I'll usually stay away from the sales that have loads of baby stuff on the driveway.

Church sales can also yield great finds. Prices are usually lower than private sales and if the congregation has older parishioners, you might just luck out and find a few antiques or older pieces. Vintage Christmas collectibles are some of the best buys I've made at church sales.

The Early Bird Catches the Worm

Is usually the way it goes, but don't let that stop you from catching a sale late in the afternoon. I almost didn't stop late one afternoon, but decided to stop and found a $100. cookie jar (not quite perfect) for a dollar! According to the seller, it had been sitting there all day.

Anything Else for Sale?

Don't see what you're looking for? It doesn't hurt to ask if the seller has any "cookie jars" in the house that they would be willing to sell. They just might remember something they hadn't thought about putting in the sale and you could wind up with a new treasure. I stopped at a garage sale about a block away from our house, asked if they had any cookie jars. They went into the house, brought out a McCoy fruit basket and offered it for $5. SOLD!

Beware of Damage and Reproductions

It's usually dark in garages making it harder to see damaged pieces. Remember cracks or chipped glass, pottery cracks, missing toy parts, broken costume jewelry are all things to beware of. These are expensive to repair and it's usually not worth it.

Unlike buying online, at garage sales you can handle the piece and look for parts that might be re-glued (I've missed a few times) and do the sound test for cracked pottery or china.

With all the reproductions showing up online, beware at garage sales. Since there are no money-back guarantees, ask the seller where they got the piece or if it's a reproduction. They might not always tell the truth, but I like to believe people are truthful most of the time.

Know What It's Worth!

The more you go shopping, the better you'll be able to gauge what's a fair price and what's not. It takes experience and usually a handy resource book or two!

There will be sales with some nice pieces that also have nice prices. The seller apparently found a values book and used that as price setting guide, not taking into account how old the price guide book is, the condition of the items or the fact that their item isn't the same as the one in the guide.

That's when the serious garage saler has their own general price guides in the car. Go to the car and check out general prices ranges. You'll have an idea if the prices are reasonable, as well as giving yourself some room to negotiate if it's an item you're really interested in.

Negotiating or What's Your Best Price?

This is a personal thing and up to your personality or buying style. Most folks will never pay the price asked and like to negotiate everything, meanwhile others never try to get a better deal. If something is reasonably priced at a $1. or $2., I'm not going to try and counter with 50 cents. But if I'm buying two or three things, I'll try and get a price break.

If you do negotiate, remember don't be insulting with your offer. It's best to ask "can you do better on this" just like you would at an antique and collectibles show. Most sellers will do better on the price, especially if you're buying several items.

But I'll never negotiate at a church/charity sale, unless the price is way out of line. After all, it goes to a good cause.

Garage Sale Essentials

When you're setting out for a day of garage and estate sales, taking along a few things will make the day go a little easier.
  • Have a stash of small bills for quick paying and to make it easier for the sellers.
  • Take the highlighted classified ads and a local map
  • A bottle or two of water
  • Sanitizing wipes to use after those grimy sales where nothing has been washed.
  • Packing supplies, bubble wrap for fragile items
  • Note pad and pen
So this Saturday get your butt out there and hunt!

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