Posted by Bob Brooke on 05/04/2018
It’s that time of year, when the weather begins to warm up and people begin to hold yard and garage sales. These are the point at which most antiques enter the market. But unlike the 1960s when the garage sale phenomenon began, today’s sellers know the relative value of what they’re selling, so items aren’t necessarily cheap anymore.
Garage sales used to be great venues for bargain hunters. The contents sold at a garage sale are usually items the seller has outgrown physically and/or emotionally. Antiques at these sales often belonged to a parent who has died and left them to one of their children who don’t want them. But with the introduction of eBay, sellers often find they can get more for an item online than in their garage sale. Those who do choose to sell older items usually look them up first on eBay and price them accordingly.
There are four different types of buyers at garage sales: flea market and antiques dealers, antiques pickers who then sell to dealers, collectors, and those out for a morning of fun with friends. Which one are you?
In order to be a successful shopper, you have to be organized. If you’re looking for specific items, it’s important to make a list of what you want or need. If you’re a collector, make a list of pieces missing from your collection. This will help you stay focused from sale to sale. It’s easy to to get off track when you find unexpected bargains, especially if you’re working within a budget.
It used to be that sellers advertised their sales in the classified sections of local newspapers. But with newspapers slowly fading from popularity, sellers are turning to special local garage sales sites on the Internet. If you have a smartphone, you can check the ads that list sales with antiques and collectibles in your area and carry them along with you as you shop. Garage sales in established or older neighborhoods are more likely to have antiques and older items for sale. Those sales, hosted by 30 and 40-year-olds, often located in newer subdivisions, tend to have mostly household items and children’s clothing and toys.
Once you have set up your goals, prepare to go “saling.” You’ll need a few items to make your shopping easier. Besides a measuring tape, you should bring along a map, magnifying glass, snacks, packing materials, boxes, and a sufficient amount of cash in small bills. Wear comfortable shoes and layered clothing, especially if the weather forecast is uncertain. Also carry along a transparent shopping bag and a fanny pack. The fewer outer garments and other accessories you have to deal with, the easier it will be to shop.
Most garage sales begin between 8 and 9 A.M. Though the old adage, “the early bird catches the worm,” often applies, you need to be aware that sellers need to get ready for their sales. Pickers especially, often pester, and in some cases harass sellers days before or early in the morning before sales begin. Often these buyers tell the seller a sad story about how they can’t make the weekend sale because they have to work or because a family member is ill. This is not only unfair to other shoppers but is also unfair to the sellers, who are so anxious to sell their items that they give in to anyone making an offer. Nothing is as frustrating as arriving at the start of a sale only find the best items already gone.
Once you arrive at a sale, take a quick overview of everything. Don't be timid. Ask where particular items are located if you don’t see them. The sooner you get to the area, the quicker you’ll find what you want.
In nearly all cases, all sales are final. Therefore, always inspect your goods carefully before you purchase. Concentrate on items in good, complete and working condition. If you’re a dealer, you’ll want to get a receipt for goods you may have purchased.
While most sellers price all their items before the sale, some do not. These lazy sellers often judge you by what you’re wearing and will quote prices for what they think you can afford to pay. So forget the designer clothes. It’s important to look like an average shopper. This applies to your vehicle as well. If you’re driving a Mercedes, a BMW, or the like, park it a distance away.
Some sellers will let you barter for items. If you think an item is too expensive, it doesn’t hurt to ask what the lowest price would be for an item. If the seller says the price is fixed, don’t belabor the point. Either pay for the item or say “no thank you” and move on.
If a garage sale runs for more than one day, you may likely get a better price for what you want on the second day of the sale. Sellers often reduce prices on the second day of the sale to get rid of items.
Of course, you risk the possibility your treasure may have already been bought by that time. Leaving a reasonable offer with your name and phone number is another way if you feel the object's price is beyond your means. It gives the seller an alternative if the piece hasn’t sold by the end of the sale.
When buying furniture or other bulky items, try to arrange for a timely, later pickup convenient with the seller. Always retain a receipt that identifies you as the new owner and present this information on your return. If you can fit in some of the piece's components, take them the day of the sale, as this will ultimately lighten your final load. At the time of pickup do not rely on the seller to supply tools or manpower. It’s up to you to provide both.
In the end, chances are when you unpack your treasures from the day's sales, you’ll discover you not only saved a bunch of money, but you also made some outstanding purchases. After all, one man's trash is another man's treasure.