How to spot treasures at garage sales


Bakelite items are one thing to look for when scouring garages sales for resale bargains. Image: EraPhernalia Vintage/Flickr/CC BY-SA

We have all heard stories of people getting rich from a knickknack they bought at a garages sale that turned out to be a lost masterpiece by Michelangelo. While those kinds of finds are extremely rare, often forgotten treasures can be found at garage sales, priced at a pittance. Smart shoppers can make some cash — if they know what to look for — reselling garage sale treasures.

More than a pastime for some

Garage sales for some are a pastime, a job and a passion. “It’s an illness. The only cure is death,” Jim Daniels, a yard sale aficionado, told the Paducah Sun. “The challenge of it, of finding that hidden treasure, keeps me going.”

To make a living on eBay, for example, requires a knowledge of what is selling and what is not. Your best friend on these hunts, according to Aaron LaPedis, author of “The Garage Sale Millionaire,” is a smart phone. LaPedis recommends searching eBay for similar items to the ones you see in a garage sale to determine how they are selling and for how much.

Block sales

Multi-family block sales and church thrift sales are generally the most productive ones to hit, according to LaPedis, simply because there are more items and a greater diversity. Estate sales can be good, too, because a lifetime of accumulated items are on sale.

Thrift stores also use eBay

Thrift stores, however, even those for charities, are generally not a resource for resale items. Though they are very useful for low-priced, everyday items, thrift stores now use eBay to check the value of merchandise, too, and price things accordingly.

Items to look for

Some items to look for, according to an eBay user with the moniker al89joe, are old Christmas ornaments, vintage collectible salt and pepper shakers, thing smade of bakelite, enamelware, Swanky Swigs glasses and Fireking or Anchor Hocking mugs made of milk glass. More research on eBay should tip you off to other items that get quickly snatched up for good prices.

Movie and TV collectibles, if in good shape, are also easy to sell. Some shows and movies with devout following of collectors are “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “Dr. Who” and the ’60s Gothic horror soap opera “Dark Shadows.” There are hundreds of others. EBay has made these items more accessible to collectors than they were at one time, which has driven the price down.

Come early, come late

LaPedis recommends arriving 30 minutes early to a sale to get the best bargains. You can even offer to help the seller set-up to get an opportunity to see everything first. Arriving an hour before the sale ends can also be an advantage. Though many items will be gone, those that are left can often be gotten for even better bargains. People holding garage sales want to get rid of the items they have laid out and are usually willing to come down in the final hour. It also never hurts to haggle, as long as you don’t insult the seller by going too low.


Paducah Sun


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