Saling in the off-season

Posted by Jenny in Sale Tales | 1 Comment

Saturday was cold and drizzly and Meghan was still out of town, but I had the itch to hit some sales and headed off alone around 8:30. Going to sales in the off-season is a whole different deal. In summertime you can just drive around for three hours and barely make it out of one neighborhood. From about October through April there aren’t that many sales and more time is always spent driving around to different neighborhoods (or even waiting in line for estate sales to open up). There aren’t as many people going out, but there always seems to be more competition at the few sales that there are. It’s a very different vibe, but it can still be fun.

The first sale I went to was an estate sale where the ad looked great. I walked into the garage and immediately heard one shopper say to another, “They have good stuff, but their prices are way too high!” Not a good sign, and it turned out to be pretty true. The stuff was piled up in boxes and piles in the basement, unpriced except for some generic signs on certain items. I asked about a couple of things knowing that I probably wouldn’t want to pay what they wanted, and I was right. I left without buying anything. As I drove off I was thinking that if the stuff had been nicely arranged and clearly priced, it wouldn’t have seemed all that bad. I have nothing against digging through toppling-over disorganized piles, but then I expect things to be cheaper than antique store prices.

Next, I hit a series of sales where people were sitting there shivering in their garages with really unremarkable stuff. Then I decided to go to a sale that happens twice a year, a fundraiser for an artists’ group that puts on an annual crazy solstice parade. Meghan and I have been to this sale quite a few times and you would think that they would have great funky arty crap, but you would be wrong. I have never bought anything and most of the stuff always seems to be on the lame and/or hippie side of things. I knew that Meghan would be horrified that I even bothered to go, but part of me thought that maybe this was the year that there would be a ton of really great stuff. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. I think the huge parade float pieces do lend a little something to the shopping experience, though.

Solstice sale

Finally I made it over to an estate sale that sounded interesting. It was in a cool ’50s house painted blue and built into the side of a steep hill. The living room had an incredible view and was filled with interesting things. I instantly felt glad to be there and knew that even if I didn’t find anything at least I’d enjoy spending a bit of time digging through the house.

The prices all seemed to be in that range where if you really want something it’s not bad, without being so cheap that people are going nuts buying things for resale. There were a few tiki items and a lot of souvenirs from foreign lands. It seemed like the people who lived there must have been pretty interesting. I later overheard one of the sellers saying that they had been university professors, then retired and had second careers as antique dealers. Which would explain the whole room full of priced antiques (offered here for half of the price on the tags) and the tons of antique price guides and books they had.

After scoping out the living room and kitchen I headed downstairs, which was at least five separate basement rooms filled with stuff. There were books in almost every room in the house.

Estate sale basement

One of the rooms was full of dolls and crafting supplies.

Dolls and crafty stuff

I was amazed at how organized the crafter had been. She had gone nuts with her label maker. She labeled everything! There were small plastic storage boxes with labels spelling everything out. “Red trim.” “Gold trim.” “Blue trim.” It was amazing. This tool cabinet filled with buttons and doodads is just one example.

Someone loved their label maker

The labels were most prominent in the crafting area, but even extended into other parts of the house. She even put labels on things where you could see the contents, so there was really no need for a label. I guess she was just on a roll. (In this case, the contents of the box must have gotten mixed up at some point prior to the sale. Or maybe she started moving stuff around and lost interest in the whole labeling project.)

Gold and silver slippers

I had found one great piece of barkcloth in the craft area but that was all, and I was sure there had to be something else I wanted. I started looking through more of the books and ended up pulling some out that seemed like they had to be worth more than the $1 or $2 they were asking, although I really didn’t know for sure. I ended up buying a good-sized stack. Later, I looked them up online and found that I will be lucky to even get my money back. At this point I started asking myself what I was thinking, considering that I already have plenty of unwanted books at home to deal with and I really didn’t need to be bringing back any more. When I really thought about it, I decided that the answer is gambling. Part of me likes to gamble, and if one of those books had ended up being valuable it would have been really exciting. I’ll give a couple away to people I know who will like them, but the rest will just get sold to some bookstore or at my next yard sale for whatever I can get. I suppose if I have to have a gambling-oriented vice, spending $20 on yard sale books every once in a while might be a better option than compulsively buying scratch-offs or developing an online poker habit.

One Response to Saling in the off-season

  1. erinberry says:

    I know exactly what you mean about the gambling aspect – I’ve done that too, taken a risk on something for $10 when I thought it had a chance of being worth $100. Usually it turns out not to be, but I did buy a set of pewter candlesticks at an antiques auction that I sold for $160-$165 on ebay.