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Yard Sales - Tips From One Treasure Hunting Newb to Another -

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Yard Sales – Tips From One Treasure Hunting Newb to Another

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I'm a bit of a novice yard sale shopper. I like to go whenever I can find the time or have a little extra spending cash, and admittedly that isn't very often. However, I get the biggest thrill when I happen upon a great find. I was the type of child who dreamed of  maps marked with a big X, buried treasure, and the idea of "what if" I had a metal detector. Just a few weeks ago we found a huge pile of rocks in our yard and I couldn't keep myself from trying to find out what was under it. Needless to say I broke the shovel and haven't been able to get back out there to keep digging - but the anticipation of what I might find was awesome!

My favorite thing to search for at yard sales are antiques, children's toys/clothes, and furniture. We're a relatively young couple so our home is a huge mish-mash of random furniture pieces that we could afford at the time of purchase. We honestly only have 1 kitchen chair because the "deal" we found turned out to be a bunch of garbage. Now, I'm by no means a hardcore yard sale shopper. If I think something is a fair price and the people hosting the yard sale are nice, I'm not going to haggle too much... if even at all. So, I make sure to go with a budget in mind, and search first for the things I want most or need. If the price is good, I may even pick up something that I know I can "fix", and even if it turns out that I can't, I'm only out a couple of bucks. Anyway, it didn't take long to learn a couple of tips and tricks for the novice yard seller, so here they are in no real particular order:

1. For the love of god make sure you know where you are going. There is nothing worse than heading out and not being able to find the correct street/address. Have a map, a GPS, printed directions - just something that will help you successfully get there without wasting too much gas. Starting early is best, but if the people hosting the sale are not interested in cherry pickers, don't show up that early. It's rude. If you think you might get a better deal on an item that will hopefully still be there later in the day, then you can always wait it out. I also enjoy driving by houses that I know just had a yard sale, and see if they've left the rest of the items on the curb for free.

2. I know some people like to plan their route. You can easily do this by keeping track of which yard sales you want to visit that weekend and then map it out ahead of time. I tend to be more of a willy nilly yard sale shopper and pick one or two I KNOW I want to go to, and then find others on my way home. In fact, yesterday I had no plans on taking a side street into the next town over, but I'm glad I did! I happened to find a pretty decent yard sale, and managed to snag a 10' by 8' braided rug in perfect condition for $15! (This rug brand new would have sold for well over $600.)

3. Obviously you don't want junk. Make sure you check over EVERYTHING before purchasing it. Does it work? Does it need batteries - and are the batteries corroded? Check IN the boxes before purchasing. What's in it may not be what you think. If you're looking at glassware make sure there are no cracks or chips. Make sure you carefully run your fingers over it because you may feel a flaw that you didn't see. It's even OK to ask to plug an electronic in to check it out before purchasing.

4. Personally, I'm a pretty big cheapskate. I think people are more likely to get better money selling on Craigslist, Uncle Henry's, or through other classified ads. When you're selling something in a yard sale, you're not really there to get rich quick, and as a buyer you need to set some price standards for anything that isn't particularly valuable. I won't pay more than a dollar or two for a pair of children's shoes, and I certainly am not going to drop and arm and a leg on a children's book that was originally $16. You get a buck, or less. But, there are some people who really try to inflate the prices of their items thinking they'll sucker in someone, or at least get haggled down to the price they originally wanted. Be firm, but not an @ss. If it's something you really want, feel free to leave a number so they can call if they couldn't sell it at the price they were originally asking.

5. Now, when it comes to finding antiques I'm not an appraiser, so I really couldn't tell you what something is worth. That doesn't mean I can't tell you when something is too expensive. I happened across a nice yard sale yesterday where the owners either a. Knew exactly what they had and priced it accordingly (which was way out of my budget), or b. Had no idea what they had and figured they'd try to sucker people into buying it. My guess is that they knew what they had. Bummer for me. This is where my childlike desire for treasure hunting comes in. I'm looking for those people who need to sell things quick, or really just have no idea what they are in possession of. While a nice Carnival Glass bowl may be selling on ebay for $25-$35, there is no way in heck I'm going to buy it, even at a yard sale. Too expensive. If I were to find it for $5 or $10 I'd be snatching it up. In the end it may not be super valuable, but I could definitely sell it for way more than I purchased it for, and that is exactly why I love to frequent yard sales.

6. If you're not concerned about the end value of an item, and you just want it for a project, I suggest buying it. If it's slightly damaged but would have otherwise brought in decent money, definitely haggle the price down. Last summer I went to a yard sale specifically for the antique high back chairs they told me they were going to have. Someone got there first and purchased all of the ones that were still without any major structural defects. (This is one downfall of dragging your entire family with you.) By the time I got there, there was only 1 chair left. Part of the back's decorative woodwork had come unglued. However, it didn't detract from the solidness of the chair. A little wood glue fixed it up right away. Guess how much I paid for it? $3.00! I actually finally finished upholstering it yesterday with fabric, foam, and batting I already had in my craft trunk. It's not perfect, but it'll do for my home, and I like that I added something new to something so old. I can't decide if it should be painted though. I kind of like the distressed look. Either way, it was well worth the $3 and I have a great chair to compliment an antique secretary desk I picked up this week too!

7. Sometimes dragging kids along is the worst. idea. ever. and sometimes it's great. People always seem to welcome well behaved children and may even give some freebies are knock off a few bucks on something your child just HAS to have. When you bring your children along you can have them try on clothing before purchasing it. And, speaking of clothing, make sure there are no holes, missing buttons, broken zippers, etc.

8. You don't have to get out of the car. Pull up to the sidewalk and just quickly browse. You can usually tell pretty easily if everything is going to be junk or has already been picked over and that way you can move on quickly without wasting what could be precious time on getting to the next sale.

9. I don't like to rush while shopping yard sales, especially if I'm at a really great one. If you don't have plans to head off to another one, or you really just don't care about speed shopping, take your time. Browse over everything thoroughly, pick up things you may or may not want to purchase and carrying them around until you make your final decision. If you buy multiple things at one sale, ask for a discount.

10. Small bills and change are your friend. It's easier to haggle and say, "I only have $4 on me, would you take that instead of the $6 you're asking?" Then you can easily pull out the $4 instead of requesting that they break the $10 you really shouldn't be showing them that you have.

Anyway, that's my newbie take on frequenting yard sales. We can just call me the Treasure Hunting Hobbiest from now on. Some day you'll see me out with a metal detector making millions on my finds! (I can dream, right?)

 

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  1. Lots of good tips you have here!
    I remember before I had Landon I found an entire bedroom set for him.
    I only paid $100 for it – crib, changing table, dresser, changing table mat & sheets.
    When I got home, I was trying to find instructions online on how to assemble the crib. That’s when I found out that the set was recalled 2 years prior to me purchasing it!! All I could do was cry ),:
    Def make sure you do your research before buying stuff.

  2. My favorite purchase was about 80+ antique canning jars, a vintage food mill and a giant stock pot for $10! Went online and found the food mill selling for $40 where I only paid $1 for it! :)

    But I have to agree, definitely check in boxes – this goes for if you’re selling too. A couple years back my boyfriend grabbed a couple collector glasses. He was on the fence about buying them, but looked in a box and we paid $3 for the set of 4. Why? One box had $20 stashed in side ;).


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