Thursday, July 13, 2006

Yard Sales, De-Classified

As I circle my city in search of bargains, I've had a little too much time to think about classifying yard sales. Driving with a broken radio will do that to you! Here's my down-and-dirty analysis:

The Church/Charity Sale--my favorite by far. Lots of stuff, from a variety of homes, priced by people who may not know anything about the items and who have to clear out the space by the end of the day. The wild card factor is high here! Everything-you-can-stuff-in-a-bag sales a plus! Not to mention they benefit great causes.
The So Rich Why Bother? yard sale--in neighborhoods with $500,000 entry prices, who bothers to have a yard sale? Yet people do, and most of them have no clue how to do it right. This can result in ridiculously low prices or in just the opposite, but the quality of the goods always makes them worth a stop. Their "starter collections" may be better than most people's dream stuff. For instance, young families will sell off the old Pottery Barn furniture to upgrade to a designer decorated room. Clothing is almost always cheap. Who in their right minds would wear used clothes, anyway?
The Movin' On Up Yard Sale--my least favorite, because appearances are deceiving. Picture a sparkling community of young families, new SUVs in the driveways, Little Tikes stuff as far as the eye can see. They've stretched to afford the biggest house they can. Now they can't afford to furnish it. You may see the husband's old brown sofa or accessories from TJ Maxx. These sellers know exactly what they paid for their stuff, and they think they're entitled to get most of it back. They shop kids' consignment sales, so toy and clothing prices are higher than average. You can, however, find almost any kid stuff your heart desires.
The Too Broke To Advertise Yard Sale--I discovered these in my last neighborhood, and I've found them some of the very best. So named because signs often spring up when money gets tight. The financial thinking that keeps folks in poverty is revealed in their consumer goods. I am always amazed at the name brand shoes and clothing you see spread on the lawn of a dingy duplex. Things are priced in increments of dimes and quarters. Unlike the aspirational families above, these sellers will go into debt to keep their kids in Nikes, but don't value their used goods highly. One lady told me she had spent over $400 buying Fisher Price Rescue Heroes, a large chunk of which she sold to me for $5. This is one area where I almost never bargain. Unfortunately, I rarely need to. This sale has the potential for great attic loot. This is where you'll find that old Chinese screen for $1. Often the sellers are employed as household help and have been given boxes to cart away from the So Rich Why Bother? set.

Hope this list doesn't seem too irreverent! These are gross generalizations, and there are all kinds of sales in between. Plus I didn't even mention estate sales. Maybe more on those later?


Queen of Carrots said...

Ha! Well, I loved your descriptions, irreverent or not. I went to some Movin' On Up sales this weekend, and did get some great deals on kid's stuff. (Wooden dollhouse that needed repainted for $5.)

I like the church sales most, too. I can't wait to see what kind of sales are available in my new neighborhood.

Jodi said...

Not sure if I've commented here before, but I've been lurking for a couple months.

I, too, spend a lot of time in my car driving from sale to sale making classifications in my mind. You've missed two important categories:

1)The Drive-By - perhaps I'm too into judging a book by its cover, but there are some sales I just don't bother with, for various reasons, based on the view from the road.

2)The Grandma Junk Sale - this happens when Grandma's spent a lifetime collecting every knick-knack ever manufactured by Home Interiors and either needs to make room for more or needs to downsize to move to a smaller house. Sometimes these fall into the Drive-By category, but sometimes you can find some pretty antiques here.

I enjoyed this post very much! :)

Laura Talbert said...

My experiences validate your classifications. I would add one... the Perpetual Yard Sale. My mother-in-law is one of these. She has a yard sale 2-3 times a year. This is because she will not price things to move, very little negotiating allowed. Her thinking is if it didn't sell this time it's because the "right" person didn't see it; they will surely come by NEXT time.

Jessica said...

LOL!!! I love this post!!! My mom and I love to go to Yard Sales. You did an EXCELLENT job of classifing yard sales!!! As I read each of your catagories I can see the yard sales that fit them!! :)

I found your blog through the Blogs Of Beauty Contest!! Congratulations!!! :)

Anonymous said...


I posted a question once that "needs" answering : ) When traveling to a new area, how do you quickly assess (by using maps or newspapers) where the upscale neighborhoods (and therefore yard sales, thrift stores) are? We will be vacationing down south in August and I do not know the area at all.


Anonymous said...

I love your post! We LOVE yard sales and completely agree with you. =) We also do the drive by yard sales as mentioned in the above post. =) When we lived in California, there were yard sales, but not advertised.. but there was an abundance of thrift store EVERYWHERE!! so that's where we went mostly. Now we are back home in Ohio, it's yard sale city.. LOL.. matter of fact, we are getting things together for our town yard sale in September!

I found your blog off the Blogs of Beauty.. but aren't you also on Prairie Homemaker messageboard? I am.. under Andrea..=)

Anonymous said...

Yup. Spot on. I find the ones highly amusing who expect to get what they paid or "What it's worth" I've even been to sales where they had printed ebay listings of similar objects to prove that the item was collectible and therefore worth $50. The answer to "But I can get __for it on ebay" is "Then sell it there!"

Mary Ann said...

You are right on with your descriptions. As I become more experienced with yard saling, I am more discerning as to the types and what kind of stuff and prices will be there. Those Movin' On Up sales are the worst! If I hear one more time, "You'd pay alot more than that brand-new..." :-) I have found at these sales that I have gotten better prices if a man is in charge of it. LOL!!

Anonymous said...

my absolute favorite sales are the Departed Elderly woman's Clean-out Sale. If the family has not had a real auctioneer come in, just open the lawn, you can find:

* vintage items still around because they were purchased with hard-earned dollars before 1940 and therefore treasured and cared for. I have a collection of McCoy pottery that have never paid more than 50cents for, procured at these sales.

* Most of these lovely ladies received many gifts in their later years from family members who wanted to upgrade her kitchen appliances, etc. These new, usually expensive, items are sometimes still in the box because Auntie preferred her mixer from 1959.

* Vintage textiles usually abundant here.


Kristal said...

LOVE this post! I'm a recent SAHM and have started selling stuff on ebay again( to help support my scrapbooking and my newest-collecting swizzle sticks :0). I'm always on the look-out for the y/s for goodies. Your categories are so correct.

Anonymous said...

We have another group out here, it's the "i saw it on ebay for..." group, they know how to price their stuff because it can be sold for this or that on ebay.
I try to avoid this group, and if I do stumble on to one, i never buy, they do not haggle and thinkin 99% of what they are selling is a mint treasure.
Like the one gal selling betty crocker icing tubs for $5 per 25...

Anonymous said...

The yard sales that frustrate me are the ones where there are so few items for sale. Why do they bother having a sale at all? These are the same people that complain later that they were out there all day and only made $20, so it doesn't pay to have a yard sale. I don't open my garage unless I'm pretty sure I can make at least $300.

Meredith said...

Debbie asked: When traveling to a new area, how do you quickly assess (by using maps or newspapers) where the upscale neighborhoods (and therefore yard sales, thrift stores) are?

Debbie, I'm so sorry I missed your comment. What happens is that I get on here late at night and read my comments and maybe, just maybe, get to type a post--but by the time I get to the comments, the baby is crying again and I forget by the next time I get to the computer.

Anyway, you'll be disappointed in my answer, for sure. I rarely look for the good side of town when vacationing. I don't like driving in unfamiliar cities, and I don't like to pester my husband about driving me across town. If I am lucky enough to locate ANY thrift store or yard sale that's close to where we're staying, well, then, that's where I go! I do like to ask other customers when I get there, as they can give me directions and guidance specific to the area. Or, if you're looking in the yellow pages and notice something like a Junior League Thrift Shop, it may be worth your time to find it, as the charitable organization may be a tip-off to quality.
Let me know how your trip works out, though!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Meredith, didnt think about the Junior League, so appreciate your time in answering! if anyone else has tips, would love to hear them.

Let me add one more type of Yard Sale that we see up here a lot...The Honest John Sale (they are actually called that). Just put the stuff out on a table, priced, with a coffee can for the payment to go in. Folks don't even stay home to tend their table. I guess they've never been robbed because i see Honest Johns in the same locations every summer!

Mindy said...

Great Post Meredith!! I laughed at a few descriptions too...all too true!! thanks for sharing this with us all!

Anonymous said...

Very true! This last week, I was stayed with my mom to hit their local town's community-wide garage sales (100+ sales in one little town!). The official sale day was Sat., but a lot of people start early so we were out on Wed. even. I managed to pretty sufficiently outfit my 19mo boy for this fall/winter (maybe even the next fall, too), but it was interesting to me to observe the different sales. They do pretty much fit your categories.

I paid a variety of prices, but what I did observe was that the price I paid generally matched the quality of the clothes - 50 cents usually meant it was bit more worn whereas the $1 items look practically new. My best score - a HUGE tub of Duplo-type blocks for $3!

My mom (a veteran at shopping and holding garage sales) often wondered about why those with dinky little sales were even bothering, but the way I see it, if they hold their little sale at the same time as 2 or 3 others on their street are holding big sales, they might be more successful than otherwise.

Annette said...

Hey...I am one of those who does a "dinky little sale". :)
I'm happy sitting out for a morning getting rid of my year's collection of stuff and making my $40-60. I can then take my hubbie and son out to dinner. It's a yearly treat! :)

That's why some of us hold those "dinky little sales". :)

Mind you...since I do have a "dinky little sale" each year, friends are starting to say..."hey, when you have your sale, you want to sell my stuff too?" They don't want it, I get the profit, and life is good! The stuff leftover goes to our annual church camp sale. I don't have to store stuff away waiting until I have enough for a big enough sale (to please other folks). :)

Anonymous said...

annette ~ go you! I personally have nothing AGAINST "dinky little sales" - I'm a shopper and will look and often find bargains no matter what size the sale is. My mom, however, DOES NOT like to shop, so I guess she just wants to make sure a sale is worth the time it takes to park the car and get out, y'know? She's funny like that - she'll do 10-15 "dinky little" washer-loads of laundry in a week (for just her and my dad) but won't stop for a "dinky" sale.

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