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?