Garage sale. Yard sale. Tag sale. Estate
sale. Barn sale. Call it what you want, but
it describes one thing: The best deal in
Each Saturday morning all across the
country, a group of anthropological voy-euristic warriors pour themselves a cup
of coffee, circle ads in their newspapers
and grab a fistful of dollars to head out
on an archeological dig through the soils
of popular culture.
Every 15 seconds in the United States
a garage saler puts out a sign with an
arrow pointing to treasure. Conservative
numbers put lookers, pickers and choosers making around 500 million stop-and-shops a year.
The mostly off-the-book industry is
estimated to be around $3 billion a year,
but shhh, let’s keep that our little secret.
Garage saling is a hope-based adventure—a modern day gold rush. We salers
get to brag about the bargain we got on
a midcentury lamp or the $5 we paid for
an entire set of Bakelite flatware.
Even on days we come back empty-handed, we have great stories of junk so
freakish no one would believe it, and of
the people and their varying tastes and
It is at times a strange dichotomy—
trash to one, treasure to another—but
what people are drawn to at garage sales is
ultimately a study of what makes us tick.
“My mother had one of those” is heard
quite often while on the hunt. Depending
on how fond those childhood memories
are, that can either mean “I want it and
cannot live without it,” or “I wouldn’t take
that off this table if you paid me!”
Thrill of the Hunt
The thrill of the hunt is finding the
needle in the haystack, the nugget of
gold amidst the coal or, in my case, the
missing butter dish to Grandma’s 1954
Franciscan Starburst dinnerware.
Nothing is more exciting than reeling
in something cheap that suits our needs,
even if we didn’t know we had the need
before we saw it. And nothing is better
than paying pennies for something worth
a small fortune.
There are plenty of pot-of-gold stories
from the hunt, such as the woman in
Omaha, Nebraska, who bought a chair
at a garage sale and got home to discover
$3,000 stuffed in the cushions, and the
couple in Florida who bought a box of
yellowed sheet music for $2 at a garage
The Joys of the Garage Sale
Garage sale guru Bruce
Littlefield offers advice to
make your next excursion
By Bruce Littlefield
© Jim Jurica
How to Get the Best Deal
h H Build a relationship with the seller. A little
humor goes a long way.
h H If you are getting a few things, ask if you can
“start a pile.”
h H Keep your poker face on and, by all means,
don’t start drooling.
h H Ask for the seller’s “best price.”
h H Say how much you love an item, then make a
lower offer. However, offering $1 on an item
priced $20 isn’t smart.
h H If you still can’t pay the seller’s price, start
putting things back. You will find he will be
quicker to negotiate.
h H Either pay the agreed on price, or be prepared
to walk away.