Cheryl of Versed in Vintage graciously wrote my first-ever guest post on finding great vintage deals. Thank you Cheryl: )
I'm so glad you asked! I gotta say that most of my very bestest finds are at ... garage sales! Garage sale is code for estate fresh items, but without the "estate sale" price tags. I have found 19th century Victorian furniture, primitive furniture, antique Indian baskets and pottery, old ironstone dishes, architectural salvage, old advertising, fireplace mantels, antique and retro lamps, gold jewelry, and many other unique pieces at garage sales. Most of these items will have a great story to go with them, just ask!
Here are some of my hard-earned garage sailing tips:
1. Prep the night before you go. Check out Craigslist.org and your local shopper newspapers for area garage sales and map out your route of the best sales. I always edit which sales I will go to as I'm only interested in ones which list antiques or collectibles or mention tools or fishing poles, or cleaning out the shed, etc. (which means it could be an 'old guys' sale). Then number those sales in order from the first to the last on your route. Also, get that gas tank filled.
2. Start early. Carry cash - ones and fives are best. Bring a snack and drinks. Wet wipes will be handy too. If you're looking for a certain furniture piece, measure your space for it and take that measuring tape with you, along with a notepad and pen. If you're a jewelry hunter, bring your magnifying loupe, and if you're a silver, brass and gold hunter, bring that magnet to do your testing. (Magnets don't stick to sterling silver, solid brass, or gold.)
3. Save time, keep a mental list of what you are looking for, and don't waste time looking at every little knick-knack or paddy-whack. Do a scan over the entire sale and start picking. My hubby and I call some sales "drive-byes" because if we can only see clothes and toys from the road, we drive on by. But, I will definitely stop if I see a sweet granny watching over her nice dishes and freshly-ironed linens.
4. Pick the best stuff you can find, make a pile and then politely ask if they will "do you a deal" since you're buying so much. Usually they'll say yes! Disclaimer: I only use this method if the prices are kind of high, which is typical for antique items. If the prices are low, I don't dicker (bargain) at all and I never dicker over a few 50-cent items! If a price is too high but you really like it, ask for their "bottom dollar" and you may be pleasantly surprised. (I used to be a shy person, but not after doing this a few times!)
5. Watch your pile or ask the seller to watch your pile (if she's not super busy), as people will help themselves sometimes.
6. If it's a good sale with lots of cool junk, be sure you go through those cardboard boxes on the ground! I once found an antique Boy Scout Bible from the 1910's in the bottom of a dirty box. It sold on eBay for over $200! (My friends just shake their heads!)
7. Try shopping in older neighborhoods with older residents for the best finds.
8. Don't overlook filthy, dirty stuff. Underneath all that grease or dirt, could be a great piece with an awesome mark or date, ready for a gentle cleaning.
9. We always garage sale when we're on vacation to a new state (or country). Every area has its regional flavor and we've found some wonderful pieces we would never have found at home!
10. Here's an unusual tip. Treat the owner with respect. Sometimes they are in a difficult situation where they need money. Sometimes they are older and have to part with many of their treasured belongings. Sometimes they will want to tell you the story behind a special piece. Their story is called provenance and if it's true, it just increases that antique's value. It's a wonderful story that you cannot get at an antique mall or most flea markets.
Have fun at the sales this spring!
Related post: Irrational Estate Sale Prices
Linking up with SavvyCityFarmer Thrift'n Thursday