Cool garage sale/estate sale finds

A week or so ago my wife and I stopped at house nearby with a hand lettered sign by the road reading “Antique/Estate Sale”. It turned out that the “estate” was stuff that belonged to an antique dealer who had died some 15 years ago! Among other things, I found a 1949/50 Zenith Transoceanic shortwave radio, model G500, with all the original parts. Now, I have absolutely no use for such a radio and told my wife so. In making small talk with the guy running the sale I asked “By the way, what are you asking for the Zenith?”. He replied “I dunno, how about $25 bucks?” I couldn’t snatch it up quickly enough. For that price it would make a great decorative piece for my office/man cave, if nothing else. Got it home, cleaned it up a bit, plugged it in and stood back (way back). It took the tubes a bit of time to warm up and then - static! I messed with the dials and was able to tune in some stations. It works! Surprisingly good sound for an antique.

Still don’t need it but, damn it’s cool!

I keep hearing about these great finds, yet every time I drop in on a local garage or estate sale it’s all garbage. And every time I swear I’ll not go to another one, I read something like this that raises my expectation and hopes again. Thanks.

I’m an Amazon book reseller. A while back, Rachel Maddow mentioned a long out of print book called “Night of Camp David” on her show (in short, the POTUS goes insane and must be removed from office) and it soared in price and then quickly vanished online. A couple weeks later, I arrived at an estate sale a few minutes after it officially closed, and disregarded the big sign on the door that said “CLOSED” and walked in anyway. They were dealing with their final shoppers and nobody noticed me at all, and when I went downstairs and checked out the bookshelves, there it was! :cool: OK, it was part of a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book set, but that really didn’t matter because I took it home and listed it on my Amazon account for $40, and sold it within a few days.

The book has since been reissued, and briefly crept into the lower reaches of the best-seller chart. Fletcher Knebel’s estate-holders are probably quite happy about this.

I found a hand-crafted gaming table, made from maple and walnut. One side of the table is a chess board and the other is backgammon. It was in rough shape with the varnish peeling off and nicks and dings. I grabbed it for $20 and refurbished it. At some point I need to try to sell it, as it’s sitting in my basement.

I don’t usually stop at yard sales, but some years back, we pulled up to one in our neighborhood. The seller was recently divorced and getting rid of a lot of her household stuff. I scored a bunch of Corningware for cheap - and I’m using it all 25+ years later.

My best find was a 1959 Gibson GA-40 Les Paul Jr amp.

It was $5:eek:

I guess my best find was a copy of Neil Gamain’s Neverwhere. I asked the woman how much it was, and she said “50 cents”. Then she said, “oh, just take it for free”. When I got home I discovered that it was a publisher’s proof copy, and is signed by the author! Ok, it’s not spectacular, but I thought it was pretty cool.

Supposedly since the internet and ebay, estate and yard sales aren’t nearly as good as they used to be as people pull the good stuff before it goes on sale since its easier to figure out what the good stuff is.

I got some Le Creuset saucepans, worth over $100 each, for a total of $10 at a church rummage sale. One of the people at the cash table was a 60-ish woman who said they had been hers, and she had just gotten married and she and her similarly-aged husband used this sale as a way to get rid of their duplicates.

That was a steal under any circumstances.

If I drive up to a garage sale, and there’s a baby swing and a crib in the driveway, it’s a pretty safe best that the rest of it won’t be of interest to me. However, once in a while I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

It depends on who’s running it. Most people don’t use eBay, or know how to use it properly.

At our library’s last book sale, the woman running it kept telling people how much some of the more valuable books were selling for on Amazon, and was hesitant about negotiating prices because of it. :rolleyes: Example: Towards the end of the sale, we had a man who wanted to buy the Chilton’s auto repair guides, priced at $3 each (10% of what Amazon was charging) and said he would take them for $2 each. She relented when I said, “It’s the end of the sale. We don’t want to pack these things up again.” They were ex-library books that were each the size of an unabridged dictionary, and that was about $20 we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Proofs are not supposed to be sold under any circumstances, so that’s probably why she let you have it for free.

An old school was selling fixtures before they tore down the building. I got a library card case for $50. It’s huge. Everyone who sees it, wants it. I’ll never part with it.

I scored a Peavey Q215F equalizer for $2. Love this thing.

I’ve got two tiny little card cases, two drawers each. I think I paid $2 for both. Hell, the wood is worth more than that!

I store ammo in one of them.

My favorite yard sale story:

Several of the towns in my area hold annual yard sale days, on which a whole lot of people in the village have yard sales on the same day; so there are dozens or even hundreds of them to go through in a small area.

Some years ago, at one of these events, I found a really nice pressure canner for $10. It was probably 40 years old, but in perfectly good shape, and there’s nothing to wear out on those but the gaskets, which are easily replaceable for a couple of bucks. New ones of similar quality were going at the time for about $100; and I needed one.

But that’s not why it’s my favorite yard sale story. This is: I bought the canner and continued on to another sale, and another, and another . . . and, about three blocks over, at an entirely separate yard sale, which offered no pressure canners, was poking through a pile of books: and there was the manual for the canner I had just bought. Exact same model.

Twice a year a local church opens their parking lot for people to set up garage sales. So it is like a garage sale mall. Most stuff is pretty ordinary but I did once score a used but refurbished Bissell vacuum cleaner for $15. I had it a long time, more than worth the price.

Way back in the '50s my parents went to some sort of sale, and came home with an ornate wicker baby buggy from the 1890s. I think they paid $5 for it. It has swans on its sides, and is only missing the umbrella. My father painted it white, and it’s a real beauty. I now have it in our enclosed patio with orchids in it.

A woman’s husband died and she had a garage/yard sale to sell his stuff. A big box was taped shut and labeled “Adult Movies $500”. It was the end of the day and I was curious about the box. She insisted it was worth $500, but did not want it opened. I offered $10 or $20 and she accepted my offer.

The box was crammed full of really hard porn DVDs. I could have sold them one by one and made a profit. Instead, in the spirit of giving, I put them in my Santa sack and handed them out to all the bad girls and boys during that year’s SantaCon. HoHoHo, indeed!:smiley:

$2 is great. Those things are darn useful.:wink:

I’ve never really gotten anything cool, but my house is filled with about 95% estate sale furniture. Around here, I’ve learned which neighborhoods to shop, and which estate sale companies to deal with. I might use some place names that are meaningless to most people, but in case locals read them, they’ll know where to go.

West Bloomfield is a gold mine for furniture. These are mostly higher-end homes with older folks (that have died) who value really good furniture. These are usually professions such as doctors, dentists, high-level managers, etc. Lots of golf stuff, but I don’t know golf, so I can’t judge quality. Furniture is top notch. Kitchen stuff, surprisingly, is usually garbage. I assume they cook with what their parents cooked with, and don’t know anything about quality kitchenware. Seriously, K-Mart knives are usually what I find. Lots of high-end china and crystal, though – they know what to serve people. Pretty much all of my furniture is from here. Surprising amount of Christmas stuff given the reputation of being a largely Jewish part of town.

Grosse Pointes are disappointing. They have a reputation for high end, but the housing stock is small, old, and the stuff for sale is generally something that a frugal person bought in 1960 and kept until his death. Way too much junky Christmas stuff.

Plymouth (where I live) is also disappointing. Regarded as affluent, it’s a mix between youngish (Gen-X and Millennials) and boomers. The Boomers bought huge houses cheap in the 1970’s and early 80’s, before the area was expensive, not nearly as affluent as West Bloomfield. Of course, the affluent folk that are here now haven’t died off yet, so most of the estate sales are of lower quality.

Dearborn and Livonia are hit and miss. Both have been affluent but are in states of decline.

South Lyon can be good, because that’s where a lot of the affluent Livonia people escaped to when black people started moving west of Telegraph Rd. They’re silly, but the good thing is, they took all of their good stuff with them before they died.

Oh, avoid “private sales”; if they’re not run by an estate sales company, they’re usually garbage.

While not a cool find, my best find is my dining room set. It’s an approximately $10,000 set that I picked up on a half-off Sunday for a cool $1200. With two extra leaves, it extends from the dining room into the parlour and seats 14 people on those special occasions that demand it.

I hope my kid can get $1200 for it when we die.