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Thu June 19 2014 12:20:32

The Five Types of Yard Sales

By: Julia Wilkinson

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I've been receiving a lot of email lately about yard sale adventures and was inspired today to delve into the archives of my personal website,, for a "classic" piece on the five types of yard sales. Enjoy!

After years of spending Saturday mornings sussing out area yard and estate sales, my sister and I developed a kind of verbal shorthand for describing some of them. If you go to them regularly, too, I think you know what I mean. It's usually a love-at-first sight - or none at all - kind of thing.

Either your heart goes pitty-pat, like those of the Keno brothers happening upon a trove of early American folk paintings, or you get the sinking feeling akin to turning over that lovely little piece of Victorian pottery and seeing - "Made in China."

For the bad sales (or, well, this is the P.C. era; maybe I should just say the "quality-challenged sales" instead), my sister and I came up with a simple monosyllabic descriptor: shah. This is similar to the sound uttered by Michael Myers as Wayne of Wayne's World when mocking something. I think it's something between a sure and a yeah, with a soupcon of "as if" for good measure.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the different kinds of yard sales. As a writer, I know that you're supposed to find ways to present articles as The Top Ten this or the Five Ways to That. So, here is my modest example of a list that breaks down the various kinds of yard sales out there: This list starts out with the worst and gets progressively better.

The Five Types of Yard Sales

1) The Shah (a.k.a Scoff "Oh Please," or Insert Your Favorite Dismissive Phrase Here).
The Shah is the sale that may have looked good from the road, but on closer inspection, the stuff is of the same caliber as that pile stashed in the corner of your tool closet - the one that you just haven't found time to take to charity, throw away, or both. Often it includes an inordinate number of old drinking glasses and mugs, and perhaps a few plates. Sometimes that is all it includes. You won't even slow down to do what's next on the list...

2) The Drive-By
This is the sale that people will slow down their cars to check out. They get a quick look at the merchandise, and drive off. They don't bother to park, and they may be rather shameless about the rubbernecking, at that.

I've probably hosted a few drive-bys in my day (at least by later in the day), so I know from experience. It's similar to the shah, with old glassware, but usually has some old clothes and albums (yes, albums...remember them?) thrown in for good measure. There may also be some cassette tapes (yes, cassette tapes - remember them?).

You can often find wonderful juxtapositions such as Jim Nabors' Christmas Album and the Best of Peaches and Herb. I personally try to avoid doing drive-bys myself, because it just isn't a very nice thing to do.

3) The Sleeper
The sleeper can be one of the best kinds of yard sales to chance upon, because at first glance, it appears to be a Drive-By, or even a Shah, but on closer inspection, there are a couple items lurking among the less-desirables that are diamonds in the rough.

An example of this is the sale that I almost missed this summer, where just before I was about to leave, I noticed a few more items on the front porch, and discovered a wonderful big box of great Halloween costumes, and a big bag of nice, name-brand maternity clothes.

4) The Early Bonanza
A lot of yard sales fall into this category. This is where you get the standard jelly glasses, plastic cups, and old albums, but with the old clothing are some brand-new pieces, and there are a few really cool items that get snatched up early in the day.

I think most people recognize that they need to put a few cherries out there in the ol' yard sale fruit bowl. Good stuff here includes things like original works of art, or nice framed prints, priced to move (I picked up an adorable old print of a "Virginia gentleman" for $10 a few weeks ago); brand new appliances in the box; wedding gifts that were never used (I got a complete set of salad bowls for $4 that had been a wedding gift to the yard sale's hostess), jewelry boxes, current hardback and paperback books, videos, nice toys or vintage toys, largely intact, etc.

I like to think that my last few sales fell into this category. Our "cherries" included a wrought-iron plant holder/stand that used to be an oil lamp stand, and an almost-new metal bathroom shelf unit.

5) The Pitty-Pat
This is the mother of all yard sales (or estate sales). Good stuff is plentiful, and priced to move. I've come across a few sales like this in my life...and only a few so far. You know it when you walk into one. Either there is just nice, quality stuff everywhere that meets the eye - with looooow prices - or there are enclaves of nice stuff if you poke around in corners.

One such sale was the "shopaholic's" - the sale that I've written about in my piece for AuctionBytes, "Estate Sales I've Known and Loved."

There was a whole roomful of giant life-sized girls' dolls priced at $10 each. There were four jam-packed doll houses, full of quality antique dollhouse furniture priced at $45 each. Probably worth $400-$500 with all the stuff inside. (Wish I could go back in time and buy one of them. At the time, I was running out of hands to hold things with, and too lazy to go back).

Another was an open-house sale I went to recently. The whole place was decorated like something out of Better Home and Gardens...or, maybe more like Under the Tuscan Sun marble, chandeliers, white and off-white, Ballard Designs catalog-esque decor. I got a beautiful ornate off-white carved mirror for $20. And the nice proprietress even plied me with free toy cars that her son had outgrown.

Well, there you have it. The Five Types of Yard Sales.

Think I'm off? Have stories to share? Post a comment here!

And if you liked this article, you might also enjoy another classic, "Top Five Tips for Getting the Most Out of Yard Sale Season."

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Thu Jun 19 19:05:32 2014

I think most around here are sleepers.

Could be one more type - (can't think of a good name)
New merchandise that has been hauled to or stored at home. Maybe they have a shop, or maybe it went out of business. But it all gets hauled out for a garage sale. I've seen a lot of that here.

Oddly, most of the time I don't recognize the brand or the clothing label. Maybe someone tried to start a new line of clothing or a new line of paper products or gift items and it did not work out. I have not bought anything at these type sales, but it may appeal to some!

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Thu Jun 19 20:57:47 2014

Basset, you made me think of another: seller seems to be a "professional" yard saler holding sales every weekend - ever see those? (They're always a disappointment)

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by: fvh This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 20 03:05:16 2014

Don't forget the extreme couponer's yard sale! Being a lifelong couponer (I loathe the term extreme) I never buy at these sales as I likely have a stash or just sold a stash similar to what is peddled there: All manner of health & beauty items, pet food, sundry groceries, cleaning supplies, and laundry detergent.

Although I've held yard sales in the past, it's always been to get rid of some clutter and unused items, not to sell my stockpiles, so to speak.   For some reason I prefer selling this stuff online. I think I'm afraid my neighbors will think I'm  part of some band of drugstore thieves. They exist plenty out here in Oregon. And so do couponer's yard sales. Legit ones even!

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Fri Jun 20 06:32:34 2014

Julia, would love for you to continue this with types of yard sale buyers: "the call the day beforers" (they want first pick, before anything is even offered); "the before dawn risers" (those who wake you up four hours before the sale begins); the wheelers and dealers (those who will never accept the price marked, and won't be happy until you pay them to take it away).

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This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Sat Jun 21 09:33:44 2014

A variant of the "professional" yard-salers here in the SW corner of New England is where yard sales are "enhanced" by the organization that was hired to manage the sale.

Inevitably it is a large well-appointed house, with some nice contents. However, it also turns into a pop-up antiques store. The management company (for lack of a better name) brings in their own inventory as well, so you get a 2-for-1 show. Interesting, but the same stuff shows up every month or so at different houses.

They also have a view-by-appointment on Thursday, ahead of the Friday/Saturday/Sunday sale.
I never went to the Thursday sale, but I ask you, here are professionals who can price items quite accurately for retail, why would I go there and pay top dollar. That kinda defeats the purpose of the yard sale, doesn't it?

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by: vintageblessings This user has validated their user name.
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Sun Jun 22 23:10:32 2014

Then there is the ''I cannot believe I am wasting my gas to see this'' sale.
I saw a sign on Sun/ a sale that said it started on Friday, but my car just had to turn there.

What did I see? A drive by of old, very used boys clothing, already picked thoroughly, as well as an Iguana glass aquarium, and yes, the Iguana went with it.

BUT, I always will ask, ''Do you have any antiques you want to sell?''

Yes, the owner said, I have an old mantel/mirror and an old clock I want to sell...BUT, he said, I am not selling cheap.

''May I see them?'' I asked

He then took me inside and there was a beautiful, ornately carved, oak mantle with mirror, the cost $250.  Sold.

Wait for it, wait for it...then comes the original c1890 Seth Thomas Calendar clock, with the orignial sales receipt. $445. Sold.

I sold the mantel in my booth that I had at the time at 4x the money.

The clock? Well, this is what got me hooked on ebay. It had a book value at $1600. I listed it and it sold for $4500.  

So, if you have the time, always hit the sales, and ALWAYS ask if they have anything else they want to sell! :)

Vintageblessings, selling on ebay since 1997  

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by: Just My Humble View This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 00:12:48 2014

Another type of sale is the "Camouflage". This would probably be a step lower than the "Shah", but I've definitely seen a few.

Usually a Camo is held in and around a detached garage or pole barn further from the road than the nice, apparently well-maintained house, but semi-visible from the road. (This garage arrangement is fairly common in our area.) Often there are very nice signs, maybe even some balloons to make it appear to be well-organized and this raises hopes for "good stuff", but there is no way to determine whether it's feast or famine without actually driving onto the property, parking and going to look.

Upon arrival, you realize there is no polite way to escape the dirty piles of chipped dishes, well-worn clothes and ancient appliances other than to take a quick walk through, say thanks and head home -- feeling you need a shower.

I was rather glad I did the quick, polite walk-through at some of these sales, however, as I have found some items that made me stop walking -- and I was able to turn my minimal investment into good profit. A box of 25 biker vest pins in excellent condition for $10, that I sold for more than $10 EACH; depression or vintage glassware that required only a good washing; and so on. I still felt grimy, but those days were worth it. :)  

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by: Watching the Wheels This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 04:55:09 2014


I put the Early Birds to work, and make them help me set up.

The first ime this happened was a fluke. One of my friends and I were doing a sale, in another friends house. The home owner was gone; my friend and I had spent the night there to get the set up done.

Well, we sat around yakking, got to bed late and were nowhere near done in the morning. People turned up, I HAD to take a shower, and the buyers offered to help.

:) I said SURE!

Since that time, I figure that if the early birds are going to basically just get my way, they can either help me or go back home until the official start time.

"Helpers" will get better discounts.

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by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 08:43:23 2014

Past weekend went to at least a dozen sales. Absolutely nothing.
One was the yearly pawn shop sale. Price stickers from a pawn shop. All his prices were firm. Same price as those for sale at the shop.
I have noticed less and less bargains. One even had print out on the items of similar listed on ebay. Not the sold price but the asking. And of course it was always the highest price.

What I do miss is the good ol fashion farm auctions.

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This user has validated their user name. by: baconsdozen
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Wed Jun 25 03:35:49 2014

Some car boot sales can be divided into categories.
The professional,  run every sunday as a money spinner for the field owner. The make believe market,  where many stalls are market traders,butchers,clother sellers etc selling professionaly with a few 'normal' stalls as well. The charity,  raising money for a local cause,sometimes some real bargains as the locals get behind the organisers and sell stuff they'd not dream of selling otherwise.The no hopers,  run on a shoe string by people with no idea,tiny fields no advertising,small car park and hardly any stalls. I'm sure others can think of more categories.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Wed Jun 25 08:17:36 2014

I hear the term ''boot sales'' here every so often but I must confess I don't know much about them.

I know a car's ''boot'' in the UK is a ''trunk'' in the US - but are boot sales strictly UK?  Are there any in the US?  Are they organized informally by location - like ''everyone meet at such & such on Saturday''  or are they formal with rented designated spaces.  

Just curious - sounds like a fun thing to attend and a simple, portable way to sell.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Wed Jun 25 08:23:46 2014

Freddy -

I'm with ya on the farm auctions. No experience was better, back in the Basset family collecting days.

We always seemed to live near Amish communities, too, and baked good were sold at many auctions we attended!

I loved winning a huge box of stuff for ''one money'' - where we were really bidding on one item in the box. Then get home and sort the contents only to find several treasures!  

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