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, Yardsalers.net, 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."