My mom owned a combination antique and thrift store for more than 35 years and one of the best ways to replenish her stock was to run around to yard sales, church rummage sales, estate sales, and flea markets. She also held estate sales throughout the years. I became very adept early on at recognizing the antiquity or value in everything from Chippendale furniture to antique toys. I also had a good eye for things that were used but not necessarily an antique and worthy enough to resell.
For many years, mom and I went shopping at all the local thrift stores and would make yard sale-ing a typical part of seasonal Saturday mornings. She knew every church in the area that housed a thrift store within its chambers too. She didn’t sell regular clothing in her store but would buy a piece if it was vintage, which in the churches wasn’t uncommon.
I became knowledgeable about what things should cost at any number of these fine establishments and outdoor sales. And I noticed something that drew me to frequenting yard sales the most. They are a spectacularly cheap way to pick up odd or useful items at truly rock-bottom prices. Generally speaking, those who hold yard sales want to get rid of their stuff and are the most willing to bargain with you -- especially if it’s getting late in the day. Some yard sale sellers will give stuff away as well. The last thing they want to do is pack it all up and put it away any more than they have to once the sale is over. I like the general friendliness of yard sales. The sellers and other buyers are somehow immediately comfortable in each others' company and are usually fun to talk to.
When considering yard sale prices, they should be less than you would pay for the same item at a thrift store or church rummage sale. These places up the ante a bit. Not too much, but if you’re looking at an item for its resale value, some of the prices at thrift stores may put you off. And in recent years, they are hiring savvier pricing clerks who know the value of grand-pop's pocket-watch and will price it accordingly. Wait for the tag or bag sale and snag it then.
Then there’s the consignment shop where the item’s owner sets the price of the item for the shop to sell. When run this way, prices will be a little more still as the owner assesses it with a more subjective value system. This isn’t just an old toaster, we had it in the family for 40 years -- it’s vintage ‘60s!
Flea markets are next up on the price index. Now here, prices can vary from very fair to outrageous. Flea marketers have to pay a fee so this increases the expenses along with gas to get there and back. It isn’t easy work, being a seller at a Flea Market. So they jack the prices a little higher than the yard sale seller or the thrift stores. I’m picturing a grumpy old man selling old rusty tools and figuring they are worth as much as the reference books say. Well, maybe they are if they are in mint condition and who do you think will buy it for what a book says it’s worth at a flea market? Be willing to bargain is all I’m sayin’.
I thought I should also mention church bazaars here as they are basically the same thing. Some church bazaars coincide with recent holidays or before the winter holidays. Most offer a mix of old and new items for sale with a few crafts and a bake sale thrown in for good measure. Their prices can be a little steep, but you can usually find some bargains in the place or at least something yummy to eat.
And let’s not forget craft fairs. I need to slip these in here too, because the prices at craft fairs are just below those of estate sales - which are last on this list. Okay, admittedly, the items at craft fairs are new and hand-crafted which takes time and costs the crafter money for materials.And, like Flea Markets, the crafters pay a fee for the privilege of setting up a booth. And let’s not forget the skill factor. But I find the prices on crafts fairly overblown for the most part. Not that you can’t find a bargain but they are usually few and far between and I have enough beaded jewelry to last two lifetimes already - thank you very much. Some crafts actually are priced appropriately. But you wouldn’t buy them to resell as there is no room for markup.
And lastly, the estate sale. These people really know what they’re doing. They usually hire a professional, who knows how to price items whether they be gently used or antiques. These agents put top dollar on everything for sale. After all, they’re often getting a commission and want to command the best prices they can for the contents of a house. Never mind that the items are used! And I find the atmosphere at estate sales to be somewhat staid and hushed in comparison to a noisy, bustling flea market. I don’t go near estate sales. Give me a neighborhood full of yard sales any day!
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