Saturday, May 23, 2009

Flipping Vintage - Yard Sale Shopping Tips!

I recently wrote this article about shopping yard sales to find items to sell, and sent it to the subscribers of my Vintage Goodness newsletter. I thought it might be a good one to include in the Flipping Vintage section here, since sale season is in full swing and there are tons of treasures out there just waiting to be found!

I'm sure those of you who live in states where the garage and yard sale season is only about 6 or 7 months long (like I do) have been joyfully getting up at 7am every Saturday for at least a month now to hit your much loved, and much missed, sales.

I'm right there with ya - but don't ask me to agree with the "joyful" part come, oh, about September - by then the weekly grind will have worn me out and I will be looking forward to winter. I never miss a Friday or Saturday morning for the entire season - and as much as I love it, by the end I am ready for a break!

For right now though, I'm still basking in the glow of my favorite Spring sale season... the weather is great - not too hot - and so far I've only had to tough it out in the rain a couple of times - and I'm loving being the happy recipient of everyone's spring cleaning!

As you can imagine I have perfected my yard sale shopping strategy over the years to where I now have a great system that works really well for me. It may not work for everyone, but I think I can throw out a few tips that might be helpful - so let's get started!

Plan, Plan, Plan

I used to shop all willy-nilly, with only a vague idea of where I was going and a tattered paper street guide to help me get there. Once I started seriously shopping as a way to make money, that all changed...

Sales here are mostly on Fridays and Saturdays, so I start looking for ads on Thursday evening. I have three trusty sources - Craig's List, the main daily newspaper, and the weekly community newspaper, which are available online. I have a Word doc for Friday and one for Saturday, and I copy and paste any ads that look interesting into them, according to the day the sale starts.

**Tip** - Double check dates and times - some people advertise a week or two in advance, and there is nothing worse than showing up at a sale that isn't happening until the following weekend!

Once you have your list ready, hit Mapquest. Figure out directions to each sale you are wanting to go to, and start organizing them by area. Once you have all of their locations down, figure out the best route - where to start and where to end with as little driving as possible.

You have to pay attention to start times, end times, and how promising the sale looks, and you may have to revise your Mapquest directions a bit depending on which direction you will be going from sale to sale. This can take some time, so I try to get my route done the night before, rather than working on it at 7am over my first cup of coffee!

**Tip** - The general rule is: get there early for the most selection, get there late for the best bargains.


A typical morning of shopping for me starts between 8 and 9 and ends between 1 and 2. That's quite a few hours to be on the road, so there are certain things I try to remember to take with me when I leave the house:

- Purse & Cell Phone - I've forgotten both before, and it's no fun.

- Shopping Route - Turning around to go back and get your route off the printer is no fun either.

- Box with Handles & Newspaper for Packing - Especially handy for large sales where you are buying a lot of stuff - some sellers are good about having boxes, bags and newspapers, others aren't.

- Cash - The bane of my existence is the ATM giving me only $20s - a lot of sellers don't have change for large bills. I tend to stop for breakfast to break a $20, then try to break the others at large sales where they seem to have enough cash to make change.

- Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, tennis shoes, appropriate for the weather clothing - Shopping at noon on a Saturday in August can be brutal, so plan accordingly!

- Snacks & Drinks - I'm usually lazy about this one and get them on the road, but really it is cheaper/healthier to bring your own!

What To Look For In An Ad

To backtrack just a little, there are certain things I look for in sale ads that deem them worthy of a visit. The words Antiques, Collectibles, Estate Sale, Tag Sale, Church Sale, Downsizing, and Moving Sale are all good ones to look for. Community Sale is another - lots of sales in a small area maximizes your driving, though a lot of sales are going to be "duds" full of baby stuff.

Which brings me to the words that turn me off of a sale - maternity, baby, children's, and lists of new retail type items. Occasionally a vintage gem will be hidden among the Little Tykes toys and Gibson china - and when it is, you can often get it for a steal - but usually you can pretty much guarantee that they won't have anything us vintage geeks are looking for.

I have also learned that some neighborhoods are more likely to turn up treasures than others - older neighborhoods are better than newer subdivisions, and low to mid income neighborhoods have better prices than high income neighborhoods. I have a few favorite areas that I tend to go to most often, only venturing into other areas when lured by an ad that says something like "Estate Sale - 50 years worth of collecting priced to sell!"

Of course I quite often detour off my route when I see a sign for a sale - because you just never know! ;)


Honestly I don't really like haggling, but it is a necessary evil. I don't usually haggle on items under $2.00, but if it is over that I will ask for a better price. I tend to throw out a number and see what they say - this may not be the best course of action (I've read plenty of times that it isn't) - but it is what I am most comfortable with. If I am buying a group of low priced items, I will ask for a little break when I go to cash out as well, "since I'm buying so much".

Some people are more than happy to haggle, others act offended, and others give you a polite "Sorry, that's the best I can do". It's up to you to decide from there if you want to pay full price or not - it's rough to leave something you want behind, but remember your bottom line - if you overpay, there goes your profit! Of course if you are buying for yourself its a whole other ballgame - an item is worth what you are willing to pay for it!

I have noticed that sometimes people are more happy to haggle if you have been friendly with them beforehand - a Hello and Good Morning, a bit of chit chat about the weather or the item - people warm up to you and are more receptive. Just walking up without a word, grabbing a few things and throwing out a price isn't as effective - people still have their guard up.

Also, I don't tend to tell people that I am buying for re-sale. I just don't like the vibe it gives out. Now, the professional estate sale folks know a lot of their buyers are sellers, and their pricing structure is often fixed anyway (if not, you can actually use your being a seller to try to help get you a better price) - but your average homeowner isn't thinking of people buying for re-sale. So I chat up like a collector, like someone buying something for my boyfriend, my mom, my friend, whatever - but never I want to sell this on eBay!

What To Buy

Now everything about what to buy would be a whole website in itself, but there are a few tips I can give you that help me out a great deal:

- Check condition - I hate buying something only to find it is chipped or repaired when I get it home!

- Check for maker's marks - I flip everything over - EVERYTHING.

- Dig in boxes - It's nice when a sale is neatly laid out, but if it is all unsorted boxes just dive right in there - more times than not it will be worth it!

- Buy collections/sets - Not only can you sometimes get an extra good price, listing similar items is easier, and you attract buyers who will buy multiple items from you.

- Look for items in their original box - Value increases for original boxes, or better yet MINT in original boxes!

Ok, that's all I've got for now, I hope this little article had at least a few nuggets of good advice that you can take out with you next weekend - happy hunting!! :)

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Vintage List member shops are a great place to look when hunting for unique gifts that will be treasured for generations to come! Here's a little sampling of some wonderful selections for Mom on her special day.

Kitchengarden & Purses? ~ Double Egg Cup Singing Bird

Gardenartus Antiques ~ Stoke-On-Trent Beverage Pitcher With Flora Spout & Elegant Handle

Purple Daisy Jewelry ~ Vintage Rhinestone Lizard Gecko Pin Large Flexible P614

Another Time Antiques ~ Vintage 1960s Hat Beige Brocade Satin Velvet

Vintage Fair Retro Rare ~ Vintage McCoy Sailor Seamen's Savings Bank 1950s

Happy Mother's Day!