Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Prospecting at Yard Sales: How to find the best stuff and the best sales

 Ah, the yard sale. You never know what you'll
find, and that's part of the fun. Sometimes it's fabulous stuff, like the time
I came across a set of Wedgwood cups and saucers in the coveted black-and-gold
Florentine pattern for 20 bucks. Other
days, it's slim pickin�s.

But having the right yard sale strategies can increase your odds of finding
quality items to resell. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your yard
sale-ing adventures:

- Go early to get the best stuff.

This is probably the most obvious tip. But yard sale culture is an early one,
and the early bird

often gets the best dishware, pottery, art, books, and whatever else is sitting
out. In fact, many

people show up before the advertised sale time, which is why many sales specify
"no early birds"

in the ad.

However, this does not necessarily mean you can't find good stuff later in the
sale. Which brings us to...

- You can often still find good stuff late in the sale.

Sometimes, things in the nooks and crannies have been overlooked by other
people. Be sure to look all over the sale and look completely through any boxes
that are set out. Other times, there are
hidden gems lurking there of which other folks did not recognize the value.

And some people make a point of going late to sales so they are in a better
position to bargain

with the sellers. They'll make an offer for a whole box or group of things, and
often these are

accepted because the sellers are eager to get rid of the stuff at that point.

3) Ask what else is there.

How do you get your hands on stuff no one else has seen yet even when you get
late to a sale? Ask the seller if he has anything else he hasn't put out. It's
best to ask for something specific; so

if you specialize in an area, such as cameras or clocks, you can ask for those.

One records dealer I know, who co-wrote my Albums special report, asks sellers
at yard sales if

they have any records they haven't put out for sale. This strategy has worked
for him many times.

- Search listed and unlisted sales.

Of course, check your local newspaper classifieds for sales, as well as
craigslist. (Craigslist

has probably become the better source around my neck of the woods, as many
folks don't want to

shell out the $90 or so it takes to place an ad in the major metropolitan-area

And don't forget Kijiji.com, eBay's own classifieds service. I once found a yard
sale that was

advertised on there and nowhere else. It had great stuff and not too many
people. You just never


But my favorite kind of yard sale is the "unlisted" or unadvertised
sale -- they simply put up a

sign and start the show. These sales are great, because, of course, there's not
as much

competition. Often you can find them around the sales that did advertise in the
newspaper, because they are piggybacking off that ad. So keep your eyes peeled
for those signs while you are driving or walking.

I usually pick out the sales I want to go to the
night before and print out the mapquest maps for them so I�ll be ready to go in
the morning. And many people swear by their GPS systems for finding their

And what about actually buying stuff at these
sales? One expert dealer I know of goes by the 25% rule: buy it for no more
than 25% (or less) of the price for which you think you can resell it. Speaking
of which�

- Dicker down, but don't insult.

Negotiation is fine at these sales, but do it within reason. Personally, if I
see a great item priced at a quarter, I don't try to dicker down the price to
ten cents. Sometimes you can just anger the seller and you may even make them
less likely to make deals with you on other things.

But if prices seem too high for a "yard sale," by all means offer
what seems fair to you. The worst thing they can say is no. Do be polite, and
don't make negative comments about the stuff. If you need to point out a flaw
to get a better price, try to couple it with a compliment to soften

the blow: "This is a lovely lamp...I see it has a crack, though�would you
take $15 for it?"

Enjoy your yard sale travels. One of the best
things about yard sales in my mind is they get me out of the house, enjoying
the fresh air, and meeting people. Combine that with making money, and what�s not
to like?


Julia Wilkinson

Author, "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006); "eBay
Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6); "What $ells on
eBay for What," www.yardsalers.net/bookstore.asp; "My Life at
AOL," www.booklocker.com; Publisher, Yard Salers, www.yardsalers.net

Blog: "bidbits," at http://juliawww.typepad.com/bidbits


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