Long a great way to unload items from the attic, the garage sale remains one of the bastions of free enterprise in this country. In this sea of junk and trinkets often lie valuable collectible items, marked at lower than bargain basement prices.
Things You'll Need
- smart phone with Web access
- mapping software (optional)
- books about collectibles
As with most things, the first step is education. Obtain a price guide that covers many different collectible items. You can't possibly know everything about every collectible -- the topic is simply too vast. Expect to spend a couple of months with the book doing the exercises listed in the next step.
For each general entry in the price guide, calculate the average value for all items listed in that category. Write these values in a small pocket notebook, next to the collectible category or name. What you are doing by calculating the average value is giving yourself something to compare the asking price of any item in that category. There are more advanced techniques, such as calculating the standard deviations on prices, but average is sufficient for the first year.
By doing this exercise, you will gain more knowledge of collectible items than you might think.
One last step before heading out is to make some specialized lists. If you are already a collector of something (most people have something they are interested in), make a wish list of items in your favorite category, whether pottery, record albums or rare old videos.
Plan your garage sale day. Start with the local paper, choosing 20 or so sales around the area you live in. Using a map program, enter the addresses, and plot a map and route. Start along this route, and hit every sale in between: For every advertised sale, there are at least four that are not. Concentrate on neighborhood sales for convenience, and rural sales, which seem to produce a far greater percentage of older items.
Once you are at the sale, immediately start looking at the older items, regardless of what they are. Once you have identified something, discretely check your notebook averages. You can use 10 percent of the average if you are not familiar with the item class. You can usually tell right away from the asking price if the seller knows the item is collectible or not. If you like, use a smart phone to check the selling price on eBay. Doing this will further assist in your collectible knowledge.
One last step before purchase: Do a "common sense" assessment of the item's condition. In the world of collectibles, condition is everything, and the less rare the item, the more it matters. Condition grading is a very deep subject, and varies from item to item and class to class. Don't expect to be an expert; use your common sense.
Tips & Warnings
- Know your collectibles. Do your research: The best way to learn is through books.
- Clam up. Don't announce, "This box of 1952 baseball cards is only $2 -- are you nuts?" When you see an exceptional bargain on a valuable collectible such as a piece of Roseville pottery marked for a quarter, just calmly buy it, with little fanfare.
- Don't carry a price guide into the sale; stick with your small notebook with your price averages. Do, however, immediately write down what you bought and what you paid when you get back to your car.
- Go early. You have competition, but, fortunately for you, not everyone is looking for the same thing. However, you are most likely to find real valuable items if you hit the sales early.
- Alternately, go late, when you can find super bargains on more mundane items. Most garage sale hosts want to unload the stuff rather than move it back into the house, and are open to negotiation. Even if the collectibles are gone, it does not mean you cannot turn a profit on average items by buying at these rock bottom prices.
- Target neighborhood sales. Many neighborhood associations sponsor garage sale events, where much of the neighborhood participates on one or two days. This can save you time and fuel. But, be aware that there will be hordes of people waiting at the crack of dawn. These neighborhood sales are very popular.
- Bring small bills and change. Prices are going to be low, and a lot of households are not going to be able to make change for everyone who brings $20 bills. This works to your advantage over rival purchasers when sellers cannot make change.
- Photo Credit Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
McDonald's Collectors' Items
McDonald's is one of the most easily recognized names in the fast food industry. As one of the largest hamburger chains on...
How Much Are Elvis Records Worth?
Original memorabilia of the "King of Rock and Roll" is highly collectible, but for Elvis fans, his records hold a special significance....
What Is the Most Collected Corelle Pattern?
Corelle is dishware made of three layers of two different types of glass, thermally bonded, giving it strength and allowing it to...
How to Find Items to Sell on Ebay at Garage Sales
Garage sales can be a great way to find inexpensive items you can sell for a profit on eBay. In fact, the...
How to Find the Value of Collectibles
Collectibles are any items -- antique, used or new -- that are desired by collectors. The collectibles market is nearly as diverse...
How to Spot Items That Are Valuable in a Thrift Store
Everything that makes it into a thrift store has some value to someone, even if it's just the profit from its sale...
How to Price NASCAR Collectibles
Collectors and dealers price NASCAR collectibles with the intention of buying or selling the item. Regardless of the intention, those dealing with...
How to Find the Value of Antique or Vintage Items
Just because something is vintage or antique doesn't necessarily mean it's worth a lot of money. Some items may even drop in...
What Is the Best Item to Sell on eBay?
Making money on eBay takes more work than just cleaning out your attic. The trick is to have the right item for...
Most Expensive Items in a Grocery Store
The grocery store offers a variety of expensive items for a host looking to serve the finest at a party. A significant...
Most Valuable Case Knives & Collectibles
Collecting pocketknives is a hobby covering all price ranges. Pocketknives made by the W.R. Case Co. can be relatively cheap to buy...
Things to Look for at Estate Sales
Estate sales differ from garage sales in some fundamental ways. While a garage sale normally offers a select group of items laid...
Antique Collecting: Vintage Books at Garage Sales
An antique store owner explains how to evaluate vintage books you might find at garage sales and what to look for in...
Identify What Garage Sale Items Have No Resale Value
Unless you're looking to pick up more general household junk, most people visiting a garage sale hope to come home with something...
Why You Shouldn't Buy Brass Items at a Garage Sale
Many Americans falsely believe that brass is extremely valuable and that any items they purchase that are made out of this material...