Buying antiques at yard sales, or garage sales as my friends in Texas call them, tag sales in some other areas, takes a lot of planning to be successful. First you have to check the classifieds in your local paper, although in some areas, there are yard sales listed online. Because there are many of the sales that will have nothing of value, at least for antiques and collectibles shoppers, the secret for success is hitting a bunch of them as quickly as possible. So you literally need to map out your strategy so you can cover an area of town as efficiently as possible. I know some people still just drive around looking for yard sale signs. But you waste a lot of valuable time and the good items are being snatched up by the more organized shoppers. You can find a related article Buying Antiques at Estate Sales.
I know some luck is involved. Many times I have arrived just as another antique dealer is paying the person for all of the things that I would have bought. Before I forget, and this seems so obvious, bring enough cash to buy what you want to buy. Many, if not most yard sales will only accept cash. Can’t tell you how many times I have seen people have to pass on a bargain because they didn’t have enough money and someone else was there with cash. We always depended on a recent copy of Mapsco before you could get directions online so easily. For those not familiar with this publication, I don’t think it is national, it was a book of street maps detailing a metropolitan area. You could hit 25-30 yard sales easily in a morning. But you couldn’t be distracted by looking at other things. If they didn’t have things we could buy for resale, we moved on to the next one. This is impossible for some people like my sister-in-law who have to pick up nearly every item and are determined to buy something. We had our paper and all of the classified ads circled that listed the sales we were going to hit, and they were numbered in the exact order we planned on taking. The only way we deviated from the plan was there was a sale close by that wasn’t listed in the newspaper ads.
It is a numbers game and if you do it enough, you will find some treasures. There is no doubt that some of the best deals are found at yard sales. But a lot of people don’t want to work at it. Many will say I just never find anything at those sales except junk. That is true if you don’t get up early and get there right after they open. The odds of finding something if you casually stop at a couple of sales are not very good. It just stands to reason that the more sales you shop, the better your chances of finding something. Usually after a couple of hours of shopping, your chances drop off also. Hopefully in the first hour you can find some that start early, most classifieds list the starting time, and many open early.
The more knowledge you have the more you can find also. I have a good friend who is an antique and vintage jewelry expert. She can find so many things because she has such extensive knowledge. She also makes jewelry out of pieces she finds. So with her knowledge and skills, she finds more things than most. The same goes for people who can repair and refinish furniture. They can see the potential in a piece of furniture, like the “Pickers” on TV who see an old motorcycle motor and know it is worth a lot of money when I would not give it a second look. I have spent a lot of money on antiques & collectibles price guides and have made money from what I learned in most, if not all of them. I’m not suggesting you go out and spend a lot of money on price guides, but if you have something you collect, learn everything you can about that area. You want to be able to recognize a bargain when you see one. If you are an antyique dealer, I challenge you to try to learn about some new things. It is impossible to learn about every antique and collectible. I want to learn just enough to recognize that bargain that no one else recognizes. It makes that $20 book on Frankoma seem like a bargain because you recognize those two cute figures are worth $150 and you paid $7.50 for them. That happened to me at an auction that had over 200 other antiques dealers, and none of them knew what they were. I remember them from seeing them in a book over twenty years before.
The fun of shopping for antiques at yard sales and garage sales is the thrill of the hunt. You have a better chance of finding a bargain at a yard sale than anywhere else. So accept the challenge of a bargain hunt and have fun shopping for antiques at a yard sale.