When I was asked to do a book review on my most favorite and loved (if not obsessed) subject in the entire universe, I could barely say yes quick enough. I can't think of a subject more dear to my heart than a book on garage sales. In fact with this book under my belt, I am preparing for a massive community yard sale over in Seattle this coming weekend that features over 150 yard sales in a dense area. Side by side yard sales for an entire weekend.
When I first started reading Garage Sale America by Bruce Littlefield I had to get use to the male tone and writing style that included a few sides of cliches to go along with the book. I'm so spoiled by the female side of yard sale/thrift store descriptions in the blog world that it did take some time getting used to his writing voice. But I became quickly swallowed up into his own garage sale adventures where he would line up early for barn sales scoping out where to hit first or when he rented a huge Penske truck in order to hit 450 miles of the World's Longest Yard Sale. (which he says isn't technically the largest). I would find myself salivating each time he would share a story about a garage sale purchase. He always included a background story and price for the item. Even though thrifting is so much in my blood, I never would have guessed that I would get nearly as much enjoyment of reading other people's stories as my own thrifting experiences. By the end of the book, I discovered I found a long lost brother and considered inviting him out to Seattle to check out our sales. Then I remembered that we have similar taste and decided that I'd better keep quiet.
My favorite part of the book is the two page spread of his Penske truck garage sale haul. He lists out his $1000.00 bounty by item, price and a photo. I was so inspired by his coca cola cooler for $100.00 (the kind that used to sit in front of old stores or gas stations) that I had to find myself something similar. This last weekend I found a vintage Coleman, green and white cooler (1/8 of the size of Bruce's cooler) for $2.00. Just in time for our Memorial Day party. On Monday it was full of ice and cold beer. It was perfect.
I was a tad jealous as we took a tour of Bruce's Edgewater Farm. He described all of his buildings, (yes as in multiple) and how he has filled them with thrifted finds. I love, love, love his Recreation Hall complete with a barber's pole (one of his Penske haul finds) and a vintage phone booth ($40.00) so people could take their cell phone calls during parties.
I really enjoyed not only reading the stories behind what he had purchased, but learning how much he paid for something. I think the bargain is so much part of the enjoyment to this passion of thrifing. I love telling people how much I paid for something as much as I enjoy hearing how much they paid. This book is a very quick read and full of bright, colorful illustrations. The best reason to buy this book alone is the resource pages in the back. It has a Garage Sale Guide for the entire country. These are the large garage sales that have become so prominent on the summer calendars over the last decade. Because of this book, in two weeks, I am heading south to the border of Washington and Oregon to a 13 miles (+152 miles) yard sale. A friend and I are going together and planning the perfect girls weekend away. Bruce also adds a garage sale glossary for all those newbie garage salers out there.
I came across the sale around lunch time. It was one of those sales where the neighbor up the street was having an advertised one so this women thought she would join the band wagon to take advantage of the passing traffic. My jaw dropped when she said I could have the set for $25.00. The chairs need a little bit of work but it is your basic turn key table set. They fit perfectly in the breakfast nook.
As garage sale shopping becomes more trendy it means us die hard salers have to be more creative in finding the good sales and finds. More and more sellers are telling me how much an item is worth on eBay and therefore pricing it as such. One of Bruce's "Do's and Dont's for Sellers" list "Don't Quote eBay or book values. Nobody Cares." I went to a sale on Saturday where a woman had a cookie jar for $75.00 telling me that she found that price on eBay. I agree with him that I don't care how much the price on eBay is, especially since many people don't know how to read the prices on eBay. Some people don't know that a completed price in red means an item didn't sell. My top tips for finding the good sales are:
-get to them before they officially open. They might not take in early birds but at least you can be first in the gate. Look through the ads to see what sale looks best. Word of warning though, the ads with the least amount of writing can sometimes be the best sale.
-look for sale notifications on old fashion bulletin boards. Not everyone is tech savvy and able do a Craig's list posting. I find the sales I want to go to are the ones where the couple brings out 80 year accumulation from their basement rather than list all of the ritzy branded items in the ad.
-drive by the main streets of town on Friday/Saturday and look for those non-advertised last minute sale signs on utility poles. The messier the writing the better.
-don't be afraid to ask if the seller has a certain item hidden away. I once asked if the seller had any Cd's for sale and was then shown to a "media room" where I found the mother lode of music and movies ($1.00 each), including a double CD of Jethro Tull-Living in the Past that is an original master recording worth around $250.00.
-check out Craig's list. Sometimes people are selling a houseful of stuff virtually without having an actual sale. I recently purchased 200 books this way. You never know what they might pull out of a closet for sale even if they didn't mention it in the listing.
And to finish this post, here's a party idea. Invite your book club friends to your house, feature this book and each of you bring your best garage sale find ever for a show and tell. Bring another item that isn't so cherished and do a garage sale item swap. It can even be your ugliest ever found item. You can talk about the book and exchange your own personal garage sale experiences over wine and chocolate. A good way to pass the time until the next garage sale.