Garage Sale Cultures

Last Saturday Janice and I went to garage sales to see if we could find cheap useful things. It was Saturday morning, around 10 am. Janice casually mentioned we should go garage saling. I looked at the time, a bit taken aback, and mentioned something like, “They’ll be over by the time we ever get there.”

She laughed at me and seemed to indicate that she thought I was being sarcastic.

“Seriously,” I said, “by the time we get the baby and all the baby paraphernalia packed up, it’ll be lunch time. How late are the garage sales?”

“I don’t know, maybe until 4.”

“4?” I was incredulous. 

As it turns out, the Midwest garage sales differently than Lancaster, Pennsylvania (where I’m from originally). Out here in Indiana, garage sales start Friday morning around 10 am and go until that evening, maybe. Then Saturday they start up again at maybe 9 or 10 in the morning and last until the homeowners get tired of sitting in their lawn chairs.

In Lancaster county you’re a slacker (which is a slippery slope to a sinner) if your garage sale isn’t churning out revenue by 6 am. Then it shuts down promptly around lunch. In fact, every year my aunt and uncle, Kenneth and Alma Sensenig, throw a big yard sale shindig in their big shop. Multiple families pool their collective junk and see if anyone driving past is dumb enough to stop by and purchase anything. There’s usually a few suckers driving past. We set the whole thing up the night before hand and then cover the tables outside with tarps so if it rains our junk (which we don’t want anyway) won’t get ruined. If we aren’t out there by 6 am Saturday morning, there are people on bicycles and in buggies (I will not mention their religious persuasion) lifting up the corners of the tarps to see what’s there. They wander around a little bewildered. Where are these irresponsible people? Don’t they know they can’t sell anything if they have everything covered in tarps? Saving money is serious business and Lancaster County folks don’t mess around. Saving money is opposite of slacking.

There is a method to serious, successful garage saling and when I was a teenager my cousins and I had a working theory and how to maximize our finds.

Garage saling is like gold mining.

First, you need good ground. 

If your ground doesn’t have any gold in it, then your wasting your time looking for nuggets, aren’t you? It’s the same way with garage sales. Don’t bother going to garage sales in run down mobile home parks or other poor sections of county. Nothing against those people, but that ground likely doesn’t have much gold in it. If it does, the people really need money and they want unreasonable amounts of money for their find. I know because I’m one of these people. You want to mine the wealthy neighborhoods because that’s where a higher concentration of nuggets are. Plus, since gold is so abundant in the area, people do not assign a high value to their excess nuggets.

Junk
Need a TV from 1987? These work and we only want $100 a piece.

Second, you need a large quantity of ground.

If you find good ground but only process a few shovelfuls a day, you won’t get much gold. You need to move a mountain of dirt to really hit it big. Again, garage sales are similar. If you have to drive to five different homes in five different neighborhoods, your chances of a big pay day drop substantially. Instead, find densely populated rich neighborhoods where the whole neighborhood has flung open their garage doors in a desperate attempt to unload their piles of slightly used name brand goods at bottom dollar. This increases the amount of homes you’ll visit in an hour, giving you a bigger chance of finding more nuggets in the shortest amount of time.

Third, make sure your sluice is working properly.

The sluice is what catches the gold as dirt washes over it. You’re the sluice. You need to be able to pick out deals or potential pay dirt while puttering slowly past garage sales. If there is a kayak sitting out front, chances are that the seller is an outdoorsman and there are more hiking or outdoor items strewn through the yard sale. So, even though I don’t want or can’t afford the kayak, it’s a sign of good mineral deposits and is worth stopping for a look. If a yard sale has a lot of cheap kid’s toys and tables of folded toddler clothes, step on the gas and try to get around the corner before your wife is any the wiser.

Experience will help you pick out the rich dirt quicker and more reliably.