That Was A Close One!

By Sherry — feeling fortunate

A couple of weeks ago I helped author Donna Andrews with a yard sale. It gave me a chance to put my money (or Donna’s in this case) where my protagonist Sarah Winston’s mouth is. Garage sales are a lot of work and in this case Donna had things from her grandparents and parents along with things of her own to sale. The picture below is while we were setting up. You can read Donna’s take on the event here!

What do you want to accomplish? The first thing I asked was what was more important, making money or getting rid of stuff. Donna was more interested in getting rid of things than making money. The reason to ask that is for pricing and bargaining the day of the sale.

We got together a few days before the sale to price. Donna had already arranged a lot of like items together in her garage. There was so much stuff we decided not to individually price things (even though Sarah usually does). Donna made signs for things like albums $1.00, glassware $2.00, etc.

Vintage Jewelry Donna also had a lot of vintage jewelry. We used box lids with towels in them to arrange the jewelry. A friend of Donna’s who sells jewelry had been over to take a look at things to make sure nothing was too valuable. As we arranged the jewelry I would flip it over to look for signatures. Also to see if there was backing on the jewelry – that is usually a sign there aren’t gemstones set in the piece. I took some of the pieces home to check prices on eBay. Below is an example of the backing from a brooch I bought last spring at a sale:

Open! The weather the day of the sale was perfect, not too hot and a gentle breeze – almost unbelievable for August. Garage sales make for interesting people watching and become a study in human nature. Yes, we had early birds. The starting time was 9:00 but by 8:15 we were open for business. Donna did scare one woman off at 7:45 when she told her she could look around as long as she helped carry out a few boxes.

Patterns Donna had stacks of patterns from the forties, fifties, and sixties. I’d looked up prices on eBay and thought she’d probably have more luck selling them there. But we stuck them out anyway. We sold one. However, so many people stopped by to look at them. And it was lovely how many people told me stories of their moms or grandmothers making clothes. It was one of the best parts of the sale for me.

Hipsters Two young men came by who were interested in the albums Donna had for sale. She had nine boxes with everything from rock to Irish folk music to classical in them. The hipsters were interesting to watch because first they sorted through the albums in the garage setting asides ones they were interested in. Then they brought them out into the light and took the album out of its cover to look for scratches. After that they made their final decisions about which ones they wanted. At $1.00 a piece they were a great bargain. One of the guys said he loved Irish music because he could jig around the house to it. The image of this bearded hipster doing a jig still makes me laugh.

Culture clash Northern Virginia is a very diverse area but twice now I’ve seen how cultures can clash at a yard sale. A woman was looking a jewelry and had made a little stack to one side. Two other women swooped in and tried to crowd her out. They immediately went to her little stack. I intervened and explained that was spoken for. Then I bagged it up for the first woman. Since she was still shopping I took the jewelry, put it in a box with some other things she wanted, set the box to the side and covered it.

About fifteen minutes later one of the women brought me a couple of bags full of costume jewelry and asked me how much. I was holding one of the bags and flipping it back and forth to see what all was it in. All of the sudden the woman blurted out, “It’s her bag” and points at the first woman. Then she said, “I took it from there” and points at the box where I’d set it. A confession – if only Sarah could get information so easily! I rolled my eyes and took the bag back over to its spot.

Oh, boy. So here is my confession – Sarah would be so upset – it’s the big one that almost got by me. A woman was looking at the jewelry as I was hovering nearby. She holds a necklace up and says, “This is a Victorian mourning necklace.” I take it from her, flip it over, and sure enough there is this amazing woven hair. My first (and continuing thought) is how the heck did I miss that when I was looking through the jewelry?!!!!

I told her I’d have to look up a price. On eBay similar pieces were selling from $50 to $600! And those pieces only had a swirl of hair nothing like the intricate piece I was holding. Plus I wasn’t sure Donna would even want to sell it. When Donna finished up with the person she was talking to, I took it over to her and explained the situation. Of course she didn’t want to sell it! Fortunately, the woman understood. If I hadn’t been standing right there or if she hadn’t said anything it would have been gone for a couple of dollars. Ugh, I’m still upset!

All of us go to garage sales to find a treasure for next to nothing. But that was a close one!

The End By the end of the sale, Donna had made some money and gotten rid of some things. What didn’t sale was sorted into piles to give away or sell on eBay. Garage sales are a lot of work, but you can also learn something unexpected.

Readers: What in your life has taught you something unexpected?

25 Thoughts

  1. How nice of you to help your friend set up and run a garage sale. That Victorian Mourning Necklace is lovely. It’s a good thing the woman was so nice about accepting that it wasn’t for sale after all. I’m thinking about doing our own garage sale. I learned a few things from your post. Thanks! It also made me think about your Garage Sale mysteries. What a great series.

    Aging, and the wisdom that comes along with it, has taught me many unexpected things. I’ve learned how really important it is to be humble (the older I get the more I realize how little I actually know). And why we shouldn’t judge others. We can’t possibly know what someone might be going through, or could have gone through, to make them the person they are.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on being humble, aging, and not judging. It is all so true. I was lucky the woman gave up so gracefully and fortunately we didn’t have any prices on the jewelry so she couldn’t say, “but it says it’s $2.00.” And I’m so glad you like the series!

  2. Garage sales really are a lot of work. I considered having one before we move, but then I remembered the last one we had and I came to my senses, lol. I think we made less than fifty dollars. We decided to just donate things and take the charitable donation deduction!

  3. I’ve worked for a lot of different organizations, both as an employee and as a volunteer. I figured out a long time ago that it’s the women who get things done, even if it’s a man’s name on the letterhead. (Wonder how a man would handle a yard sale?)

  4. I was very sorry not to make Donna’s sale – but having spent this last weekend with my son going through his and his sisters’ boxes in my basement, and carting things to charity (as well as creating a huge mound of trash requiring a bulk pickup), I have, ever so briefly, gotten religion about staying away from temptation. I’ve done a few yard sales, including one for a very good friend who was having to move out of her house at age 92 after living there for almost 45 years. We actually didn’t make a lot of money at any of the yard sales, and it was a LOT of work.

  5. That piece of mourning jewelry is amazing! I haven’t had great luck with yard sales. Our neighborhood is in the hills, so it’s not conducive. The last one I had, we were rushed first thing by people who created a diversion so they could steal the jewelry. That was it for me. Never again! So I guess what that taught me is that people can be vultures, even when it’s about cheap costume jewelry that’s worth nada!

  6. The question is, which of these stories will make it into the next book? Or did you hold back some stories you’ll use?

    1. I think you might see a twist on this theme in a book someday. It was interesting because in A Good Day To Buy I have Sarah keeping watch over the jewelry at a garage sale near the end of the book. Life imitating art or me listening to my own advise?

  7. I love the story about the Victorian mourning necklace.

    Since our house in Newton, MA was on a busy street, we were the site of the family yard sale for many years. I used to put things aside all year for it. My sister-in-law was an artist’s agent, and just like our agent gets copies of our books, she got samples of all the products made from her artists’ designs, so she always had new linens and tableware and other stuff. People used to look for our yardsale every year for that reason.

  8. Only one time did I go in with someone else for a “double yardsale”. It was a lot of work and we didn’t make a lot of money, even tho’ it was in a good location. We only ran into one bit of dishonesty. I had a large box of postcards. Most of them were current, but there were a few old one tucked in the box. I didn’t bother marking the old ones at a higher price. All postcards were 10 cents. Some woman went through the box and stole all the old ones. I mean, I lost maybe a dollar or so, but talk about cheap! Sheesh! Never bothered to do that again. Salvation Army gets all my “I don’t want this anymore stuff”.

  9. My husband passed away last year and the kids and I decided it was time to sell his stuff. We had a yardsale a couple of weeks ago to sell his tools and sporting equipment. Of course we had books, Christmas stuff etc too. There were about 5 of us there, plus my neighbours had stuff out and I could not believe how fast the day went by. I think that made it a much better day than if I had been alone. We did make a nice little amount which I split between my two children. It was hard to part with his stuff, but if someone else can use it, it is better than gathering dust in my garage and basement. By the way Sherry, I love your series. I read my first book of yours when I won a Goodreads Giveaway and have read all of them since. Keep those stories coming.

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