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Treasure Hunting at Garage and Estate Sales
A garage or estate sale can be a good place to check for things like gently used baby clothes or interesting glassware. But if you know where to look, you sometimes can find something valuable – like the New York family that bought a small ceramic bowl at a yard sale and then discovered that it was from the Song Dynasty and worth $3 million.
That’s extremely unlikely, of course. But you can find a diamond in the rough. Here are some tips from experts on how to make the most of your sale shopping.
Check out your options early. You should be able to find listings of large yard sales or estate sales ahead of time, so do your homework. Look at what kinds of things are available at each sale, and plot your course based on those things that interest you most.
Be on time. If you are there on the first day when the doors open, you get a chance to look at everything in person. The longer you wait, the more picked-over things will be. On the other hand, if there is something you are kind of interested in but think is overpriced, it might be worth it to stop by at the end of the sale to see if it is still there and if the seller is more willing to deal.
Start with larger sales in tony neighborhoods. Rich people have nicer things to start with, so their sale items are likely to be nicer too. You might find a bike or a set of golf clubs that is not the newest but still better than yours, for example. And the more people selling through the sale, the more possibilities there are for a great find.
Know what you are looking for. If you collect records, know what albums might be rare and therefore valuable. The same goes for any other things that people collect. Especially if you intend to resell the item, know which ones are in most demand.
Bring a magnifying glass. That lets you look at jewelry to see if it is 14 karat gold or sterling silver, rather than costume jewelry. You also can check dishes for marks that indicate the manufacturer or might help you determine the age.
Don’t forget repurposing. You probably have heard the story of a person who bought a painting at a sale and then discovered it was a real Picasso or Renoir or whatever. But even if the painting is not valuable itself, what about the frame? Frames are extremely expensive to buy new, but you might be able to pick up a lovely old frame for a bargain.
Look carefully. Often sellers will offer a box of related or unrelated items for a set price each, such as $1 for anything in the box. It can pay to look through these boxes for that special find.