Every week I find myself in strange places, mostly frequented by old ladies with knitted handbags. Why you may ask? Well, it’s not because of their sweet perfume or blue tinged hairdos. It’s because I go where I can find old stuff, and antique stores, flea markets, and yard sales are where that stuff is to be found.
The nice thing about collecting pop culture items is that I don’t have much competition from the blue hairs at these places. They want their glassware and linens, but I want toys. Vintage and not so vintage toys can command steep prices on eBay, but you can find big bargains at yard sales from people who are happy to load up the trunk of your car with junior’s old collection. Poor junior is away at a college, it seems.
This past weekend, I found a large bin of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and assorted 80’s action figures for $10. I was handing over the cash and the seller piled on a few vehicles and accessories to just get rid of them.
At the next sale, I bought a massive LEGO airplane with the original box and instruction manual for $5. A quick check on eBay showed that those sets sell for $100-200. Not bad. LEGO are one of those things that I have always bought at yard sales. LEGO pieces take about 352 years to degrade to a point where they don’t look brand new, so I buy them, give them to the kids to build, once they lose interest, they go up on eBay and Daddy gets some PayPal bucks to buy more toys. Those eBay buyers give the LEGO to their kids, who build them, tire of them, and then sell them at a yard sale, and there I am again. It’s the circle of life really.
Here are my tips on how to succeed at yard sales:
Know what you are buying.
I pass on a lot of items simply because I don’t know what they are worth. As an example, this past weekend, I had a box full of sports equipment in my hands — hockey gear, a baseball catcher’s helmet and pads, football pads — you get the idea. The price seemed right but I just didn’t know enough to know if I could make a profit on selling them.
Buy in bulk.
One of the best ways to get a deal at a yard sale is to buy a lot of stuff. If I’m at a house with a lot of action figures or games, I’ll grab a box and fill it up, then make an offer for the whole box. You can get substantial bargains with this technique, because the seller is having a yard sale to get rid of stuff. The more you take, the less they have to haul back into the house.
Buy low, sell high.
If you plan to resell any of the items you buy, make sure you can make a profit. eBay listing fees and shipping costs can take away a big chunk of your profits. I usually steer clear of large items since I know it can be a real pain to box them up and ship them. It cost me $85 to ship a guitar once. The guitar was only worth $100!
Craigslist and Google Maps
Do your homework the night before you head out to go yard saling. Find the best listings on Craigslist and then plot out your plan of attack with Google Maps. By 9:00AM the best buys are gone, so get to the good sales first.
Take your kids
This might sound like the old tactic of taking a dog to the park to meet a girl, but boy does it work. I have two boys and they love to go to yard sales because they always come home with a ton of new toys. When we hit a yard sale with boy’s toys, the seller almost always is happy to see them going to a new home where they will be appreciated. My kids get to play with all the fun new toys, but once they tire of them, I’ll parse them out and sell them as lots on eBay (the toys, not the kids).
It’ amazing how far this little tip will take you in a yard sale transaction (and life, in general). Don’t take advantage of people. if you see a copy of Detective Comics #27, don’t offer a dollar for it. Offer five.