Estate Sale Advice

Discussion in 'General Attire & Accoutrements' started by Novella, May 21, 2006.

  1. Novella

    Novella Practically Family

    Los Angeles, CA
    I've seen posts that mention estate sales and I found a post on estate sale experiences/good finds but nothing on the basics.

    So what are the A to Zs of estate sales? How do you find them? When is the best time to go? What do they most commonly have at the sales? Are there items that should/shouldn't be bought there (good deal vs overpriced items)? Different areas of the country that are typically good/bad for sales? Any other advice you can think of would be great - I've never been to one before so it's all new to me.
  2. Lincsong

    Lincsong I'll Lock Up

    Shining City on a hill
    Check the local newspapers. They usually have a section for garage and estate sales. Look for the ones in the tonier areas of town. Being down in Santa Barbara there should be a lot of rich old folks who passed away. Most of those are held by professionals who know how to price the objects. But, you may come across one done by children or nephews, nieces etc. who just want to get rid of everything. I came across a Jim Beam Decanter of the state of Maine at the estate sale of my neighbor. It was on a table of glassware with a sign "everything 25 cents". So I bought it. I see them going on E-bay for $8-$10.:D
  3. Lincsong gives some great advice there. Let me add to it.

    -- Look for estate sales in neighborhoods whose residents have lived in their homes for DECADES. Around L.A., neighborhoods in the Pasadena-San Marino/Hollywood/Hancock Park/Fairfax areas are a good bet.

    -- Don't bother looking for estate sale ads in the big newspapers. I've had much better luck finding good ones in THE RECYCLER weekly newspaper, which has an enormous section devoted to estate sales.

    -- If the ad includes a phone number, call the seller and ask him/her if the estate sale will include the specific things that you're hunting for. (Since I specialized in men's vintage clothing, I'd call and ask if the estate had any. I'd ask whether the stuff was pretty old, or recent. Usually the sellers are helpful, but sometimes you have to lead them by the hand with your questions.)

    -- If the estate sale sounds particularly promising -- i.e., if it is to be held in a high-class area of an old neighborhood -- then get your Thomas Brothers map book out, look up the exact location, and (if you have time) DRIVE there BEFORE the day of the estate sale. Take a look at the house from the street: does it look old? Does it look a bit shabby? If so, good! Old homes gone slightly to seed can indicate long-time owners who probably didn't throw their old stuff away. LARGE old homes can indicate that the residents were rich.

    -- Finally, go to the estate very early in the morning of the sale's first day. Two hours in advance of the official opening hour. Be ready to stand in line with many other people. The key is to be near the front of the line, so get there early!

    -- Bring a big cloth bag with a big opening and straps, so that you can easily and quickly put stuff in it. If you see something that MAY be interesting, don't stop to think: put it immediately in your bag. Afterward, you can look at the item more closely and decide whether you really want to purchase it or not.

    -- Bring cash in many small and some large bills. Be ready to negotiate the sum. The more you buy, the better a discount you can get.

  4. PrettySquareGal

    PrettySquareGal My Mail is Forwarded Here

    New England
    I go to licensed auction houses that sell off estates. Usually they will have sorted through the contents and can offer descriptions and, if they have a website, previews. Bring lots of saniwipes (for your hands, not the items) because many of the items will have vintage dust and dirt.
  5. Lauren

    Lauren Distinguished Service Award

    Sunny California
    Wow! Already you have had good advice. I live in an area with few older homes, but it seems we have slews of packrats. So... I usually hit up the retirement areas. It's hit or miss- sometimes they've cleaned out, but when you get the packrats it's the best.

    *Check papers online the morning of. Print out directions, and plan a route from sale to sale. Generally if "Vintage Clothes" are listed I hit that first and plot my course around that.
    *Go early and on the first day, if possible. Don't be surpirsed if the people around you aren't too friendy. Usually they're dealers or hardcore collectors. I try to be friendly anyways :)
    *I go straight from closet to closet as soon as I'm in. Sometimes they also hang better clothes in odd areas like living rooms, but most often than not around here they have no clue of the age of clothing so there may be a prime 40's outfit in the closet while they display an all over beaded 80's dress on the wall.
    *Look in drawers if you can. Found great sweaters that way.
    *Grab as you see it. Sort out your finds later.
    *Negotiate. Don't tell them price by price, but say "I have all this. How much do I owe you."
    *Be nice and courteous. No one likes to be told the stuff they're selling is "junk and not worth the price". If it wasn't, they know you wouldn't be wanting to buy it.
    *Bring hand sanitizer stuff
    *eat beforehand. Sometimes the amounts of stuff to go through are massive and you'll need to be focused
    *Don't wear good vintage. Wear casual street clothes. Not only will you look more casual and not have to worry about it when you're rummaging through the garage but if you go in head to toe vintage they'll know you know your stuff and are usually less likely to give you a deal.
    *I have to stress it again. Don't forget to be polite. I have gotten stellar deals just be being nice, taking the time to talk to the sellers after I've sorted, and telling them how much I love the stuff- if it's too much I generally say "I can't spend that much right now" rather than "that's too expensive."
    *Work in teams if you can. You can have someone take the house who knows antiques, and you take the closets if you know vintage. Friends share, especailly if you have different tastes but know your stuff.
    *Go back the last day if you had your eye on a more expensive item. Often times they take half off on the last day of the sale. You can ask if they mark down on the last day when you're there on the first day.

    Have fun!
  6. Novella

    Novella Practically Family

    Los Angeles, CA
    Thank you - all of you have given fantastic advice! I can't wait to go hunting now. :D
  7. Ditto to all that Lauren said. That's what I do.
    Also check that dumpster if there is one in front of the house. ;)


  8. Excellent advice, everyone! Just a few more hints:

    -- If it's a two-story home and you're looking for vintage dresses, suits, hats and shoes, go to the second floor as soon as you enter the house. That's where the bedrooms (and their closets) will usually be. Sometimes, the estate sellers have draped (or heaped!) clothing and hats on top of the beds. Glance at the beds before opening the bedroom closets.

    -- Wear a t-shirt (or sweatshirt) and jeans. Don't make yourself look like you have money to burn. Better-dressed buyers are sometimes charged more $$$.

    -- Lauren is right: go with a friend and you will double your searching power.

    -- At some estate sales, it's a free-for-all. As soon as the doors open, people literally run, rush, and elbow their way in. Don't be obnoxiously aggressive, but DO be fast. As soon as you see it, grab anything that MAY be of interest to you and put it in your tote bag(s). If you don't do this immediately, chances are that, 2 seconds later, someone else will. It really can be that frenzied ... though not always.

  9. scotrace

    scotrace Head Bartender Staff Member

    Small Town Ohio, USA
    Worth Bumping.
  10. If you have too many sales to hit on one day, forget about the ones that have 'exercise equipment' listed in the ad. I've found they're usually run by a couple 35-45 years old who have already sent all that 'old garbage' ' to the dump.

    If there's a basement and you're looking for 50s furniture, head down there first. When the new furniture was bought, the old stuff was sent down to the 'rumpus room.'
  11. ShooShooBaby

    ShooShooBaby One Too Many

    portland, oregon
    you're so right about this. she didn't have a basement, but after my grandma died i dug through her spare bedroom and came out with the most awesome furniture - in excellent shape because had just been stored for years. guess the novelty of tomato-red and turquoise nhagahyde wore off fast! ;)
  12. Miss Brill

    Miss Brill One Too Many

    on the edge of propriety
    Check craigslist & other free posting sites, some newspapers charge a lot for ads and many people use the free services. You can also find ads for free stuff. ;)
  13. Decobelle

    Decobelle One of the Regulars

    All the advice so far is spot on.

    I had to stop going to estate sales, as I could no longer take the stress and bad bahavior of some of the other shoppers! But my mom & I used to go often. How they work in our area is that the sale will have a set start time, but the sale hosts give out numbers about 2 hours before (so you can leave & come back in teh same order). They will let a certain number in the house at a time. Of course, you want to be in the first 5 or never mind! We were usually the only non-dealers in the first group and no matter how early we arrived, there were always people there before us - for a really promising sounding sale, 2-3 ack emma arrivals were typical. I especially second the tip about having a helper, who can not only help you shop but can stand watch over your pile of goodies, as aggressive folks just might help themselves. The only other thing I can add that hasn't already been said is either pick up or at least hold on to an item you are considering. I have had things that I'm half an inch away from (but not holding) snatched away. One funny thing that happened was the time we got to one and didn't see a line, so went right in. My mom had some 30s Matson menus in her hand when we noticed, out the window, a huge line of folks snaking along to the BACK door, glaring in at us. What else could we do? We kept shopping.
  14. MaryDeluxe

    MaryDeluxe Practically Family

    Here's a site that I like to check out when I'm looking for an auction/estate sale to go to. I'm not sure if anyone else has mentioned this site but it's great for seeing what's being sold at the estate sales! :)

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