Last year, in his own words, you heard all about the epic Jersey Shore yard sale that my brother Brad holds each July with our mom and dad. Born without the collecting and selling impulse, I’m a grudging accomplice to these sales, mostly because they start so early in the morning (serious yard salers are roaming the sidewalks by 6:30am). But Mom needed someone to watch the sterling silver jewelry while she bartered with customers. (Visit her eBay empire here.)
Last year, Brad shared the secrets of successful yard saling. This year I decided to sit with my reporter’s notebook and write down the best quotes of the day.
7:05am: A man in his forties buys Brad’s entire matchbox car collection for $95.
“For his birthday, I gave him a 108-car case so he can display his favorite ones. But I don’t think it’s going to cut it,” his wife says. “We have a bed in the middle of a whole bunch of cars…thank God he got rid of his baseball cards.”
“I’ll give you $5 for the Tonka out front,” the man tells my brother, “so here’s an even hundred.”
“I thank God for my husband every day. He’s a wonderful man…who just needs less cars,” the woman says as they leave.
7:15am: An elderly couple asks, “do you have any postcards? We’re postcard dealers.”
And they’re not in the market for Coney Island or Niagara Falls postcards, which are a dime a dozen.
“Condition, condition, condition,” the woman says of what makes a postcard valuable. “And rarity.” They’re always looking for one of the world’s 5,000 known Halloween postcards.
Meanwhile, the old man fills us in on his medical history: “spinal surgery, pancreatic cancer, Whipple procedure. I still got tumors in my gut.”
7:44am: A man who runs a shop out of Absecon says he empties at least one house a day, sometimes two. He pulls up in a brand-new van and “christens” it with an $8 used KitchenAid mixer.
8:00am: “Can you read that?” a woman asks my mom, holding up a small pendant printed with a message.
“A sister is a friend forever,” Mom answers.
“Forget that!” the woman says, dropping the necklace.
8:18am: “I always swear I’m never gonna buy another fish plate,” a woman says, buying a plate shaped like a yellow and red tropical fish.
8:33am: A woman buys a travel book about Florence priced at ten cents, but insists on paying a quarter.
8:50am: “How much is the flashlight?” a woman asks, holding up a murder-weapon-sized flashlight still sealed in its original packaging.
“Five dollars. It’s brand new,” Mom answers. Utterly disgusted, the woman slings the flashlight into a crate of books.
9:08am: A young man in a Mohawk and neon-laced black Chuck Taylors, who ends every sentence with “Bro,” bargains Brad from $10 to $7 for some kind of helmet, and pays with a $100 bill. He wants to “race homemade go-karts and not die, Bro.”
9:21am: A four-year-old boy in flip flops says, “Mommy, I’m tired! We’ve been walking here forever!” I pity him deeply. Then he gets a tiny plastic dinosaur and a few used golf balls, and leaves happy.
9:32am: A man in his fifties in plaid shorts and loafers asks, “Can you tell me about the water guns? Which water guns work?” Whether he wants the guns for himself is unclear.
9:40am: Three generations of one family buy some bead necklaces, a sterling silver bracelet, baseball cards, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles skateboard, a $3 buffalo nickel and a Cal Ripken, Jr. pin. Everybody wins.
9:54am: Yard-saling woman wearing a Coach fanny-pack.
10:36am: An elderly woman with glitter polish on her fingers and toes buys a binder full of baseball cards, a big red plate with snowflakes and the words “cookies cookies cookies” and a silver-and-peridot bracelet, bargained down to $125 from $150. Turns out the sickly greenish peridot is our birthstone, and more than that, the woman and I have the same birthday.
11:27am: A woman inquires after the price of bikes that belong to another customer.
11:54am: A five-year-old boy buys an orange plastic lightsaber for twenty-five cents, and announces he now has a lightsaber in every color but purple.
Dad tells the kid to beware the Dark Side. “He loves the Dark Side,” his mother said.
9:50am, the following day: A man knocks on the door and explains that his stepson stole his golf clubs and sold them for drug money, but the man took his wife out to dinner last night to get her to agree that he could come back today and ask if that set of PING golf clubs was still for sale. They were.