The Art of the Yard Sale, Part 2

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.

The sale, moments before the customers descend.
The sale, moments before the customers descend.

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.

Matchbox car enthusiast and spouse depart with the spoils.
Matchbox car enthusiast and spouse depart with the spoils; levels of enthusiasm vary. 

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.”

Yard sale done right.
Yard sale done right.

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.

The dogs look on.
The dogs look on.

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.

A bargain.
A bargain.

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.

Yard sale style.
Yard sale style.

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.

The jewelry store.
The jewelry store.

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.



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  1. Great blow-by-blow of the whole gig Alaina!…. thanks for sharing
    ……and a special “thanks” for leaving out the part about that yard sale money funding our return trip to Harrah’s on Sunday night.

  2. 😀 This is so good and sounds like you and your family have had a wonderful day. I think I need to start my own yard sale, I’ve got too much lurking around 🙂
    Have a very HAPPY week! 🙂

    • My problem is I don’t have enough space or patience to let things pile up until they’re worthy of a yard sale. I always get frustrated and purge, throwing things out or giving them to charity if they’re usable. Good luck if you decide to have one! Definitely check out my brother’s guest post, linked in this piece, for tips on how to do it right.

      • I know what you mean. I try to save things up for the flea market, but then I never make it and I start throwing things out or give them away. Or I want to sell them on ebay…that takes forever and is soooo much work. Well, one of these days… 🙂 And thanks for the tips, I’ll read through them.
        Have a HAPPY week!

      • Thanks, you too.

  3. Love the blow by blow and photos – it WAS an epic sale. Thanks for helping and I wonder why you didn’t get the gene? I guess we need someone in the family to prevent us from ending up on Hoarders.

  4. *laughs*… you should follow my folks around when they’re off to the yard sales if you’re looking for humor. It’s sad and hilarious, all at once when my dad’s along; think storage wars… but with yard sales, LOL.

    I did get the yard sale gene, though… I love combing through and seeing what I can find. I don’t usually buy much, but I get almost as much satisfaction just looking 🙂

    I finally live in a neighborhood for the first time in my life, and now have nothing to put in a yard sale! Grr!

    • Don’t worry, you can set your goals early and then have an epic yard sale in a few years. In the meantime, there’ll be no shortage of other sales to comb through. One man’s trash….!

      • “If it’s free, it’s for me!” That’s my motto, lol. The free section on Craigslist actually excites me… but I (thankfully) am only slightly tempted by things I don’t actually need or can use… or know someone who can use it…

        okay… I may have a problem. o.O


      • Sometimes I think a wife’s role on this earth is to say, “well, do we really NEED that, or do we want it?” I rarely venture onto Craigslist but I know it’s an adventure: one nationwide 24-hour yard sale.

      • I knoooow (I say this wearing a giant, cheesy grin, while rubbing my hands together with glee)! But as I’ve got no wheels (and no money) at the moment… I’m staying away. Does no good to long for things one cannot have. 😉

  5. Great blog entry!! We’re planning to have our own yard sale next month. Pleased to read of your adventures — and will be re-reading your brother’s advice!

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