Do's and Don'ts of Garage Sale Pricing

How to Price Your Merchandise

woman pricing yard sale merchandise
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Pricing your merchandise right is crucial when you're having a yard sale. If you set the prices too high, your stuff won't sell. If your prices are too low, you lose money you could have made. To make the process a little easier, here are 18 do's and don'ts of garage sale pricing:

Yard Sale Pricing Do's

  • Price everything before the sale starts.
  • Price each item individually. The only exceptions are groups of like items that are all priced the same, such as books. Then, put them all on a table together. Make a simple sign with big lettering that says "Books $1 each" or whatever price you've set. Hang the sign on the front of the table or on the wall behind it.
  • Use a fine-point marker to write your prices on plain stickers (if you can't find pre-printed ones). It's easier to read than a ballpoint pen, especially for shoppers who forget their reading glasses.
  • Price your merchandise with neon-colored stickers, except for paper items the adhesive might damage. It makes the price easy to find -- and it's faster than tearing masking tape into squares.
  • Opt for low-tack stickers (if you can find them). They're easier to remove from porcelain, paper, wood, and glass.
  • Visit some area yard sales to get a feel for local pricing on different merchandise types. If most sellers price hardbound books at 50 cents to $1, yours won't sell at $3 each. If name-brand blue jeans typically sell for $2 in your neighborhood, marking yours at 25 cents per pair is way too low. 
  • Research items that might be valuable. Check a price guide and do a completed item search on eBay. If you find an identical piece, you can print the listing and attach it to your item to demonstrate value, but don't expect to get that price at a yard sale. If your piece is worth money, you might do better selling it elsewhere.
  • Assume shoppers will haggle. On pricey pieces and large items such as furniture, build some negotiating room into your sticker price. Adding an additional 15 to 20 percent to your minimum gives you some room to lower the price.
  • Mark the price tags on pricey pieces as "Firm" if you're not willing to haggle at all.
  • Use color-coded stickers or mark the price tags with the sellers' initials if you're having a multi-family sale. As shoppers pay, peel off the stickers and stick them on a notebook page. Tally the results later. It takes too long to keep a written log as you go -- and your customers have other stops on their yard sale routes.

Yard Sale Pricing Don'ts

  • Don't display your yard sale goods without prices. That's one of the most irritating mistake sellers make. Yard sales get hectic, and nobody wants to wait in line just to get a price. Shy shoppers may even leave without asking. 
  • Don't put stickers on old album covers, collectible magazines, book dust jackets, or vintage paper goods, such as postcards or Valentines. The adhesive may cause damage. Opt instead for pieces of low-tack painter's tape. The latter category of merchandise is called ephemera, and it's often quite collectible. 
  • Don't pause before giving a price when a customer initially asks -- unless you've already reached the haggling stage, where hesitation is a legitimate tactic. When you hesitate before answering, the shopper assumes you're sizing him up for his ability to pay.
  • Don't base your price on what you paid for the item. Remember that you're selling used merchandise. You may see the strappy designer sandals that cost you $200 at a department store, but your customers see them as used shoes that contained a stranger's feet. 
  • Don't create a complicated pricing system where customers have to refer to a chart or remember what different sticker colors mean. It's annoying to the customer -- and you'll spend most of the day answering questions about price. Make it easy for your customers to buy your stuff.
  • Don't skip individual price stickers in favor of arranging the items by price. That only works with like items, such as books or shoes. Otherwise, that merchandise will end up in the wrong place at some point, whether intentional or accidental. Honest shoppers will feel like you're scamming them when you correct the price. Con artists will try to scam you. 
  • Don't price your goods based on sentiment. The customers don't care about your memories -- and they're certainly not willing to pay more to purchase them. If something is that valuable to you, maybe you should keep it.
  • Don't wait until the day of the sale to get prices for merchandise that doesn't belong to you. When a shopper asks for a price, she doesn't want to wait while you call your daughter or best friend. If other people want to sell their stuff at your yard sale, make them price the pieces in advance. Period.