Garage Sale Shopping for Antiques

Finding Old Stuff at Neighborhood Sales

Yard Sale Shopping
Joanne Levesque / Getty Images

Garage Sales, yard sales, tag sales -- many antique hounds believe you can't find anything worthwhile at these popular neighborhood shopping spots anymore. Maybe you'll admit falling into that rut a time or two yourself. But just when antiquers think they'll never find another collectible at a bargain yard sale price, something pops up to change their minds.

Whether you're looking for a trash to treasure makeover project or something to sell so you can keep on shopping, persistence most definitely pays off.

Read about a few garage sale finds and then check out some useful tips for garage sale shopping below.

A Day in the Life – Examples of Success

Shopping a series of neighborhood sales just miles from home one Saturday morning, a shopper reported finding a brand new designer snakeskin purse from the 1970s for $1, and a shiny 1950s aluminum two-piece cake carrier with a black plastic handle in excellent condition for $3. Those both went home with her.

Another garage sale just blocks away yielded a set of six small Fostoria American oyster cocktail goblets, and another set of eight tulip shaped fountain glasses with the Jeanette Glass Company mark on the base for just $2 per set. These normally sell for about $5-15 per piece, so they were excellent finds.

Last but not least, this thrifty saler found a really cute 1960s ceramic Santa Claus planter for $1.50. After spending a couple of fun hours browsing secondhand wares and spending less than $10, she came home feeling really good about the way she spent her morning and she had some nice goods to show for it.

Your mileage may vary, as they say, but there are still some great finds out there. You may strike out a time or two before you hit the mother load. But the next time you're up early on a Saturday morning and the weather is nice, venture out to see what you can find. Chances are you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Tips for Antique Hunting at Garage Sales:

  • Remember that it's true about the early bird getting the best selection. But don't discount swinging back by just before a sale closes to see if you can get a better discount on an item that was priced way too high in the first place.
  • To make the most of your shopping time, consider frequenting neighborhood garage sales where a number of homes are having sales at the same time (like the shopper did in the story above). This way, you can park at the end of a block and easily walk from house to house.
  • When you see a bargain you even THINK you might want, pick it up and hold it. You can always put it back if you change your mind, but if you wait to go back for it after you make your way around the sale it will likely be gone.
  • Carry books on your favorite collectibles in your car. If you need to look something up, ask the sale's proprietor to hold the item while you run to your car. If it's not what you thought it was, you can always tell the seller you've changed your mind when you go back inside. Smartphones can make verifying items online easy breezy as well. 
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle or ask for a discount, but always be realistic. No one wants to go half price on an item during the first couple of hours of a sale. Anger the seller and you may end up with no discount at all.
  • Don't see what you collect or sell laid out among the wares? If you're bold enough, ask the seller if they have any old glass or pottery, or what have you, and see what they say. Many a savvy shopper has scored big because they were brave enough to ask a simple question.