Yard Sales…The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of The Feet…

Here’s an archive post originally published March 30, 2010 (if you’ve received two notifications of this, I apologize – I’m reposting it for the second time today, because I don’t think the e-mail notifications worked the first time):

The best yard sale ad I ever saw was in a Moncton newspaper many years ago…it gave the pertinent details of the sale, followed by this: “Early birds will be ignored.”  My kind of vendor!  There’s nothing more frustrating than arriving at a sale at the advertised start time, only to find that vultures have picked all the best meat off the bones!

I’ve been going to yard sales/house sales/flea markets/auctions since I was small…we’d get up many Saturday mornings, and head for a nearby farm auction.  At one of these, my brother and I decided we’d really like to have a calf, but Dad convinced us that our mom would have a COW if he came home with one!  On Sunday drives, I remember us sitting in the car as Mom looked angrily at her watch waiting for Dad to stop talking to some stranger who had something to sell (my mom caught the yard sale bug much later in life, after she started collecting and selling Sherman jewellery).  In the late ’70’s, Dad started setting up his own stall at flea markets (he collected sealers and pretty much anything to do with farming, as well as books).

Forty years later, I still like calves, but don't really want one any more...

After I was married and had kids, going yard-saling was an inexpensive outing for a Saturday…we lived in Moncton and didn’t have a car then…we walked to all the sales we attended.  I’d set the alarm early, pack up the kids, and off we’d go, with a carefully-planned list of sales we wanted to get to and their start times.  I mostly bought books, clothes and toys then, although I would keep my eyes open for bells/wooden boxes for my mom’s collections.

We moved to Saint John in late 1997, and continued our yard-saling habit…since opening the bookstore in the summer of 2000, we also started looking for old/local books on our Saturday mornings.  We go to the Sussex Flea Market every summer, where over 1000 vendors set up outside to sell everything from antlers to zinnias.  I started training my middle daughter, Anna, how to “pick” old books at age 8, and today, at 15, she definitely has “the eye”…she knows what to take and what to leave behind!

I picked up this little book "Mary Queen of Scots" for 10 cents...it's listed online for $20!

I even yard-sale on vacation…I was in Belleville, Ontario for a college reunion, and went to a few sales in the east end where the beautiful old homes are.  Lying on the grass, I spied a beautiful Native Canadian print that I wanted as a gift for my best friend, who is of aboriginal descent.   As I leaned over to pick it up, someone with faster fingers snatched it out from under me…after shooting her a look that should have caused her to at least feel faint (it didn’t seem to have any effect), I let her have it…

I was tramping around the West Side of Saint John, when I found a gorgeous pen and ink drawing of a farmhouse – I liked it because it reminded me of my grandma’s house.  The problem was that it was huge – about 2′ x 3′, and I was on foot.  It was also in the most hideous frame I’d ever seen, with floral wallpaper acting as a homemade mat.  I asked the woman how much it was – $8!  I told myself that I would go to one more sale around the corner and then come back…if the drawing was still there, I’d buy it and call a cab to get home.  I was lucky that day…I forked over the money and took my prize home.  The next day, I called my friend, Amy, who has a frame shop on the West Side, Amy’s Custom Framing.  We made a barter deal for a proper frame and mat – $150 worth.  Amy did a beautiful job on the artwork, and I hung it over the fireplace in my living room.  I’ve never been able to determine the artist’s name – I assume it’s local though.

Since moving to Hammond River a little over a year ago, yard-saling has been more difficult…I don’t have a driver’s license, and Jim doesn’t like getting up early.  However, I was able to make the rounds at the Quispamsis Community Yard Sale last spring.  He even started to get into it, especially after one lady started giving us stuff!  I was buying a computer chair ($10) from her, and Jim had two routers ($2 each).  She pointed out the “free pile,” which contained a dehumidifier and two boxes of computer network cable that Jim said were sold retail for about $1 a foot!  We grabbed them!  Other finds that day were an apple peeler for $3; a gooseneck pole lamp for $5; two non-stick muffin pans for $1 each; a laptop bag for $2 for my stepdaughter, Brianna; a pair of Robeez baby shoes for $5 and a nursing pillow for $4 for my unborn granddaughter; and several books.  My daughters, Anna and Hope, got a High School Musical dance game.   Hope even picked up a stuffed teddy bear for our dog, Jake, which he wasted no time destroying!  A month or so later, we went to the Hampton Community Yard Sale, and got a good haul of books, but not much else.

"The best apple peeler ever!" according to my stepson, Devin...

I’m looking forward to the sales again this year…it will be a lot easier getting our purchases into the back of the van instead of the Corolla!


Filed under memories, shopping

22 responses to “Yard Sales…The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of The Feet…

  1. I too love yardsales, but don’t much like those early birds who get all the good stuff. (Great title on this one, Wendy!)

  2. jacquelincangro

    Here, we don’t have yard sales, we have stoop sales. 😉 In the summer there are stoop sales every weekend all over the neighborhood. I bet you’d have a blast. No driving required.

  3. I spent years traipsing around to yard sales. I loved it, and it was even better when I found that amazing incredible whatever that I couldn’t live without. Now, i just want to divest myself of much of what I have!

  4. I used to love yard sales, but I need to cut my possessions by two-thirds to reach a manageable level where I can start acquiring possessions with zest again.

  5. Love the vintage shopping myself, Wendy. I have lately been into Chafing Dishes. I can sometimes find these in thrift shops for as little as $3.00 each, silver plated, and even managed two still with boxes, and a third never used in a box. I hope to someday use these. For now, I have completely run out of space. I need to go back to collecting miniatures. Or going to flea markets to sell off my stuff. Nice post. Great title!

  6. So many comments! I’m a sucker for yard sales. Last weekend, I got a baseball tee, a baseball equipment bag and 2 lightsabers for $5.50. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out. I got an old desktop PC for $15 a couple weeks ago. Turns out I got $15 worth of old computer parts.

  7. Wendy–You mentioned here that you thought email notifications had failed. I’m wondering what made you think that. Traffic at my blog this week has been in the toilet and comments have been even worse. Then I accidentally noticed that someone i read regularly had posted but I didn’t get the notification. Do you know anything about a pattern of failure in this regard at WP recently, or do things just slow down terribly in the summer?

    • I don’t know, Kathy…I’m so far behind on reading (about a week now)…I assumed my traffic was down because I haven’t been reading/commenting. I also wondered if it was because I was scheduling posts instead of publishing them immediately. I know that this one did not post to Facebook as it should have the first time, and my friend Todd told me he hadn’t received a notification. I have another post scheduled for this morning…will see if it goes properly! I had so few readers last summer that I don’t really have a yardstick to go by…I assume a lot of people are busy with other things… Hugs, Wendy

  8. Jess Witkins

    I so want to go yard saling with you! I love that photo of the Mary Queen of Scots book, what an awesome find! I want to learn how “pick” old books. I want you to start your own show, like American Pickers, and I can be your apprentice. Please, Wendy!!! Can we?

    • That would be fun, Jess…”picking” old books is just a matter of experience. I go a lot by publisher: mainstream publishers with familiar names (especially American ones) are likely to be common books. British publishers in general are more valuable than American ones, and non-fiction more saleable than fiction. Condition is really important too! Wendy

  9. Cole did not sleep for the first 5 years of his life unless we were holding him or rocking him or sleeping next to him so on the weekends we would put him in his car seat, buy a Starbucks and go from garage sale to garage sale. Sometime he would fall asleep in the car and we could roll down the windows and keep an eye on his as we shopped front yards. We would take turns if the sale was in the back. Before Cole could talk he would point at a garage sale with excitement. Although my own sales have been profitable–I have sworn never ever again. I have had more luck dumpster diving than at garage sales but Chicago alleys are filled with treasures.

  10. What would we Maritimers do without yard sales? I always end up in the book section, of course, and let Hubby check out the others things.

  11. My family LOVES garage sales – and this post!

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