The Fountain Pen, Guelph's On-Line News

Garage Sales Part Two

Web posted on March 28, 2016

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

Now that I have found you, I expect to see a pricing structure. My favourite is having coloured stickers on everything with a corresponding price chart. That way it is easy to make any price changes as the day goes on. The standard price stickers you can buy are also good. Another good way is to sort your stuff by price. Then you set them up as a loonie table, a two dollar table and so on. Nice and easy. When I don't see prices, I assume that everything is one dollar. I don't want to have to waste my time asking for prices. More than likely I will just walk away, unless there is something I really want. I enjoy negotiating, but I need to know what your expectations are. Don't be lazy, price your stuff. Make your sale look as inviting as possible.

The other thing that bothers me is the people who think they can get Antiques Roadshow prices, or even the alleged prices shown on some those auction based TV unreality shows. Do you really think that you will get the price you see on eBay for a similar item? I don't think so. No dealer is going to pay those prices. They need to cover their costs and make a fair return. If you really think that your stuff is worth that much put it on eBay or contact a reputable auctioneer who runs real live auctions and take your chances. With a real auction you can be there and see what you get for your stuff. I will have my say about auctions in a future column. Most collectors tend to be on the thrifty side as well. Having said all that, you should know what your stuff might be worth, do your homework. Be reasonable with your expectations, and you will do well. The whole idea is to have nothing left by the end of the day. Your highest price should be first thing in the morning. Drop your prices as the day progresses. Some of the best garage sales are run by dealers who are highly motivated to get rid of excess stock. One of my favourite signs at a garage sale said something to the effect of "All prices negotiable, $50 gets you everything, will help load." On the other hand some of the worse ones are also run by dealers expecting retail prices.

Another thing to consider is the season. Stuff that people need for the cottage or the yard is far more desirable in the spring than at the end of the season. Christmas stuff is easier to get rid of at the end of the season. Just some food for thought.

If you are one of those people (there are several of you out there) who are trying to have more sales than the by-law allows, I might be the person who called the by-law enforcement people. We are only allowed three garage sales per year. If you want to be a dealer, set up at a flea market, rent space at an antique mall, or open your own store. Garage sales are for getting rid of stuff, not running a business. There is a big difference between motivated dealers who follow the rules and the rest of you.

Then there are the buyers. Be courteous, don't block the driveway, someone might need to load their brand new stuff. Obey the rules of the road and don't park in the wrong direction. Keying vehicles on Saturday mornings parked in the wrong direction should be made legal. Don't stop in the middle of the road. Check for oncoming traffic before opening your door. Keep your kids on a leash. Most dogs are better behaved.

Don't make ridiculous offers. Negotiating is one thing, trying to screw the seller is something else. I realize that negotiating in some cultures is expected. Everyone, be reasonable.

Yes, there are treasures to be found, but with all the TV shows out there, people tend to be more knowledgeable these days. To be honest, I have found many more great finds at auctions than at garage sales.

Early Birds. There is a special place in Hell reserved for you. Over the years I have seen some interesting signs for Early Birds. "Early Bird gets the Worm and the Finger." "Dog eats Early Birds for breakfast." "All prices double for Early Birds." My personal favourite was a plate full of worms, and the sign: "Early Bird Special." Get the message. You are as popular as politicians coming to the door.

I am not a dealer, but I have managed to flip a few items. I am somewhat of a collector, and I have a list of very specific items I am looking for. I also have to keep a certain Golden Retriever happy with all sort of stuffed toys.

Good luck to all and have a safe and fun season.


Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at news@thefountainpen.com

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.


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