A Tale of Two Estate Sales

Let me just say, estate sales have fabulous vintage stuff. Typically the sale is for an aged person who has lived in the house for decades and has now died or moved to a nursing home. Even if he or she wasn’t a collector, you’ll find tons of cool everyday items from previous decades: perfume bottles, clothes, games, jewelry, art, vases, china, eyeglasses, tools, kitchenalia, linens…well, you get the idea.

While sometimes the prices just aren’t realistic for resellers, I don’t fault the companies or the families. Everyone’s just trying to make a buck. But Saturday I feel like I rocked it. For less than the cost of one pair of Banana Republic denim shorts ($75) that I decided NOT to buy last week, I was able to buy a whole carload of great items. (True I drive a Mini-Cooper, but still I had three overflowing bags!)

The first sale I popped into was being held by family members trying to empty out mom’s 1800-square-foot house. (LOVE these sales!!) The second sale was at a cottage manned by an estate sale company. Both were busy sales. Both had good stuff. But to be honest I had more fun and bought more at the first sale. They were more motivated to get rid of stuff! And bonus…the 80+ year old lady who had lived here was a fabulous knitter, sewer and crafter. Quite a few of the things I bought she made!! And she had skill. Reminded me of my Gram’s work. 🙂

Here are a few things from the FIRST estate sale...

When I walked in the house I immediately picked up this beautiful hand-knit wool afghan in an oatmeal/light taupe color. Frankly I was surprised that no one else had nabbed it.

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I also found this handmade ’70s polyester shirt in this fun French poster print. The woman even covered the buttons in the fabric, had 3-button cuffs and perfect top stitching!

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And these four floral needlepoint linen placements. They are so beautifully done and appear to be unused.  The time and skill that went into these blows me away. Sometimes it seems like nobody does this kind of work anymore. The different flowers (approx. 4″ by 4″) were done in the upper-left corners.

And I got this vintage ravioli maker in original box with instruction booklet and all-metal parts.

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But my favorite item at this sale (which I intend to keep for myself, at least for a while) is a fabulous hand-knit wool sweater coat. Oh jeez, this coat is lovely and it fits me. When I was quoted a price of $20, I didn’t quibble.

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Now onto the SECOND sale at the cottage…sweet place, right??

cottage

Most stuff here was on the pricey end though. I walked around thinking “nope, nope, nope.” Sigh. Well, it was nice looking.

Take this cute doll house with furniture for example…at $175, and with no knowledge about the doll-house market, it felt too risky for me. Plus mailing something like this would be a nightmare! I decided to leave this gem for someone else.

dollhouse

Eventually I did find some clothes. Apparently it was “Wool Day” today because besides the two wool things I bought at the other house, I found three wool sweaters at this sale. But when I went to pay for them, the gals at the checkout table tried to charge me double for the men’s sweaters. When I reminded them of the prices they had posted, they happily acquiesced, but still.

I bought a Blarney Woolen Mills, wool Aran fisherman’s sweater (these puppies retail at $175) and a red Meister wool ski sweater. Both men’s XL, but could be worn by women too.

And I couldn’t resist a small orange vintage wool cheerleader sweater that someone is going to have fun wearing.

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All in all, it was a good morning!

If you’ve never been to an estate sale, strap on your skates and go!


Here are my estate sale tips. (My experience is limited to the U.S. so these may not be true for other countries!!)

  • Bring lots of cash. (While many professionally run estate sales accept credit cards, some may charge you a 3% usage fee.)
  • Some charge sales tax unless your have a reseller’s number.
  • Bring your own bags or boxes.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that can get dusty.
  • Don’t hesitate to open drawers, cupboards, closets and boxes at the house (unless they are specifically marked “do not open”).
  • Look things over carefully. All sales are final.
  • A mini flashlight, jeweler’s loupe and measuring tape can be helpful! (And of course your smartphone.)
  • Most sales have a “hold” table or area. Take advantage of it!
  • Negotiation rarely works at the first day of a professionally run sale.
  • Go at the beginning at the sale for best selection, towards the end for best prices.
  • Be polite and respectful of other shoppers and the sellers.
  • If you go early before the sale opens, there may be a sign-up list or numbers may be passed out to reserve your spot in the queue!
  • Use estatesales.net to find sales in your area. Most sales on this website post photos and a partial list of what they are selling.

To my readers outside the U.S. I’d love to hear from you…do you have estate sales where you live and how do they work? Any experiences/finds you’d care to share??

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3 comments

  1. Great finds! I agree that some estate sale prices are just too high! I know they are trying to make a profit for the family, but I also wonder how much of that stuff goes unsold at the end of the sale. I have learned which estate sale companies to either avoid or go to those sales last in my area.

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