Confessions of a Yard Sale Diva, Part 2

What to look for and some surprising places to find it

by Brad and Debra Schepp
- Sep 15, 2011

We hope our last article about the Yard Sale Diva inspired and energized you to seek out even more treasures available at your local yard sales. In many parts of the country, yard sale season is beginning to wind down. People simply don't want to sit outside in the early morning chill of autumn in the hopes of getting customers. Plus, going from one yard sale to the next is much less satisfying once you have to don a coat or gloves.

So, while you still have a few more beautiful weeks left to cash in, let's take a look at some more great tips from our Yard Sale Diva. With the sense of urgency that comes as fall approaches, you're bound to find some good stuff.

Difficult times can make people difficult

Be prepared to have to deal with some people who are especially challenged by our difficult economic times and are eager to express their frustration.

"People are holding on to anything they think might be valuable. I answered an ad for a musical instrument listed at a reasonable price," she explains. "When I got there to examine it, the woman told me she'd looked up its value online, and now she wanted $250! Since I knew her particular item would never bring that much, I let it pass."

Sure, our Diva was disappointed, and she'd spent both time and gas money on what turned out to be a fool's errand, but accepting that this is part of the treasure-hunting life, she had no choice but to let it go.

I'm looking for good stuff, but I don't want to be pushing people out of the way

"It doesn't pay to hold on to resentment about these things," she says. "Plus, there's satisfaction in knowing nobody else was going to give her that type of money for it either."

Competition at the yard sales, themselves, can also be a challenge. The Diva tells us it doesn't take long before you start recognizing the other people who are scouring yard sales for profit. Watch long enough, and you'll be able to spot the items your competitors are after.

Sometimes people can be quite rude. "That's the most exasperating part for me," the Diva confesses. "I struggle with it. I'm looking for good stuff, but I don't want to be pushing people out of the way."

If such bullying isn't your style either, don't allow yourself to get drawn into the struggle. Simply use that sale as a source of other items, or move along to the next one, hoping to get there before your less pleasant fellow yard sale denizens.

Know where you are, and who was there before you

Our Diva recommends you research manufacturers who used to be active in your particular part of the world. Where she lives, there used to be a booming glass-making industry. She has learned all the identifying marks for those manufacturers, and how to spot the good pieces.

It stands to reason that there might be a plethora of items from local manufacturers in any particular area, but that's not the only reason these are potentially great buys.

"In the old days, workers often brought pieces home from the plant or received specific items as bonuses and rewards," the Diva explains. "Their grandchildren don't really want the items now, as they have no particular attachment to them."

Items such as these tend to disappear into the background scenery of a home, and they don't particularly stand out to the people who grow up among them. That gives you a great opportunity to spot one and scoop it up as a bargain.

You may be thinking there isn't such an industry in your area, but we've found that many towns and locations used to have factories no one even remembers. We were astonished to see that even in our little town there was once a thriving broom and brush factory. Of course, brooms and brushes don't survive over time as well as other items, but the point is, we once would have sworn our hometown had no manufacturing, and we would have been absolutely wrong! So, do your research.

After the sale is over

The Diva confesses that one of the things she loves best about community yard sales is what happens when they're over. These sales usually happen no more frequently than once a year. When they're over, the last thing the annual participants want to do is drag unsold stuff back into the house and stash it away for another year. That means a treasure trove of "trash" put out to the curb.

When they're over, that means a treasure trove of 'trash' put out to the curb. That's the time to go cruising

"That's the time to go cruising!" says the Diva. We were incredulous, so we asked the Diva for some specifics.

"I found a beautiful little cast iron table in such an instance," she reports. "I brought it home, gave it a quick coat of spray paint, and it's really lovely. I also found a Chinese painting from the 1940s in the trash. I had it appraised for $1,500!"

Another example is an eight-panel screen the Diva dug out of the trash. "It turned out to be a hand-embroidered silk screen from Korea," she says. "I sold it for a lot of money. Dumpster diving is not a bad thing!"

Market trends to watch

Finally, we'd like to share with you some of the hottest trends the Diva has noticed. We'll list them in no particular order, but we hope this little list will give you the incentive to try branching out for new stuff.

  • Asian artifacts: These are hot now, according to the Diva. "I have noticed that there are now consumer markets with the disposable income to buy back items sold to Americans after the Second World War, for next to nothing. These include samurai swords (if you can find them), prints and lacquered furniture."

  • Old radios: They don't need to be operational. People like them for decorative purposes, and sometimes the tubes inside the radios are worth more than the radios themselves.

  • Old games: "Old backgammon games can be valuable," the Diva says. "They often have pieces made of Bakelite and even ivory."

  • Old sewing boxes: This is the type of item families often set out just to clear out old junk. "They can be crammed with good stuff," our Diva explains. As examples, she offers old tape measures, thimbles and scissors. "In the days when so many more people sewed, these artifacts were often made of sterling silver."

  • Old watches: "Old Swiss wind-up watches are hot now," she says. "I've picked them up for as low as 50 cents, and they have 17 jewels!"

  • Alabaster and crystal: Alabaster lamps and cut crystal are doing well, so teach yourself how to identify them.

  • Handmade: Anything that was handmade can be valuable. "Linens are big," she says, "but the embroidery has to be done well. Also hand-carved items can be great. For example, a walking stick may not have been done by anyone famous, but it can still be beautiful. People spent much more time creating objects before we reached our lives of modern convenience."

Well, that's probably enough advice from our dear Yard Sale Diva. We can tell you we've watched her in action, and she is inspiring. We may never achieve her level of skill, but she has helped us see that there are still plenty of treasures to be found, salvaged and sold for a good-to-great profit. We hope you agree.

About the Author

Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book, which Deb co-authored with John Lawson, Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-preneurs: It's Not About Likes—It's About Sales, was recently named the 2015 Small Business Book of the Year in the social media category.

For further information, visit Brad and Deb's website,

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

Other Entries by this Author

Follow Us