Local Voices: Robin Woods on garage sale season
By ROBIN WOODS
It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Yard and garage sale season!
I adore them and print out a list of local sales, armed with a vat of coffee, a trusted friend and neighbor along for the ride. Spouses are fine to bring along if you must, but they make a beeline to boxes of worthless CDs and broken electronics. Children tend to wander around, stepping on items carefully laid out on lawns. They frequently whine and need to use a bathroom, so leave them at home if you can.
Caveat emptor (I love it when I speak Latin): Not all yard sales are created equal.
The ups and downs of them are easily spotted by those of us who know that the saying “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” needs some tweaking. One person’s junk is usually just junk. Many items I’ve seen for sale needed to go into the trash, rather than on a sale table. I do love my tchotchkes, those adorable small decorative objects which collect dust or defy description: A mug with missing handle shaped like a toilet seat, or a travel alarm clock with no hands to tell the time.
You might not know that you must file an application and pay for a permit to hold such sales here in town. Do it on the down-low, and you
run the risk of being fined by a fine code enforcement officer who’s on duty for the weekend. I’ll never tell, but be forewarned.
Please clearly mark each item with a price, even if it’s just 10 cents. When I see all unmarked items out on your lawn or in your garage, it makes me wonder whether you’re going to eyeball me to see how much you can charge me without being insulting or crazy, like asking $500 for a small lamp with shade. It could be Tiffany, which is highly suspect; but if you cut the power cord in half for some unknown reason then it’s just junk.
I beg you not to sell what I call Dead People’s Clothes, those frock coats and bustled gowns stored in mothballs for decades in your attic. One never forgets that aroma, and if you’re wondering whether moths have balls then you’re too young to truly appreciate yard sales.
Always bring cash with you. Don’t expect sellers to have an ATM or card reader in their sheds. Keep an open mind to what you see displayed, and don’t go crazy when you see an authentic hallmarked Rookwood vase priced at a dollar. Keep that poker face, loudly announce “I’ll take it!” and have a spotter watch over your pile of treasures. Some naughty neophytes seem to believe that you created a display for them to explore. It’s not Anthropologie, it’s just Anne’s pile of G-strings. Don’t ask. Please refrain from body checking me to snatch up the size 4 chartreuse faux fur bolero from my hands.
I think I love it, but I see a genuine gold, diamond and sapphire bracelet mixed in with costume jewelry. Score!
Robin Ehrlichman Woods is a writer living in Montclair.