Friday, January 9, 2009

Yard sale madness and inspiration...

HALLIE: One of the (many) things I hate about New England winters is that there are no yard sales. And then, come the first warm days of spring, signs sprout on street corners and beckon with their siren song.

I've picked up all my favorite platters at yard sales. The silver clip-on earrings I wear everywhere. Each spring I restock my supply of fancy soaps (why don't people appreciate good soap?) And of course, the idea for "Never Tell a Lie" which I didn't even have to pay for.

My husband is a yard sale maniac. Every Saturday he suits up and leaves the house early-early, stakes out the yard most likely to have his kind of stuff, and waits for the homeowner to take pity on him. Our basement is crammed with his finds -- scores of vintage small appliances (fans, radios, hotplates, curling irons...) that peer out at me from dark shelves whenever I lug down the laundry. Upstairs our shelves are crammed with old books. Hey, it could be bedroom sets that he's dragging home. I blame my husband's obsession with yard sales on his mother--she traumatized him by throwing out his baseball cards.

Do you yard sail? What have been your finest finds?

HANK: Does he think he's going to find the cards? Oh, that's heartbreaking.

ROBERTA: You have to be so patient with yard sales. I guess I've gotten more impatient as I've gotten older. And tag sales in Connecticut don't seem to have the great stuff they did when I lived in Florida. Years ago, my sister scored a swan-neck rocking chair--that's an upholstered overstuffed rocking chair with carved wooden arms, the head of a swan on each. She had it re-covered and it was gorgeous. I searched all over for one like it. (This was before craig's list and ebay.) Finally I had the idea of putting a wanted ad in the local paper. A woman two towns over called and sold me two for fifty bucks--I have one in the den and one upstairs. Love those chairs!

RHYS: I used to love yard sales but it seems recently that people have become greedy and the quality of the stuff has gone down. When we were first married and had used our last pennies to buy our first home, we furnished it almost entirely from yard and garage sales. My best finds? An ivory chess set from China, all the figures are Chinese warriors. We got it for $5 because there was a piece missing. When I got it home, I found the lining of the box was torn and the missing piece was inside!

I think you East Coasters do much better than we in the West. Most people couldn't bring too much stuff with them when they made the transcontinental trek so it's less likely that anyone finds treasure in their attic, or good antiques at garage sales. But I still look hopefully for that overlooked painting that will be the star of the Antiques Roadshow! I think we still carry that hunter/gatherer gene, don't you?

HALLIE: True, Rhys, there's nothing like feeling you got something for nothing... or a song. I once bought an old radio at a friend's yard sale, googled it and discovered the thing was worth over a thousand dollars. The next day I gave it back. Now, if that person had been a complete stranger, I'd have been cackling with glee instead. Moral: Better not to buy from friends.

Ro: Whenever my husband and I are driving and we see one of those handwritten signs on dayglo oaktag(sp?) we look at each other and his hands tense on the steering wheel. Do we stay the course or is the game afoot?

I never met a tag sale or church sale I didn't like. It's just not the same thing finding an item on ebay..although I've done that a few times.

I won't bore you with a complete list of the things I haul home..just a smattering...vintage lamps from the 30's-60's - panther tv lamps to sputnik balls to torchieres - anything barkcloth, adirondack frames, herringbone and iris glass, old gardening books and tools, sheet music, bakelite radios, bird and plant prints, ceramic deer vases, vintage handbags, flowered china, exercise equipment - I now have a gym that most small high schools would be proud of...I'd better stop.

Unlike a woman I know, I've never bought a desk and discovered that it was an actual Stickley (not repro)..but all of it makes me smile, so that's enough for me.

JAN: You have to get to a yard sale early Saturday morning to get the good stuff. I'm still having coffee and reading the paper. Plus, I'm not a patient or particularly discerning shopper. I did, however, find a really great tapestry for over my couch once -- it wasn't cheap though. That's another thing, I hate haggling. I even hate feeling that I should haggle. So yard sales aren't for me.

HALLIE: I hear you, husband actually sallies forth twice each spring/summer Saturday. Once at about 7:30 and I wave groggily. Then he stops home mid-sail an hour or two later and I often join the fray.

And Ro, we DID once get a Stickley bookcase (with hammered copper pulls) for $25.

So, are you a yard sale maven or would you rather sit them out?


  1. Love them! But I wait for them to come to me: my neighbor across the street has one about every three months. I have no idea where she gets all the stuff, but it keeps coming. So far I've picked up an industrial strength sewing machine, a Cuisinart immersion blender, and a lot of cooking odds and ends. (Worse, she was giving away a pair of couches, which of course I had to take, in case my daughter ever moves out.)

    For those of us who live in New England, there's the Brimfield Antiques show three times a year. It runs the gamut from high-end to dreck (guess which I come home with?). What depresses me, though, is seeing all the cookware that I'm using daily (mainly my mother's) now labeled as "antique".

  2. Auctions are my weakness. I've gotten some great items--two Queen Anne highback wing chairs for $5because of the shredded upholstery. The auctioneer nearly cried. Had 'em recovered, they're gorgeous.

    Once I forced myself to hand over my number to the people behind me, and I sat on my hands so I wouldn't bid on an absolutely wonderful camelback sofa. No way I could've explained that purchase to my husband. Nor could I have hidden it in the garage without his knowledge. Not that I'd ever do that, mind you.


  3. I would LOVE to do the yardsales, but my husband doesn't. We've got one car and I don't drive much over here. Mind you, walking down the road isn't bad, and poking into the sales there.

    We have friends who do Todd's Farm in Massacheusetts (?) with fierce devotion, and the big cascading field sale twice a year - forget the name - and bring home all sorts of 'finds'.

    RO: what kind of sheet music do you collect? My mother in law is trying to get rid of a piano along with a bunch of sheet music from the 40s/50s/60s. I might be able to pass along the music sans piano. :-D

    Marianne "who loves a good find".

  4. Hi all...

    Um...I've never been to a yard sale.

    Yes, I've been tempted. Yes, I know there is going to be great stuff.

    Beautiful handtowels, maybe. Books. But I resist.

    See? sheet music. Now I'm thinking, oh, that would be such fun! That's why I have to stay away.

  5. And now I'm wishing I could buy the sheet music but WITH the piano...

  6. The piano is a console upright - means all of the sound is below the keyboard. Vintage Wurlitzer ironframe - in quite good condition according to the piano inspector person. It looks a little like that one that was left in the woods... No, we had nothing to do with that. I'm still interested to hear if the police to find the owner... :-D

    Roberta, if you were close and came and picked it up, it would be yours in a heartbeat. Along with the music. :-D We live in Rhode Island.


  7. For 12 years I had a booth in an antique co-op. I got most of my "merchandise" at church and yard sales. We still go on the hunt every Saturday (hubby, the cartographer, plots the course and drive--I do the buying). I've picked up tons of gems over the year. Hey, Roberta, you want old Sheet music? I got old sheet music. Want me to bring it to Malice?

    And Hallie, why not mention your book trailer?

  8. Oops--forgot to say congrats to Hallie on the great review in yesterday's USA Today.

  9. Hey,Lorraine! This is fantastic. I had no idea Hallie got ANOTHER great review. Whhoo hoo

    Here, snipped from USA Today, is the review by Carol Memmott!

    Lovers of classic mysteries will adore Hallie Ephron's Never Tell a Lie. Ivy and David Rose are enjoying the best time of their lives. They're renovating an old house and expecting a baby. Hopes for a happy future come crashing down when a former acquaintance enters their house and is never seen again. DNA evidence indicates the woman is dead. It also points to David as the killer. Even Ivy has doubts about his innocence. Ephron, part of the writing Ephron clan (Nora, Delia and Amy are her sisters), has created a richly atmospheric tale. You can imagine Hitchcock curling up with this one. — Carol Memmott

  10. Well HEY! that's a lovely review!

    Yes and yes again. Well done, Hallie.

    We have yard sales a-plenty in Texas, but I never seem to get to them often. The one time I did, I scored big: a 20's-era child's dresser for $25.00 that I'm crazy about and have since been offered a very nice price for, though it is not for sale. I love it too much! I use it to store potpourri and vintage pillowcases, often a good score on eBay.

    Here's the little dresser -- the URL spills over to the next line.

  11. I lived in a small Missouri town in the early '60s and used to go to auctions. Ma and Pa would die, the kids sold off the farmstead, and we got a round oak table for $30, a marble topped buffet with burled panels (and wooden pegged drawers) for $12, and an oak washstand for about $2. Those lovely old things fill my house today and I treasure them. I'm afraid my kids will fight ove them someday.

  12. Though I love yard sales (and auctions - and eBay), I'm trying to clear the clutter - not add to it!

    Here in southwestern Pennsylvania, yard sales, garage sales, rummage sales, or whatever you want to call them are popular and common.

    These sell-the-stuff events are "good weather" activities here, too. In fact, there's a place out on Route 22 East that used to be a multi-acre car dealer and is now converted to a huge, though seasonal, community rummage sale. People come from miles around to sell and buy stuff. Sellers unpack their vans and trucks. Buyers, eyes aglaze with anticipation, line up to get in.

    I suppose there are good finds to be be made (like your earrings, Hallie).

    But I need to stay clear of those places. Uh oh - now I'm Jonesing for eBay!

  13. I'm in Pittsburgh this morning -- taught last night for the wonderful Sisters in Crime Pittsburgh--Martha Reed does SinC proud! She got local Chatham University to let us use their "Mellon Conference Room" -- it looks like the Oyster Bar at Grand Central, was once a swimming pool in the basement of a robber baron's mansion. Amazing venue. Great people. Now I'm hoping to be able to fly out of here later today. SNOW SNOW SNOW ICK ICK ICK. Spring has more than yard sales going for it. (Thanks for the kind words on the USA Today review...and YES, go look at the trailer!)

  14. Congrats on the great review, Hallie. There's a day-brightener, right there.

    A long time ago, a friend and I used to hit the tag sales. On Friday, I'd get the town "shopper" (little tabloid that's all ads) and a free map from the Chamber of Commerce to mark up with the addresses. Then, we'd cluster our nearby sales and make a morning of it. I still use a salad bowl from those expeditions, but I also came home one time with a broken guitar because I thought it was cool.