Saturday, August 2, 2014

Yard sales of summer...

HALLIE EPHRON: It's Saturday and you know what that means, kids? Yard sales!! 

My husband was up last night trolling Craigslist and mapping his course. A yard sale with old books or paper ephemera rises to the top, and he's brought back some fantastic finds like a first edition of "A Farewell to Arms," sadly without dust jacket. Also Popeye Facemaker, a copy of which, in not nearly in as pristine condition as his, is listed right now on eBay for $100. He probably paid a quarter.

Not everything he drags home is a keeper, but still we end up keeping most of it. And every once in a while he brings me back something spectacular. 

Here are a few of my favorite things he's brought me.

He's really good at tin. Tins for tea, pretzels, peanuts, butter cookies, candy, "pure lard," and allspice. My favorite is one he picked up at a yard sale (or maybe it was a flea market) in France. It's got a very French looking squirrel on it covetously holding an acorn. 

Here's a tin Art Deco waste paper basket he picked up at a yard sale in our neighborhood years back. I've never been able to bring myself to throw a single item of trash in it. 

More tin. This Mail Pouch thermometer advertising chew tobacco must might once have hung in a garage or machine shop. Up to the right overhead is a nice green metal scale that might have once been used in a general store. And beside it, barely visible, is a mammoth can that once held Planter's salted peanuts -- "10 pounds of wholesome peanuts!" a penant across its top proclaimed. And I think the pencil sharpener hanging on the wall under the thermometer might have come from a yard sale, too.

He's not bad at ceramics, either. This magical looking pitcher with its landscape design in shades of lavendar and apricot looks like something you'd find on 19th-century a sampler, sits in pride of place in my dining room. My favorite thing is a white painted pathway, wide in the foreground and recedes to a point in the distance.

When I first saw this table, I thought it was ugly ugly ugly. It's made like a snowshoe with some kind of animal sinew lacing the oak top to its folding legs. I still think it's bizarre, but I've come around to its rugged good looks.

Finally, in the "useless but nice to look at" department, is this Victorian iron bracket. Maybe it once held up a shelf, or ornamented a porch? I have no idea, but I keep it (upside down) in a window where I can enjoy its spiky silhouette.

So 'fess up, are you a yard sailor? Did you go to one today and score? Do you have a sweetie, as do I, whom you humor by oohing and ahing over yard sale finds? Or does it seem to you that we're crazy, buying each others trash?


  1. Alas, I haven't found any great treasures at yard sales, but I love looking and although I've never come across any great first editions, books are my favorite finds.

  2. I don't do yard sales, but the first Saturday of the month is the flea market/antique show at the firehouse. Retired firemen who swear that everything on their tables belonged to their beloved grandmas--who can beat that for fun?

    And the first Saturday of the month is today! Which means, at 9:00 a.m. this morning, I'll be eating a Sloppy Joe, because that's part of the fun too.

  3. I enjoy rummage sales, though I don't get out as often as I'd like. I usually look for things I can turn into other things, or furniture I can clean up and put to use. Books are another item high on my list. My tv stand is an enormous credenza with five doors and drawers that I picked up for $5. I cleaned it, painted it white, painted a geometric/quilty pattern on the top in hot pink, yellow and black, and removed the drawers. The drawer space now holds my DVR, DVD player, Wii, etc. It's ridiculously heavy and fortunately there are a lot of nice people around because we had to ask my neighbor's boys to carry it to the basement for us. Complete strangers loaded it into our car.
    My best rummage sale score was a 1950s Necchi sewing machine, from Italy and one of the first to do a zigzag stitch. It is beautiful - black with silver trim, in a wood cabinet. I want to replace the belts and the electric cord because it's the old fabric covered cord, but other than that it is in beautiful condition. I'm pretty sure it's a single owner machine, probably belonging to the seller's mother or grandmother. There wasn't a tag on it and I petted it before reluctantly walking away when the seller offered it for $200. As I checked out, she mentioned it again, clarifying that she said "TWO" as in $2. I whipped open my wallet and had that $2 in her hand in 2 seconds.

  4. Wow, Sandi, that sounds like a real find!

    I very rarely go anymore (too much junk in the house as it is) but 30 years ago, I coveted a chair my sister found. It was an upholstered rocker with wooden gooseneck arms. I wanted one so badly, but never saw one again. Then I put an ad in the paper and turned up two for $50. I still love them!

  5. Ramona - Where, where??!

    And yes, my husband occasionally brings home (another) bookcase for his cherished books. Only problem is: where to put it.

    Lucy, I know that chair! Love the arms.


  6. What fun things your sweetie finds - I'm coveting the trash can!

    I miss yard sales. We used to hit them often in Atlanta, but the sales here in Boone seem to consist mainly of clothes.

  7. I used to go to yard sales every Saturday with a friend. The worst loss was the solid oak dining table for $20. that I didn't reserve because I didn't have a truck.

  8. Gram - it's the things that got away that you remember. That's why my husband prioritizes his yard sales and gets to the first one ridiculously early and hovers annoyingly out front until the let him have first crack at the goodies. And still sometimes the best stuff gets away.

  9. What lovely things your husband finds, Hallie. It helps that he has good taste!

    I used to go to sales, and to flea markets, and to antique stores, but I rarely do any more. Largely because, when my father-in-law died I took charge of emptying out the home they'd lived in for more than 65 years. Ye gods, I never want to go through that again, and I swore I wouldn't put my own kids through it. (Although, to be honest, they'll still have a lot to wade through when we go.)

    However, in the last six or seven years I've found amazing bargains at antique stores for a surprising coveted objective: good quality cowboy boots. Some might be squeamish about wearing used shoes, but you always wear socks with these boots, and they are super pricey to buy new, especially the good ones. I've found two pair, one $20 and the other $30, both really nice boots. Since I only wear them once or twice a year, it suits me right down to the ground. :-)

  10. I once represented a woman whose job was to be a live-in companion so she had no home. But she had several storage rooms full of stuff that she couldn't afford to pay the rent on. "You need to have a garage sale," I told her.

    She looked at me indignantly. "I GO to yard sales," she said.


    Having said that, I am sorting everything in the house for a blowout sale (hopefully 3 weeks from now). And all I can say is, WHAT WAS I THINKING? I mean, sure, the cabinet in the laundry room for patio dishes was a great idea, and I wanted green ones, so I'd buy them in sets of six or eight-- but WHEN will I ever serve 75 people? And if I did, wouldn't I use paper plates?

    Come to Milwaukee three weeks from now. Buy everything-- PLEASE.

  11. There are things that I chose not to sell when we had yard sales after we bought our Cape house from my husband's aunt & uncle. A small mustard colored pitcher with the motto: "Every blade of grass has its own drop of dew" and its companion, an ashtray (?) with this: "May the Bullocks' Lodge be comfortable, their friends be many and their sausages be long." Bullock was their last name -- custom made!!

    My daughter loved yard sales -- I didn't get them Barbies but they found (slightly maimed) dolls at yard sales.

  12. Denise Ann - my daughters claim I traumatized them for life by buying only used Barbies... Now they love yard sales, too, and give my husband their wish lists.

  13. I have great nostalgia for yard sales. My gramps was an avid yard-saler, always finding treasures - a TV with missing tubes, a box of fishing tackle, etc. And when we were younger and didn't have loads of money, we would shop for school clothes at yard sales - I just came across a photo from the 7th grade, and I was wearing my favorite dress, a blue jumper bought at a yard sale for 75 cents.

    As an adult, I rarely go to yard sales - except for my own. I'm not sure how it started, but it's become a tradition among my friends here in L.A. to have 2 yard sales a year. We all gather in the wee hours with our stuff, sit on lawn chairs, drink mimosas and my sisters famous eggy tarts, and talk and laugh and make a few dollars. We look forward to it, and one of the reasons is that many yard salers are regulars, so we often see the same people twice a year, year after year: the woman on the bicycle, the man who only wants jewelry, the character actor from Seinfeld and so forth. There is also something satisfying about "recycling" our things to others who want them.

    As for where I buy my used goods these days, I LOVE Etsy: my latest 3 treasures are a mint condition Smith Corona Coronet typewriter, 300 pharmacy prescriptions from the 1960s (loads of Equanil and Librium doles out in Nebraska!) and a 1940s French salad basket for my sister's birthday. All at terrific prices. Writing this I realize how much more I enjoy a found treasure than something new. Thanks for sparking these memories, Hallie!

  14. How about resale shops--sort of like an indoor garage sale? Proved to be an interesting way to entertain the grandson at a certain age. Cheaper than a museum admission, even with buying a few items, and a great starting point for conversation about "when I was a kid."

  15. Grandson's treasures included an 8" ceramic totem pole, a metal goblet and tray and a pinball game.

  16. The people next-door to us have yard sales all the time. Drives me crazy, because they bring stuff in from elsewhere, I swear. No one could have that much stuff.

  17. Hank, apparently I could.

    My dad had a small office building and stashed things in the basement for years. Never threw anything out because he didn't have to.

    We had four houses on a lake and nothing was ever thrown out, just taken to The Lake. My brother got the houses, my sisters and I got the stuff. And then there was our parents' apartment.

    That said, here is my greatest estate sale find: I was wandering through one and saw a darling little art nouveau creamer and sugar bowl, tiny, with green and gold and lavender painting (looked hand painted). Wanted them, but didn't NEED them. But I bid on some kitchen chairs (I am always looking for chairs that don't make my back hurt). Won the bid and came back the next day when everything else was half price.

    So I bought the little creamer and pitcher. Carrying them to the check-out table, I turned them over. MY INITIALS IN GOLD WERE ON THE BOTTOM. What are the odds?

  18. Hallie, I'd say you have quite the treasure in your husband, who has such good taste in the items he brings home. I love the Popeye item, as Popeye has a special place in my heart. My mother always told me that I was born right in time for the Popeye show on in the afternoon. And, I have an old Popeye ukelele that has the crank on the side to turn.

    I don't go to yard sales much anymore, probably because I do have so much stuff now that I've run out of room. My daughter and I do have a garage sale once a year, mainly for her purposes and I enjoy the time together. She's very good at getting rid of stuff. I'm not.

    I think my best finds have been at auctions, which I love but pretty much avoid these days, too. The items I've purchased are all old, which are the items I enjoy most. I have a little white bench stool in my kitchen, a small oak stepstool in the dining room, a gorgeous Tiphany-like lamp in the foyer, and a china bowl in dining room. My first and still probably my favorite buy was at a moving sale in northern Ohio, where my sister lived. There was a bed being sold, and I fell in love with it. I was a college student and didn't really have anywhere to store it but at my parents'. I paid $35 for it, and my dear brother-in-law toted it back to Kentucky for me. I later realized that it was solid walnut (information on back of headboard). I still have it, and it was my son's bed growing up.

    I have so much from my parents' home after they died that I am, as I stated earlier, full up. However, if I were to come across a gorgeous trash can like yours, Hallie, I would make room.

  19. Kathy Reel, you sound like a kindred spirit. There's a Popeye ukulele toy on eBay or $59.

    Ellen, that's magical!

    Hank, we skip the yard sales where they have one every year.

    YES love resale shops and ETSY and of course eBay.

  20. It's been quite a few years since I've been to one of those sales. I've gotten lots of books at yard sales, many of which I eventually donated to a library sale. I also picked up a few old-style Pyrex mixing bowls, like the ones my mom had when we were growing up. I use them regularly (the ones I haven't dropped on the floor.)

    Many years ago I attended flea markets for several years in a row, which benefited the private school where my sister teaches. At the last hour of the sale, you could stuff a paper shopping bag with as many things that could fit, and pay just a dollar. I bought more things for which I never had any use! Eventually, the majority of them went to Good Will. I did keep several pairs of earrings, though, most of which probably didn't cost more than a dollar when they were new. They seemed like good buys because in the end I paid a fraction of a penny for each pair!

  21. I love yard sales. My favorite find was in LA. A table with barley twist legs and glass ball and claw feet. My husband wasn't thrilled when I brought it home but grew to love it.

  22. The historic district where we live in our town is big for yard sales--and yes, there are people who truck things in. I never go to those, except for one really nice neighbor who owns an antiques shop. Every so often she sells her overflow at a yard sale and I always try to have a look.

    I don't buy much--trying to get rid of stuff rather than accumulate more--but my favorite finds have been quilts. Then there's the 1940's era telephone, which sits in our butler's pantry; odds and ends of Fiesta ware, five perfect mugs in my Burleigh Blue Calico pattern (!!!! a dollar for all five!!!); and the seven glass desert dishes I bought a year or two ago and have still never used...

    But my very favorite find is the uranium glass bowl I picked up for $10 a local antique shop. I had no idea what it was until I looked it up--and obviously they didn't either!

  23. I love quilts. I make my own, but I also love old ones because I imagine they have such wonderful stories to tell of loving stitches and cozy nights. Unfortunately, it is my friend who has the knack for yard sale quilts. She'll stroll out of a morning to walk her dog and come back with the most amazing old quilts--stuff I'd expect to pay hundreds of dollars for in an antique shop--that she picked up for $25. Clearly I don't walk my dogs in the right neighborhoods. I did get a lovely set of wooden folding chairs with wicker seats, though, and a great rolling wooden office chair, so maybe I have a knack for stuff to sit on instead.

  24. Hallie, thanks for telling me about the ukelele on ebay. I'm going to look it up and compare.