Saturday, July 28, 2007


Every summer, our area is inundated with Garage Sales, so I reluctantly agreed to join my son in putting out signs and having a Garage Sale of our own. Our first concern was the weather, and a look at the weather report gave us reason to worry. However, since our sale was taking place in my son's garage, we decided to forge ahead.

Tacking signs on trees and posts along the highways is just one of the problems connected with Garage Sales, another is lugging huge boxes of odds and ends and arranging them on tables and shelves. Then one has to price them. How do you put a price tag on that precious little memento picked up years ago while on a vacation? How do you price a little gift given you by a neighbor child many years ago?

We finally agreed upon prices and started out labeling each item. This became tiring right away, so we ended by placing things on tables, with big signs saying, "Everything...$1.00," or "Everything 5o cents." The more expensive items were tucked around the tables and spilled out of the door onto the cement leading into the Garage.

So began the most tiring, boring days of my life, sitting in a dusty, dark Garage waiting for customers. They would file through, picking up this item or that, studying it, asking questions about it. Finally, they would buy something, let's say a fifty cent item.

"Will you take a quarter for that?" they would ask. Well, it is insulting enough to have your family heirlooms placed around and offered for sale for fifty cents, without being asked to reduce them by half to a quarter. But we usually agreed and the customer would leave happy, now owner of an item that probably cost us several dollars some years ago, having bought it for the grand price of a quarter.

There is something disconcerting about finding out your net worth may hover around $50 dollars, if you piled everything you owned in a garage and sold it. People bought the strangest items. If you found a piece of tin lying on the side of the road and put it for sale at a Garage Sale, someone would have a use for it and buy it. The only item that was continually looked at and set aside was Bill Clinton's autobiography. Not only is our town a Republican haven, but anyone who can plow through that book should be given money, not pay it out.

The first rule to learn about a Garage Sale is that your first customer will pay for a quarter item with a twenty dollar bill. Three times, I went to the bank for change. Three times, the teller smiled at me and said, "Garage Sale, huh?" and received a wan smile in return.

Our greatest fear was selling a priceless treasure, worth millions of dollars, for fifty cents. Thus, we eyed the paintings, the sculptures, the books, and tried to judge their worth. We set aside a pile of old records and other collectibles to be sold on e-Bay. One good thing about e-Bay is that one doesn't have to sit all day in a garage. But, there are other drawbacks. The picture that is needed, and figuring out shipping costs.

Years ago, women bought knickknacks. We had cabinets full of them, some valuable, some just cute reminders of some vacation or trip. We received knickknacks as gifts, collecting animal statuary, dolls, Hummelware, Norman Rockwell replicas, plates, etc.

Some wise soul, somewhere, discovered that these things are dust collectors. Today, selling these collections is not easy. On e-Bay, it seems that few people are collecting Hummelware or other figurines. No one seems to want a plate, even if it has a picture of a nude celebrity painted on it.

My mother-in-law gave me a piece of statuary that has to be the ugliest thing on earth. I mean, this woman statue is not attractive. She has a long face, with her hair tied into a knot. But this was the only statuette that we found was worth more than a few bucks. Go figure.

At the Garage Sale, there was a woman looking for buttons. There was a man who collected Legos. These were collectors and they feverishly seek their selections, be it music boxes or toys. It leaves one frustrated, because in my lifetime, I have tossed out baskets of Legos, which have an annoying habit of showing up everywhere when you least expect it. I could have made a bundle from that collector, if I had just saved the junk my children have left laying around. One toy in particular, Tinker Toy, consisted of building sticks that could stab the bottom of the foot without mercy. I have the scars from Tinker Toy wounds all over my feet and some on my ankles.

When I was a girl, I had only one doll, given to me by my brother, Herman. Other than that, it was corncob dolls, and I liked to make their hair out of cornsilks. This displeased my father, because without a silk, the corn won't form, leaving the stalk useless. But the colors were just too beautiful to resist, orange, reddish brown, yellow.

For a while, I collected dolls, until I called a halt to the practice. These little beings, lined in a row, all stared out at me like little lost souls, clad in their frilly dresses and ribbons and dust. There was the rub, the dust, and this is why those dolls ended in a Garage Sale, waiting to enchant some new owner.

At the end of our Garage Sale, our mementos were sold, our family heirlooms had disappeared, our priceless possessions gone with the wind, and we had a couple of hundred dollars for our effort. We figured out the hours we had sat and it dwindled down to a salary of about $2.oo an hour. My son said it was the first time a Walmart job seemed highly paid in comparison.

I now have a new respect for those people who can gather up half the items in their houses and sell them to strangers. It takes courage to see those beloved belongings disappear from your life. The only good thing about it is an uncluttered existence, and there is something to be said for that. However, clutter has a habit of reappearing on a regular basis, so a few years from now, I'll undoubtedly be able to fill that garage once again.