Tips to score big at yard sales
Reports have surfaced over the last few days (here and here, for example) about a North Carolina artist who scored an incredible prize at her local Goodwill store. Here at Yard Sale Secrets, we think of Goodwill as a permanent indoor yard sale, so we’re happy to talk about this interesting bit of news.
The woman, Beth Feeback, 45, is a professional artist who was shopping at a Goodwill store a few months ago. Along with a few other items, she picked up a couple of paintings for $9.99 each.
One of them, a modern-looking red, white and blue piece, was especially big and she figured she would just reuse it for some of her own work — usually google-eyed cats.
But something stopped her from doing it again and again until she had a friend look at the painting. Her friend figured that it was something worth looking into and eventually they discovered the painting could be worth as much as $20,000. An auction in September through Sotheby’s is planned.
So yard-sale fanatics, how does one spot such a goldmine at your local yard sale or charity store? Some tips (even though we’ve never managed such a coup):
- JUDGE ITS UNIQUENESS: Look at the item and try to determine how unique it is. If it’s a piece of art — from a sculpture to a painting — try to figure out if it is a reproduction or not. If it has a manufacturer’s logo, it’s probably mass produced. In paintings, look for “piles” of paint versus a flat screen print. In sculptures, look for fingerprints and other “non-polished” marks that imply it’s one of a kind. If it has seams, it probably isn’t.
- JUDGE ITS AGE: First edition books can be extremely valuable. If you see a pile of old books at a sale, look at the title page and try to determine if it’s a first printing. You also want it to be a recognizable book too — you know something by Jack London or Ernest Hemmingway. Old paintings and other works of art can also be extremely valuable. Originals or first printings are a must.
- JUDGE ITS SELLER: Look at all the other stuff the seller is trying to get rid of. Are they clearing out their grandma’s house? Do they appear to know what they’re selling? Does this old and unique item seem to be out of place? Or does it look like it was forgotten until now? All these can be clues to a great find.
- JUDGE ITS PRESENCE: This is about as abstract of a tip as we can offer, but take a look at the item — does it seem to stand out? Does it just have some indescribable quality? No matter how big or how small it is, does it just take over the room (or in the case of a yard sale — the table)? If you answered yes to some or all of those questions, you might have something.