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Beverly Godfrey: Rules of rummage

Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune copy editor and columnist. You can reach her at / 2
News Tribune columnist at age 11. This childhood photo was returned to her by a rummage sale customer after it was found in a book.2 / 2

It’s time to declare my favorite hunting season open — rummage sale season.

I enjoy time spent getting snacks and taking a pleasant drive with the kids. Give them a dollar, and they can shop all morning. Meanwhile, I can prowl my neighbors’ garages for rain boots, Columbia winter jackets and children’s books — three of my weak spots.

We bargain hunters can be opinionated about how sales are run, so I’m putting on my smarty pants to propose three things.

One: The signs pointing the way need to have type big enough to read from my car. I suggest they say simply “SALE” and point the way with a big arrow. If you have good signs, I will follow them like a trail of bread crumbs, give you money and haul away your unwanted stuff. Unless it costs too much, of course, which leads us to No. 2.

Two: Don’t overprice your things. If I have to spend more than a dollar on something, I will have to think about it. Rummage sales are about finding things you never knew you needed, and getting them for a dollar. Or a quarter; that’s good, too. It doesn’t matter that it cost $40 new; if it’s in your rummage sale, it’s in a buyers’ market.

Truth be told, I’ve sold some pricey things in sales, but I (obviously) was prepared for them not to sell. I usually will tape a note on the item explaining that this thing is priced at $30 because it was used once and retails for $80. Or whatever. But still, the chance that the right buyer will come along is slim. It helps to advertise well, which leads me to No. 3.

Three: Be specific in your newspaper ad. Don’t waste space saying things such as “lots of stuff” or “too much to list.” Better to mention a few specific things — and be honest. Don’t call it a “huge sale” if it isn’t.

Women usually run the show at garage sales, but sometimes I’ll find what I call a “man sale.” For example, there was a self-service sale that had tables of stuff and a small sign that said, “Pay what you want.” I took a couple Pyrex bowls and put two dollars in the jar. I don’t know for sure that there was a man behind that sale, but I’d bet that two dollars there was.

Another man calculated prices by the pound — 50 cents, to be exact. I bought two book bags for a dollar. I guess he didn’t want to stay up all night putting round, neon price stickers on everything. He missed half the fun, I say.

My husband had his own sale several years ago, and I’m pretty sure it was a man sale. I didn’t even go out to see because I thought it would be best not to know.

I won’t be having my own sale for a while. I spent a gray, rainy weekend last year selling very little of my stuff because of the weather. The tables I used were made of lumber we bought to build a chicken coop, so I was under the gun to have the sale early in the year. I sarcastically started it at 6 a.m. to avoid “early birds,” but a car showed up at 5:45, leaving me to wonder how early you need to start to avoid that.

A week after that sale, there was a knock on the door. I answered it and met a very nice young mom and her son. They found a childhood photo of me in a book they had bought, remembered where it came from and drove back to return it. I was quite grateful; it’s the only copy of that photo I have.

It was an example of the nice people you can meet while bargain hunting in your neighborhood and why, when I’m at rummage sales, I feel like I’m with my people.

Beverly Godfrey
Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune copy editor and columnist. You can reach her at  
(218) 720-4104