20+ Garage Sale Finds to Snap Up When You See Them

It’s hard to know exactly what is worth buying secondhand, but these are good bets. Also: 21 things you should never buy at garage sales.

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Large Furniture

Large FurnitureiStock/Thinkstock
The key to buying big items at a garage sale is to wait until the end of the day. By then, the sellers are wondering how they are going to get that huge dining table off of the grass and into the living room. Be careful with upholstered items (bed bug alert), but if you're confident it's clean, you can always try re-upholstery (see the great how-to at DIY Design).

Home Office Supplies

Home Office SuppliesiStock/Thinkstock
At a garage sale, your eye instantly jumps to the larger items like couches, speakers, and, yes, questionable taxidermy. But force yourself to examine smaller items too, especially ones you use regularly. Pens, push pins, and paperclips are office staples (you always need more).

Art

ArtiStock/Thinkstock
It's fun to pick up art for two reasons: you might learn about interesting local artists, or, even if you don’t like the image, you can always repurpose the frame. (Key for larger paintings and drawings, because big frames can be so expensive.) Haggle if you want, since art is subjective and the sellers might not have too many interested buyers. Also, odds are that they're tired of looking at it and just want it gone.

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Brooches

BroochesiStock/Thinkstock
Not to sound old-fashioned, but they don’t make brooches like they used to; this Yahoo guide can help you spot key vintage details to quickly recognize what something might be worth. Since their popularity has declined over the years, you can usually get a deal on these accessories, and if you like, the possibilities for upgrading them are endless. Make a necklace with this tutorial from Martha Stewart, a bouquet with ideas from Seattle Bride, or even a festive holiday wreath.

Jewelry

JewelryiStock/Thinkstock
Even if it’s missing a few gemstones or looks a little dirty, it's easy and fairly cheap to upgrade jewelry made with precious metals. Give tarnished silver a good polish with a paste of baking soda and warm water. For gold, paying a few bucks for solid pieces should pay off—you can always sell them for scrap or have them melted down to create something new. Costume jewelry that'll last a little longer often has stones held by prongs instead of glue, and necklaces with knots between their beads.

Kitchenware

KitchenwareiStock/Thinkstock
For pots and pans, watch for rust, non-stick surfaces that are scratched or flaking, and chemical coatings that might leach out. However, cast-iron ware can be salvaged and restored no matter what the condition, and it'll last forever. Also, if you find these items in good, working condition, buy them: stainless steel baking items, kitchen timers, serving utensils, Pyrex or ovenproof glass baking dishes, wooden or bamboo serving bowls, wicker baskets, ceramic or porcelain dinnerware, stainless steel flatware, or quality knives (you can always take them in to be sharpened). Wash everything well before use.

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Ice Cream Makers and Other Seasonal or Single-Use Kitchen Appliances

Ice Cream Makers and Other Seasonal or Single-Use Kitchen AppliancesiStock/Thinkstock
If you’re in the market for one of these, definitely scour garage sales first. People hold sales to sell off unused items that take up space in their cabinets, and bulky, seasonal items are often priced to move. You'll usually be able to scoop them up for a fraction of their retail price. 

Jackets

JacketsPhotoObjects.net/Thinkstock
Since sellers spring-clean before their sales, bulky or unworn winter coats and vests are some of the first things to hit the to-go pile. Check for holes and wear before purchasing, and dry clean or give a good washing before putting in the closet for next year. For children, buy the next size(s) up and store in a closet for future seasons.

Tools

ToolsiStock/Thinkstock
Drills, saws, nail guns, compressors: As long as the seller can prove that they are in good working condition, go for it. Ask how old the product is and how much it has been used over the years. Always keep an eye out for rust, which usually means the integrity of the metal is compromised, making the tool more dangerous to work with.

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Silverware

SilverwareiStock/Thinkstock
Odds are you can pick up a stylish set that’s cheaper than what you can find new at most home goods' stores, plus you're likely to hear a cool back-story to boot. There’s also a chance that what you’ve got is a real find. How can you tell? On the back of silver-plated items there will be markings that can include the company name, the country it was made in, a product number, and the E.P. (electroplate) marking.

Frames

FramesPhotodisc/Thinkstock
If you like the shape, size, or material of a certain frame, buy it. Not crazy about the color? Give it a new coat of paint. Another idea: Follow this tutorial from HGTV to learn how to distress wood for a shabby chic look.

Bicycles and Scooters

Bicycles and ScootersiStock/Thinkstock
Take a bike for a spin; expert sales veterans bring a wrench to adjust the seat and get a real feel for how it rides. Ask the right questions: Do you store it outside? When’s the last time you replaced the tubes? What’s the status of the brake pads? For kids' bikes, the owner's children might not have used the item much before they outgrew it, but ask. With scooters, if the frame is solid you can often replace missing or worn parts (handlebar covers, brakes, wheels) for much less than the cost of a new one. Check the maker's website when you get home.

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Bike Accessories

Bike AccessoriesiStock/Thinkstock
Lights, bells, baskets! Try to talk the seller down if you’re buying bulk—maybe she’ll throw in reflectors for free? However, do not risk buying helmets second-hand, even for kids who might outgrow their headgear soon. Sometimes damage for the casing isn’t visible, even though the integrity is compromised.

Children’s Formal Clothes

Children’s Formal ClothesDorling Kindersley RF/Thnkstock
Looking for a children’s dress or suit for a special occasion? Formal clothes for kids only tend to be worn on a few occasions, and you will often find them being sold in near-new condition for a low price. Yard sales are the perfect place to look for a communion dress or a suit for an upcoming wedding. Also good to score: slightly damaged, cheap party clothes for kids to use in dress-up games.

Plastic and Wooden Toys

Plastic and Wooden ToysiStock/Thinkstock
Wooden blocks and toy cars are always on the cheap at garage sales, and many vintage wood toys are solid enough to be passed from generation to generation. Clean them or plastic toys with a mixture of bleach or vinegar and hot water. Stay clear of stuffed animals, which can be hard to send through the extra-hot cycle on a washing machine and can be full of creepy crawlies. Classic board games are great to pick up too, and even if they're missing pieces you can always repurpose dice, say, or pawns with other sets. 

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Baby Gear

Baby GearCreatas/Thinkstock
New parents want to get rid of unneeded bulk as soon as their child outgrows baby swings, bouncy seats, high chairs, strollers, and more. Ask the seller when the item was bought and how often it was used. For any future recalls, make sure the model number is still visible. What not to buy: secondhand car seats (the structure could have suffered from damage, even if it wasn't in an accident), and drop-side cribs, which are now outlawed in the United States.

Exercise Equipment

Exercise EquipmentPolka Dot/Thinkstock
A lot of people lose interest in their treadmills quickly, which means you can get the equipment you’ve been looking for at half the price or better. Look for big-ticket items as well as other indoor merch like hand weights in the spring, when New Year’s Resolutions are long forgotten. But, research first: It’s important to know where certain machines wear out the most.

Fishing Rods

Fishing RodsiStock/Thinkstock
Bamboo rods and reels are non-mainstream antiques that some collectors will shell out major bucks for, according to former host of PBS’ Collect This! Aaron LaPedis in an interview with financial site Mint.com. If you see these items on the cheap, either keep them for yourself or take them to eBay.

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Winter Sports Equipment

Winter Sports EquipmentiStock/Thinkstock
Get your fill of ski and snowboard equipment—though watch for broken or faulty bindings that can't be fixed or replaced. You might even uncover something of real worth. According to Popular Mechanics, “the snowboarding world is still young enough that some of the earliest models, ones with some value, are still floating around in garage sales.” A Burton Backhill from the late 1970s or early 1980s can be worth a couple of thousand dollars.

Books

BooksiStock/Thinkstock
Bulk up your library with new favorite reads, especially children’s books (kids outgrow their books so quickly as their reading comprehension increases) and hardcover classics. Another tip: If a family in your kids' school is throwing a sale, go. You'll score next-year's textbooks and other school reading material for less than full price. 

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104 thoughts on “20+ Garage Sale Finds to Snap Up When You See Them

  1. Obama wants to tax garage sales the owners are all 1%ers in liberal speak.

  2. I use toothpaste and an old toothbrush to clean jewelry. It works better than baking soda.

  3. thnkxx that was three minutes of my life that i cant get back….

  4. Only buy the seasonal appliances if you really intend to use them, otherwise they will end up in your next garage sale and take up space until then.

    Check wood and plastic toys carefully, especially if they have a Made in Chine label. Lead paint can be an issue in wood toys and some cheap plastics can leach toxins.

  5. Do NOT buy baby gear at a garage sale– EVER. Most of it is recalled, out of date, and/or not up to safety standards (drop side cribs anyone?). Don’t even take hand-me downs. I took car seats from a friend, only to find BOTH were recalled and dangerous when I stopped at a NJ State Trooper Safety car seat check. Luckily for me, they gave me free up to date replacements on the spot!!!

  6. I would be careful with big furniture. Some sellers aren’t as dumb as they seem, and you might end up with bedbugs.

  7. paid 50 cents for a book about Helen Keller & when I got it home found a photo of her & her handwritten/autographed note in it to a family she had stayed w/ while she was touring & “speaking” about her disability= $550

  8. Old golf clubs and Ping, Bulls Eye and Odyssey putters are often valuable, especially woods made of, well, wood. Anything with the Hogan name, there are many out there that retored a little are worth a LOT.

  9. i am 10 items in and i just don’t think i could go on with this useless article…usually, I don’t have anything bad to say about an article, but this one is ridiculous… it pretty much covers just about everything you would expect to find at a garage sale… misleading title, dissappointed and very little beneficial info except for links to info elsewhere, but I am not real confident THAT info will be very valuable… disappointed in RD today

  10. I found a greek statue at a yard sale back in 85 I looked it up ! A found out only 50 where made in Italy by a artist in rome and its worth is around 1,200.00 paid 4.50 from a old woman who didn’t like it because the women where naked! lol

    1. My thought exactly. Would have been more helpful to say what not to buy.

  11. Do not buy used Pyrex.

    First, because a chip or scratch that you may have not noticed can render Pyrex a dangerous breakage hazard (like, the first time you actually heat it). Second, old home Pyrex gets used for chemistry, like bug killer or even meth.

    Just don’t.

  12. my wife collects churns and other pottery and she has shown me a lot of varying prices. it seems that some are under priced or some too high. don’t know. but she has shown me differences of 500%.

  13. How about a c.1790 George III mahogany commode table (est $2,000 to $6,000) for $50 or a $700 Artisan Studios bronze lamp (with shade) for $6.00? Love garage sales and thrift stores……what’s really great is I needed a table and lamp for the bedroom…

  14. Hey guys, you know the longest garage sale is coming up in a couple weeks! Best time had is when you go (to any garage sales) without expectations. If/when you stumble onto the buy of the your life–wow!!! Great stories, as shared in this thread~

  15. I once bought a fake Gibson electric guitar for $10, and then resold it to some unsuspecting fool for $1000.

    1. I’m not sure I believe you, but if you did, that is really despicable!

  16. I watch for garden or yard items that will be used. Estate sales often have garden tools, fertilizer, ornaments. Got brand new in package Lexus floor mats for 5.00 and they sell for over 100.00. Also a book signed inside by Joe Dimaggio. !!

  17. I never pass up vintage Corningware mugs that are priced under $5 each. They’re the Fiestaware of the next decade.

  18. I don’t know where she garage sales, but all the ones I have been to are people selling junk, broken toys, furniture that has seen better years (not just upholstery issues). No jewelry or bikes offered, clothes are beyond wearing. Or maybe this is the small town tradition, who know.

  19. Tools aren’t structurally damaged by surface rust. I don’t know where that idea came from. For a quick cleanup of more serious rust, use acid toilet bowl cleaner in a plastic tub, rinse well and finish with a scrub with steel wool soap pads.

  20. I place things outside our security fence put a 4 sale sign on it and ppl haul away my worthless trash. metal wheels and axel from some old farm thing gone in a few minutes.

  21. I just throw everything away or set it outside and they come by and steal it either way it’s gone.

  22. Speaking as someone who used to be a garage sale addict…try changing your lifestyle so that you move at least every other year. It’s a sure-fire cure for devoting every spare moment to collecting other people’s junk. I finally kept only what I frequently use and buy nothing I don’t need. Nice to spend my “free” time traveling and otherwise enjoying life instead of buying and selling crap.

  23. I got a full screen ad I had to close every time I clicked on the next page on the slideshow. Slideshows are annoying enough, and there are plenty of ads all over the page, I don’t see why you’d need a whole bunch more full screen ads I have to click the “X” to get rid of. 20 ads for a 2 minute article. No thanks. I’ll be avoiding this site in the future. Bye!

  24. here’s a tip for Reader’s Digest — if you’d like people to read your articles don’t put up slideshows unless you include a list function. Why waste my time?

  25. If you are knowledgeable in a certain collector’s field, just about anything in that specific field.

    I am somewhat knowledgeable in older toy cars, mostly from the ’60s to present. Once, I found a Hot Wheels Chevy Blazer that was part of a Hot Wheels playset in the ’80s. That playset was recalled, and did not last all that long. It stinks that I found only the car though, as I am pretty sure it would have been worth quite a bit. I paid a whopping fifty cents for the car.

    I usually collect ’60s Matchbox Regular Wheel models, in addition to the first generation Superfast, and the gray wheel and metal wheel models from the ’50 to early ’60s. I love them for their quality and amount of detail that is seldom seen in toys today . I have many that I paid 50 cents to a dollar for that are worth about $20.

    1. About five years ago I came across a 5 gal bucket full of older Hot Wheels at a garage sale. One the top of the busket there was mostly newer cars with plastic bottoms. Farther I dug down the cars started to having metal bases and towards the bottom I started to see redlines, many of them. I asked the old lady at the sale, how much. She said $50. There must of been 300 cars in the bucket. They were her sons who was in jail at the time. I gave her $100 for the bucket.. She was floored. When I got home, most redline where early 70’s with a few from the late 60’s. I sold over 50 of them on eBay and made well over $2000 and kept about 25 of them. The plastic bottom cars I gave away. I live for garage sales..

  26. Motor oil, antifreeze and transmission fluid. Why pay full price at the store? Tip: ALWAYS look inside antifreeze bottles, they are frequently water

  27. Decent article, terrible site. Do you really think I’m going to buy something from your ridiculous advertisement that fills my screen and blocks the article I’m trying to read with innate crap? So tired of this nonsense.

      1. Maybe he feels that the site was naturally born with the ability? Cut him some slack and get to bed, I’m waiting.

    1. I get those kind of ads after certain kinds of malware have infected my computer.. you might want to check for something like that on yours, Torin

  28. No video games? I usually make an extra $500 a year buying up old NES, SNES, Genesis and Atari games and on top of that I get to enjoy playing them.

  29. If your into old albums, the art on some of them could be worth hundreds. Most yard are garage sales practically give them away. If they don’t look moldy and are in decent condition, grab them. I do at everyone I see.

    1. What kind of albums, and what age? What kind of art can bring that kind of money and how do you sell it/them?

  30. I have several family members who collect things to where I know what they have and what they don’t. If I’m not sure we all have camera phones for the pictures. Or kids clothes because we all know how fast they go through that and gently used toys that are easy to clean especially ones from my childhood.

      1. Really? I understood perfectly..She knows what other family members collect ( Disney, cameras, model kits, watches, as seen on TV) and if she isn’t sure if they will want it, she take a picture with the phone, and sends it to them to decide..

  31. Found a vintage leica 35mm with lens and leather case for $2.00, was in a 2$ bin with all the crap $2 cameras at goodwill. best part, traded it to a camera collector for 2 1oz gold American eagle coins.

  32. You DONT buy baby items at a garage sale. Most of this stuff is useless…

    1. Certain items no but then some stuff like clothes and current/unrecalled toys are good buys.

    2. And don’t buy a baby at a garage sale. I nearly had to give away the one I bought…..LOL

    3. Baby clothes are often great buys at yard and garage sales but be VERY cautious about buying baby furniture and accessories. The recommendations about what’s safe and what’s not, and for what ages, has changed a lot over the last decade. Do NOT buy things like cradles, cribs (especially older ones,) car seats, strollers, and walkers. And keep on walking if you spot a trampoline for sale — they are just too dangerous, especially for younger children.

      1. Used cradles are probably fine. I was born in the 1970s and slept in a crib from the 1940s that I am sure was covered with lead based paint! Several, of my uncles born in the 1940s and and a bunch of cousins born in the 1960s also slept in that thing because it stayed in granny’s attic and she loaned it to whoever in the family had a baby and needed a crib. My high chair was the same one my granny bought when my dad was born in the 1930s. haha

    4. Clothes definitely, and some toys if they aren’t made of fabric. Honestly, it’s the height of stupidity to buy new baby clothes unless it’s for a shower.

  33. These are stupid ideas. Wow! Just think things up in your little head and it will be so. This writer By Alison Caporimo needs to find a real job. She just got paid $ for crap. I bet her counterparts are pissed and she is sleeping with the editor

    1. NEWSFLASH.. You’re an idiot. Go somewhere else and spew your hatred…

    2. Duh, did you hear that many people can’t find “real”jobs these days?Iadmire the creativity.

  34. My best finds to date were at the same sale. A NWT $3600 leather Chanel trench coat for $5. And a NWT $400 Coach purse for $2. It was a man selling his wife’s belongings. She had recently left him for his friend. I heard the whole story as he bargained me down to lower prices just so he could be rid of everything. THOSE are the best sales to find!

    1. Sorry for my lack of consciousness when it comes to style and/or brand names but, what is NWT? Not Worth Thinking about?

        1. Thanks, there are many newbies who have no idea what the various abbreviations mean, be kind of nice if someone could spare the time to give us a list with meanings? PLEASE.

          1. That story sounds like the urban legend about the 50.00 Ferrari…

      1. don’t feel bad, I don’t know those things and half of what is on fb I don’t understand.. what is smh mean on fb?

        1. I do know that one – SMH means shaking my head. You use SMH when someone says something really stupid.

    2. Some of my best finds were two Bell & Ross watches for $2 each which I kept. Seven pay phones on pedestals(150lbs ea) for $200, which I sold six for $300 ea. Two Trikke T12 exercise scooters for $100/pr. Sold them the next day for $600. KLX dirt bike and wouldn’t run right for $300. One hour of carb cleaning and I sold it for $800 the following week. A found an 82′ Fleetwood Broughm Caddy for $1000. Needed a new battery, sold it a month later for $3500. Lots of great deals out there. My favorite sellers are those that just want the stuff gone at any cost. The worst are the ones that think they can get full retail for their junk at a garage sale… Crazy fools…

      1. You should be on a TV show haha. I live in a smaller city, so good deals like these are hard to come by. I did find a pair of lamps at an estate sale a couple of weeks ago that I was told were antiques. I had them dated and found they were from the 1920s and were valued at about $400. I paid $30.

      2. ‘think they can get full retail’ and it’s 30 years old.

    3. Got a nice corning top range with top and bottom ovens for $20 this way. Wife left, he wanted to move back east.

  35. Food. So many people just don’t even price it at estate sales so it’s free. just bring a bag and dig into the fridge/freezer.
    Last sale i went to i scored a bunch of steaks and a six pack! Couldn’t believe they were just giving that stuff away.

    1. Ewww… I’d be really cautious about buying from a stranger’s freezer. You have no idea how it’s been handled. Has the freezer been running continuously? How old was it when it was put into the freezer? The 6-pack I’ll give you is probably a good choice, as are most pantry goods (check the expiration dates on canned goods.) But be leery about anything in the refrigerator or freezer. You might be brave enough to do this but it’s beyond me… I don’t need food that badly.

        1. I’m not so sure the food grabber was being sarcastic. I’ve heard of people doing similar things, almost equivalent to dumpster diving.

    1. Yeah, I can’t think of a lot of things that are at garage sales that aren’t on this list.

  36. Old video games, sports collections, plant pots, dog stuff, bar memorabilia, military stuff, coins, pampered chef stuff, hot wheels, candles, shoes, women’s purses, power tools. I garage sale every Saturday, have it down to a science.

    1. What do you do with it all once you’ve found and purchased it? Surely, there’s only a limited amount you yourself can use, and selling on eBay takes s committment far in excess of the garage sale routine.

      1. Selling on eBay and CL do not that a lot of time if you know what you’re doing.. I’m a garage sale picker. Been doing it for over 5 years. I flip my stuff every week. I have on an average 40-60 ads on CL a week. Easy to renew ads every two days CL.. Some items I sell on eBay for bigger exposure, most locally on CL. Most I meet at the corner gas station as I do not want dozen people coming over every week. It’s slow now here I the summer with the heat but the fall, winter and soring are great. I can easily make $500/wk doing this part time…

        1. Thanks for promoting our business, now there will be even more competition out there at the swapmeets early in the morning, or not. I have found most people quit after they loose money on their first item, I’ve bought my fair share of dead horses so to speak, but that doesn’t keep me from the safari, it’s been in my blood too long and will most likely be doing it until my days come to an end. Old vintage musical instruments, brass, bronze. cowboy boots, just about anything old and of good quality works for me.

      2. Nope…eBay is pretty effective and easy, it does take a bit of time but designate a time of day to do it and you’d be surprised at how much you could make…utube it and watch some of those diehards.

  37. How about a Bell & Ross Radar watch for $2. They didn’t even know it was a watch..

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