Must-Have 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.
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 (DIY Design has a great how-to).
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. (This is 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. Don't miss these thrift shopping secrets to find that perfect vintage gem.
Not to sound old-fashioned, but they don’t make brooches like they used to. 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 or even a festive holiday wreath.
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. Check out more smart shopping secrets from expert antiquers.
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, and quality knives (you can always take them in to be sharpened). Wash everything well before use.
Ice cream makers and other seasonal or single-use kitchen appliances
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 pricey to move. You'll usually be able to scoop them up for a fraction of their retail price.
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. Don't miss these 14 things you should always buy used.
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.
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.