I’m often asked where I find things.  The short answer:  EVERYWHERE.  I frequent local thrift stores, estate sales, flea markets, and garage sales.  I’m always on the lookout for things of interest.  My focus tends to be jewelry, handbags and accessories, small home décor, original artwork, and books; however, I try to keep my mind open.  I like to find pieces for which there are alternate possibilities.  Since I grew up the child of two part-time antique dealers, I guess I come by it naturally!

I do my best to become acquainted with my favorite sellers.  As a result, they keep their eyes open for things I might like, as well as giving me good deals.  It always helps to be friendly and flexible.  If you have a smart phone, bring it with you to sales, and use it to look up items to get an idea of their price ranges and collectability.  This can be invaluable!

Whatever piece you’re considering, always look for quality.  And whatever you buy, make sure it’s something you like.  That way if you’re stuck with it, you can at least enjoy it.  You’re also more likely to know more about the things you like, which gives you an advantage when buying them.  An informed purchase is always preferable to a nasty surprise when you get home.

Click here for my checklist of essential things to bring when junking.  Now, down to brass tacks.  The four major sources of my purchases are:

ESTATE SALES

Estate sales can be a great way to pick up a variety of items.  You can find everything from high-end appliances to jewelry to vintage clothing to gardening equipment.  You name it, it can be found.  My suggestion is to sign up for estate sale companies’ e-mail lists so you get the heads-up when sales are posted.  Many companies offer preview days that are only available to those on the e-mail list.  Being on this list will allow you priority access to the sales, so you can get in before all the good stuff is gone.  Most times the companies will give discounts as the sale goes on.  For example, if it’s a three-day sale, the first day will have the highest prices.  On successive days the prices will be discounted.  The final day, most companies will offer 50% or more off the original prices, and at the end of the sale they will often have items at box-lot prices (say $5 a box) or even free.  Don’t be afraid to dig!  That’s often how you find the good stuff.

Things to remember:

  • Show up early (as the lines can get long) and be quiet and respectful of the neighbors
  • Bring small bills so you can negotiate a better price
  • Bring your own bags, boxes and newspapers to pack up your purchases
  • Wear a crossbody bag/backpack/fanny pack so you can keep your hands free while you’re looking
  • Ask to plug in electrical items to be sure they work
  • Group items together for a better price
Links
http://www.estatesales.net/
http://www.estatesales.org/
http://www.craigslist.org
 
 
THRIFT STORES

I’ve spent many, many hours in thrift stores, digging through bins and perusing shelves in search of all kinds of goodies.  The staff at my favorite stores know me, and are always willing to give me a better deal if I ask nicely!  Search online for the thrift stores in your area, then find out their schedules for putting out new merchandise, as well as any discounts they may offer.  Many will offer discounts on certain tag colors or items on certain days.  Find out if they have a loyalty program and sign up for it.  Thrift Town (my local favorite) has a card that they punch every time you spend $10.  Once it’s full, you get $10 off your next purchase.  I’ve managed to get some fantastic deals this way.  They also send me e-mails letting me know about upcoming sales.

Thanks to the many hours I’ve spent at thrift stores, I’ve found authentic Coach purses for anywhere from $1.99 to $5.99, midcentury vintage collectibles from 99 cents, original watercolors, sketches and other artwork from 99 cents, and gold jewelry as cheap as $1.99.

Things to remember:

  • Ask to plug in electrical items to be sure they work
  • If you like an item but not the price, wait a few weeks, as many stores start discounting items after they’ve been around for a while
  • If something doesn’t have a tag, but you really want it, ask a manager for a price
Links
http://www.thethriftshopper.com/
http://www.goodwill.org/
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/thrift/thrftck.html  (Thrift store safety checklist published by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)
 
 
FLEA MARKETS

Some folks hate flea markets.  I don’t happen to be one of them.  I love the hunt, as I’m sure many of you do as well.  Sure, there can be a glut of imported plastic gewgaws and knickknacks, but all it takes is that one booth that makes the trip worthwhile.  Get to know your favorite vendors.  Often they are regulars, and will be more than happy to give return customers a better deal.  As with thrift stores, there are some flea market vendors who know me and save stuff for me.

I’ve seen some disparaging comments about flea market vendors on sites such as Yelp, claiming they are ripoff artists and less than desirable folks.  My experience has been just the opposite – but then I know where to look, and I can spot the people selling stolen goods and garbage from a mile away.  The people I deal with are kind, hardworking people who are trying their best to support their families.

Things to remember:

  • Go early so you can avoid the hot weather and the crowds
  • Bring a notepad and paper to take note of booth numbers and items you are interested in, especially if they are heavy and should be picked up last
  • Bring small bills so you can negotiate a better price
  • Bring your own bags, boxes and newspapers to pack up your purchases
  • Wear a crossbody bag/backpack/fanny pack so you can keep your hands free while you’re looking
  • Ask to plug in electrical items to be sure they work
  • Group items together for a better price
Links
http://www.fleaportal.com/default.aspx
http://www.fleamarketsamerica.com/
http://www.greatfleamarket.com/
http://www.keysfleamarket.com/
http://www.findafleamarket.com/
http://www.collectors.org/FM/
 
 
YARD/GARAGE/RUMMAGE SALES

You can get some incredible deals at these sales.  I’ve been amazed at how low people’s prices can be – as well as how overpriced some people’s items are (I swear some folks want retail prices!).  One of my favorite purchases was a bolt of vintage Hawaiian bark cloth I got for $5 and sold for nearly $100 in my Etsy shop.

Things to remember:

  • Show up early, but not before the sale starts – arriving early will not earn you points with sellers!
  • Bring small bills so you can negotiate a better price
  • Bring your own bags, boxes and newspapers to pack up your purchases
  • Wear a crossbody bag/backpack/fanny pack so you can keep your hands free while you’re looking
  • Ask to plug in electrical items to be sure they work
  • Group items together for a better price
  • If you see an item you like, but the price is too high, leave your contact info (a business card works great) so that the sellers can contact you if the item doesn’t sell
Links
http://www.gsalr.com (My favorite – features trip planning software that allows you to plan your route)
http://www.craigslist.org
http://www.metroyards.com
http://www.yardies.com/
http://www.yardsalesearch.com/
http://www.garagesalestracker.com/
http://www.garagesalefinder.com/
http://www.garagesales.com/
http://www.127sale.com/ (World’s longest yard sale, in Tennessee)
 
 
Other links that may be of interest:
 
http://www.booksalefinder.com
www.yardsalequeen.com
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