I spent a grand total of $4.15 yesterday. I went to two estate sales, and bought a box’s worth at one, nothing at the other. This is the first winter that I’ve tried to yard sale the whole time through, and I’ve discovered that estate sales are what’s saving me. There have been about two a week. I don’t go to that many during the summer, so either I am missing them in the warm months or people like the nice weather so much then that they decide to hang on a while longer.
Most estate sales are run by some sort of company that the family hires. The company comes in, arranges the stuff, prices everything, and holds the sale. Sometimes I think I’d like to have an estate sale company, but that’s only so I’ll get first crack at the crap.
Here’s something interesting I found out from talking to an employee for such a company. Sometimes, a buyer will come in after the estate sale and offer them a lump sum for whatever is left. I imagine this buyer is often some sort of antique dealer who will then keep the good stuff and get rid of the rest. I hope they donate the rest to Goodwill, rather than just throwing it all away.
The estate sales I attended yesterday were both run by the family. One was out of a small apartment, the kind of place where your grandmother moves to be close to family after your grandfather dies. All that adds up to a crappy estate sale. A few years ago, when the grandfather died, there was probably a really great sale as the widow moved out from the house where they had lived for several years. But all that stuff is long gone now, and what’s left are just the accoutrements of old people – walkers, blood pressure monitors, random mismatched toys that have barely been played with. I mean, I’m just making all this stuff up here, so while I’m at it, I’m going to go ahead and pretend that I went to that moving sale a few years ago. It was awesome. I bought a bunch of good stuff.
However, the other estate sale really was the good kind. The people had obviously lived there years and years. Maybe even years and years and years and years. There were lots of people running the sale, and they kept asking me if I wanted a box to put my stuff in and then whether I wanted to put my box down at the cashier’s while I looked around some more, and finally whether I needed another box.
One whole room was taken up with Peruvian folk art. Souvenirs are pretty common at estate sales, I guess because people rich enough to have an estate sale were rich enough to travel. I don’t buy many things like that. If you can tell they were souvenirs at another person’s house, it’s going to be just as obvious at your own house, and then you have to explain that you’ve never been there. There are exceptions to that rule, of course.
I bought some more fabric. The deceased was quite the seamstress, it seems. There were three boxes of scraps divided into bags marked anywhere from a quarter to $3. Another woman was rifling through them while I was and she kept pointing things out to me. “Oooh, here’s something velvety, isn’t that nice? Oh, and is this taffeta? Only $3 for 3 yards!” Her onslaught of comments went on for so long that I finally stopped even responding at all, since it didn’t seem required. Finally, she said, “Well, I’m going to get it then, if you’re not.” I realized that she had been trying to get me to get it so she wouldn’t. I suspect that lady goes to a lot of yard sales. I could see myself doing something like that, though I prefer to just buy the stuff and give it away rather than convince strangers to get it.
I did not buy any taffeta or velvet, but I did get some wool. Also polyester. Again I found that taking pictures of fabric scraps is pretty much pointless.
I spent a nickel on one of those old linen towel calendars. I’ve started getting these (and any other linen dish towels) whenever I find them for cheap (less than a quarter apiece). They’re much nicer as kitchen towels than rags or regular kitchen towels. They feel nicer and are often very pretty. This one is from 1956, and though the print is very dim, the fabric itself stills seems very sturdy.
More stationery. These look like they were inked by hand. Very nice little note cards, six different designs in the pack for a dime. I scanned three of them in for a sample view. I was disappointed there wasn’t more stationery, as old ladies usually have lots of the stuff. The only distinguishing marking is the “VWW” signature, so I haven’t been able to find out any info about them. Maybe something bought at a flea market for all I know.
FINALLY, my great find of the day was the yard sale fulfillment of many months of wanting something but not finding it. Or rather, I did find it last year, but the lady wanted $2 for it and I thought that was an insane price for a jar. I would probably have paid the $2 now, because I’ve come to realize that they are hard unless you go to an antique store, where you will pay $10.
But this one was a dollar. It’s so pretty. There are some out there that have the words “perfect mason” misspelled, which makes them valuable. Tell that to your kids the next time they’re struggling with spelling. But this one is a run of the mill blue jar that would cost $10 at the antique store. I predict that the Ball company will make blue jars again sometime as a marketing scheme. There is no reason that utilitarian things like canning jars cannot be lovely.
I told my mom about it, and she immediately and generously offered to buy it off me for the same price that I paid. I don’t recall saying that I wanted to get rid of it. In fact, I remembered telling her I’d been looking for one for a while and that I really liked it. My mother lacks subtlety. Her motives are always glaringly obvious. I’m mostly the same way, which Josh seems to like after knowing women that he could never figure out.
If I find more blue (or green or amber) Mason jars, I will buy them. Someone will want them. Even if they are subtle people who don’t ask outright for them, I will fill a jar with cookie mix and give it to those people at Christmas.
If you would like more information about these jars, here is an article written by a collector. At the bottom of the article is a picture of his collection, which is why I need to give away additional jars I find, so I don’t end up with so many that I don’t have room for my stationery (or any children I might want later).