I will tell anyone that will listen that my very favorite kind of yard sale is a church yard sale in an established, wealthy neighborhood. It's all about the stuff. Church sales are the best anyway, because it combines the stuff from lots of different families, which means greater volume of stuff. Wealthy neighborhoods are going to have higher-quality (and more) stuff. Older, established neighborhoods have older and more interesting stuff, because the people didn't just move in the year before. Also, the prices are usually good, because chances are that someone there has been to a yard sale or held one before, so they what to charge for the stuff. Plus, there is that grand time when they tell you to just stuff a bag for a dollar.
Stuff stuff stuff. The word has lost all meaning.
Anyway, while I still scour the papers for church sale ads, I am developing a growing appreciation for estate sales. They are getting me through the cold, hard winter, like the Regimental Camp Followers at Valley Forge. Indeed, there is often a lot of stuff at an estate sale, since you're selling most everything that a person owned at time of death. Sure, there is antique furniture and china sets and heirloom jewelry. It's frequently beautiful and I enjoy having the opportunity to see valuable and expensive things that I don't ordinarily come across. But the real appeal to me is that they're selling things that most people wouldn't ever think to sell.
Old stationery is a favorite of mine, as I'm sure you're sick of hearing. I can imagine a meeting of the estate sale companies of Raleigh, where they discussed what was worth selling. Someone keeps coming across boxes of old note cards in attics of dead grandmothers and wonders whether it's even worth slapping a price tag on them. The others tell him the fabled tale of Stationery Lady, who will come to your sale, pick out less than $10 worth of stuff, and then inquire about any stationery, if she hasn't found it already.
You will also all know by now that I am a big fan of owning your own crazy, for instance by imagining that competing estate sale companies not only have meetings, they talk about who buys the cheap items and give them nicknames.
Aside from stationery, there are old calenders, the daily dishes, the framed cross-stitch that hung in the bathroom. They are the things that children of the deceased remember fondly and associate with that house, but they are too inexpensive and everyday to be considered heirlooms. They are detritus, the things that humans buy and use and discard without really noticing. I love these things. I love their everyday-ness, their inconspicuous-ness, their history. These are the things that will tell future archeologists more about how people lived than the silver tea sets that only the rich people could afford to buy but not ever use.
Anyway, I am writing all this because I came across some really great examples of detritus at an estate sale recently. While someone else was dickering over the price of the mid-century modern black leather sofa set (which was gorgeous), I was spending two dollars on a cheap photo album full of black and white 8x10s. I've scanned some of the pictures in to share with you guys(one at a time so that I can stretch it out over lots of posts so that I look more prolific). None of the pictures are labelled, so what I know about them is only what I can guess from looking at them. Let's all imagine stories about them together, shall we?
This is the very first picture in the album. The cover actually came off and so this lady stares up at me from the coffee table.
Who is she? Is this shot posed or candid? A lot of the shots in the books appear to be publicity shots of models, but then there are some that are obviously family photos. Maybe this was taken for use in a gardening calendar sponsored by the local Jaycees. Yup, that's it. I've decided.