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Tools At A Garage Sale
Both Household and Stained Glass Related Tools
Since I'm an avid tool collector, I know a thing or two about how to buy them at garage sales. About 85%-90% of my tools I got from garage sales and flea markets. You can get some pretty good deals at some sales, providing you know how to fix and clean them. I'll point out the tricks I use to get tools for a decent price.
- Always look at the condition of the tool. Is it dented, cracked, bent, frayed? If you want a lower price look for these points, then "mention" them. If you know how to fix them, it can be a good deal.
- If it's a pair of pliers, check for rust; most of them have rust on them. First see if the pliers even move. You'll have to soak these in rust remover, or liquid wrench.
- If it's something electrical, always check the cord for fraying and to see if there is even an end on it. See if the blade is tight so when you do try it, it doesn't fly off and kill you...bummer. You should always test out electrical things, like saws, lamps, etc. However, you can only do this at a garage sale, because flea markets don't have electrical outlets, and usually the tools don't work anyway. Be sure to test it out yourself. Don't let the guy you're buying it from tell you it works; let him prove it to you. After you plug it in, squeeze the switch, feel and listen for odd sounds or smells. I once turned on an old Porta Cable saw and corn flew out of it. Others I've gotten didn't have a plug so I couldn't test it. This usually knocks down the price, from $1.00 to free; try to get free (since you can't test it after all).
- A lot of tools will need to get sharpened, like chisels. Usually you can't get a better deal on these because most people will tell you just to sharpen the thing.
- If there is say a 50 cent table, look out for the better brands: Ridged, Snap-On, Mac, Craftsman, Wiss, and other expensive name brand tools.
- Some tools need a lot of work. I once got a tubular micrometer that didn't budge at all. It took a day to fix it, and a while longer to refinish the mahogany box. But now it's fixed and working like new. Now what to do with it...
- Here are methods I use in haggling down the prices for what I buy. Remember this quick rule: you can bargain at a garage sale; you can't bargain at a flea market. Generally at a flea market, they have to pay for the space, and they know they'll sell it at one point or another.
- Usually, after looking at the condition and the price, I'll see if I can get it lowered. Usually I mention a price (which can really be no lower than half of the asking price). I blurt out the things that need to be done. I don't say it in a commanding way, just enough so they hear me and it pushes them over the edge. Say someone is selling a drill for $10.00 (which is kind of high at a garage sale). The cord is frayed, there isn't a key, and it's kind of dirty. First, I'd look at it, discover those undesirable qualities, and mentally write them down. Then I'll ask to see if it works. Then I'll offer $5.00 for it. Sometimes they'll say OK. If they don't accept $5.00 and say, "I'd at least like to get $8.00 for it". quickly mention everything that's wrong with it. If there is a whine to the saw when you try it out, say something like "the bearing is bad". 9 times out of 10, people won't know what your talking about and just believe you. Now, they may go as low as $5.00 but chances are they want to feel that their on the winning side, so they may say $6.00. You can then do one of 2 things:
- A: look at the tool carefully, turning it around in your hand, and staring at it in deep thought (in this step you don't have to think about much. Lately for me is do I really need another of that type of tool). Then say "okay here's the money". Then when you buy something else they may give you a better deal on those things.
- B: do the same as above only say, "I'll think about it", then get a few more tools for a "package" deal.
- The Package Deal (or sometimes known as the Group Deal): This is where you gather up all the things your going to buy, stick it into their face and ask, not "how much is this together?", but "how much for this as a package deal?". You can get a better price most of the time unless it's a mixed neighbor sale, and that's when it gets confusing. Sometimes you can confuse the person by getting one price, putting something back that you don't completely need, then asking for a new price. What happens then is, they see the item you put back sitting on the table which they may have to bring back in at the end of the day, and they may throw that in also at the lower price. However this method may not always work.
- Always know your prices. I must have over a hundred catalogs at home. I go over it page by page trying to take in the prices. This way, when someone gives me a price of $3.00 and I know the tool retails for $800.00 I'll probably get it. But I'll still see if I can get a lower price. :)
The Different Types of Sales
Here's a list of the different types of sales that I know of here in New Jersey. I'm not sure if they're called anything else in other states or countries. This list is in no particular order.
- The Moving Sale: the moving sale usually has three sales in it. They can either be a week apart or longer. At moving sales, you'll probably find the big stuff like furniture. These are the three parts that I know of:
- The first sale - this will have most of the big stuff, furniture, stuff from the shelves that are in immediate view, stuff like that. The prices are so-so, but there is usually a pretty good choice of stuff that can be found. Usually you can find a lot more stuff if a husband dies and the lady wants to move out.
- The second sale - a good chunk of the furniture would be gone. The stuff left over from the last sale would be found there as well. There might be some new stuff. In this sale, the owner of the house would probably be in the middle of packing, finding junk they never knew they had.
- The last sale - this usually has nothing of value at it. It contains locks without keys, single earrings, watches with no batteries, etc. The prices are dirt cheap; they want to get rid of it. Most of their stuff should either be packed or at the new home already. And this is the last chance to make a buck or two.
- The Inside House Sale: This is the type of sale where they broke up the different items into the related rooms. If you wanted tools, go to the basement or garage (or both). The kitchen would have kitchen stuff and so on. The advantage of this sale is that almost anything can be on sale. And you're out of the sun or rain. A lot of times, they'll give you a bag, and before you leave you fill it up and they'll give you a price on it. This is where it gets fun. When putting your stuff in the bag, try to put all the big things on the bottom, medium things on the top and small things in the medium things which are placed on their side. When they go to see that you have things going everywhere, they get tired of looking and give you a price on the whole bag. However, sometimes they really do go through everything, and if your really lucky maybe they'll tell you the story behind each and every item. And for some reason, you can always find free paint (the brush on type), at these sales. The main things I hate about this kind of sale is:
- There's always some stranger looking at you making sure you don't take anything. And it's usually some old person coming up to you and asking you if you need help.
- There really isn't enough space to breathe; it can be really tight in some places. And I have a bag that's about 36" long, long enough that I get stuck in doorways with it.
- Stairs are a pain; I feel like I'm going to fall down them.
- Most of the time, they have a dinky sign in the front, then you have to walk into some stranger's house.
- And since I go by bike to them, I have to leave it unattended outside.
- The Backyard Sale: These are like any other sale except for some reason they thought it was a better idea to have it in the backyard. The reason why I don't like this kind of sale is that it's hard to see them when you on the street.
- The Tool Sale: This is my favorite sale. But if they just have tools, chances are, the seller knows what he's selling and you may not get a greatly discounted price. However, there will usually be a good selection. However, you'll have to fight for a space because they'll be a lot of people there.
- The Old Lady Sale: This type of sale is great. A lot of times, there will be some antiques there, costume jewelry, tools. Most of the time, they really don't know what they're selling and sell it for dirt cheap. Some of it used to belong to someone who is now dead.
- The Rich Person Sale: This type of sale can be found in whatever part of your town rich people hang out. (You know, like million dollar mansions and that type of thing). A lot of times, you'll find antiques there, but with prices to match. Unfortunately, you'll find junk (or junque as they're kind like to call it), at the same price. I once went to one, I saw a black and white TV without knobs, scratch across the screen, dirty, sitting on a rusted TV cart, for $40.00. They also tell you little sob stories on why it should be so much money. Like they'll say "it's been in the family for 75 years" or "it was given to me by my great grandfather, I couldn't let it go for any lower". If it's so precious to them, why in the world are the selling it?
- The Block Sale: This has the most variety at it, unless it's an annual sale. In that case, there will be less and less as everyone on the block empties out their attics. Now you have to be careful when you see these in the paper. It should say "BLOCK SALE". I saw one in the paper, "1000 and 2000 blocks of Ripley". When I got there, there were two sales: One at 1000 the other at 2000. Real cute trick. Of course, no one bought anything from them.
- The Neighborhood Sale: This is generally not a block sale. It's more sporadic; a house here, maybe one across the street, then one at the end of the block.
- The Multi-Family Sale: Sometimes this means there are a couple of houses for you to go to. But usually it means one house and each person contributed a couple of things. This means that there may be more variety there, but at confusing price scales. Sometimes you'll have to track down the right person so you can pay.
- The Chachka Sale: This type of sale doesn't have much at it, though there may be some gems at it. Usually not worth your time.
- The Baby Sale or The Toy Sale: Unless you have a baby or a child, don't bother going because usually that is all that's there. However, it is a good place to get toys for your kids; just be sure to clean them thoroughly. And if you're buying clothes for the baby, clothes are all right, just don't buy the used shoes.
- The Retail Sale: This is where the merchant peddles his wares outside of his home. You won't find anything of any value here.
- The Bonus Sale: Any house that isn't marked on my map and has a sale at it is considered a bonus sale. It can be any of the above, and since it wasn't planned, it doesn't matter if I get anything or not. A lot of times, I get quite a bit of stuff at those sales.
- The Cheapskate or the Moron Sale: This could go under the same heading under the bonus sale.
- The Cheapskate Sale: This is when they set up an unadvertised sale when there is a flea market going on. Or when someone else is having a sale nearby and they decide to suddenly set up. There really isn't much of anything here, because they grabbed things at random and want to make a buck.
- The Moron Sale:This is when they set up a sale and don't put up any kind of sign whatsoever. Or they'll put up a sign that's miles away from their house. Another type is the person who puts up a sign that is completely unreadable: no address, just an arrow, typed on a typewriter, etc.
- The Trying to Make a Fast Buck Sale: Any sale where they won't bargain with you and have very high prices is this kind of sale. Generally, you'll know it immediately by looking at what they're selling. If you see an unopened box, say a massager, and ask it's price, they'll give you a price that's half of what a store would charge you. The other big clue is when they say "it's worth this much in a store" or "do you know what this thing goes for retail?". that's when you put it down, it's not worth it.
- The Oddball and Disgusting Sale: This is the sale where you'll find a broken plate, an unmatched teacup and saucer. Or used shoes, the odd pair of old worn out slippers. And although the slippers may be cute and fuzzy, chances are they were worn at least once. I've seen used lipstick, and make up. Candy that's who even knows how old, scraps of wood (not even good stuff like walnut, but stuff like the ends of 2x4's which they classify as 'craft wood'). You'll find the hand full of Lego's, a doll's head, a used brush (sometimes a tooth brush), a bunch of rusted metal. This can really be found at any sale, although once I went to a sale and all they had was 1 baby shoe, a couple of old towels and a brush.
- The Whiny Kid Sale: I hate when there's a little kid, screaming "wanna buy some lemonade?" or the odd kid trying to sell his stuff so he can have some money. And I'm not crazy about the idea of the kid controlling the money box either.
- The Raising Money for a Charity Sale: The Garage sale type isn't so bad. Usually there are a few too many sellers there staring at what you buy. At the flea market type, there is always someone there who's pushing the merchandise and saying "it's for the kids, you should really buy some more".
- The "I Want to Get Rid of This Stuff Now" Sale: This is also my favorite kind. The prices start out low, and it's easy to bargain with them. Make sure to keep an open ear for other's trying to make a deal. Or things like "I just want to get rid of the stuff".
- The 50 Year Accumulation of Stuff Sale: Usually some old person is there. And although the name sounds good, it usually has garbage at it. The prices are also higher than normal. I found that there is usually plates and books at this sale.
- The Small Yapping Dog Sale: There's nothing much different, but generally there's a small dog with a large bark. Or if the dog wants to be real annoying, it will run around and bite your ankles.
Things To Have At A Garage Sale (Shopping)
- Bring nothing higher than a 10 dollar bill. Anything higher and they really can't break it. You may be showy, flashing that big roll of 20's but you can't buy anything unless it is 20 bucks or so. Same goes for a flea market.
- Be sure to carry a bunch of 1's with you. I hate it when I bargain a price from $10.00 to $6.00 and all I have are 10's. And besides, most of the good stuff is around a buck or under
- Always try to bring change. I always try to carry as many quarters as I can hold; dimes are the next thing under. Nickels and pennies don't buy much.
- A Big Bag: I go by bike to all of these and carry a large bag on my back. Of course I look like a fool carrying this, but I don't care. It's amazing really. I carry this thing on my back and people don't even notice it; it looks like a giant black dog wrapped around my back. And people tell me, "oh you have a bag there; I didn't even see it". Then of course there's the other type of person who has an clear grasp for the obvious, "my that's some bag there", "or "your really come prepared". My bike has a satchel that holds bungie cords, zip ties, and some basic first aid stuff. The other side has an army backpack. The pack is used when I have too much weight in the bag or when I don't have my bag and there's a bonus sale.
- A Waist Bag: I put the money in here, so I'm not fumbling around for money, when it's pay time. I also keep my maps in here.
- A Bike: I personally use a bike. One thing to keep in mind: make sure you keep your bike at the end of the driveway but close enough so that you can keep an eye on it. You also don't want to put it too close to the sale. Although every so often, you'll get some jerk trying to sell the thing. This one guy let some stranger test drive it, and gave him a price! What could I do but grin...of course, I could have kicked him in the shin, but that would be wrong.
- A Map: I have a laminated map. When the Wednesday paper comes, I look up the sales, photocopy the part of the map where they are, and mark the street with marker. In the past, this was good enough, but since I went on-line, I can map out the exact house and I put a dot where each house is. Then I bring along this photocopy of the map, and the newspaper with the highlighted sales, and go hunting.
How To Spot A Garage Sale
I found that if you look down the street, try to find a group of people moving around although sometimes it may be kids playing on the lawn. Other ways is to look for a bunch of color, or the obvious things at the end of the driveway. Always keep an eye out for signs; fluorescent is usually a good color that you see.
My Garage Sale Technique
Well this is my technique anyway. Once I approach it and park my bike, I do the initial scan. This is where I do a check for the things I want: tools, stained glass supplies, craft stuff, glass jewels, etc. Once found, I do that section first. Then I pick up the things I like and do the inspection. Once I have a bunch of stuff (usually an arm load), I'll try to make a deal. After a while you'll learn to hold stuff in one hand and manipulate objects in the other. If I bought something, I'll do a double check, then a third and a fourth just to make sure I got everything I wanted. Then I'll pack up and go to the next sale.
Sometimes you'll find glass at a sale (if it's in full sheets it's very rare, like finding water in the desert). But you'll need a car to transport it; even I'm not crazy enough to try and haul glass around on a bike. However,I've brought home some weird things on my bike, like a 10' pole saw (I held it out like a lance), around 50 pounds of tools, and a 18" paper cutter strapped to the back of my bike (only $1.00), to name a few.
Tips for Anyone Setting Up A Garage Sale
These are things I'd like to see when I go out garage sailing. Some people do it some don't.
- Advertising: You'll want to put it in any paper that has a wide coverage and is given away free. The ad should say the street, house number, date and time of the sale. You can also mention the items you have listing what you have the most of first. For instance, if you have a lot of baby junk, mention that first. If you have tools, (and more than 3 screwdrivers and a spork), mention it. I can almost guarantee you, there will be 3 times the people there than normal.
The Sign: Make up a large sign, with this information on it: GARAGE SALE, Address, Date, and maybe an Arrow. You should be able to read it from across the street while walking. I've seen a lot of signs where they try to make it cute and print it from Print Shop. This looks nice up close but from a few feet away, you can't read it plus it tends to curl. Others will list what they're selling, which only confuses things more. Pick a sign that's large and fluorescent. Once you find a color stick with that color; if it's red stay with red. Sometimes I go by color alone. Be sure to put your sign at busy cross streets, and if It can't be at a cross street, then position the sign so on coming traffic can see it. Also remember to put some near your house and in front of it.
- Preparing: First of all, you want to be organized. Have everything set up in advance. Be prepared for people to come to your house at 6:00 in the morning no matter what time you say the sale starts. These people are the flea market re-sellers. Don't chase them away; chances are they may buy all your stuff and not argue with the price too much. They usually ring your bell if your tables aren't set up.
- Set Up: It really doesn't have to be fancy; basically you're selling garbage. You don't want it, someone else does. So you don't have to put the tablecloths on or set up in a pretty manner. Basically, I like seeing the items in groups: the jewelry group, crafts, books, tools, etc. Although a lot of people say to put your bigger items in front to attract attention. Don't bother. Why? Because first you have to drag it to the front of the driveway which could damage the piece. Also, it can blow over in the wind because there isn't a house to protect it. This can break the item or squash someone (and that's never good for business).
- The Day and Time: Generally (at least in NJ anyway), garage sales can be found on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Though Saturday is the most common, with Friday coming in second. Most sales are from 8:00 am - 4:00 PM, although sometimes they start at 9:00 am. I've seen some that closed at noon (open only for a few hours), I have no idea what they thought they were going to sell in that amount of time. The times should be relaxed. I went to a few sales where they insisted it had to be 10:00 am sharp and cordoned off the driveway. Another set up at 12:00 noon and had a bouncer guarding the driveway! I didn't go to either one at first, although later in the day, at the end of my sailing, I stopped at the second house, and all they had were a bunch of stupid, overpriced sheets.
- Money and Selling Prices: A garage sale is used to get rid of your junk and make a buck or two while you're at it. Some people get greedy and jack up the prices really high. Generally you want to ask yourself, "self, would I honestly pay it at that price". And be honest with yourself; if you really saw that pocket fisherman, would you really want to pay $10.00 for it? Or 25 cents which I would still think about.
- The best prices are the 'turn of the century' prices. Where a hammer is a quarter, and nothing is really over a dollar.
- You have to go over what you have and what you don't mind throwing out. Set up a 25 cent box, a 10 cent box, and a FREE box.
- Allow bargaining. Chances are, if you go in favor of the guy asking for a lower price, he might get some more stuff off your hands. The cheap boxes should be placed at the end of the driveway (nearest to the street).
- You don't have to fix up anything you sell. What will happen is, you will become attached to the product. For instance, if you replaced a switch in a drill and the switch cost you $8.00, and then you jack up the price because of that, don't think anyone will be grateful for what you've done. Chances are, no one will buy it from you and you'll be stuck with an old drill with a new switch.
Writing down a price on everything really isn't necessary. You are usually better off pricing it on the fly. But if you're setting up at a flea market (rather than a garage sale) you should have price stickers. Don't get annoyed if people keep asking you how much something is if there isn't a tag on it. I asked this one guy in the Englishtown Flea Market what one of his prices was, and he went nuts. I said," how much is this?" He said "what's it worth to you?", I hate that response. I then said to him "can I just have the price, It really isn't worth anything to me". So he gave me a price on it. I thought it was way too high, and moved onto another tool. Same thing happened. By the third time, he said, "forget it. You don't want to buy from me; I don't want your money". The guy didn't want my money? How does he stay in business anyway? Never bought anything from him ever and I never will.
- What To Put Out: It really doesn't matter what you put out. It can be broken china, doll parts, anything really (providing it's real cheap or free). Don't think it won't sell; you would be surprised at what people buy. Some one wanted only one teacup and saucer. It turns out she collects them and didn't need the rest of the set. If you actually set up in a garage, make sure to cover up the things you don't want to sell with a sheet or something. It's more than likely people will ask to buy the stuff off the walls. Don't put out items that you don't want to sell and don't leave your money box out on a table unattended.
- Cleaning Up: Towards the end of the day, some people set up a bag day, (rummage sales at churches very often do this). It's a pretty neat idea, but one lady starting yelling at me that my bag I was too full and I should buy another one. And here I thought I was getting rid of the stuff they didn't want anymore.
- My Pet Peeves:
- Don't say to anyone what you had on sale yesterday. I go to so many sales looking for jewels, tools, etc., and when I ask if they have these items, they say "we don't have anything right now, but you should have been here yesterday. We had more than the eye could see."
- When people try to sell my bike. Definitely a turn off.
- When people don't let me get a better deal.
- People who grab things out of my hands if I don't like the first price I hear.
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Last modified July 13, 1997
Started on 9-22-98