Tag Sales - Part I
My brother, sister, and I used to ride around the neighborhood in a green 66 Ford van. Mom was the driver. One day, I will file charges. We used to strain our eyes looking ahead in the road for those dreaded signs that caused the squealing brakes and insufferable delays. When one was spotted, Keith, Amy, and I would point across the street and yell "fire" so my mom would miss the sign, or cover her eyes with our hands. It did no good. We were too young to understand that Daria had an incurable disease. If you suffer from tagsaleitis, or if you would like to catch it, then this "how to" column is for you.
First understand, garage or tag sales are quarry and shopping them is war. Those early morning line-ups are composed of modern day prospectors looking for more than 25 cent Stanley tape-rules and $2 boxes of bric-a-brac. They are there to ferret out antique treasures in their own back yard. Preparation is key to winning. On any given morning, there are dozens of tag sales advertising the same "no early bird" starting times. Begin, by disbelieving these claims. Tag sales frequently open an hour or more early. Late arrivers get no bargains. Since you can't be in twelve, or even two places at once, you must key on the one sale that looks the most promising and get there ridiculously early. This will also insure a good parking spot which can difficult or dangerous to find later on.
Bring a coffee-filled thermos, warm clothing, reading material, cash, ID, checkbook, business cards, a stack of "sold" tags with your name on them, and a sturdy pack half-stuffed with your favorite antique reference books and wrapping paper. I also suggest you bring an inexpensive fold-up chair boldly marked with your name and something like "These Items Sold - Do Not Handle!" Your tag sale chair will keep you conformable, hold your spot in line and, after the rush begins, serve as a marker for identifying your "pile" of items claimed or bought. People tend to re-buy or walk-off with claimed antiques at busy sales. Having a watch-dog chair to look over your finds can help. It's like bringing a friend.
Most sales are run by families looking to dispose of outgrown kid's clothing, cribs, and chewed-on toys. Some are run by crafty dealers who play dumb once a week. These sales should be avoided or visited on the second day. One out of fifty sales is run by people looking to rid themselves of old junk; or an honest, dealer managed, estate sale. These are the kind of tag sales to visit first. Classified ads, a good local map, and pre-night canvassing are your best tools for qualifying tag sales. Look for specifics: 100 yr old+ Dining Set is preferable to Old Furnishings; Grandmother's china is more promising than old dishware. Try to determine the age of the neighborhood, the house, how long the homeowners have lived there, and who's doing the selling. The best buys are made in legitimate clean-out sales where the stuff has long resided in one home. Sales are usually advertised at least a day in advance. Do your "homework" and you'll be a happy hunter this year.