It's 7:00 am.  The sandwich sign in the front yard says the tag sale is not supposed to start for another hour.  You sip coffee from lid of your thermos. The coffee tastes like plastic but who cares, it's hot and it's dirt strong.

"Hey," a stubble whisker fellow in back of you says, "are you in line?"

You're glad for arriving early and bringing your fold-up tag sale chair to mark your spot.  The classified ad was enticing.  They advertised old radios, Heisy glass, tools, a six board blanket chest, an 8-track player, like-new golf clubs, etc.  Sounds like a legitimate household clean-out sale.  Cars are parking half-out in the street.  Already, a long queue is assembling.  You can move around without worrying.

The house was one of hundreds built around the old hat factory, which is gone now, replaced by another mall.  You walk by the porch window.  That tall dealer who  bids by winking at the auctioneer is seven spots back in line and he's a vacuum cleaner at these things.  Anything you can learn ahead of time is an edge.  The best tag sale shoppers pre-determine which direction to head before they walk in the door.  Lots of neat stuff in the house. There's a tin, horse drawn, fire wagon with chipping paint on a china closet.  You remember reading something about old tin toys being valuable and you need a china closet.  That's where you'll head first.  An angry face appears in the window.  The blind snaps down.  Back to the line.

You open your sack with the wrapping paper and reference books and study up on what was advertised, what you saw in the window.  "Schroeders" book price for comparable bowfront china closets is $800.  New one's cost $400.  If it's marked $500 or less, and it passes inspection, especially the glass, you'll tell the proprietor you'll take it and tie your claim tag to it.  You review that article on toys you clipped from the newspaper. You're not a toy expert, so you'll employ common sense; look for old surface, buy that which looks old but not antique, avoid that which looks antique but not old.  You'll pay decorative value only.  There's little downside risk that way.  A woman from the house passes out numbers like they do at the deli.  That's common at busy sales.  They'll only let 40 or so in at a time.  You've done your "homework."  Now you mingle with those in line.  Some of the hardest working antique prospectors in the state are here.  Exchange business and collecting cards.  These are the people you want to know.  There's an announcement:

"Due to the crowd, we're going to start 30 minutes early."

The heart's pumping.  You're breathing hard ... time to slow down.  You can live with missing out on a great buy.  There's another sale tomorrow.  You can't live with big mistakes. Buy what you need and like.  Don't assume these people are naive.  Greed and haste are your enemy now.  Common sense, prudence, your decorative "eye" for form and appeal, and your gut instincts are your friend.  Assume that a dealer priced this stuff but he/she made a few mistakes.  Hey, you never know.  Maybe this will be your lucky day.

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Wayne Mattox Antiques | 82 Main Street North | Woodbury, CT 06798 | 203-263-2899 |
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