What do I look for at Garage Sales, Thrift Stores, even the Dollar Store?
(This is a rough draft, I'll be back to clean it up.)
It's the age old question: What the heck do I look for at the garage sales that I can resell on ebay? There are some very specific items that can fetch hundreds, even thousands: porcelains, jewelry, ceramic figures, furniture, art, other such collectibles. As I have no idea which ones are valuable, I leave that to the experts. But if you are an average schmo like me, out to find things that will easily make your money back and then some, here's a list of things I look for that I've had minor to major success with. I've often made enough in one sale to recoup the costs of the entire purchase.
Some things are your own basics, so always look for them. I sell mostly CDs, so I always look for them. If you sell mostly dishes or clothes or tools or toys, you'll always beeline right for those. But I also look for anything else that catches my eye. Some things just scream ebay with a raw bloody throat. If I see a vintage ceramic stapler shaped like a dog in VG+ condition, I grab it!
What you'll need with you: an open mind, a sense of discovery, a sharp eye, a bit of risk. If you have lots of garage sales to hit, and you're a specific niche seller, I guess you can scan for your kind of stuff and leave if there isn't anything. But I only hit a few each weekend when I can (I walk everywhere) so I take a little longer to scour each sale for every bit of useful stuff. Look at everything, everywhere, in boxes, under tables. I'll look through, grab what I want, then go back and look again. Check out my guide on Garage Sales for many more tips on getting the most from a garage sale foray.
Be willing to take a risk on things, especially if they're very cheap. If it's .25, by all means, go for it! You have little to lose and much to gain. Always check the .25 baskets/boxes, I have found lots of small but very interesting goodies here: bracelets, keychains, pins, toys. If you find a collectible robot keychain in the packaging for .25, by all means, buy the darn thing even if you sell fishing gear. I did, and sold it for $15.00.
Have a budget for the maximum you'll spend per item, depending on the kind of item: say 1.00 for CDs/DVDs, 5.00 for handbags, 1.00 for jewelry or whatever works for you and what you sell. But if it's so odd you can't part with it, be willing to spend a little more, say up to 2.00 for a CD, 10.00 for a handbag or whatever.
Always Always Always ask for a bulk discount at garage sales, tag sales, estate sales, even thrift stores! You will probably get it, at worst they can say no.
Also check your local dollar or discount store: believe me, they're everywhere! This can be a good source of items, if you know what to look for. It's like a step between garage sales and wholesale suppliers. If you're not sure, you can buy one of something (or jot down it's information), go home and check it out, then come back for more later. You can even return/exchange items if it's not worth reselling or keeping yourself. Of course it can be catch-as-catch-can: something great that they have once, then never carry again. But it is a great way to test-market different items, or even find your own suppliers. If something is a good consistent seller, maybe you can find out how to get a larger amount directly from the supplier.
Try to have a plan B for things that are not-worth-listing duds. Can they can be used yourself, returned, traded, given away, recycled, sold together in big lot or sold at your own garage sale? I have a short guide on Excess Inventory for this, mostly for media items.
Here are some usually inexpensive items, most can be $1 or less, that can be readily found at most garage sales and thrift stores. Most I have purchased and sold already. I'm not saying everything here will bring in the big bucks, but good consistent sales. Many of these items can be sold for $10-$20 or so; some may be duds, some may go for more. They can pay for themselves easily, but probably not your mortgage.
I lean towards media, jewelry and vintage items myself, but if things are cheap enough and in good enough condition, I'll buy just about anything. There may be many more items out there I haven't considered yet, so I'll add as I can. After awhile, you'll know what to look for. Follow your hunches. But don't get comfy, there's always something else to find, something you never considered! Take a risk now and then.
My Top 3 considerations for anything: Condition, Vintage, Odd/Unusual
- Books, VG+ condition: I don't usually do many books, unless they're really weird.
- Old paperback romance (<1980)
- Older children's books (<1970, hardcover, good dustjackets)
- Vintage paperbacks (mystery/sci fi) with lurid cover art
- Obscure non-fiction, the more specific the better.
- Odd cookbooks, vintage, put out by specific groups, odd foods
- Short stories (Horror/SciFi, put together as a lot)
- Several on same subject/sold as lot (crafts, hobbies, skills)
- See my guide for Buying Ex-Library Books, it applies here as well.
- Magazines - older, unusual topics, cover art, ads, check condition carefully, some wear is OK.
- CD's, check condition, classical, foreign, old musicals/soundtracks (buy popular music only if cheap)
- Cassettes : (<1990) these can be OK, if older, very specific music, religious, local, ethnic, some classical. Some music is not available on CD yet.
- DVDs, check condition, TV series, older movies, foreign films, odd non-fiction, excercise/yoga (buy popular movies only if cheap)
- VHS (<1990), obscure movies (foreign, sci-fi, horror, odd animation). Avoid any current releases.
- Video/PC Games: check condition carefully, odd titles, some older titles, horror/sci-fi/historical titles.
- Toys/action figures, vintage: check condition carefully. Year is often on foot of older action figures.
- Pins/pinbacks - brooches or music
- Keychains - odd, vintage, music/sports/auto related
- Board games/puzzles - complete, vintage
- Small electronics, calculators, cameras - vintage, best if with box and cables
- Early video games, especially the little handheld ones, best with box/instructions, check if they work w/new batteries
- Car-related items: keychains, accessories, etc. (for cars no longer made is better)
- Charm bracelets, charms, pendants: odd themes, can be sold as is or separately as charms
- Costume jewelry: doesn't have to be designer, well made, unusual, odd themes
- Scarves: the long thin kind, can be listed/described as neckwear, a head scarf, a belt, or purse accessory. Check for stains and rips.
- Belts: vintage, chain/metal, check condition.
- Vintage accessories: Gloves, handbags, scarves, belts, check condition carefully
- Vintage clothes: this can be a bit more involved with designers/makers, but if interesting, cheap and in really good condition, go for it.
- Designer anything with the tags, or VG without tags (these can be pricey, watch out, best if you know clothes)
- Defunct sports memorabilia - items from teams that are no longer playing
- Sports memorabilia - pins, keychains, mugs, odd housewares, etc.
- Coffee Mugs/Cups - Starbucks, licensed characters (older is better), 3D designs, odd shapes/themes
- Collectible glasses (McDonald's, etc.), the older the better, check for cracks and image wear
- Barware: swizzle sticks (odd shapes, specific liquors, places), shot glasses (bunch from same place, unusual, sets), coasters, ashtrays
- Pens: vintage, older, unusual, again you should know what you're looking for.
- Legos, sell in big lots, manuals, people, bases
- Other building toys: Playmobil, lincoln logs, bionicle?
- Kitchenware: vintage sets, obvious 70s, linens, silverware, utensils
- Dishes/Flatware: best if you know what makers you want, check for cracks and wear
- Linens: aprons, handkerchiefs, curtains, sheets, vintage, unusual, check condition carefully
- Buttons, fabric, other notions: odd, vintage, collectible
- Patterns: vintage, dolls and toys, odd designs
- Airline themes: silverware, jewelry, accessories
- Christmas items: ornaments, music, jewelry, decorations, again Condition, Vintage, Unusual.
- Fast Food toys, the older the better (<2000 at least), best if still in packaging, otherwise vintage in VG+ condition.
- Tools/housewares- vintage, odd/unusual, best woth box/cords/instructions.
This list will be updated as I find more items that sell well, or more ideas. Good luck!