Sunday, July 22, 2012

Relative Values

I had an email the other day from Austin at, telling me about their Garage Saling World Championship. Basically, you spend up to $25 at yard sales, blog about it, send them a link to your blog, and you’re in the running for a $25 VISA gift card (ironically something that can’t be used at garage sales!). Judging criteria: best bang for the buck. Heck, I figure I’m a shoo in! Then I started thinking about the whole bang-for-the-buck thing, and I’ve decided they’ve chosen a rather complicated criteria.

For instance, we could look at resale value. I got a lot of bang out of the vintage toy monkey that cost me two bucks and sold for $130.


And that Rolex box (just the box, mind you!) that cost fifty cents…it came with a great story behind it, and sold for over $150.

Rolex box

Finding something that would cost many, many times what you paid if you bought it in a store is always a thrill, and probably what makes garaging an addictive sport. I shall immodestly give myself full marks in this category. Some examples: last year I spent $20 for four Hans Wegner CH23 chairs. I had no idea who they were by, but liked their midcentury vibe. It was so exciting to research them and realize what I’d found.


I just went looking for current prices on these. There are some on eBay priced at over $700…EACH. Everything else I found online had been sold. I think I did well that day! Ditto for the day I picked up two living room chairs that I could tell were midcentury, but were so dirty I was afraid the finish had been ruined. But I got both for $7, and they turned out to be in beautiful condition under the dirt, and designed by Hans Olsen. Just saw one for sale online – for $1100…and I have two of them. Woo hoo!

Hans Olsen chair

I also place a high value on feeling clever or smart. Don’t you love finding something you can repurpose? I picked up a toy xylophone this weekend for fifty cents, the second in a month.


I made a wind chime out of the first one that’s hanging in the crabapple tree outside my office window. I like it so much I’m going to make a couple more with this one, combining notes that will make nice chords.


Then there was the shirt I picked up a few weeks ago for a couple of bucks, planning to resell it. Citron Santa Monica brand, which if you hang around places like Nordstrom's you know is pretty pricey. Alas, there was a small stain on the shirt I didn’t notice, so I couldn’t resell it. But it was perfect for recovering a sofa pillow I plucked out of a free box, and now it’s Zoe’s favorite companion as she naps on the couch.

Zoe & pillow

For me, the true measure of value is probably how useful something is to me.. Take our apple peeler. I paid a buck for it back in February of 2006.

apple peeler

These puppies cost maybe $20, a nice discount but hardly earth shaking. It was several years old, and had belonged to a kindergarten teacher who used it in her classroom, so it had a nice history. Didn’t know how well it would work, but it turned out to be a fabulous machine. Peels, cores and slices in about two seconds. We learned to make tarte tatin which takes no time with a sheet of puff pastry out of the freezer and is an absolutely killer dessert. Warm apple and cinnamon smells in your kitchen on a winter’s night…priceless. And the darned machine will even peel potatoes! Lots of bang in that buck.

As pragmatic as I am, I have plenty of finds that are in my home purely because they make me smile. Like my ten-cent Steiff bunny

Steiff bunny

or the house of blocks ($1) that I arranged into one of my favorite reading slogans


or this group of folks (less than $2 for all of them).


Even Disapproving Angel Kitty cracks me up.


Still, garaging is not just about stuff, it’s about people, and this is probably the most valuable part of all. You know how much I value the stories that come with the stuff I buy. I love my apple peeler, but knowing it spent years making five-year-olds excited about learning adds so much to its value. We just love the round rag rug I found a few weeks ago, but the note detailing how it was made added so much to the purchase. When I go garaging with a friend, the time we spend together is worth so much. I even have friends that I met at garage sales, like Linda. We used to get together weekly to play rounds on our hammer dulcimers. Neither of us can play worth a darn, but we had a great time! Here she is in her $5 lion dance mask. Hmmmm, maybe she should win the contest! 

So how did I do this week in the bang-for-the-buck sweepstakes? Ironically, I spent a total of $24.95 – just squeaked under the $25 limit! The big find was something my husband spent several hours out shopping for this week, a screen door!


We need several, but this is the right size for a couple of our doors. Cost $20, which if you’ve priced these puppies lately you’ll know is a great deal. And the guy I bought it from was a hoot. He had to show me his new screen door, one of those retractable ones. He rolled it in and out several times so I could fully appreciate its coolness.

From a lady nursing a 3-week-old baby I picked up a full length mirror. We’ve lived for nearly a year without one, which has been a change from our last house, which had entire mirrored walls in every room. Now I have to figure out where to hang this one.


For entertainment I scored a couple of DVDs (Miss Pettigrew is one of my absolute faves, and the book is even better)


and a stack of free magazines. The lady at this sale actually came out of the house to give me the latest ones she had when she saw I’d picked some out of her free box.


And for this week’s vintage score, we have two adorable milk glass salt shakers, probably from the Sixties. Dang, they’re cute – and they were a dime each.


There was even free entertainment. You have to love a scarecrow dancing to the music only he can hear from Kokopelli’s flute.


Whether or not I ever win anything in the Garage Saling World Championships…I win, every time I go garaging!



  1. I want to go shopping with you! You find the best stuff.

  2. Yes you are a shooo in, mainly because you write so well and amusingly.

  3. I'm going to check this out! I don't buy stuff because of the monetary value but because I like it! I have found some valuable stuff once in a while. My sister has started going with me and we have gotten closer than ever.

  4. I have had read your blog for so long, cannot remember how I found you. Do you belong to

  5. Great post. I clicked over to and--perhaps you know already--Oregon appears to be the best state for garage sale-ing by far. Coincidence?

  6. Wow! I have had some pretty good luck in the "Danish chair department", myself - but yours are just amazing!!

  7. sounds like a wonderful week! Wish I had an apple peeler like that!

  8. I liked the point of the post. Thanks for writing it.

  9. The other side of the coin is also a winner: We had our own garage sale last weekend with two of our neighbors. It was a lot of work for the meager proceeds $145 between the three of us, but well worth the effort in terms of neighbor-bonding, space recovered, and simple fun!

  10. Oh man, I used to have that monkey when I was a kid. I loved it so much...probably because my sisters thought it was creepy. I should start following you on Ebay, I would have snapped it up!

  11. I have that monkey, gotten in 1975!!! How old was yours? I could use $150.

  12. It's Mr. Monk!!! My big sister had that monkey, then my brother glommed on to him (and loved him to pieces). Then big sister got another one of the monkeys, and I glommed on to him (and loved him to pieces). She finally got her very own Mr. Monk to keep (and love, but not to pieces) at a yard sale a few years back.


I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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