Generations of Thrifting
I have always loved garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores, anywhere I could find a good treasure, but recently I tried my first live auction… I’m hooked! Growing up my grandpa (Dad’s dad) was the haggler of our family. We lived on a fairly major road in Grand Junction and had a half circle driveway. My grandparents lived half a block down the road that made the T intersection right at our house. Then my great aunt and uncle were snowbirds another half block down the road and my aunt and her family live another half block down. One more aunt and her family lived on the other side of town. The only sibling of my Dad’s missing was his brother who lived in Nevada.
We would host a 5 family yard sale once a year. Everyone had to tag their items with stickers with their initials. My mom kept a notebook at the check out stand to track each family’s purchases. And my Grandpa, well he worked the sale as the master haggler. It is one of my fondest memories watching him wheel and deal with customers. I wish he were still around today as I think he and I would have had a blast treasure hunting together. Sadly, he passed when I was only 17. He passed on his love of haggling and finding a good treasure though. My Dad is great at going through the thrift stores, knowing when the sales are, and finding a great deal.
A Day of Deals
Once spring time hits, Cody and I are in the truck with our girls almost every weekend hitting up the garage sales and estate sales. Garage sales and estate sales are very different from each other and each have their own etiquette. You can read more about garage sales here and more about estate sales here. And if you want to become a master negotiator read more here. On a warm day in early March we decided to check out some local garage sales. We found a few items of interest but nothing big. Some small bunnies I painted to make the cutest Easter decor.
Along the way we also found my dream home. Isn’t it gorgeous?!
Once we exhausted the garage sales we decided to hit up the hardware store on the north side of Fort Collins that sits next door to an auction yard. When we pulled up to the hardware store Cody said, “Oh, it’s an auction day! We have to go walk it so you can check it out.” Of course I agreed.
My First Live Auction
We went over and started to walk the aisles and aisles of items laid out on the ground. Everything from farm equipment to furniture. As we walked the aisles I saw a set of chairs that were exactly like the style a customer of mine was looking for! After texting a photo to my customer and getting her price limit, Cody went and got me an auction number. At this point the girls were getting a bit restless so he left with them to get some lunch while I stayed to see how this all worked.
As I stood there watching the crowd gather around the auctioneer, I realized I stuck out like a sore thumb! Everyone there was dressed in blue jeans, boots, and Carhart style coats. Rugged, cowboy clothing. And then there was me in my heart LulaRoe leggings, a stripped shirt, and a black vest wearing a baby carrier, with no baby in it, along with my tall black riding style boots. All I could do was giggle inside. I perused the aisle the auctioneer was coming down when I noticed a vintage scale, an antique ladder, and a rusty water trough, all of which I wanted. While waiting, another furniture refinisher/junk collector who has done a lot of the same shows we have approached me. She and I chatted for a little while before I decided to jump in.
The Action Begins
Here is what I believe to be the key to the auction. Set a price in your head of the max you are willing to pay and stick with it. Don’t get swept up in the excitement of the bidding and the pressure of the auctioneer. The first thing for me to bid on was the scale. At this point they changed things up and pointed out 6 different items in a lot and said the bidding would be for your choice of one item. This meant that when I was bidding, I didn’t know if I was bidding against them for the scale or another item in this group. Basically you are bidding to have first pick.
I set my max price in my head and the first round went well above my max. I bowed out once they went above my max. The gentleman who won the first round took a very nice blender. I lost the second round. And by the third round I won at half of my max! The auctioneer nodded and gave me a smile when I went to pick up my scale. To me it seemed like it was an approval that I stuck to my guns on my max. If I had gotten caught up in the excitement, I would have paid well over my max but instead I got it for half off!
Next item I wanted was an old ladder. They ran it the same way with a grouping and the choice going to the winning bidder. For that lot, no one else wanted to bid so I got the ladder for dirt cheap. The auctioneer commented how you can’t find old ladders like that any more and seemed to appreciate my desire to take the ladder.
Then I bid on the water trough and got it. Cody came back moments later and asked what I was going to do with it. I told him I wasn’t sure yet but that I really liked it. I am still debating whether we should make it into a coffee table to sell or use it as a planter for flowers in our front yard.
Hmmm… What do you think?!
More To Come
After having some food and letting the girls play with a couple doll houses that were in one of the lots (we bid on them, but they went too high for us at $95 each, probably worth that but more than we could afford that day), it was almost two hours later until they got to the furniture grouping where the chairs were. At this point the girls were definitely hitting their limit and were pretty dirty. I will say that this was a learning experience for us and, while I didn’t mind waiting as I love a good people watching session, it got long for the girls. In the future we will leave them home. The other piece is they have two auctioneers working two different rows at a time. Thus Cody and I would go ahead to look over the rows, make a list of the items we want to bid on with our max price and then divide up to maximize our coverage.
Once they got to the furniture lot, I was a bit distracted by the girls wanting attention. All of a sudden Cody is tapping the back of my shoulder and telling me to bid. I turned and looked at him funny as it wasn’t the chairs and I wasn’t super interested in everything else. They were auctioning an old footlocker and a child’s rocking chair for $2 and no one was bidding. I bid and got both for $2! That was definitely the steal of the day!
Finally, they got to the chairs after two other ladies bid high over a bombay dresser. While beautiful, bombay style furniture just doesn’t speak to me. They started the bidding at $5 for all 4 chairs. I bid of course. No one else bid. The auctioneer kept calling for $7.50. I thought he caught someone behind him for the $7.50 so when he turned back and looked at me I raised my hand again figuring we were going to $10. He laughed and said, “I will help you raise your children but I won’t help you raise your bid!” And then he said SOLD! Who is the crazy lady in her funky outfit bidding against herself?!
At this point Cody had carried the water trough and small items to the truck already. We didn’t want to make more than one trip as the girls were done. We loaded Cody up with 3 chairs and loaded me up with the two girls and one chair. Boy did I get some funny looks.
After loading everything in the truck I went to the main office to pay. As I stood in line, a former high school student of mine stood behind me and chatted. You never know where you are going to run into someone. At the counter the clerk showed me my list of items to confirm before I paid. I realized we had forgotten to load the footlocker and rocking chair! I texted Cody right away. He met me where they had been left and helped me haul them back to the truck where the girls were sleeping.
Needless to say, I am completely hooked on auctions! I loved every minute of it and can’t wait for the next one.
Our Next Show
In the meantime we have been cleaning up our new found treasures to bring to our next show The Vintage Whites Market in Denver. We hope to see you there or at any of our future shows! We would love to here about your treasure hunting experiences!
Happy Treasure Hunting,