I can't count how many times I've noticed some darling pair of shoes, beautiful piece of furniture, or stunning vase only to be told by the owner that they bought it at a garage sale for a steal.
You see, I don't ever find those treasures. I'm the one that goes to garage sales where they're only selling 8-tracks of Crystal Gayle and soiled baby's bibs for 25cents each. The irony of this most magical power to identify the world's worst garage sales is that my family knows how to put on the All-American-Yard-Sale to beat anyone. Don't laugh. I'm serious. My mom, a retired general manager for her parents' successful gift store, reaches into the depths of her vast retail experience and actually merchandises her inventory. She has stations manned for questions. There are cashiers who know how to count back change. She will even pull out paper for wrapping those most precious breakables and bags to tote the junk to your car. You can't understate the scale of her garage sales. Where most people get excited at pulling in $300 over a weekend she easily walks away with nearly a grand. It's kind of scary.
Now magnify this picture by a thousand, add my aunt (a professional decorator and sales woman in her own rite) and you may begin to imagine the liquidation of my grandparent's home this past weekend. They called it an "Estate Sale." It was nothing short of organized extortion. People coming simply didn't have a chance. Before they even entered the front door they were greeted with no less than four volunteer staff all waiting to serve, answer questions, or schlepp out those large purchases with dollies. The garage was conspicuously closed, but no worries - an email sign-up was provided for the convenience of potential buyers interested in coming back to view the good of a finalist in the "He Who Has The Most Tools Wins" contest. Multiple couches, appliances in good working order, desks and small household goods all stood ready for purchase prior to even passing the threshold. What these visitors encountered next was dumbfounding.
Every inch of my grandparents' nearly 2000 square foot home, along with the granny unit and quarter acre backyard, were packed with items covering just about every known interest in Christendom. Each room was themed giving browsers an opportunity to peruse anything from antique china and cut crystal to meticulously handcrafted lace and fine linens. The odds and ends were out too with no less than six televisions, some 32 spatulas, ginormous speakers that would have put Ike Turner's home recording studio to shame, and 4327 individual matchbooks - a lifetime's collection. There was a sales associate in every room providing gracious help or, if necessary, bouncer back-up in case someone tried to escape without actually buying anything. We even had runners who would gladly begin a tab for you at the check-out by whisking your selected items from your arms thereby freeing you for more shopping.
But what really put the cap on this amazing event were the items themselves. I mean, anyone can have a lot of junk. It isn't necessarily compelling to walk into a house filled with commemorative Happy Days memorabilia. As much as we all loved the Fonz his silkscreened face on a thousand porcelain objects does not necessarily loosen the purse strings. And if it does then you need to be spending your money on help not another miniature Cunningham portrait shellacked onto a trivet.
But I digress. Back to the stuff.
You know those shows where people bring in the really old junk they bought at someone's garage sale and a professional assess it and tells you that it comes from the Chinese Ming Dynasty and is worth 7.3 gazillion dollars even though you haggled the poor schmo so he would come down from $5 to $3.75? I'm not saying anyone haggled me down that much, but I won't be surprised when one of those episodes proudly displays a random antique apothecary jar, which William Shakespeare used for inspiration when writing his famous Romeo and Juliet, that sat on my grandparent's bar for no less than 27 years.
If you disbelieve me just take a gander at the following photo:
This is a travel belt used before the days of fanny-packs (or by those still somewhat concerned about how they look while huffing to the top of Mt. Everest). You could tuck a small amount of cash into an inside pocket and then zip it up before resting it snug against your pants. No one was stealing your money. Also, you weren't accessing it without risking a public nudity fine so in effect this ingenious contraption protected money from robbers and from spendthrifts. My aunt priced this leather gem at $5, but realized that it wasn't competitive in the free market. Wisely, she chose to mark it down to $1.50. While she was changing the tag she noticed that the zipper was stuck. Not wanting to be caught selling damaged goods, Gail worked to get the zipper open (even getting help when it became too stubborn for her because one simply can't let a one dollar and fifty cents used leather belt sell with a stuck zipper). What unfurled from that tiny space was a crisply folded $100 dollar bill.
Admittedly I wasn't shocked. After all, these are my grandparents. I just wish some of the Hyler eccentricities of money management had rubbed off on me.