Why I LOVE to Shop Estate Sales + FREE Printable
Hi there! I’m so glad you dropped in today because you’re in for a treat. I’m “partying” with my THRIFTY CHICK friends and our theme is Something You Love.
I think the original idea was to present a Valentine project, but I decided to take a slightly different tack. I’m going to talk about why I LOVE to shop estate sales for the vintage and antiques that I sell or to keep and decorate my home with.
Where do you buy your vintage merchandise? Are you a thrifter? A garage saler? An online (eBay or Etsy) buyer? While we have many options, most of us have a favorite way to “source” our vintage. My first choice has always been garage saling, and until very recently, estate sales landed last on my list.
However, with the changing demographics in our country, I’ve become a HUGE fan of estate sales. They are now pretty much tied with garage sales. So today I’ll share the reasons why I love estate sales so much, but I’ll also give you a look at some recent estate sale finds.
I spent just $20 at a single sale and was able to purchase some interesting items. Let me know what you think. If you were hoping for a Valentine’s Day project then check out the 12 that I have gathered here 🙂
Estate Sales Tend Have a High Density of Vintage & Antiques
Not all estates sales, but most have quite a large quantity of vintage and antiques for sale. This gives you the opportunity to buy more items from one location, rather than taking the time and gas to gallivant around town, hoping to come across a handful of garage sales that feature one or two good pieces, at most.
Companies in the business of holding estate sales are typically most interested in those that have more antiques, since antiques and vintage typically make the most money for sellers. In a world where time is money, it makes sense to focus your time on the place where you’ll find the most antiques. Estate sales are one of those places.
Everything that you see in this post, I picked up at just one estate sale in the dead of winter, when there tend to be less sales.
The vintage gavel cost $2 (value: $15-18); the vintage hand broom cost: $1 (value: $6-8); the early set of 12 feathered darts cost $3 (value: $20-25); and the long natural bristle brush cost $1. The latter looked too much like a bottle brush tree to pass up, so I’m going to turn it into a Christmas tree at some point.
Estate Sales Have a Wide Variety of Merchandise
Not only do estate sales have more vintage and antiques for sale, they have more of EVERYTHING, including household supplies that I need. Things like cookware, dishes, cleaning supplies, tools, and craft supplies can very often be found at estate sales, and in large quantities.
Many of my favorite pots and pans, china, and glassware came from estate sales. And rarely do I have to buy paint, wax, or polyurethane because I always manage to find it at estate sales.
They also tend to be great sources for goods that beg to be upcycled and transformed into something amazing, like tools and old fashioned kitchen wares. Estate sales usually have entire garages and basements full of awesome JUNK that I can use for my various projects, like farmhouse signs and Christmas decor.
Estate sales often contain wonderfully unique items that I love to decorate with personally or offer for sale. For example, I picked up an old grocery store sign that I have hanging in my kitchen. Slightly curved, white on green, it reads “Thompson & Hoague Co.” It’s a prized possession.
This particular sale was lower on the household supplies end of things, but I did find this galvanized dust pan (cost: $1), which I plan to turn into a Christmas decoration and these miniature garden tools which I also plan to use in some sort of DIY project.
Many Estate Sales Have Reasonable & Even CHEAP Prices
Here in Upstate New York, prices at estate sales used to be exorbitant, hence the reason it was my least favorite source of antiques. Early in my vintage-buying career (back in the late 90’s), I very rarely even set foot in one. Plus the idea of waiting in line for an hour or more, only to be literally bumping into other buyers completely turned me off.
However, I’ve noticed an happy phenomena over the past five years or so, and that is a rapid increase in the number of estate sales, which has led to a concurrent lowering (sometimes drastically) of prices due to competition. It’s now possible to buy items with plenty of room for me to four times my investment (or more).
I found these gorgeous chess pieces inside of a candy container, which I bought for $5. Unfortunately, one piece is missing, which thankfully I knew before the purchase.
I thought they were beautiful and believe they likely date to the late 19th century (France). I may try to sell them individually, but I could also try to source the missing piece on eBay.
The bright, amusing graphics on this candy tin (that held my chess pieces) make it very attractive (value: $10-15). The black and pink color-combo date it to the 1940-50’s.
An Austrian refugee and his family started Barton Bonbonnier in 1940’s Brooklyn. They were responsible for rescuing many Jewish refugees and offering them employment upon their arrival in the States. Love that story!
Estate Sales Run by Family Members Often Have Terrific Prices
I’m always on the look-out for sales held by family members as opposed to “professionals.” They tend to be more anxious to make sales and price items lower. By cutting out the middle man (the professionals), the families make money directly and can also enjoy the benefit of seeing with their own eyes, items being sold to people who will appreciate them.
On the few occasions when I’ve suggested to family members holding sales that some of their prices might be too low, they tend to respond with something like, “We just want to make sure things get into the hands of people who will enjoy them.”
When I suspect that a family members are organizing a sale, I will try to attend it early on the first day, so I don’t miss out on any great deals.
The sale where I made all of today’s purchases was not run by a family, but I made some nice buys, like this colorful cutting board (cost: $1, value: $12-15) and MCM corkscrew (cost: $1, value: $5-6). I have a bar cart that I plan to makeover, so I pick up interesting bar ware whenever I come across it.
Getting to Know the Businesses that Hold Estate Sales Has Benefits
Taking the time to get to know the various companies that hold sales in your area has a couple of benefits. One, you many notice over time that they seem to specialize in certain types of sales. Two, knowing the companies that offer decent prices will save you time by allowing you to avoid the higher priced ones.
Three, getting to know staff always benefits you with good customer service and frequently, better prices. I enjoy people and so getting to know the businesses that hold sales and their staff is enjoyable to me, and quite often naturally comes with benefits, as I mentioned.
A few years ago I brought my sweet daughter to her first estate sale where she found a few items she wanted to buy. At the checkout, she asked for a couple of dollars off the price of one item and the woman in charge, who I’ve known for years, said yes, even though it was the first day of the sale.
She told me later that she wanted to encourage my daughter in her new-found hobby (of hoarding vintage, like her mother, LOL). Our long relationship of buying and selling didn’t hurt either.
Make sure to sign up on email lists of companies you like (ask to be put on one, if you don’t see it). Give them your card and ask for theirs in return. Begin to develop a relationship with them because you never know where it will take you!
Even though this General Electric, c.1950-60’s kettle-shaped clock (cost: $3, value: $12-15) is not in the best shape (the coppery finish has seen better days), I found it irresistible. I think someone is going to love it.
So, that’s why I love estate sales, and I think you will too, if you don’t already. I use estatesales.net to locate the sales in my area the night before I want to attend and add them to the list of other places (like garage and church sales) that I plan to stop at as well.
Are you an estate sale lover? Haven’t given them enough of a chance yet? Have a different “favorite” vintage source? Tell me all about it in the comments below!
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I have that candy tin. Nice to hear the story about it. I found mine at a thrift store….back in the late 90’s.
My mother in law loved estate sales. We use to go every week. It was great fun. I remember finding cornishware double egg cups for 50 cents each. I sold them for over 45 dollars each. Ebay was great fun back in the 90’s.
Hi Mel–thanks so much for stopping by! Glad you enjoyed hearing some background on the candy tin 🙂 What an amazing find those egg cups were–talk about profit–woo woo. Take care–
I love estate sales also so while we here in Texas for another month we will be doing just that. We went to thrift shops yesterday and it was a bust. This town is holding a citywide garage sale this weekend with maps to all the homes and those that are in apartments can set up a booth at the civic center for free. Hope to find deals this weekend. Thank you for the article…Great finds at yours.
I know you and your sweet husband will have a ball at that citywide sale, Terry–enjoy them and I’ll live vicariously through you 🙂
I miss your old format.
Sorry it was how my computer loaded your page. Didn’t show the sidebar until I posted my comment.
There have been some awesome estate sales here recently. I drool over the pages on the website, but I have committed to selling what I have before bringing anything new home. However, I have slipped a bit on that rule.
A sale at a hoarding site had me upset that I made the rule because the man had collected so many great things….most of it outside in a large yard, stuffed into all sorts of storage containers (as well as a school bus). I did end up taking home two vintage suitcases, which I just couldn’t pass up. One a small train case which ended up filled with children’s books.
I viewed another sale which had all that vintage stuff that you, Nancy, and others on FB just adore for their booths! I knew if I went I’d be a goner. Sometimes I go just for entertainment, and unless it’s just a really boring sale, I will usually find something.
Love what you found above! I would have gotten the wooden objects and brushes as well as the galvanized dust pan, which looks a lot larger than usual. Very cool!
You’ve got the vintage bug bad, Patty, just like the rest of us! You sound like me, “No, I can’t buy another thing…Oh, honey, look–a garage sale!” Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂
I love estate sales too and especially if they are run by the family! We have a couple estate sale businesses here that charge really high prices on the first day but then they start drastically marking stuff down on the 2nd and 3rd day. I usually hold out until the last day… I figure I won’t miss what I didn’t see on the other days! lol!
Most of the time I’m with you, Tania–I’m happy to sort through the leftovers, which often are pretty good. I’m just not an early bird any more…
I, too, really enjoy estate sales. However, when I first started going to them about 8 yrs ago, it was sad to see many end-of-life supplies & equipment.
Also seeing disrespectful people (usually over zealous dealers) pawing through things someone had once treasured. After I got used to tuning those things out, I began to love the thrill of the hunt. And, I couldn’t help but think that since my thirty-something daughters have no interest in inheriting “family treasures”, it would make me happy to know that they’d be going to someone who would enjoy them.
I, too, use estate sales.net; I find their website helpful and easy to use. When entering an estate sale, I usually go right to the basement since that is often where people put their old things.👍😍
One other thing I’d add is that in the last nine months or so, online estate sales have become big here in the Denver area. Caring Transitions is a company who now has quite a website for them including bidding over a couple week’s time usually. They post lots of pictures & descriptions. When this online auction is over, people come on a certain day to pay & pick-up their items. It seems this is a whole new era beginning to unfold…
Yes, you do have to find a way to reconcile yourself with the sadness of the situation. Not everyone is able to muster up the respect necessary, for whatever reason. It is best to tune that all out, as you say. I like your perspective, imagining people enjoying your things as some point in the future 🙂
I wish we had better estate sales in Florida. I think the reason is so many people move down here so they have the estate sales before they move to Florida. You do get some wonderful things.
That’s so sad, Debra 🙁 I think you’re probably right though, people downsize before setting up house down south. But you guys have some pretty great flea markets (from what I’ve heard), right?
I always shop estate sales, garage sales, yard sales, barn sales, etc. I also shop thrift stores!
Ha ha, me too, Rose! Happy vintage shopping 🙂
I’m glad you’ve come around;) Actually, I’m so happy you’re getting some good ones in your area with reasonable prices. You can get so much from just one sale! So much better use of your time & gas $ than garage sales! I’m itching to hit a good estate sale, but need to hold myself back, since I’m not selling anymore:(
Another bonus: now with the internet, you can see pics of everything and pick the sale you want to hit first! You can also kind of guess where the item is located from the background and make a beeline for the treasure you want badly! Pinned this one like crazy; great info!
I’m so happy, too, Lora! I almost hit one today, but we ended up staying home where it’s cozy and warm. You sound like an estate sale NINJA!! Thanks so much for the pin–
Fabulous post with tips for Estate sale shopping and fantastic finds too! The chess pieces are my favorite!
So fun participating in this month’s challenge with you. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!
So glad you enjoyed the post, Amber 🙂 LOVE our Thrifty Chicks group!
Great post Diana! Can you believe I’ve never been to an estate sale? It’s true. They’re just not done here in my neck of the woods. Estate auctions used to be plentiful, but they’re pretty rare here nowadays. They were so much fun! There are online auctions here now but that kinda takes the fun out of it for me. Maybe one day all us Thrifty Chicks can get together and go estate sale shopping. Wouldn’t that be a blast? Love that teapot clock! I would have had to snap that up too!.
No! That’s crazy that you don’t have them, and SO sad 🙁 Yes, absolutely, I think that would be AMAZING for us to all get together…we’ll have to work on that 🙂
I can’t wait to see how you use your chess pieces; I use them for hitching posts, lamp bases, cemetery headstones, etc. in my miniatures. Some might make great cloche toppers, too! I can see them with a plaid ribbon for Christmas ornaments, too! That Barton tin just feels SOOO familiar; I think my mother must have had a similar one. That galvanized dustpan looks like a wreathe alternative for a door decoration!
Oh my gosh, Kathy–you are SO creative! What amazing uses for chess pieces. Great idea for the dust pan and the tin just sold the other day from my shop for $10 🙂
When I lived in New Jersey I loved going to estate sales. It’s how I furnished my home with vintage and antique treasures. When I moved to Arizona I found the estate sales very disappointing, more 1950’s and 1960’s kitschy stuff, not my style. Different parts of the country have surprisingly different offerings. I love those chess pieces!
It is so interesting, isn’t it Karee, to find such a difference between vintage shopping opportunities around the country. I would never have known except for the comments of my sweet readers 🙂 So glad you liked those handsome chess pieces!
I loved this post! Such awesome finds! I have a thing for brushes and have a wall grouping of some that I have found over the years.
I hardly ever go to estate sales here in Wisconsin, it just never seems to work out for me. I go to garage sales in summer, which are sometimes called estate sales…but in winter there are not many of them.
I do shop thrift stores quite a bit and often find great vintage stuff there. I think it depends on the part of the country you live in. I would suggest that people try all kinds of different venues to find items your are looking for, because you just never know! For me, it is always the thrill of the hunt. Happy hunting everyone!!
I’m so glad you liked the post Dana! I’d love to see a photo of your grouping of brushes–maybe you could post one in my FB group (Your Vintage Headquarters)?? You are absolutely right about testing out different venues and finding what works for you. Recognizing that things change over time is important too, so giving places a second chance isn’t a bad idea 🙂
Thanks Diana, I am posting it now!!