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Garage Sale Shopping Tips from a Pro (My Dad!)

I’ve loved garage sales since I was a kid. Now, I’m about to turn 62 and I have turned into a picker. I pick up cheap gems at garage sales that I feel confident I can flip at 10x what I paid.

Think about it...if I told you I had a stock that will instantly be worth 10x what you paid, wouldn’t you buy it?

Most purchases are a buck with the biggest being my $100 Victrola. Bonus- it had extra needles, tone arms and the original instructions and record cleaning pad. It’s moved cross country and still works great after two decades.

My main passion is records, but these tips work for anything you're looking to score at a garage sale.

1. Get there before it opens (15 mins)

Most folks are happy to see shoppers. There are always a handful of others who seek what you do. Beat them to it!

2. It never hurts to ask about an item you like

My Victrola was tucked in the back of the garage and was not in the sale. I always ask about records. One seller said, “I think my dad was a DJ, let me check.” She brought out a dozen boxes of mint LPs (please NEVER call them vinyls).

3. If the price is good, pay it

If it seems a bit high, offer half by handing them the cash and asking, “Is that ok for this”? I’m telling you-it never fails.

4. Use your phone for quick research

I almost passed on a buck LP that was worth $200. Thanks, internet! Keep in mind eBay can have the same item for $5 and $100. Err on the low side when considering value.

5. If it looks cool, pick it up

You can lose that gem while deciding or using your phone if you leave it on the table.

6. Finish shopping before you negotiate

The more you buy, the more they deal. Meanwhile, listen to the owner talk with other buyers to gauge their disposition.

7. People do business with people they like

I always chat with the seller as I walk up. Besides just being nice, it’s a plus during negotiations. Garage sales are a cool way to get a peek into someone's life and get to know people in your community, both the seller and other shoppers.

8. Diversify your cash

Always have a few quarters, a stack of ones and a hundred bucks on you. It makes it easier to make change, and you're not flashing big bills around when you don't need to.

9. Consider the lighting

Bring a headlamp if the sale is indoors. Now, go find that gem!

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