a garage sale story.

I’ve mentioned before that my day job is at City Hall and it’s located in a fairly residential area.  That makes it somewhat convenient for lunchtime garage saling.

The other day I had to run a couple of boring errands at lunch, but I had about 30 minutes to spare so I followed some random garage sale signs.  It was a pretty fall day, cool but sunny, so I think a lot of people decided to throw together one last garage sale before the snow flies.

When I pulled up to the first sale I saw a little old lady sitting in a lawn chair all by herself.  I always see that as a good sign.  Little old ladies have the best stuff, usually at the lowest prices.

Not so this time.  This particular little old lady had easily over 100 jigsaw puzzles and that was about it.

  But tucked in among those puzzles was a gallon sized Ziploc bag with a set of ‘day of the week’ dishtowels.  Except they had only been stamped with the designs, the embroidery had never been done.  Clearly she had good intentions, but never finished the job.  The price?  $30!

What?!  Even if they were embroidered, $30 would be high for a garage sale price.  Especially a ‘little old lady’ garage sale price.

So, I walked away with nothing.

The next sale I found was being held in a garage that was chock full of mounted deer heads.  Literally, there were at least 20 of them on the wall.  In the garage.  They weren’t there as part of the sale, there was a very prominent sign that said “items on walls not for sale!”  Those things aren’t cheap, so it surprised me to see them displayed in the garage.  I mentioned something along those lines to the sale’s proprietor, a gentlemen probably around my age, and he said “you should see inside the house, that’s where all the best ones are.”

Oh my.

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty seriously creeped out by stuffed dead animals of any kind.  But this is Minnesota.  There are many, many hunters here and it’s not at all unusual to see mounted trophies.  So I didn’t let that deter me because clearly this garage sale was being held by a Collector with a capital C (unlike me, a non-collector).

This person collected dolls, depression glass, chintzware tea pots, vintage wood working tools, figurines … and obviously, mounted deer heads.  An odd combination to be sure.  I asked the guy if this was his parent’s house.  Perhaps dad was a hunter and mom was the collector.  But he never really answered that question.

Had I come across this sale 15 years ago, I definitely would have nabbed the chintzware teapots.  I used to collect those too, but I got rid of all of mine except this one favorite.

Luckily for me … among all of the collectibles there were some vintage Christmas ornaments.

Unluckily for me, the ornaments were sorted into Ziploc bags (again with the Ziplocs!), fab vintage ornaments mixed with junky tacky ornaments.  And they were priced at $10 per bag, a little steep.  But then I did a little math in my head, each bag had around a dozen good ornaments mixed in with 4 or 5 bad ones.  So even though $10 felt high, it was less than $1 per ornament, so I grabbed two bags.

I ended up with a really nice assortment of ornaments, many of them shaped like bells or other shapes.

I was especially excited to realize I’d scored not just one, but two teapot shaped ornaments.

It’s amazing to me that those delicate little spouts and handles haven’t been broken.

I also grabbed this toolbox.  It’s pretty rusty, but I love the size and shape.  I want to try and save the design on the front, but we’ll see how that goes.

As I was checking out, the proprietor asked me if there was anything else I collected.

  ‘No, um, well, yes, to be honest, yes I collect a few things but I hate to admit it.’

I mentioned vintage wind up alarm clocks and he said “There are tons of clocks inside, do you want to come in and take a look.”

I glanced over at the 40 fake deer eyes staring at me from the walls of the garage, looked around and noticed that I was totally alone here.  I realized that this was the point in every horror movie where the audience wants to yell “noooo!  don’t go through that door!”  So I politely said “no thank you” and walked away with my bag of ornaments and my tool box.

Chances are probably good that I missed out on some great vintage stuff from inside the house.  Had I not been alone, it would have been a different story.  But you just never know.  After all, if I didn’t return from my lunch break how long would it take for my co-workers to start to wonder where I was?  And after that, how long before they guessed that maybe I stopped at some garage sales?  How many months before they find my body buried out behind that garage full of mounted deer heads?  I can just picture the ‘made for TV movie’ now, can’t you?




32 thoughts on “a garage sale story.

  1. I truly love your ornaments and tool box but I love you more! So relieved to hear that you didn’t take him up in his offer to go inside. No vintage treasure is worth your safety. Enjoy the items you did find.


  2. You were probably freaked out by Casey’s room full of animal mounts Linda!!! Can’t take that away from the boy who loves to hunt!! I have a few stories about being out and about by myself also.


  3. Good thinking girl you can never be to careful! And there you go finding more the vintage ornaments. I did find some recently at a Humane Society Thrift Store in North Carolina. I love this concept all the employees volunteer except the manager so they can rescue and save animals. Just curious do you have these stores in Minnesota? Back to the ornaments I have no idea what a reasonable price is for them. This particular town is full of retirees so they always ornaments and many times vintage mixed in a ziplock like you found. Do you have a price in mind when you are buying vintage? You mentioned the ones you bought were a dollar a piece is that the norm?


    1. I’m not familiar with any Humane Society thrift stores here in Minnesota. I’ll have to look around. As for the ornaments, when I buy them in an antique shop they usually run $3 – $4 each. Normally when I buy them at garage sales I only pay a few dollars for a box of a dozen or so. So, $1 each was still a bargain compared to shop prices, but more than I normally pay at garage sales. These ornaments also really appealed to me because they were in my favorite colors, pinks and aquas!


  4. Yeah, probably a good thing you didn’t go in. Too close to our Disney trip to disappear now. The little teacup ornaments are very cute. Very surprised they are still intact.


  5. Love the teapot ornaments. Have never seen any like that. Can’t believe the handles and spouts are still intact either. Glad you’re safe but by the end of the post I was cracking up.


  6. I had to read your Don’t Go Through That Door paragraph to my husband when he asked why I spit out my tea. Really looking forward to see what magic you do to that rusty old tool box. BTW, I finally opened up that jar of Limestone and didn’t stop till I had painted the first things I could get my hands on. Love how that color turns out! If you have time, please drop by and see my four newly painted things and know I gave you a shout out and a link to your last Limestone painted dresser. Thanks for all the info and inspiration.


  7. Glad you’re being safe, too! Once my husband and I went into an old shop in a house and went to check out the old stone basement. We quickly realized we were alone there with no other exit, or customers in the house and could have easily found ourselves in a Pulp Fiction situation. We got out of there quickly! Still creeps me out.
    Love the ornaments…they are always a great find!


  8. I am Proud of you for not going inside, alone! However…my Husband Is A Garage Sale Pro. He Always Asks the person Having The Sale If They Have Any Old Stuff They Would !ike To Get rid Of. He comes home with the best stuff! They will ask him what he is looking for, he tells them, and they either say, no, yes, lots more come inside or “I have a friend that has that kind of stuff and wants to get rid of it! He then goes to the
    friends place when they contact him,as he had left His phone number. His fellow antique dealers hate him for it! Lol You would be shocked at the little old ladies that are alone and invite him in! At least twice, they invited him in while he was on his lunch break and fed him lunch!!! He is 6’2” and weighs 350!! I wouldn’t invite him in if I did not know him!! He is a charming conversationist and there are a lot of lonely ladies! LOl


  9. I just enjoy your garage sale stories! I wish you hadn’t been alone, so you could describe the inside of that place. Wonder who this guy was in relation to the owner? The fact he didn’t answer your question was a red flag to me, & glad you didn’t enter the house!


    1. If the number of items in the garage was any indication, that house was probably chock full of vintage goodies. It was a bit odd that the guy didn’t answer my question, but then again maybe he just wasn’t paying attention when I asked. It did feel a little bit like the wicked witch was trying to lure me with candy though.


  10. I am cracking up! You might have been one of the “heads” on the garage wall if you stuck around much longer! Glad you did not go in the house!


  11. Just finished reading everyone’s comments and I concur that we have to be aware of our surroundings. I recently read an article by a local writer who was remembering his hitchhiking days as a young college student. He told about an elderly couple who invited him to sleep over at their house, rather than go to a rental situation. It’s sad that we all have to hang back and be wary for our safety, since the purpose of the writer’s article was recounting the wonderful people he met on his hitchhiking trip to Canada. I have sometimes thought of picking up a hitchhiker, but would never succumb to that urge, for safety’s sake. No answers or suggestions, just wistfully wondering if there is any way to reconcile our desire to trust and help but to be safe…
    Life is complicated and we have to be safe. Perhaps I should offer to hire myself out as a “junking buddy” who has black belt credentials?


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