I’ve written horror stories about yard sales. I suppose that part of why I’ve set horror stories at yard sales is because it’s easy for me. It’s way easier to set a story somewhere you know than to research somewhere you don’t know and risk having people point out that you don’t know what the hell you are talking about. I’m all about easy. I know yard sales. Boy, do I know yard sales.
I love yard sales. To me, yard sales are exciting like gambling because you don’t know exactly what fate will befall you, but you often come out with something for your money and your trouble, which is better than gambling. I’ve purchased things I’ve needed at yard sales, I’ve purchased gifts for other people (nice gifts, too), and I’ve purchased things that I’ve re-sold at a profit. I’ve purchased things I just wanted to look at for a minute. My second best yard sale purchase ever was one hundred pairs of chop sticks for a dollar, and I’m grateful I have them whenever I get take-out sushi and forget to grab chop sticks at the restaurant. My best yard sale purchase ever was a signed presentation copy of a book that was written by early baseball star Christy Mathewson. It was the big fish that didn’t get away. I’ll talk about that book forever. I will. Trust me.
Barry, my younger brother, was in town for Memorial Day. I made him drive up on Friday night so we could get up early and hit yard sales. There were a number of attractive-seeming yard sale ads in the paper.
I forced my poor brother out of the house and into the dark, rainy morning at 6:30am. I didn’t allow him to shower or eat. I promised him a biscuit with some meat in it, but only after the shopping was done. I made no promises on the shower. I could have easily been a boss on the Transcontinental Railroad track build.
We hit our first stop right on schedule. Lackluster youth group sale at a church. There were professional pickers chatting in the line before the doors opened. They must own junk stores because they snatched up things at the sale I would never have touched. Or maybe they have basements full of crap and annoyed wives (I had both of those, for a while). Maybe they are just willing to work harder at eBay than I ever was, counting any sale as a good sale, spending hours packaging up items that produced a whole shiny dollar of profit. We bought one thing at the youth sale…a current paperback book for our Mom.
The second stop was one I was excited about. The ad had mentioned outbuildings and the need to clean them out. The driveway made my spirits soar. It wasn’t paved. It was crappy. We couldn’t see the house for the over-grown bushes. Barry hummed the first bars of “Dueling Banjos.” THIS WAS GOING TO BE GREAT! I even had Barry to throw to any rabid hillbillies we might encounter.
There weren’t a lot of people. The only people at the sale lived there. We appeared to be the first shoppers, which was a big bonus. No competition. I saw bottles winking all over the porch. I asked an old man if we could look around despite being early. He said, “Sure! Make yourselves at home!” This was my yard sale wet dream come true.
I know a tiny bit about old bottles. It’s hard won knowledge that I won the hard way by spending too much money on old bottles in the past, which means I’ve spent maybe $5 on old bottles that weren’t collectively worth a quarter. Most old bottles aren’t worth squiddly dot, and that is the truth. However, some are worth a lot. The trick is knowing which ones are worth a lot, and it’s actually hard to ever be sure.
I saw a bottle that I thought was worth something. Even if it wasn’t, I liked it. It was brown, embossed with an old fashioned bank safe, and advertised a “SAFE” Kidney and Liver cure, which is fairly funny because the cure had probably been mainly liquor. It wouldn’t had cured anything, and it certainly wouldn’t have been SAFE for anyone with actual kidney or liver disease.
The bottle wasn’t priced. I decided that I would be willing to pay $10 for it, but I really wanted to pay $1. I don’t fool around with patent medicine stuff, normally. There was a lot of it produced and not a lot of people collect it. What I liked about this bottle was the elaborately embossed safe, and I needed to like the safe because I could very well end up stuck with this bottle. The old man told me that he would be willing to part with it for $45. Ha-effing-ha.
This wasn’t my wet dream yard sale, after all. The old man said something about antique shows. He was a failed antiques dealer acting like all successful antiques dealers sell from their porches. Honestly, I would have been happier to see rabid hillbillies. I ran screaming from the yard sale. Well, I was screaming on the inside.
Listen to me now, Failed Antiques Dealers. Your yard is not a store. I don’t care if you DID pay for a yard sale ad in the paper and you consider that to be kind of like having a billboard. I’m not interested in reimbursing you for the newspaper ad that tricked me into thinking this was a yard sale when it is actually you trying to pretend your yard is a store.
I’m not going to pay antique store prices in your yard, even if I really like what you have. I don’t go to yard sales with my check book. I go to yard sales with the change from the cup holder in my car, and you’ll be lucky if those coins aren’t stuck together by dried spilled Coke.
I came to take advantage of your lack of storage space. I didn’t come to help you prove to your wife that you don’t have to have a real job because you really are a gifted antiques dealer or to help you keep your house from going into foreclosure. I don’t care to hear what people who aren’t at your yard sale are willing to pay for things, and I don’t care to hear what you paid for the things you are trying to sell me.
There are cannibals and dangerous, scary people in my yard sale horror stories. But, to me, antiques dealers throwing yard sales are the worse yard sale horrors of all.