The annual Oak Meadows neighborhood garage sale didn’t start for another five minutes.
But already, cars lined the street. Bargain-
hunters were milling around, scoping out interesting furniture, unique artwork and useful everyday items such as baby clothes, appliances and stereo equipment.
Some even helped homeowners set out their goods, to get a sneak peak at the deals.
“You get the first look at everything. It’s the thrill of the hunt, just to see if you can find the best deals,” Edinburgh resident Art Briddle said.
When it comes to garage and yard sales, the dusty garbage that one person passes by is a rare treasure to someone else. Summertime is prime season for sales, and every weekend shoppers pick through tables of other people’s belongings to get that one special item.
Johnson County’s best shoppers are canvassing neighborhoods looking for their next unique find. Getting the best antique glassware set or rare collectible figurine requires careful planning, an early start and a watchful eye.
“You can find a lot of good things at garage sales. There are all different levels of values and pricing, and it pays to go look, because you never know what you’ll find,” Greenwood resident Dixie Knott said.
Knott watched from her garage as people milled through her collection of furniture, household decorations and framed artwork. They peered at a vintage Celtic decanter and glass set, and checked out recliners, sofas and an Ethan Allen table with a rotating top.
For once, she was hosting a sale rather than shopping. A long-time garage sale enthusiast, she decided to take a break from buying once her house was full with items.
Knott had spent the past year cleaning out her collection, marking items that she was willing to part with and recruiting anyone else who had used goods to sell to bring them over.
In order to entice people up her driveway, she separated her goods by category — clothing, furniture, collectibles.
“If you can get it outside without rain, great. You can spread it out, let people see it, and it attracts them to come,” she said. “It’s getting the right person who wants the things that you have. That’s the key.”
Briddle perused the selection at Knott’s giving everything a careful glance before moving on to the next house. His friends call him the “Garage Sale King” for his ability to pick a valuable trinket from the mass of household goods.
He doesn’t set out with a list of items that he looks for. But as a coin enthusiast, his eyes are constantly searching for any new piece for his collection.
At a recent sale, he found a silver dollar that was going for $5. Collectors tend to sell the coins for three or four times that.
“Normally, you don’t find much silver money or gold coins, because those tend to be priced too high for garage sales. This was the first one I’d found in a while,” he said.
Anita Smith and Donna Broyer have been garage-sale scoping together for 30 years. They spend early parts of the week digging through the classified sections of area newspapers, circling the ones in Greenwood that look to have the most diverse selection.
They’ve noticed that fewer people are starting their sales on Thursday, instead opting to catch the weekend crowd on Fridays and Saturdays, Smith said.
With a route in mind for the most effective shopping, they head out at dawn. Getting to the sales when they first start ensures you get first crack at the selection, Smith said.
At one particular sale, Broyer had loaded up with a metal stand for a garden. Later in the day, she found a decorative wire basket that interested her.
“We’re not looking for anything. It’s the hunt. That’s what makes this so fun,” she said.
Often, it’s not that the stuff in the garage sale is worthless, but items that the owners no longer have room for.
Sarah Walker had moved from Carmel into her parents’ former house in Greenwood. While all of her possessions were out and packed anyway, she decided to sell the furniture and decorative items that didn’t fit in the new home.
Bookshelves, a roll top desk and a glass-top table all went in the first 30 minutes of the sale. Tables covered in silver candelabras and stainless steel wine caddies drew a constant stream of onlookers.
But the real draw were the baby clothes, car seats and toys that Walker’s sister included in the sale.
“We put all of the big items out there so people can see them. Other than that, we rely on our neighbors, who are pros at this,” she said.
Terry Fewell has spent years searching out estate, garage and yard sales to find the weird and rare. He had uncovered stone spearpoints and Mardi Gras tokens from the 1970s.
One time, he found a program from the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Henry Wallace in 1941. At his uncle’s home, he uncovered three programs from the 1973 Kentucky Derby — the first victory for eventual Triple Crown winner Secretariat.
His prize, though, was a unique poster from the Henry Trefflich Co. originally printed in the 1940s. The poster listed purchase prices for rare African and Asian animals, including tigers, snakes and chimpanzees.
“This guy was the world’s premier seller of zoos and parks of wild animals. Here he’s selling two elephants for $2,000,” Fewell said.
Because he is often out buying new pieces for his collection, Fewell has at least one garage sale every year. He moves framed artwork, rows of collectible glasses and other unique treasures into the driveway for the public to see.
Fewell has applied what he’s learned as a shopper to his approach to selling.
“Signs, signs, signs. The most important thing is signs that people can read, not ones with a lot of little words,” “If I were going to write a book on garage-saling, it would start with signs.”