Estate Sale Nonsense

It was Friday morning and I was trying to “take care of business” but it didn’t go as well as I hoped.

First I went to pick up some free vintage button pins from a house about four miles away. Some were notably from the 1970s, political and a tad saucy, but so intriguing. This was an easy peasy Free-Cycle transaction. (My eldest was happy to take a few, some I will keep and the rest sell.)

Then I went to an Apple store. I had an appointment to unlock and erase my deceased brother’s phone and make it my new phone. It’s 90% done. (I need to call our cell phone provider to activate the new phone.) But I’ll admit it will feel a little weird using it. I will always think of it as Dave’s phone.

Next I went to a local estate sale of an old house–a very large, quirky house on a HUGE property with a large pool and at least four outbuildings. (These were people with serious money!) I was there within the first hour of a three-day sale and hoped to score some great vintage items. Sadly half the items were not priced and many that were priced seemed notably over priced for an estate sale. Oh dear.

I did buy this small stone vase. This shape is very atypical of the ones I normally find as is the color combo of seaweed green and light gray.

After doing some research at home I wondered if my vase might be jade! Check out this piece of jade from Pakistan. (This sells for $309 from Wayfair.)

But is my vase marble or jade? Well, I learned you can drop a bit of lemon juice or vinegar on the piece and marble will bubble a little because of the calcite in it. Jade will be unaffected. So I gave it a try. I put a drop of white vinegar on the bottom and examined it using my jeweler’s loupe. Drat I saw little bubbles form in the vinegar drop! So it’s just marble. Still no regrets buying it.

Now the house had thousands of books of all sorts in almost every room. And I thought okay, maybe I just need to focus on books. But I had no idea how they were priced. Usually when there is this many books in an estate sale there will be a sheet posted with set prices, like $1 or $2 for paperbacks and $2 or $3 for hardbacks. But not here. Each had to be considered individually by the woman at the check-out station. Likewise they had staff wandering around upstairs and when I asked about the prices on some of the clothes I got the same answer “She prices them at checkout.”

This is a seriously awful way to run an estate sale. I didn’t bother with any of the clothes. Folks would buy a lot more if she was more forthcoming about prices or allowed her assistants to price things. I am not going to wait in a check-out line just to find out a price!

In the end I only had six books in my basket and ended up buying five…out of thousands…and I’m a book person!!! Then I remembered..this estate sale company is the same one from the last sale I attended. They were overpriced there too and even on the last day only offering 20% off. [I may go again to this sale as it turns out they are taking 50% off on most things today, but that also means it will be crowded. 🥺]

But here’s the “book scoop.” Typically I look for books with age and quirky subject matter. Illustrated books are a plus as are first editions. Dust jackets are a bonus, particularly with their price still intact (unclipped). In fact for some books having the original dust jacket makes the book considerably more valuable. I leave best sellers behind. And I do not look up books at the sale. Takes the fun out of it.

Once home I use to find out approximately how many other copies are for sale and at what price. I put in as many details as I can including, the publisher and publication date. I want to be comparing apples with apples. (Yes, I do look up solds on Worthpoint, but Worthpoint collects mostly eBay data and books are sold in so many other channels and for more money.)

In the end, I paid $10 for the five books. Here’s what I bought…

Here are my Bookfinder results for the 1958 “Chess in a Nutshell” book by Fred Reinfeld.

I thought the little illustrated Cram’s booklet was great fun.

I’ll list this for $10.

“The Art of Dramatic Writing” has been republished over the years, but if you want the 1960 edition published by The Writer, Inc., it could sell for some cha-ching (I’ve seen listings for $75-$122). Hmmm. Need to do more research, but I think $38 for mine (it has a few condition issues) would not be out of line.

So no super duper scores and very little bought, but I had fun prowling around this grand house. I tried to image what it would be like living there with all these rooms, walk-in closets and bathrooms. But when I got back to our small house, I smiled. It was good to be home!

Wishing you happy hunting,



  1. There is one estate sale company here that charges SO much! Even on the second, 1/2 off day, the prices are high. A lot of unsold estate sale items go to a local horse rescue facility, and they charge very low prices. With a lot of books it would make sense to just put a sign with one low price, hard cover or paperback, old or new, just to move them. I HATE taking an armload to the check-out to find out the cost! Or, when an employee tells you a price, then the owner of the company says it’s too low and won’t let you have it. Sigh… estate sales aren’t good deals here. Plus crowded and I still want to keep my distance from strangers! Fun buttons. Some do scream 70’s, don’t they?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing Lisa. The company who held this most recent sale is headed up by a former antique store owner/dealer and she always prices high, but the book situation was ridiculous. (Post prices for Pete’s sake!) I decided not to go back today when things were marked down because I didn’t feel like dealing with the crowds. Sometimes I just don’t have the desire or patience to deal with them!! The pins were a fun, free find. Hugs, Karen


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