The traditional Canadian yard sale

There seems to be something inherent in our culture that says you ‘get nothing for nothing.’ Everything, it seems, has to be paid for one way or another. Following on from that logic means that we give nothing away for free.

So, if we can’t give stuff away the next best thing to do while keeping to the rules of the culture is to …  hold a yard sale!

Spring is just around the corner and while some of us are getting the boat ready for another season, the landlubbers are thinking about this year’s garden.

But wait.

Before anything can be done, both seasonal seafarers and the green-fingered growers need to wade through the mountains of junk that have mysteriously materialized during the dark days of winter. Yes, it’s time to plan that great Canadian traditional spring and summer festival – the Yard Sale!

When you open that garage door and see that pile of ‘stuff’ your first instinct may be to immediately close it again.

Then, with sober second thought, instead of seeing a pile of junk you imagine that you see a pile of dollars. The yard, or garage, sale can be a fun and economical way of ‘downsizing’ and can bring in a few extra bucks, enough perhaps to buy some new bedding plants or to get the outboard its long overdue annual service.

Once you have decided on a date and laid odds with the local bookie that it won’t rain on the very day of your sale there are a few other considerations to make such as what will you sell and for how much? Now as a basic rule of thumb, unless you are an itinerant dealer who is trying to make a fortune away from the prying eyes of the Taxman, your objective is to sell as much as you can as quickly as you can and to free up space in the home and garage.

This now brings us to pricing your treasures. Bear in mind the ‘prime directive’ is to get rid of as much, if not all, of what you have. Ask too much and you probably won’t even get an offer. Ask too little and guess what? Either it will be snapped up in no time flat or in disbelief someone will inevitably ask ‘what’s wrong with it’?

So what’s the right price? Ask yourself (and be honest) how much would you pay for that exact object if it were offered to you? After determining what you would really be prepared to pay, reduce that amount by at least 25 per cent.

It’s a simple equation that usually results in a successful sale. Yes I know that you originally paid a lot more for it, but you don’t want or need it anymore (which is why it is now considered part of the mountain of ‘stuff’). Your objective is to get-shut of it – all of it! Your original cash is already gone, vanished, disappeared into the pockets of Mr. Wal-Mart or whomever; so however much you get is a bonus! Think of a garage or yard sale like this: Usually to get rid of stuff you have to load-up a vehicle, drive to the landfill, pay to have the pleasure of unloading and dumping and then drive home again. All of this costs you time, energy and cash! On the other hand, if you have a sale people actually pay you money so that they can cart it away – only to take it to the landfill themselves next year.

Of course there are legends about fortunes made and lost at such sales, some are even true! For example, when I was in Saskatoon four years ago, a client asked me to do an appraisal of a lovely matching set of highly collectible Vintage ‘Sherman’ costume jewels. The set was deep ruby-red and jet stones; a really lovely wide bracelet, ear-clips and full-chest necklace. The client had originally bought it as a Valentine’s present for his girlfriend but when she discovered that he paid just $5 at a local yard sale she gave it back and dumped him for being so cheap. He may have lost the girl but lucky for him at least he kept the set; appraised value - $3,500. Not a bad return on a $5 investment.

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