Thursday, March 02, 2006

Garage sales have provided great inspiration for the column over the years. Here's one from the greasy floor in October 1998. All the stories so far on this website appeared in APN News and Media papers...

ANYONE who has contemplated buying a pair of secondhand shoes will understand the feeling.
You look at the heels and soles and think, "He hasn't walked far in these".
You may remove one shoe to try the size. A bit big. But good for the price.
"I got as good deal on a pair of secondhand shoes," you brag to spouse. Reply: Why?
The obvious answer to this question should not induce morbidity over Sunday coffee.
When someone sneaks off for a few cups at the big cafe in the sky he won't need the size 12s he bought last month. It's a truism that has hounded me for years on the garage sale beat.
I had that feeling this week after I ripped a page from the Saturday Daily and toured the garage sales. I am a garage sale addict. In writing Classie Corner on and off over the past two years I have had the privilege of mixing business with pleasure.
Most Saturdays I circle the prospects and start as early as possible. It's best when the dew's wet. Being in the first wave is akin to having a Lotto ticket just before the draw. You're on the brink of finding the "big one". But here you need more than lady luck. You are up against the professionals and other ruthless bargain hunters and collectors.
When you get that really good bargain you simply pay the price and scarper as quickly as possible before they realise they've sold the family heirlooms
You recognise the dealers from the shops. The vendors often complain about them lining up at the barrier way before start time. All starters have equal opportunity here but you know you'll be hard pressed to match the pros. You may get a bit familiar with them but you never get close.
When the header "deceased estate" appears, there's a buyer frenzy resembling those post-Christmas retail massacres.
You recognise other garage sale addicts, too. Some are like phantoms: You hear about them but may never meet. A few years ago the style of response to my favourite question was: "Records? Sorry, no. A chap came through and bought the lot as we were setting up about half past six."
A seller once described the fiend; thereafter I would ask what the buyer looked like. Then I saw him in a bidding duel with another record freak at a local auction, over a box of 70s top-of-the pops dust collectors (my apologies to the aficionados).
Later I fluked a garage sale the man held at his place. Records galore. Who'd want them though, knowing how much he got them for.
Garage sale addicts accumulate garbage. I never get around to fixing that webbing on the couch or gluing a piece on the broken artifact. The "treasures" become garbage around my home and eventually go on parade one Saturday at my own sale. Unsold, they go to a charity or the tip. Several times I have been tempted to buy them back.
On this privileged beat, however, I've had encouragement for my career in journalism. I will never forget the questions like, "How the hell can the Daily afford to have someone cover garage sales." "Are you still writing that trivia column." "Why do I have to pay for space in the Checkout Classified while they actually pay you." And, "If they left out your column could we advertise for free."
But the undoubted highlight came last week when one of the vendors mentioned a family member's job with a rival publication. We all had a good laugh at their admission that loyalty was second to their need to advertise in the Daily to ensure a successful sale.
Now, I'll give an important tip for novices. Don't rely on just the Saturday Daily which lists dozens of sales. After you feast on the Sunday Bargains, check every day for listings in the Daily. There'll be less competition at a weekday sale.
Just be part of that first wave. You'll soon forget about the former owner of your almost-new shoes.

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