Garage Sales - What Sells?

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Forum topic by gtbuzz posted 04-21-2013 09:43 PM 1440 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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427 posts in 2436 days

04-21-2013 09:43 PM

Thought this would be an interesting topic. Has anyone tried selling things that they’ve made at garage sales with the intent of making a buck or two (not just to clear out space) and had any luck? What kind of things sell well?

We just had a community garage sale in my neighborhood, so there was a decent amount of traffic. I thought this would be a good opportunity to try to make and sell some pens. Made about 20 of them, of varying quality, from common woods in slimline pens to more exotic woods in nice rollerball kits with a CA finish. The prices varied from $6 to $20, but I guess that didn’t much matter since I didn’t sell a single one (managed to unload a bunch of old video games and clothing though).

Some people offered a buck or two, but honestly I’m obviously not doing it for the money, so I would rather have given one of these pens away to someone who would appreciate it than to sell it for less than it’s worth – kind of felt like it would have cheapened what we do. I ended up giving a couple of them away to neighbors (I suppose payment for having to put up with the noise of my saws :) ) and it’s nice to have some extras laying around.

I had thought that there would be at least a somewhat existing “impulse purchase” market, but I guess that didn’t overlap with the garage sale crowd. One possible mistake I made was not targeting the “marketing”... I only had a sign for hand-made wooden pens, but one of the neighbors mentioned that it would have probably been a good idea to also mention something about them being a good gift for father’s day. That might have sold a pen or two.

Down but not out though. We usually do these community sales twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. I’d like to give it another go in the fall, but not pens. I was thinking furniture, maybe side tables, things like that. I was thinking about doing some outdoor furniture this time around but didn’t have the time. Also thought about picture frames too as some pre-fab ones that I had sold pretty well and it’s possible to batch those kinds of things out.

Any ideas? Anyone have any different experiences?

12 replies so far

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2945 days

#1 posted 04-21-2013 11:04 PM

Last year I visited a community yard sale and there was a guy selling his own pens. He was asking $20 each and it was a little much for me, a person with a lathe, to pay. Still we talked a little bit, I complemented his work, and wished him luck. Had I seen yours, I would have purchased one or two.

The problem is that 99% of those frequenting garage sales want things for next to nothing. I’m not sure selling furniture will work out. At my own garage sale I had a few outdoor tables that I built; they weren’t necessarily for sale but I was using them to hold things that were for sale. Nevertheless, I’ll always entertain offers, but even when people knew they were hand made or whatever their offers were so far apart from what I would have settled for. Who knows, maybe you’ll find the 1% and make a sale?

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View KevinBlair's profile


56 posts in 2320 days

#2 posted 04-21-2013 11:46 PM

Garage/estate shoppers are really only looking for bargains in my experience. It is hard to be sure, but I suspect that the average garage sale shopper won’t see the difference between a hand crafted pen/furniture versus something you can buy at target/walmart.

View MrFid's profile


874 posts in 1898 days

#3 posted 04-21-2013 11:47 PM

Agree with what Brandon said. If you have pieces that you have already built, that you’d be willing to part with for the right price, I may put them out and see who bites. But I’d say that based on the yard sale clientele (being a frequent buyer myself I can attest to this), you’re probably barking up the wrong tree in terms of sustained profitability (unless you happen to live in Beverly Hills or something maybe). Best of luck though!

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View JoeinGa's profile


7736 posts in 2001 days

#4 posted 04-21-2013 11:55 PM

I also agree with the above. People going to a garage sale are hoping to score 4 dining room chairs for 20 or 25 bucks to replace the old set they currently use.
But that same person who is attending a craft fair (where artists and furniture makers are highlighting their hand-made crafts) and is LOOKING for dining room chairs, will gladly pay 100 or 200 for those same 4 chairs.

Go figure?

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Dakkar's profile


323 posts in 1922 days

#5 posted 04-22-2013 12:11 AM

Garage sales are at the bottom of the consumer sales hierarchy. I would say the next step is would be flea markets, after that, perhaps, classified ads, then eBay and Etsy. Craft fairs might be beyond that and a self-run shop after that, then art galleries. If there’s another I’m not thinking of, correct me.

With any marketing effort, your best bet is to go where your product’s best market is. A product’s market doesn’t come to you. You have to seek it. I haven’t researched the market for turned pens, but it’s easy to guess they are white collar office types and probably male. I don’t see many of those at garage sales. Perhaps one could work out commission deals with secretaries who are already in offices. Just a thought.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2481 days

#6 posted 04-22-2013 12:24 AM

We held our semi-yearly, campground wide yard sale this Saturday.
We have people in to sell from all over town and as far away as 40-50 miles.
I put out 3 cutting boards, a little toy tank and a box made from Bodark and Live oak.
I also put out an old Pro-Mac 610 I got into good running condition, a worn out Delta power miter saw, some chinese chisels I found in an old tool box, and a HF plane someone gave me that needed an iron and a chip breaker.
I was asking $50-175 for the cutting boards, $2 for the tank, and $5 for the box.
None but the expensive board sold.
The Chainsaw sold for $175, The miter saw sold for $35 and the chisels sold for $25.
I figured I would be lucky if I made $100 from the tools, I was really surprised.
The cutting board that sold was a bit larger and thicker than the other two, but I couldn’t see $110 difference. I just put that price on it because I didn’t really want to sell it.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2945 days

#7 posted 04-22-2013 12:29 AM

Dallas, you found the 1%! Congrats on your sales.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2481 days

#8 posted 04-22-2013 01:10 AM

Brandon, Yeah, I miss that particular cutting board. I used it often and it was becoming a real friend.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View doubleDD's profile


7382 posts in 2037 days

#9 posted 04-22-2013 03:04 AM

Buzz, lets just say some time back I built a lot of wooden toy cars, trucks, boats, etc. and wanted to sell at garage sales to make money for more tools. Well I sold quite a few {real cheap of course} and only had enough money to buy the replacement wood. Then went on to craft shows. Well maybe I was lucky but I was selling like crazy. Made a good buck even after paying for the spot at the shows. Problem was couldn’t keep up with the demand between my job, kids, house, you know the deal. So that pretty much ended that. But now I’ll have people come to me and ask to make this or that for them and make a few bucks. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I enjoy woodworking, just don’t want it to be a day job. Smaller items are usually the faster sell, but I made more money on building furniture type items than anything else. Just saying. Good luck.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1887 days

#10 posted 04-22-2013 03:55 AM

If I can get out of the house early enough on a Saturday to scope a few garage sales, I tend to expect to pay no more than $10-$20 for a few items that might interest me such as:
- a batch of HO-scale electric slot cars and track (my 1 cheap hobby out of 3)
- a plug-in wall clock for the garage workshop
- a Japanese-made receiver or integrated amp from the ‘80’s-’90’s – to replace the garage workshop receiver which I expect to die any week now
- specific recording labels of classical music on well-kept CDs
- an interesting single hall chair or rocking chair (something pleasing that I haven’t seen before)
- hand planes and clamps!
- big old castors (only in sets of 4)
- really old falling-apart/badly-made homemade cabinets – for the aged wood!
- solid wood old doors – for the wood!
- art and design hardcover books
- a small, cool-looking, well-kept working transistor radio from before the 80’s (nostalgia)
- if I think my big kitchen scissors are missing, I’ll be looking out for a big pair of scissors

And I almost never say no to garage sale kids selling homemade cookies.

If it’s already 10:30am I am done – there’s nothing good left by then.

So if I am anything like other buyers, I can’t see anyone making a profit selling hand-crafted items or furniture at garage sales.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3353 days

#11 posted 04-22-2013 01:44 PM

You aren’t going to get buyers for good prices at a garage sale. As mentioned, garage sale buyers are looking for almost free stuff. The other thing to consider is how often you want to have a sale. In NY you’re only allowed a certain number of garage sales per year before you ave to get a business license. Its not seriously enforced unless/until one of your neighbors calls in to report you, but its worth considering. A friend of mine rents a spcae at an indoor craft fair and does very, very well with it. The craft fair is inside a mall and is there the first Wednesday of every month (or something like that). The clientele is there looking for stuff like his and he sells 30-40 pens every month.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2771 days

#12 posted 04-22-2013 02:04 PM

If you have some large pieces and your local mall has some empty stores, you might be able to rent some window space – same goes for active stores.

Some stores might be willing to use your wares in their displays – never hurts to ask.

-- David in Damascus, MD

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