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Tips for Having a Successful Garage Sale or Tag Sale

Garage Sale Ideas


I have found great collectibles at garage sales, unfortunately I don't have time to garage sale as much as I used to, now I have them once a year and sell some of these same great collectibles.

We usually do a pretty good job of putting one on and consider it a bad day if we make less than $400 - $500. Of course we usually have lots of stuff to get rid of, old collections, etc, so our family results are not typical of most folks. We usually hold a sale every 12 - 18 months and my two (adult) daughters always take part.

I will often sell inexpensive collectibles, stuff I am paring down or not interested in anymore. Selling online is not always worthwhile, e.g. if I have a collectible or piece that might sell for $10. on eBay, I am happy to sell it at a garage sale for $4. to $5. No commissions to eBay and Paypal and no time spent wrapping and taking the box to the post office.

These are our top tips for having a terrific garage sale from years of experience, including suggestions from the Collectibles forum -- tips that have helped make a big difference.

Countdown to a Garage / Tag Sale -- One Month to Go

  • Go through closets, kitchen drawers, the kids toys, clothing closets and start filling boxes.
  • Start saving grocery sacks.
  • Scout out tables and clothes racks that can be borrowed and used in the sale.
  • Do a little arm-twisting for help on the big day, two people to working a sale is okay, three people working is much better.
Two Weeks to Go
  • Decide where and how many signs you need, visit an office supply store to pick up a few pre-printed signs with built-in metal stakes (cheap and so much easier to use than homemade signs).
  • Supplies: Buy (or gather up) colored price stickers, poster boards, masking tape, Ziploc bags and a few black markers.
  • Find out if your city requires a permit to host a garage sale.
  • Check the newspaper classified ad deadlines, look into your church or school bulletins that might also allow you to mention the sale.
One Week to Go
  • Start saving newspapers to wrap fragile items.
  • Wash and clean everything. Sounds simple, but many times I've seen garage sales where the stuff looks so yucky I wouldn't even want to touch it, much less buy it.
  • If you're going to donate the leftovers, find out what organizations will come pick them up or where you can take them immediately after the sale. Goodwill has a drop-off area just for that specific purpose a few miles from us. We bundle up our stuff and take it that evening. There are charities that will arrange for a pick-up the week after the garage sale, but make sure they know it's from a garage sale. I always donated to the Salvation Army until the time they came for pick-up and wouldn't take anything because some of the stuff still had garage sale price tags on it. I was not a happy camper when I had to move numerous boxes of stuff back into the garage and find someone else to pick it up.

    NOTE: they have since changed their policy, but it never hurts to make sure the charity will accept your garage sale donations.

Two - Three Days to Go
  • If you are having the sale in an enclosed/covered area, start setting out tables and clothes racks and placing items out.
  • Use Ziploc bags for small items that are hard to put a sticker on, such as little toys with extra pieces, also for jewelry that might be easily walked off with.
  • Keep like items together, books on one table, kitchen stuff on another, etc.
  • Get a large cardboard box or two for freebies. Label the box "Free for Kids Only".Fun goodies like McDonald Happy Meal toys, balls, toy cars, crayons, etc, things that might sell for a quarter or so are put in the box. This keeps the kids busy while their parents shop and is always a big hit.
Pricing and Protecting
  • Use colored stickers so that items don't have to be individually marked. Post a legend on a prominent posterboard -- e.g. orange sticker is 25 cents, red sticker is fifty cents.
  • Also use the posterboard to put up prices of items that will all be the same price: e.g. jeans - 50 cents, hardcover books - $1., etc. That way they don't have to be individually marked.
  • Scotch tape two-piece breakables together unless it's cold-painted, be sure tape won't take off finish!
  • Several years ago we started putting up a sign advertising everything left would be 1/2 price after 3 PM, with the exception of a few things marked firm. No more haggling during the day and we were surprised at how many folks did come back.
  • Price things realistically, give folks a bargain, but don't give it away. I vividly remember a scene a few years ago when we had a few mens golf shirts for sale, excellent condition for fifty cents. Someone wanted to pay a quarter each and wouldn't take no for an answer. I finally grabbed the shirts and put them in a box to donate.
  • You'll never get book value or even close to it at a garage sale, but it's still nice to know what something might be worth online. So if you're not familiar with the value of an item, check online to see what it is selling for on eBay (checked closed auctions!). It might be worth holding onto and selling at a later date online.
Day of the Sale
  • Get up early and have someone put the signs out (or do it the night before).
  • Put on a pot of coffee -- put out a few Styrofoam cups and offer it to those early morning shoppers (free).
  • Designate one person to be in charge of the money box, as well as keeping a close eye on any small valuable items, remove the larger bills out of the money box periodically through the day.
  • Open the doors at the time mentioned in the ad, we never open early, it annoys those who play "fair" and show up at the right time.
  • Say hello and goodbye to shoppers, it's not any fun to go to a sale where you are completely ignored by the seller who is reading a book or engrossed in a long-winded telephone conversation. You should never be too busy to say hello to the folks who take the time to visit your sale.
  • When people purchase a breakable, be sure to wrap it up in newspaper before bagging it up. Or if you are super busy, give them the space and opportunity to pack it themselves.
  • When it's time to discount the stuff 50%(or whatever) remove any items that were marked firm and put them away or on a special table.
  • When the sale is over, pack away all your stuff, separating stuff you might want to keep from the stuff to be donated to charity.
  • Fold up the tables and racks while you still have your helpers, then go inside and count your profits!

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