Friday, June 10, 2011

Flipping Estate Auction Finds for Cash!

I know from your comments and e-mails that you love it when I share our estate auction finds. And, if you read regularly, you know that lately I've started flipping a few of our finds for unbelievable profit... So let's talk about how we find estate auctions, why we love to shop them and how you too can get into the auction-action!

First of all, I love vintage finds! Let's face it, they just don't make things the way they used to. So estate sales is like jumping into a time machine to shop during an era when not everything was made in China and therefore, basically disposable. Second, buying vintage is the most organic form of recycling and Green-shopping going. Not to mention how dog-gone Fun it is!

Buying vintage, restoring and/or repurposing items no longer in use but that haven't outlived their usefulness offers each of us an opportunity to get creative, decorate on a shoestring budget, and helps keep more stuff from filling up more landfills.

Buying vintage is also a huge money saver! How? Well, just as the value of a new car drops like a rock when its driven off the lot, so does the resale value of most other things we buy. If you don't believe me, just ask me about the $7,000.00 dirt bike the Ranger rode only twelve times that I could not sell for one penny over $1,300.00! So you see, I've been on both sides of the action. And, I've learned my lesson!

Currently we are in the market for new kayaks. We know what we want and we know where to buy them new - But we're hesitating because I'm convinced there's a couple just like us that loves to kayak and bought those kayaks new - And, maybe they just had their first baby so their hobby has changed, or maybe they just moved into a condo and no longer have space to store them... Either way, until I am 100% satisfied their semi-new kayaks won't turn up on craigslist at a two-for-one price, I'm not buying new Kayaks!

As for the fun of estate auction shopping... First, if you're a people-watcher like me, you're in for a real treat! Talk about all walks of life and the oddities you'll see! Finally, sifting through someones life-long collections and possessions is kinda like the creative writing exercises we did in grade-school... Remember those? When our teacher displayed photographs and we had to choose one to write about and tell what we thought what was going on and what might have happened before the scene or after... Well, each time I see an item at an estate auction I can't help but wonder its purpose and what it might have meant to the owner. Where did they have to travel to find it? Was it a gift? How was it used? When was the last time it was enjoyed? And mostly, why didn't someone else in the family keep it to remember their relative by?

Sometimes I wish the former owner was there to tell me all about it; and other times, I just wish the piece could talk! Oh! And I cannot tell you how many times I run into something from my childhood or that I remember my parents having in our home. I'd almost forgotten about Mrs. Beasley and the tin doll house I loved so much until I saw them again at an estate sale! For a moment I feel cheated when I see these things because most of my childhood treasures that didn't make the Army weight limit for household goods were either thrown out or given away every time we moved. Then I remember my fabulous life growing up in Europe, and I'm over it!

Now, I know there are great deals to be had at yard sales too... Truthfully, I wish I enjoyed yard sales... And, God-bless you if you do! But I can't do it... First of all, if I cannot have first pick of the inventory, I drive myself crazy wondering what great finds I might have missed because I wasn't first to the sale. And, it's impossible to hit all the good ones at the same time! I just know that while I'm walking up a driveway to the garage full of stained baby clothes, some other lucky girl is loading six cases of untouched Jadeite restaurantware she bargained down to fifty cents into her car on the next block over.

Tell me... How many times have you shown up to a yard sale only to hear someone trading stories about the one item you hoped to find that was sold for a nickel two seconds before you arrived? In fact, a friend told me once about the yard sale she showed up to just in time to witness someone trading a $20 bill with a young newlywed who said she just couldn't imagine ever using her brand new Kitchenaid stand mixer.

So there's that... On top of the fact that most people who go through the extraordinary effort it takes to organize and hold a yard sale do it in hopes of bringing in much needed cash by parting with things they likely paid too much for. Therefore, haggling with someone with babies to feed or a kid about to bankrupt them by leaving for college just isn't my thing.

Attending estate auctions solves all of these problems for me. First of all, most estate sales are advertised on-line, usually with photos, and they are scheduled. Therefore, unless you arrive late, you're guaranteed nothing will be sold before you can offer to buy it. Second of all, there is usually a preview period the day before or a few hours before the sale, which means if I show up and there's nothing I can't live without, I often have time to get over to another sale in my area before it begins. 

Now, there is the little matter of competition at auctions; however, I can tell you that there have been very few pieces I've wanted that I haven't been able to buy without over-spending or paying more than it was worth. Whereas buying at antique shops almost always guarantees you will pay exactly what the dealer knows the piece is worth. Unless you live in Minnesota, then you must buy from Amy

For me, estate sales are the way to go... Even if I miss out on an item, like it did in this case, it doesn't stop me from offering the winning bidder a little more to let me have it. The key there, as in any negotiation for purchase or sale is to always allow the other party to name price first. I live by that rule, for he who names price first always loses

Why? Because naming price is like telling a secret or letting the cat out of the bag... If you're the seller and you name price first, your buyer will always negotiate your first price down, so you lose. If you're the buyer and you name the price you're willing to pay, you lose because the seller will either immediately accept because you just offered more than they were going to ask, or they will sense your desperation for the item and ask for a little more to test your interest. Either way, they win because even if you decline their counter-price, they still have your first offer to accept. And, that's why you always let the other party name price first. The last thing you want to hear is a seller accept your first offer - Because if that happens, you'll instantly know you just made their day!

Most of what we buy at estate auctions/sales we keep and use to decorate and/or furnish our home. However, lately we've run out of space and walls to hang things. Still, that doesn't stop us from continuing to hunt the next-best-thing. And when we find it, we redecorate to change out things we already have for things we would rather have. The things we change out are usually very easy to sell for a profit because we picked them up so cheap.

A few examples include the antique tiger oak mantle we picked up for $35 and sold for $275 to an antique dealer in fact, who said it was perfect for displaying pieces in his booth at a local antique mall. Then there was the 70's William's baseball-themed pinball machine we picked up for $300 that I sold for $900. After that, I sold a collection of vintage enamelware coffee pots for three times what I paid, even after I held back the only one I really wanted out of the lot!

Do you, or have you ever attended estate auction sales? If so, what is your favorite or most lucrative find?

If you haven't or you don't shop estate auctions... Do you know estate auctions are held almost every day in practically every city? We've been attending estate auctions for over twenty years, and with the recent popularity of shows such as
Auction Hunters, and Pawn Stars, the modern-day version of Antiques Roadshow, more and more people are venturing out to these sales. Not only to find terrific bargains for their own use but also to discover treasures they can make serious money by reselling. If you're ready to hop on the estate auction train, you can locate sales in your area using the website I use at: Just enter your zip code and the distance you're willing to travel and then choose the sale(s) you want to visit. There are also national antique and collectible events. In fact, I just bought tickets to the one sponsored by Country Living in Stone Mountain, Georgia this fall. Which also means we'll get to visit the Ranger since we'll be in his neighborhood. Yes! Double-Squeeeee!

Before I close, I want to tell you about two other estate auction finds we've turned for ah-mazing profits. Most recently we purchased two 1930's, Edward S. Curtis lithographs for $85.00, which turned out to be valued at $2,000.00. Each. And before that find, at this sale I found this and sold it for 72-times what I paid for it! And now, my newest find:

Last weekend I picked up this vintage French enameled sign...
 However, since it was obviously meant for display over
our little deck garden, it won't be resold any time soon! 

Auction-hunting has become an interesting, and lately a very lucrative hobby for us. I encourage you to consider getting involved - There's room for everyone! Whether you're looking to furnish and decorate your home on a budget or you're looking for that piece someone has cast aside as trash, which ends up being your treasure!

Hey! It's Finally Friday, and I'm guest posting for Melanie HERE and Linking up to The Sits Girls with Tidy Mom and Amy at:



  1. Can I just say...YOU are amazing!
    Greg and I are wanting to buy kayaks too!
    What kind are you and Terry looking for?
    Where will you kayak?
    I've been THRIFTING for years!
    Use to go to antique auctions in college!
    So fun!
    I'll say it again...YOU are amazing!
    LOVE the sign!

  2. Hi Janet!

    "Le Petit Jardin" est Parfait!

    You have one of the most beautiful gardens and landscaping I've ever seen! That sign was meant to go home with you!
    Wishing you a lovely weekend*
    ps. I'm still going through the Life is Good book... it's like popcorn!
    I also bought one for my brother. I needed to send him a card...but he's getting this book instead...because ~ Life is Good ~ for him!

  3. Thank you, Teresa and Maria!

    Teresa - North Carolina is full of beautiful lakes and rivers meant for kayaking! Our next kayak trip is coming up soon - we are booked into a twilight kayak excursion in Charleston at the end of the month and I> Cannot. Wait!!

    The new Kayaks we want are made right here in North Carolina - they're Hurricane Kayaks - I've linked to them in my post just for you!

    Much love to you girls!


  4. Hi Janet!
    I just saw this post over on TCG, and LOVED IT! This is something I'll be looking into....very interesting! I loved the bit of advice on price haggling...BRILLIANT! Makes perfect sense. I also love the "We replace what we already have for something we would rather have"....
    DH & I live by this rule, whenever we bring something into our home, we pull something out!

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post!

  5. Great post! Thanks for the mention and button! I definitely am fan of auctions and estate sales. You never know what treasure you will find!! :)


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