Rummage sale time: Sale veterans, organizers describe their plansIt’s getting to be that time of year when North Dakotans are cleaning out their closets and garages in hopes they can clean and organize their homes for the summer.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
It’s getting to be that time of year when North Dakotans are cleaning out their closets and garages in hopes they can clean and organize their homes for the summer.
Then it becomes the issue of what to do with those unwanted items, which for many folks can mean two words — rummage sale.
Two veterans of the Jamestown rummage sale scene, the coordinator for the largest rummage sale in North Dakota and a representative of the “World’s Longest Yard Sale” weighed in about what makes for a good rummage sale and shared some things to look out for this rummage-sale season.
A good rummage sale starts with proper organization, according to Jamestown resident Joan Taxis, who has been rummaging since moving to Jamestown in the late 1960s.
“Organization is key. Keeping like items together — glassware in one spot, tools in another and so on,” she said. “You don’t want people having to search all over for the same kind of items.”
Taxis works mostly with estate sales now, in which items from a vacated home are sold off. This can be the case with the estates of those who have died or moved to other quarters.
Taxis said on a good weekend once the rummage sale season is up and going, there could be anywhere from 20 to 30 sales just in Jamestown and on the outskirts of town.
She said its popularity could be because it provides a fun atmosphere for those looking to find something that looks interesting.
“It’s an outing really. I know personally I enjoy rummaging with my daughter or my girlfriends,” she said. “Plus, it’s just an exciting feeling when you go to one and can find exactly what you’re looking for.”
That’s what draws people from all over North Dakota to the state’s largest annual rummage sale, according to Luann Dart, who is coordinating the 11th annual Highway 21 Treasure Hunt this June.
“People are going out to rummage sales with their friends and family because they want to relax and have a good time in hopes of stumbling upon that unique treasure they might find,” she said.
The Highway 21 Treasure Hunt has approximately 100 rummage sales over a 100-mile route along N.D. Highway 21 in southwestern North Dakota.
Dart said the most important aspect of the Hunt’s most successful sales each year is pricing.
“There’s two ways to approach your rummage sale. You’re either pricing items to get rid of them or pricing items to make some profit,” she said. “The reality is that people aren’t going to be spending $5 or $10 on a little trinket. They want to see those 25- or 50-cent markings on little things to get them interested.”
People aren’t going to rummage sales with a whole lot of money to spend so they rely on fairly-priced items, according to Jamestown’s Shirley Rott, who has been involved with rummage sales for 40 years.
But some items can be tough to let go of at a cheap price due to sentimental value to original owners, Taxis said.
“What may be worth a great deal to a person because they’ve owned that item and it has sentimental value to them probably isn’t worth as much to someone else who comes along and takes a look at it,” she said.
As for what sells the best at many rummage sales, it’s all about things people can get a lot of use from, Rott said.
“Kitchenware and practical household products are always big items,” she said. “For the men though it’s often about tools and sporting equipment like fishing rods.”
Rott admitted she hasn’t had much luck with clothes over the years, but has found that many sales do incorporate clothing as well, especially for children.
As the old saying goes, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” so what makes for something valuable is in the eye of the beholder, said Leann Smith of the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce in Jamestown, Tenn.
“These days, people are looking for collectables and vintage items mostly,” she said.
The Fentress County chamber is the headquarters of the “World’s Longest Yardsale,” known as the 127 Corridor Sale, which first started in 1987 and this year will stretch 690 miles from Addison, Mich., to Gadsden, Ala., from Aug. 2 to 5.
Smith said collectors from all over go through individual sales looking for items they typically cannot find elsewhere. Taxis said the same occurs in and around Jamestown, Tenn., as well, but said trends in collectable items have changed over the years.
“The Beanie Baby era came and went along with many other eras. These days I’ve seen people looking for junk and old, rusty metal like watering cans,” she said. “But as the years go, certain items become more collectable than others so it really depends.”
One of the top issues with rummage sales seems to be the early sale of items. For instance, a rummage sale which has a start time posted for 9 a.m. may have potential buyers coming much earlier than that looking to get first dibs on the items displayed.
“You see it now more so than you used to,” Rott said. “People are starting at least a half hour early sometimes.”
Taxis said it’s something that happens all the time, but the idea of selling earlier than the posted start time is ultimately up to the individual seller.
“What you learn over time is that it’s first come, first served at these,” she said. “Unless you specifically advertise no early sales then that can easily happen.”
Just with any other business transaction, there’s always room for negotiation at rummage sales, Dart said.
“If you don’t like the sticker price at a sale, often times you can try to bargain with the seller and see if you can’t negotiate a deal,” she said.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at email@example.com