The Tale of a Poor Garage Salin’ Boy

Once upon a time, I told a girl I liked going to garage sales. She laughed at it and made fun of me. Why am I telling you this? Well, first I’m trying to make you pity me just a bit (to soften you up a little). And second, I’m hoping that same garage sale discrimination won’t happen again.

(This is a long post, and I apologize in advance, but I think it’s interesting [although that’s coming from someone with what might be considered a very boring life].)

I’ll be frank here—I’ve never had money. I’ve grown up in a lower middle class family, with the occasional hand-me-down and trip to the thrift store. Not a privileged life, but not a terrible one. Get it? Good. Point is I’ve grown up driving around with mom and dad on Saturdays hitting all the garage sales. We don’t do it all the time (especially not anymore), but when we do, it’s awesome.

Awesome? Well, maybe that’s a little too dramatic, but it’s cool. Some people think that paying full price for something is some kind of privilege. Those people are stupid. I’ll buy something lightly used and a fraction of the price over something brand new and full price any day. You’re saving money, being green (whee), and it’s fun.

It’s fun because of the hunt. You never know what you’re going to find. I’ve been looking for a stand-up CD case holder (you know, like tower with all the little slats to store your CDs) lately, and I haven’t found it. It’s funny, because I used to see those all the time at garage sales when I wasn’t looking for one. That’s the fun part about garage sales. You can’t anticipate exactly what you’re going to discover, and it becomes sort of a treasure hunt.

As a child, most of my “cool” toys were from garage sales. Maybe the majority of my clothes were purchased new, but the toys were all garage sale finds. If you’re a parent, then you know how expensive toys can be. Go to a garage sale and you can get the same thing for 25¢ instead of $15. Worried about germs? Use a Lysol wipe. See how much you can save? You can thank me later.

But why did I mention toys? Well, as a kid I said most of my toys were from garage sales. The truth is that most of my toys now are from garage sales. Yes, I’m twenty and I still have “toys”, but then again I’m talking about my video game library. Listen, I have a lot of games. Since I was little, I don’t (or hardly) get rid of games. Therefore my collection has become something of a literal library. I’ve got games for the NES, SNES, N64, Wii, Genesis, Dreamcast, PSX (Playstation), PS2, Xbox, and Xbox 360. I had a PS3 as well (as well as games for it), but I sold it.

I said it before, I’m a gamer. I don’t play as much anymore, but I’ll always be a nerd. Don’t like it? Tough. Thing is, I’ve gotten most of my games from garage sales or thrift stores. The only things I didn’t buy secondhand are my Wii, PSX, PS2, and Xbox 360. Buying so many games used means they were dirt cheap and I have a lot of them. I’ve never counted, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I had 50 NES games, or 100. That’s the beauty of garage sales.

So now that you get the idea behind me and my garage sales, I can continue with this little story. I haven’t been garage saling (yes, that’s the proper term) for a very long time. Months and months, I don’t know. Well this past Saturday I convinced my parents to go and we struck off on the adventure at 7:30ish. People are crazy about garage saling, so you’ve got to get a pretty early start if you want to find good stuff. 7:30 is good, but 7 is better. Either way, we were off.


Exhibit A: Sale

I made three “large” purchases that day. I hardly find much most of the time when I go. My dad ends up finding all sorts of crap, while I find very little. This time it was a bit different. The first garage sale we hit, I came across a big cardboard box full of game consoles and a tangle of wires. There was a PSX, PS2, and an Xbox inside. I’ve got two of those three, so I didn’t pay too much attention to it, but just out of curiosity, I decided to ask how much they wanted for the whole box. The little boy it belonged to said $10, so I figured why not. Were all the wires in there? Did the consoles work? It was cheap, so I just bought it, threw it in the car and moved on.

Exhibit A: Aftermath

It’s ridiculous how I’m organizing this post, right? Oh well. Once I got home, I began untangling the mess of cords and cables. First up was the Xbox, and I quickly found it had all the proper cords, one controller that looked worn but usable, and another controller that was broken. Armed with nothing but kitchen wipes, I sent off on cleaning it up.

All of this stuff was dirty. I’m not talking a little bit of dust, I’m talking dirt. A fine layer perhaps, but the cords had that nasty thin layer of mold on them, and the consoles were covered in a fine dusting of slightly caked on red dirt. Not cool, but kitchen wipes can clean anything. I cleaned it up nice, plugged it in, and it worked like a charm. One down, two to go.

Next up was the PS2. It received the same treatment, and it was just as dirty as the Xbox. The only controller it came with was broken in half in the back. It looked like it worked, but yeah. I have PS2 controllers, so I wasn’t too worried about it. I cleaned it up and turned it on, no problems. Two down, one to go.

Last up was the PSX. It wasn’t as dirty as the others, ironically, and only took a bit to clean up. All three of these consoles were in good shape, but this one looked the best even for being older. Unfortunately, while it turns on fine and seems to work, it has a very hard time reading games. It acts like your discs are too scratched to play, and when they do play, they freeze on loading screens way too often. It seems like—while it works—it has a difficult time reading the actual discs. I’m not sure how to fix that, but at the moment it seems like the only bust in the buy. Do you know how to fix it?

So in the end, I nabbed two working consoles for 10 bucks. PS2s go for around $40 on eBay, and I think Xboxes are about the same. I’ll probably end up keeping the Xbox, and a friend of the family had his PS2 break, so I might give him a deal on it. Point is that the $35 or so I spent all day is pretty much completely made back with just one item. Isn’t garage saling cool?

I may have a problem.

Exhibit B: Sale

The next item I came across is a little weirder. Like you see above, there’s a picture of it at the bottom of this section. I tend to buy weird little things, so this odd little straw basket with tiny people in it came into my possession for 50¢. Why did I buy it? I don’t know, but I did. It’s interesting.

Exhibit B: Aftermath

Aftermath? There is no aftermath on this one. It’s tiny and weird and maybe someday you’ll see it on some obscure little item in my hypothetical Etsy shop. I collect these trinkets, you see. This isn’t the first time. Will I ever do anything with them? Probably not, but who knows.

Sorry, it's a bit blurry.

Exhibit C: Sale

This was probably the coolest buy of the day. The odd thing about this day of garage saling was the lack of music CDs. Usually whenever I go garage saling, people are selling off their old CDs. At any given sale, they’re there. It’s so common, that most days when I can’t find anything, I at least get a CD or two. However this time, there were none. None at all, all day. Instead, it seemed that everyone collectively decided to get rid of all their old PSX games.

Usually I don’t find those at all, so it was fun I suppose, but at one sale I found a whole book of them. You know the CD case/books? I don’t know what to call them, but you get the picture. It was full of them, so I just decided to ask “How much for the whole thing?” Bundling up had gone well so far, so why argue with success? The lady thought about it, and said $20. That probably was fair, technically speaking, but half of the games in this thing I didn’t even want. I offered $10, and she said “It’s too early, maybe later.”

That might sound silly, but you’ll find that sometimes when garage saling. Things sell good in the morning, and as the day wears on, it’s smart to price things down, because fewer and fewer people start showing up. That’s what she was thinking, so I just asked “When can I come back and buy it for $10?” Rude? A little, but it was all in good fun. She laughed and said after lunch. Fair enough, so I went and put it back. The thought crossed my mind to hide it, even though it was doubtful that anyone would buy it, but before I could decide to be a douchebag about it or not, she called out “Okay, $10.”

Exhibit C: Aftermath

This purchase was hit and miss. A lot of the games inside, I don’t even want. Is there anyone looking for the 102 Dalmatians game? I didn’t think so. Still, there were quite a few cool games inside, and many that I haven’t even checked out yet. So far I’ve been impressed with a game called Einhander. Sounds like sound crazy German word, but upon playing it, it’s a side-scrolling shooter (like Xevious).

The biggest disappointment was Legend of Dragoon. It’s a pretty epic RPG, and I think it’s worth a bit of money, but upon closer inspection I found that the CD book only had disc 2, 3, and 4. It happens, and who knows, maybe I’ll go back to the same garage sale and get lucky, unless anyone’s looking to sell disc 1? In the end, I know I could get a couple bucks out of a lot of the games. There are 50 or so of them, so at $10 that’s like each disc was 20¢. I think that’s fair.

Ah, the smell of used games. (They don't actually have a smell, but hey.)

Exhibit D: Sale

Last one—promise. At one of the last sales we stopped by, I came across a little appointment book looking thing; the ones that zip up and whatever. It caught my eye because it looked like it was leather, and it was Fossil. Cool, but it had a $20 price tag on it. Thinking that was ridiculous, I opened it up and found a palm pilot inside.

I’ll admit that palm pilots are so outdated, but they’re still cool. My dad has one (that he used to use for work), and looking at this one, it looked exactly the same. Unfortunately it didn’t have a charger, but it looked like it was in amazing shape, and it also came with a few SD cards. I talked the lady down to $10 and bought it.

Exhibit D: Aftermath

Even though it didn’t have a charger, it looked the same as my dad’s one and he agreed. The idea was that I could just use his charger. No sweat. Once we got home and check though, we discovered that mine was one model newer than his (the Tungsten E2, as opposed to his Tungsten E) even though both models look identical to each other. His charger didn’t fit for mine, so I was up a creek.

On the bright side, I looked everything up on eBay and picked up a data cable/charger (along with some universal USB adapters for wall charging and car charging) for $6 with free shipping. Altogether, I spent $16 on it, and it looked like Tungsten E2s are still going for $30-$40 on eBay.

I feel like I'm carrying around a pager when I hold this.

So what’s the moral of this story? Garage sales are awesome—that’s what. Half the fun is reselling things and making your money back so you can do it all over again. You’re jealous now, aren’t you? Well in that case, go out there and do it yourself!

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? Well get out there and find some treasure.

About HT Sundance

I'm 20 years old and I'm a writing student living in Hawaii. Writing is my passion, and I'm striving to break into the market doing something I really love.

Posted on January 30, 2012, in Flimflam and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I am a garage sale and thrift shop freak, and always have been! My sons are all the same way, so I guess it’s in the blood. My mother used to drive our whole gang to the Saturday flea market with a gigantic empty carpet bag, and she spent the whole day filling it up. We had to take turns lugging it around. Sometimes she would sneak off by herself and get something she heard one of talking about.

    When we got back home, and she opened her big magic bag, it was like being with Mrs. Santa Claus! She always had lots of little curiosities, and surprises for everyone. What a blast!

    I love the way you told your story with all of the pictures. It shows how much you are really into it.

  2. YES! This is awesome. Glad you found some good stuff. Lucky for you in Hawaii there most be garage sales every week in the winter!

    It’s always in the thrill of the find and for that feeling that you get when you see something awesome in the corner of your eye at a garage sale.

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