Monday, January 31, 2011

On Garage Sales and Swapmeets

Here in the desert, garage sales are more of than just a weekend morning activity. In fact, it's normal for garage sales to occur on weekdays since the majority of the local residents this time of year are retired. You can hear the real treasure hunters whispering over flashlights as they cruise the pre-dawn driveways in search of deals.

Since our driveway is too steep to host a garage sale our dear friends Mary and Jim volunteered to host the sale. We packed up all our assorted crap leftover from moving and headed over to their place the afternoon before.

While there are many types of garage salers there are only two types of sellers. The professionals have carefully labeled signs and advertise in the local paper. They're the ones that base their price points on the original value of an item, then factor in use and currently availability in a complicated algorithm to arrive at a final sticker price (also neatly lettered). They also know how to bargain.

The second type is the type I am. We choose not to advertise (because it costs $17 and when Mary asked if we'd make that much, I didn't think we would). We make our signs on the computer and tape them to rock-filled boxes to position on nearby street corners. We base our pricing on how easy it will be to make change (whole numbers are best). We get tired of writing out stickers so dump things in boxes and scribble, "Everything in this box $.25!" Then we start planning the important things...the menu.

I baked a coffee-cake and Mary baked her amazing egg and grits casserole. She had coffee and orange juice and I brought champagne (they live on Mimosa so it seemed right that we imbibe in Mimosas - one passerby commented that he was look to buy a house on "Vodka Tonic").

By 8AM I had learned that the key to a successful garage sale is more about the libation than the sale itself (could be why they're so popular locally).

The whole experience was loads of fun. Mary made $15, I made $115, and our other friend Diane managed to sell her car at the darn thing! The adult beverages flowed and the neighbors were fun to chat's clear to me now why garage sales are so popular.

Mind you, the real treasure-hunting had occurred the night before. That's when Mary found a few items she liked in our boxes of discards and I found...the lamp.

Jim had paid a pretty penny for it back in the 1960's and had dutifully moved it from house to house. Fortunately for me, the lamp no longer fits their decor so I offered to find it a new home in our cowboy themed guest room.

Of course that meant drilling 5 holes and still missing the stud even AFTER using the stud-finder which is apparently as effective as a Magic 8 ball.

I love this lamp!
So if we could have that much fun at a single garage sale, imagine what happens when 10,000 people in motor homes descend on a tiny town halfway to Phoenix and decide to sell rocks and other treasures from card tables?

Quartzite is known state-wide for its huge swap meets. From fall to spring, the flocking snowbirds offer up every item I think any of us have ever thrown away.

Case in point: I found my lunchbox from 2nd grade, salt and pepper shakers from my college apartment, and keys that I know fit the first Mini I ever owned.

There were old magazines; china from the 40's; and tools from barns and garden sheds across the decades. It was more than a blast from the past - it was a trip down memory lane...if all of your memories are covered in a 1 inch layer of dirt.

I did say it was in the middle of the desert, didn't I? Did I mention, the wind blows there non-stop? Even I was covered in an inch of fine silt by the time we had unearthed (no pun - I mean it) our treasures.

For me it was a series of small items suitable for hanging off my covered wagon mailbox. A tiny shovel, a cast iron frying pan big enough to make silver dollar pancakes, a set of pottery just the right size - I even found some salt and pepper barrels and some shaped like lanterns.
My loot - all for about $10

The barrels and urn are glued on...we'll see how that fares in the wind.

I wired on most of the pottery and my two salt and pepper lanterns.

I also wired on the shovel, the rake, and the frying pan.

I just think it's so darn cute!

I wasn't the only one who enjoyed Quartzite. Nancy found a truly stunning fossil that would look great on display in their living room. The boys said the highlight was discovery of the local daycare center.
The folks in Quartzite have a good sense of humor!

We ended up eating at the Quartzite Yacht Club (motto: "Long Time, No SEA") where we were served double helpings of deep-fried green beans!  

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