Tuesday, August 30, 2022

1973's "Garage Sale Shopper"

Today we have a book that's a Goodwill find about shopping at garage sales a half-century ago. Garage Sale Shopper was written by Sunny Wicka and published in 1973 by Dafran House Publishers of New York. The subtitle is "A Complete Illustrated Guide for Buyers and Seller."

The book itself is an interesting find, but hardly a hidden-treasure rare book (which I'm always on the lookout for at thrift shops). There are a few copies for sale on eBay and AbeBooks for under $10. 

No, this book is most intriguing as a cultural artifact and a peek into the exciting world of scoping out yard and garage sales in the early 1970s. And that's cooler than you might initially imagine. In the 2020s, I still occasionally find items from the 1960s and 1970s at yard sales. So it's not hard to imagine that 1973 yard sales had items dating to the 1920s. Or earlier!

As Wicka notes, yard sales were still a relatively new phenomenon in the early 1970s. During the 1950s and 1960s, there was a transition from holding such secondhand sales at churches and other community centers to holding them in individual driveways in the new American suburbs, the perfect spot for walk-by and drive-by customers. Wicka writes: "It has mushroomed in the last few years to a national hobby of incredible proportions." Her reasons for the "mushrooming" include the economic savings of buying furniture and clothing new instead of used; the perhaps dubious idea that rich people with mountain cabins and lake cottages want to furnish those second homes at a discount; and Americans choosing recycling over continued wastefulness.

The book contains section that explains garage sales to newcomers, one that provides strategies for shoppers, and one provides tips for sellers, including pricing and advertising.

There's a big section titled "Garage Sale Finds" (not to be confused with the wonderful blog of the same name). And another section provides ideas on what to do with those finds when you bring them back home.

Some excerpts:
  • "At one of my sales, an elderly man confided to me that he lived on a large acreage with a big garden, and he intended to use the 15¢ ragged golf bag he had just bought for carrying his hoe and rake and cultivator to and from the gardening area. I say, right on, sir."
  • "Milk bottles, medicine bottles, decorative bottles and unusually shaped jars seem to go well if marked low. An antique shop owner told me that the present day ceramic and quality glass wine bottles will become scarce as more and more distillers are switching to less expensive type containers for their products -- making their old containers fair game for collectors."
  • "Another one of my clever friends and her equally clever husband mounted a collection of five door knobs on a gracefully shaped piece of wood. The final result was then installed in the entryway where visitors could hang their jackets and hats on brass, porcelain and copper."
If author Wicka is still alive, she'll be 88 this October. Maybe she still keeps an eye out for good yard sales in Minnesota. Here's a picture of her from the book, modeling one of her second-hand finds...

1 comment:

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