Buyer beware: How to profit on garage sales, items to run from

Posted at 8:02 AM, Jul 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 17:01:13-04

With the advent of shows like American Pickers and Pawn Stars, it’s harder and harder to find hidden gems for sale. If nothing else, items prices can be inflated by people who are “certain” they’ve got a piece of valuable treasure in their attic rather than bargain items meant for the dollar bin.

Despite the popularity of “picking” these days, there are still plenty of bargains to be had — and items to avoid.


The folks over at Detroit Artisans in Ferndale make a living selling unique antiques, retro furniture, old signage and more. They’ve been collecting and flipping items for years, but they’ll be the first to tell you that it’s possible to make great deals at garage sales and estate sales if you’re careful and calculated.

Tom Kerr, one of the owners, told 7 Action News he’ll spend two or more hours at some estate sales.

“We go to sales all the time and people are just rushing through things and stuff,” said Kerr.

He believes a more careful approach will bear fruit. What’s he looking for? It starts with something that catches the eye, then you have to consider what the value is, how rare it is and whether someone will pay more than you’re finding it for — part of that comes down to making a deal yourself.

“We never pay full price for anything,” said Kerr. “If someone asks for $40 for an item, ask them $20. You’ll likely meet at the middle for $30.”

Vinyl is a good example of a hot item that sells well at Detroit Artisans. Years ago, digital music started to take over the music scene, but a new generation of music fans are finding that new-age technology compressed audio files and cut down on quality. Now vinyl is a hot seller again, and plenty of people are getting rid of it — it’s up to you to find the right albums, though.

“We’ve got an entire generation coming up just wanting to hear stuff on vinyl,” said Joey Sturgill, a co-owner of Detroit Artisans.

Walking through the aisles of his store, you’ll find plenty of old industrial signage — rust doesn’t hurt, especially if it adds age but still allows for the product to be visible. For more ideas and a look at some examples of what’s hot inside Detroit Artisans, check out the video above.


Finding a bargain at a garage sale may make for a good decoration piece in your home, or even a profit if you’re planning to flip it online, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of endangering your family.

Plenty of items for sale at a garage sales and estate sales can turn a profit. Even more are simply useful items that college kids, or young adults, may need when moving out on their own for the first time. That said, there’s plenty of things for sale that you just shouldn’t consider buying.

**Baby Items: If you’re looking for bibs or toys you may find a bargain, but there’s plenty of baby items that bring risks — that includes old bottles that may pre-date current standards that are followed by top manufacturers when it comes to BPA and plastics. Old wood baby cribs may bring nostalgia, but it’s also likely they bring safety concerns. Technology and research has created major changes when it comes to where your child sleeps. Perhaps the scariest item you’ll find for sale at a garage sale is a child safety seat.

In 2017 alone, nearly 1 million individual seats had to be recalled by six manufacturers. If you’re purchasing a child safety seat you should be checking all available recall lists, but chances are you can overlook a recall that may affect your child’s safety seat.

**Mattresses: Bed bugs, mold, mites… a mattress is more than meets the eye.

**Stuffed Animals: Here’s one that you may not think about. While it’s a bit easier to see why you shouldn’t buy a mattress, plenty of people will willingly hand over cash for stuffed animals. Just like a mattress, stuffed animals don’t often, if ever, make their way into a washing machine. Even if you wash a stuffed animal it’s hard to know whether a stuffed animal is safe to bring home.

**Bike Helmets: Little known fact, helmets are meant for one crash. Plenty of researchers online have written about helmet safety, and the most common theme you’ll hear from each and every one is that helmets are meant to take a single impact. If you skimp on a helmet you’re risking that the helmet you’re buying has already taken a hit that didn’t leave behind visible damage. If you want to keep your child safe find an affordable new helmet, or look for a charitable group that gives them away (it’s not as rare as you think).