Arts & Antiques: Trash or treasure? Yard sale top tips for buyers and sellers

Lori Verderame, Ph.D.

I have been advising people about yard sales for decades. Here are my top tips for those of you who love yard sales, both buyers and sellers.

Find the value of your items before putting them out in a yard sale.

Many of us have spent a weekend driving around your favorite neighborhoods to shop on other people’s lawns. Typically, you end up buying a few things that you really don’t need but you just can’t leave on a neighbor’s lawn like a watering can, vintage poster and a bunch of silk napkins. You spend $12 and call it a day.

As an expert appraiser, there are many things that people don’t know about yard sales. The first thing that most people don’t know about yard sales is that it is big business.

You think it is just small time stuff with neighbors cleaning out the basement of old junk. But in reality, yard sales are the source of objects that command six figure price tags in other markets far from someone’s freshly mowed front yard.

That’s right, the elite auction houses and internet markets for art, antiques, and collectibles use yard sales as a major source for their inventory. And, many of the major auction houses and smaller estate auction houses regularly send people known as pickers or runners out to yard sales to get some of their auction inventory from yard sales.

These people are sent to neighborhoods where the homes have reached the 50-year old mark assuming that their original owners are ready to move on to assisted living facilities, in with family members or on to smaller, downsized residences.

Most unknowing yard sale hosts just think that they are just selling their stuff to naive shoppers. Well, be warned if you are a yard sale seller or shopper. Yard sale buyers and sellers are competing with the pros out there. These big-time buyers know what you’ve got, know what it is really worth, know where to sell it for top dollar and they are not in the game to tell you that you just made a big mistake putting out that Eastlake table or vintage Guerlain perfume bottle on the front lawn for $25 or 50 cents respectively.

Major auction houses and smaller estate auction houses regularly send pickers out to yard sales to get some of their auction inventory.

And your asking price is all wrong too! These guys are going to get you down on the asking price and take away something very valuable that was once in your house as a treasured family heirloom.

Know what you’ve got before you schlep it out to the front lawn. At my mobile website, you can send a photo of an object from a yard sale and I will tell you its value before you buy it. This is how technology will help you cash in.

Celebrity appraiser, Dr. Lori Verderame is an internationally syndicated columnist, author and award-winning TV personality who stars on History channel’s The Curse of Oak Island and Discovery’s Auction Kings. With a Ph.D. from Penn State University, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events to worldwide audiences. Visit  or call 888-431-1010.