The dictionary of junk 

If you’re a reader of classified ads like myself, you know there’s some confusion as to what we should call the sale of the debris left over from living our lives. What is the difference, for example, between a yard sale and a barn sale? I’ll attempt to answer that question, and many more, about what you should expect next time you go looking for the junk you don’t need and will never use.

Garage Sale — This is what what happens when the husband finally cleans out the garage after years of nagging. Since none of the man’s stuff qualifies as junk that means everything that’s for sale will belong to the wife or kids. Mostly it’s Tupperware without lids, kid’s clothes that have been handed down two times too many, broken Roseville pottery, 1954 World Book Encyclopedias and napkins for a wedding reception that ended in divorce years ago. The garage sale is seen as a quick way to generate some income to keep the lights on and the family fed in a cash-flow emergency. But beware, some entrepreneurial types buy stuff at other garage sales and sell it at their own after marking it up 300%. I know one guy who actually tells people at his weekly garage sales that if they didn’t find what they were looking for, he could order it for them.

Rummage Sale — This is a garage sale on steroids for churches and PTA’s. The organizations and churches ask their members to bring any unwanted items and on a Saturday all the junk is offered to the general public. Except… if there’s anything good some church member will grab it long before the general public ever sees it. I know one atheist antique dealer who joined the Methodist church just to get first crack at their rummage! That’s why the only things left are year-old calendars, clothes with broken zippers, ancient computers and printers, jigsaw puzzles with pieces missing, Danielle Steele and John Grisham paperbacks, Time-Life books and Pyrex nesting bowl sets that are missing the blue bowl. (Why is it always the small blue bowl?)

Yard Sale — These are nothing more than drive-by garage sales where people can look at the junk while creeping by in their cars at five miles per hour. The problem is the driver often forgets they’re driving. These sales are good if you need a mangled Chevy pickup bumper from 1970, particle board furniture or an old couch that’s missing a cushion or two. They’re also good for avoiding sales tax because no one charges it. Once I  really scored when I bought a 100 piece ball cap collection. Since most of the caps were the kind with webbing, which I hate, I use the caps as oil strainers and throw them away when clogged. I also bought what I think is the largest ballpoint pen collection in the world featuring pens that advertise constipation drugs that I think belonged to a gastroenterologist.

Barn Sale — These should really be called “Rust Sales” because everything is covered in it. People go to these because they’ve heard about “barn find” Ferraris worth $2 million bucks and Snap On toolboxes filled with hundred dollar wrenches. Mostly what you’ll find are certified pre-used bolts and rusty nails. Lots and lots of rusty nails, because no one has pounded a nail since pneumatic nail-guns were invented. You’ll also find pallets of 1 gallon paint cans that are one-fourth full of mustard yellow or pea-soup-colored paint. Here’s some good advice: never buy a rattle can of paint at a barn sale and always plug in those old Craftsman drills to see if they work. 

Estate Sale — These are far-and-away the best junk for the money but be advised, there’s an entire subset of dealers who scan Craigslist for these sales, get up at two thirty in the morning to be first in line, and then buy up all the good stuff to sell in their booth at an antique mall. Also, because the words “estate sale” attracts buyers like bars do drunks, often times you’ll see garage or yard sales advertised as “estate sales.” But remember, to be a true estate sale someone had to die. 

Estate sales are unbeatable for acquiring junk to sell at your own estate sale when you croak.

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