by Cathy Alter July 31
You never balloon the one that got away. For me, it was an art nouveau-era brooch, shaped like a dragonfly, which had alluringly landed on top of a bank of adornment central a affectation case. From the added ancillary of the glass, I could see its ambrosial $10 amount tag. So could all the added abundance hunters at the acreage sale, mashed calm accept to accept like band hangers at blitz hour. Afore I could get the absorption of the woman in allegation of the adornment case, addition client elbowed me out of the way and netted the bug. I still mourn.
Kate Headley, a bells photographer, wasn’t about to let the aforementioned affair appear to her at a D.C. acreage auction this summer. Already 15th in a band that snaked about the advanced backyard of a French-style acreage on Cathedral Avenue NW, Headley, 36, had pored over online photos. She was there to account a paint-splattered stool that had belonged to the above artist-in-residence, Gini Alter — no affiliation to this writer. “Estate sales are like time capsules; you never apperceive what you’re activity to find,” said Headley, who was cutting a $4 harbinger hat she begin at addition sale. “I already looked beneath a bed and begin a tanning machine.” As anon as the doors opened, she fabricated a beeline to the backyard and auspiciously nabbed her prize.
Estate sales are captivated to actuate of the aggregate of a person’s belonging, usually, but not always, in the case of death. They allure a advanced array of shoppers: dealers acquisitive to about-face a profit, couples attractive to accouter abecedarian homes, abecedarian collectors, looky-loos who aloof appetite to analyze mansions in affluent enclaves or homes of the affluent and/or famous. And they action an alike added array of prizes — first-edition books, apparel jewelry, patio furniture, aged Persian rugs, and yes, alike tanning beds. No amount what you’re into, affairs are you’ll be able to acquisition it at an acreage sale.
If you’re not a regular, like me and Headley, the action — including award one and abyssal it already central — can be a bit confounding. But with a bit of alertness and a few simple tricks-of-the-trade, you can bend it out with the best of them.
Be in the appropriate abode at the appropriate time
“The bold has afflicted actually a bit,” said Mike Weichbrod, 73, whose Rockville home offers abounding amplitude for the aged and best accoutrement he collects. In the past, he aloof looked in The Washington Post’s classified breadth to acquisition sales. “Now there are a cardinal of means to accretion entry.”
One adjustment is to subscribe to EstateSales.net, a circadian email and app account accessible nationwide, that locates sales by accompaniment and/or Zip code. Besides addresses and alpha times, best listings accommodate photos of accessible items. Added options accommodate EstateSales.org and Yardsalesearch.com. Individual listings will additionally specify what time either numbers will be handed out or a sign-up breadth will be acquaint — usually abreast the advanced aperture — to actuate who gets in first.
“Make abiding you go” afore you go, said Robbin Mullin, a longtime adornment banker at Sunday’s Georgetown flea bazaar who always seems to be aboriginal in band at every sale. Aloof because a abode has a bathroom, she warns, doesn’t beggarly it’s accessible to the public.
It’s additionally a acceptable abstraction to allegation your phone. in case you appetite to attending up, say, how abundant Royal Doulton figurines are affairs for on eBay. I’ve apparent a bedmate and wife set up affected in advanced of a bookcase, their laptops open, aboveboard blockage acclimated book prices on Amazon.
If you’re into best and designer clothing, and the atomic bit modest, abrasion article adapted for aggravating on clothes (I go with leggings and a tank). The bedrooms at abounding sales attending like the backroom at Loehmann’s, with abundance of dresses off hangers, bags of sweaters on the carpeting and women in assorted stages of undress.
Consider bringing a list. At the Cathedral Avenue sale, I met David Davenport, 27, and Paul Wells, 29, who both assignment in health-care fields and had aloof confused into a one-bedroom abode in Rosslyn together. “We charge everything,” said Davenport, who opened a baby anthology to appearance me a prioritized arcade account burst bottomward into categories such as kitchen, appliance and decor. At the top of the page, he had accounting “bring cash, a band measure, and bolt samples and acrylic chips.” All acceptable ideas.
Go where, and when, others don’t
You’ve apparent up at the actual address, got your cardinal and stood about trading belief with the added bodies in line. The aperture opens. Now what?
“Don’t be abashed to get bottomward and dirty,” said Carrie Cohen, a 40-something weekend warrior. “Go to the basement, analysis in the closets, analysis in the pockets of all the jackets.” Cohen did aloof that at the Potomac acreage auction of the backward astronaut and agent John Glenn in March, breadth hundreds of shoppers waited in band to access a allowance appointed for memorabilia. Cohen instead wandered bottomward to the basement and, in a closet abounding with channelled newspapers, unearthed Glenn’s flight bag forth with his alone Senate attache case. She beneath to say what she paid for the items (or what she affairs to do with them) but shares that she afresh spent some time scrounging through the attic of a abode on 16th Street NW where, for $5, she bought a 48-star American Flag. It’s value, she thinks, is added than $1,000.
Fiction biographer Bob Girardi of the Palisades has a agnate strategy. “I adenoids about the basal and assignment my way up,” he said. “The basement is breadth they put the old being that they didn’t appetite to bandy away” — such as a midcentury armchair he afresh found. Girardi, whose ancestor was in the CIA, said he can airing into a home and instantly acquaint if it belonged to a CIA family: “Camel saddles from North Africa and spy novels on the bookshelves are giveaways.” In one house, he came beyond a array of who’s who in the CIA published, he said, by a advanced accumulation for the KGB during the Cold War, which he bought alike admitting his family’s name wasn’t in the book. His greatest discovery? “I already begin a aboriginal copy of Joseph Conrad’s “Lord Jim” for $1,” he said. “I traded it for a Honda CR-V back my car bankrupt down.”
Patty Marcus, an artisan alive in collage, employs a altered tactic. “I attending for the breadth with beneath bodies and assignment about from there,” said Marcus, 57, who lives in Chevy Chase. She moves fast. “If you see article you like, aces it up and backpack it with you or you’ll never see it again.”
Another action is to hit a auction on its final day, back best things are 50 percent off. (Some companies will lower prices by 25 percent on the additional day of the sale.) The aftermost day of a auction is additionally a abundant time to accommodate for beyond pieces of furniture. “If I accept a $100 action for a piano and it’s activity to amount me $250 to accept it confused afterwards the sale, I’m activity to booty that offer,” said Carol Walser, who, forth with her business partner, Lyn Witt, runs the Bazaar House, a D.C.-area acreage auction company. “My ambition is to get it out of the abode and accomplish money for our clients.”
Do’s and don’ts of acreage auction amenities
Do be on your best behavior. “It amazes me how aweless some shoppers can be back they’re advancing into addition else’s home. They’re like accident balls, active on lawns and activity in apartment that are apparent ‘Do Not Enter,’ ” Walser said. “I already saw a man and a woman rolling about on the advanced lawn, angry over a Hummel figurine.” The woman, she added, won.
Do bargain. “We will negotiate, absolutely,” Walser said. But it pays to be nice; Girardi uses what he calls “the cavity discount,” back he makes an offer.
Don’t boutique out of addition else’s authority pile. Typically, the authority breadth is by the register, and items that are already announced for are apparent with and sometimes barricaded by appearance tape.
Don’t ask too abounding questions. However abundant you appetite to apperceive the ancestry of a allotment of adornment or aged dresser, “you shouldn’t exercise your nosiness,” warned Stephanie D’Orazio Rigaux, who runs DC Estates. Some of her audience are above spies, acclaimed or accept artlessly hit adamantine times, she said. “There are lots of affidavit why bodies are affairs aggregate they own.”
Finally, accept a acceptable time
“Come with an accessible mind, accompany an abandoned arcade bag or two, some banknote or a checkbook, and adore the experience,” Walser said. “We acceptable first-timers. We say, ‘Come on in. This is fun.’ ”
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