Over the years, our family has held about 10 tag sales, each easier than the last. They do require work, but I love the feeling of cleaning out the closets, creating order out of chaos, and especially the actual day when you can sit outside and chat with your neighbors. My favorite aspect of a tag sale, however, is the satisfaction of finding the right home for everything. For example, years ago, my brother-in-law passed down to us a Thorens turntable. To those in the know, Thorens was once one of the best turntables made, but it meant little to us, so we decided to sell it. We listed it in our Pennysaver ad, knowing that the Thorens name would mean something to someone. Sure enough, late in the day, a man rushed in asking if the Thorens had been sold. He had seen it in our ad and had driven 20 minutes to buy it. He went away a happy man, scooping it up for $25, and we were delighted knowing he was the right person to have it. Following are some tips for a successful tag sale:
Weeks before • Set a date for your tag sale. Once you do, you’ll have to get the process rolling. Pick a weekend when the weather will be nice and when people will be around, i.e., preferably not a holiday weekend or the start of a vacation week. • Though many people hold two- or even three-day tag sales, we have found that Saturday is the best day for a sale. If you don’t want to devote a whole weekend to it, you can have a one-day sale and still do quite well. • Two weeks before the tag sale, start going through the attic and every closet, cabinet, and drawer in the house, cleaning out what you don’t want. Get the kids involved, too, as it’s a great opportunity to sort through old toys and organize their rooms. However, make sure you approve of what the kids are selling. • About a week-and-a-half before the sale, put an ad in the Pennysaver (check the deadline for the issue that will be out the week of your sale). In your ad, itemize things that will attract special buyers, such as baby clothing, a crib, brand names, a treadmill, antiques and collectibles, etc. Some people like to specify “cash only”. • Note in the ad if you have a rain date, or if you’ll have the sale rain or shine. Organizational tips The object is to make the sale as easy and appealing for buyers as possible, so: • Dust or wash everything off. Make minor repairs if necessary. • Put a price tag on everything. Price items low enough to seem like a bargain, but not so low that you can’t come down in price a little. Some tag sale habitués never buy at the price marked, so expect to negotiate. • For small and numerous items, like old silverware, plastic animals or crayons, put a bunch of items in a plastic bag for $5, $1 or 25 cents. Daycare providers, for example, sometimes come along and buy up these deals. • Create a $1 or 50-cent box for small miscellaneous items. • Have a one-price box for like items and post the prices, except for those specially marked. For example, price all books the same: hard covers are one price and paperbacks are another. Make an exception for special books or CDs by putting a special price tag on them. • Let the kids man their own toy table and work out an agreement with them about how you will split the profits. We let our kids keep all the money they make from selling their old toys and games (except in the case of something very expensive). They learn to clean and organize their toys, price things fairly, negotiate with people, handle money and deal with the public. When my younger son was about four, he also sold paintings he made for $1 each. • If your kids are too young to sell their own toys, let them sell lemonade. • Adult clothing generally doesn’t sell well at tag sales, but soccer cleats, roller skates, and specialized accessories do. Baby and children’s clothing items are popular, but make sure they’re clean and organized by size. • Have a full-length mirror available for trying on clothing. Also, prepare a source of electricity so you can demonstrate that appliances work. • Don’t assume that something is not saleable simply because you don’t like it. When we moved into our house, we inherited a hideous macramé lamp shade, dusty vertical blinds, and a gauzy blue curtain. All three items sold at our tag sale because someone needed to temporarily decorate a dining room. Remember, there’s a right home for everything! Two days before: • Buy bright or fluorescent oak tag (one color) and thick black markers to make signs advertising your sale. Signs must be large and clear and readable to drivers going at 40mph. We have been told that people felt our signs held their hands all the way to our house. Signs should include the words Tag Sale, date and time, address, and big arrows (in a variety of directions). Signs closer to your home can be small and have just arrows because drivers will have been conditioned to look for your colored signs. • If no rain is expected, place the signs two days in advance on telephone poles or at key intersections with the arrow pointing in the direction of your house. If rain is predicted, post the signs the night before the sale. Sale day: • Set up all your tables the night before so that you can easily carry them out, because the minute you open your garage door (even if it’s before your advertised time, and even if you’ve advertised “No Early Birds”), people will be there waiting. • When you set up your tables, group similar items together, e.g., housewares, books or CDs, baby items. • Rope off areas of your garage or yard where items are not for sale. • Put a sign, flag or balloons in front of your house so people can find it easily. • Set up a table to sit at with your cash box (have singles and small change handy), pencil and paper, extra price stickers for re-pricing, and a calculator. Let the kids manage their own table and cash box. • Have bags for carrying items and newspaper for packing breakables. Get garbage bags ready for trash. • Throughout the day, reevaluate your prices and lower them if you feel prospective buyers perceive them as being too high. If many items have sold, rearrange the remaining things so the presentation still looks appealing. • About an hour before closing, slash your prices and let everyone who arrives know you’re willing to negotiate. • Relax and enjoy yourself. Be friendly and flexible. Remember, the point is to get rid of your stuff! After the sale: • Put the items you can’t bear to put back into the attic by the street. People will come and take most of it away before the garbage collectors even get there. • Or donate things in good condition to a charity. • Or store them in the attic for the next sale. • Be a good neighbor: go around town and take down your signs. • Use some of your hard-earned money to go out to dinner with the kids!