Professional Secrets for Finding Treasure at Garage Sales

Shannon Quinn - June 21, 2021
Handmade cuckoo clocks are always valuable. Credit: Shutterstock

5. Cuckoo Clocks

If you find any cuckoo clock from a yard sale, grab it and ask questions later. Even the quirky small brands can sell for $100 for more. There are some clock fanatics out there who literally have an entire wall or room of their house dedicated to clocks. If you can find a clock that has some other special value to it, that’s worth buying as well. For example, I bought a Disney Snow White clock at a yard sale for $1. It was signed by Adriana Caselloti, the actress who played the voice of Snow White. After having her signature authenticated by a Disney expert, I was able to sell it for $150.

The most expensive cuckoo clocks you can find are the German Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks, which go for thousands of dollars. I found a German Black Forest cuckoo clock at a yardsale, and paid just $5 for it. The clock wasn’t in working condition, and missing parts. I was still able to sell it on eBay practically overnight for $350. The person who bought it probably fixed it up and resold it for over $1,000. There is a Swiss Black Forest cuckoo clock from the year 1900 currently listed on 1stDibs for $30,000.

There are a few vintage computers out there that are worth a small fortune. Credit: Shutterstock

4. Computers

Nowadays, it seems like computers become obsolete pretty quickly. After just a few years, your old laptop or desktop may be too slow to handle all of the newest programs and games. So it’s actually very common to see people selling their vintage computers at garage sales without thinking twice about it. If you’re lucky, you just might hit the jackpot and find a rare and expensive computer.

The 1976 Apple 1 had very few models made, and most of them were located in California. One of these sold on eBay for $1,750,000. And if you look for the Apple II and beyond, they still sell for thousands of dollars online.

Some carpets resell for hundreds of dollars. Credit: Canva

3. Carpets and Rugs

Believe it or not, there is a big market for used rugs. Handmade antique Persian rugs are one of the most sought-after. Companies around the world have tried to replicate the style, but it’s not exactly the same. The most expensive rug ever sold was for $33 million in 2013. Crazy, right?

The great thing about rugs is that they can be shampooed and cleaned so that they’re in great condition, even if they’re used. The eBay podcast hosts of Scavenger Life, Jay and Ryanne, regularly sell antique rugs for hundreds of dollars. When you think about it, a lot of rugs from high-end brands go for $1,000 or more. So if you can find one at a yard sale and clean it, you would probably have great luck reselling it on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. The only issue is finding a place to store it.

Always do research before you get rid of grandma’s bone china. Credit: Shutterstock

2. Bone China

Fine Bone China is different from your average porcelain. It’s made with bone ash, and has a semi-translucent quality if you hold it up to the sun. If you ever find a piece like this when browsing garage sales, you’re almost guaranteed to be able to sell each piece for $100. Always check the bottom for marks. A golden crown usually indicates that it came from England. British Bone China tends to be the most valuable.

Other types of china are valuable, as well. Many of the ultra-expensive pieces are European. But plenty of American brands, like Lenox, sell for decent amounts of money on eBay too. Lenox has patterns that come out for a limited time. So if someone breaks a piece, they often go online to find replacements. Because of this, there is a huge market for selling older china patterns. For example, I recently bought my mom a replacement Lenox mug, and I had to pay $40 just for the one piece. For all I know, this person may have found it for $1 at a yard sale. However, be warned. If you plan to sell anything breakable like china, make sure you pack it very well!

Some people collect vintage ephemera. Credit: Shutterstock

1. Papers

Collectible papers, also known as “ephemera” are bought for all kinds of reasons. Some people like to see newspaper stories of historic value, postcards of their hometown, and so much more. However, please don’t get into the habit of collecting every single paper you find. (That’s called hoarding.) 

Sometimes, you just might hit the jackpot. One man found a paper stock certificate from 1917 of an oil company, which merged with Coca-Cola. (Weird combo, but okay.) The man paid just $5, and found out later that it was now worth $130 million!