Saturday, April 25, 2009

Yard Sales


So it's spring, and around here spring means the start of yard sale season.

Do you buy books at yard sales? When you host a yard sale, do you find that you're able to sell them?

When I was a kid, we didn't have a lot of money and the public library couldn't always satisfy my appetite for books, so I figured something out. Not that I could find interesting books at yard sales. All I found at yard sales were cheesy romances and pulp thrillers. No, I figured out that I could buy paperbacks in good condition for cheap money (a quarter, fifty cents), then sell them to my local used bookstore for credit- and make money. Then I bought the shop's half-off paperbacks- and found the books I was looking for. I bought Tolstoy's short stories, I found a wonderful book called Christ Stopped At Eboli, which at the time I thought no one else had ever heard of but was a marvelous read. I found Dostoevsky and Gandhi's autobiography, poetry anthologies and plays and all kinds of things that helped form my tastes over the years.

Sometimes I found stuff to read at yard sales too. Once, after coming home from a day of yard-shopping, I realized that I had bought two copies of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude at two separate yard sales- and then decided that, hey, maybe I should read it! It turned out to be one of my favorite books. And I used to collect French-language grammar books at yard sales, which I would use to study. (Yes, I bought extra textbooks so I could spend extra time studying.) Then, when I was a senior in high school and part of the school's Russian exchange program, I met a girl named Natasha who was trying to study French on her own. I traded her a pile of my grammar books for a bag full of souvenirs she brought to give Americans- postcards, those little metal pins, matryoshka dolls, all kinds of things. And I still have everything she gave me.

Nowadays when I browse at yard sales it's not with an eye to selling and I rarely find something I'm desperate to read. Sometimes though (like this morning), for a dollar or less I'll take a chance. The sale I visited today had stacks of Marian Keyes, Jennifer Weiner and the like, and I picked up something cute-looking for a buck. The last time I hosted a sale, books were the hardest things to sell, and next time I'm not sure I'd even bother. It's still fun though, to peek into what other people have read and then, once in a while, experiment a little. What's your yard-sale story?

13 comments:

Bookseller Bill said...

I love scouting for books (and games) at yard sales, either for my shop, or to trade at Booksmith or Harvard Book Store. I always manage to find something interesting, although it's a grind (I'd say I buy something at maybe one of every 5 yard sales, maybe fewer).

I'm always a bit surprised at people who don't understand yard sale pricing. On one hand, $3 or $4 for a trade paperback is a great price; on the other hand, the idea of a yard sale is to get rid of stuff.

My big find last summer was the four Twilight books (one paper, the other three hardcover, two signed) for $1.75. I'd wanted to see what the fuss was about; after 100 pages of Twilight, I decided I didn't really need to know and put them on eBay. A few summers before that, I spent about $20 on three or four grocery sacks full of books (at 25 cents each), including a couple Sherman Alexie titles for my girlfriend. Got home and discovered those were signed.

Last summer, I finally met up with a guy who I considered my nemesis. I'd always see him at the Davis Square Goodwill with a stack of books, comparing them against some sort of printout he had. He'd always be leaving yard sales as I would get to them, and I'd always wonder what he had snatched from under me. This time, we were waiting around for a sale to start. We got to chatting and it turned out he was a nice guy who had been grinding away at book scouting for years.

Girl That Reads said...

I love going to yard sales, estate sales, and swap meets in search of books. I am excited that the weather's getting nice enough that yard sales are starting to pop up now!

Also, I recently received my first blog award and I chose you to pass it on to!

candyschultz said...

I buy books at yard sales all the time. The offerings are usually wretched but once in awhile you can find a really good book.

Don't have yard sales myself. Not since my children grew up. I probably wouldn't sell any of my books anyway.

Molly said...

I rarely make the time to go to yard sales because it seems to be such a hassle (there are some pretty mean-spirited buyers out there) --- but I do love when I find a good book bargain!

Most of my book buying is done at the local second hand bookstores. Not quite garage sale pricing - but still a bargain.

I must say I am very impressed with your young entrepreneurial skills!

bermudaonion said...

In the South we have yard sales all year long. I usually don't go to them because I don't want to drag myself out of bed that early.

Rebecca :) said...

Oh, I love yard sales! Yummy used books!

I also wanted to tell you I have given you an award that you can pick up here: http://imlostinbooks.blogspot.com/2009/04/friendly-bloggers-award.html

kalea_kane said...

Here in Arizona people have yard sales at the oddest time. In Rhode Island I was accustomed to weekend yard sales. Here you might catch one on a Tuesday. Very odd.

I love yard sales. Sometimes book finds are rather crappy. People either overprice or they don't have anything I'd want. Occasionally though, I did find a gem or two. I prefer to get my used books at the thrift stores here. They are always really reasonably priced and in very good condition. I got several really great books at the Habitat for Humanity store a few weeks ago for 25 cents a pop.

I also would buy a book cheap and trade it for credit at the used book store when I lived in Maine. I don't think I ever spent a penny in that place. :)

Have a great day!

Kristi said...

I love to go to garage sales for books! That is one of the main reasons I will go (my husband thinks I am the only one who does this!) Haven't gone to any yet this year - but I am going to start looking next weekend. I did hit a great book sale at my library today that I am hoping to post about in the next few days!

Library Cat said...

I have rarely ever gotten rid of any books that I own (much to my husband's dismay) and I do often read things over and over again. But one time, I felt like I just had to make more room, so I decided to sell some of the books at the neighbor's garage sale. I was helping her with the sale, when some old crumudgeon walked up to the boxes of books and said - wow this woman reads trash! I was horrified and glad that I wasn't in front of my house. Then I thought about it a while and got irritated because since when are paperback copies of the classics I read in high school trash? The only other book I remember being in the bunch was Up the Down Staircase!

naida said...

I have never bought a book at a yard sale myself, its probably because I rarely stop by any yard sales. The cheapest i've ever gotten books is at library sales.
http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

OnlinePublicist said...

Yard sale fanatic here! I LOVE them! My only really great book find was last summer when I found a box of vintage, cloth cover cookbooks for $12. They now decorate my kitchen shelves and they're so fun to look through!

Serena said...

Wow, my dad used to take us yard-saling all the time, mostly to find his collectible matchbox and hot wheels cars. He still collects them and probably still goes to yard sales even though we are not around to weed out the bad stuff from the boxes, but it was fun to see what kinds of things people sold and for how much.

I might have to set up shop at a yard sale to get rid of some of our duplicate items in the house...thanks for the reminder.

Zibilee said...

I like to scout yard sales to see what books others are reading as well. I never usually end up buying there, but I like your idea of buying to sell. It sounds like the perfect solution for a bibliophile without access to many books to earn some book money. I am thinking of having a yard sale this summer and wondering if my books will sell at all. I seem not to read a lot of what others find really popular, so I am not sure.