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At Home: Ground Zero Part One: The Estate Sale

Marni Jameson covers the finer points of holding an estate sale.
By Marni Jameson, For The Oklahoman Published: March 4, 2013

So starts a steady stream of buyers armed with magnifying glasses, penlights and laptops, who in two days turn more than half the household contents into cash, and teach me about the world of secondhand sales:

Call it what you like. An estate sale implies that a whole household is on sale, meaning more and better items. It is usually held indoors. A garage, moving or yard sale implies that the person is cleaning house. These usually take place in the garage, driveway or yard. A rummage sale invites people to dig for buried treasures.

Value is relative. Do not assume you can guess what shoppers will buy. A box of old rags, cans of rusty nails, an old meat grinder, vintage postcards from the trash — all sold. One couple bought the Clorox and a gallon jug of white vinegar.

Nothing is sacred. Signs on doors that say “Don't Open” mean nothing.

Which day? Weekend sales may attract more buyers, but midweek sales attract better buyers.

Some people have no class. One buyer picked up a pile of worn towels. As my sister-in-law finalized the sale, she found that the customer had shoved a few more treasures inside the stack.

Some people have a lot of class. One customer pointed out that a porcelain figurine I had priced at $5, was a first-issue Hummel, circa 1939-1945. It was probably worth closer to $1,500. He suggested I reconsider the pricing.

Know your goal. It's easy to get caught up in pricing items based on how much you would have to buy them for, but when we kept our goal in mind — clear the place out — prices fell.

Don't do this to your children. Parents of adult children, PLEEEEEAASE declutter now.

Next week, I enlist the help of a celebrity appraiser from PBS's Antiques Roadshow to help me know how to price and sell my parents' antiques.

Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through


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