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Jul 29, 2022

GARAGE SALE DIARIES: Garage Sale Friends

When you’ve been frequenting garage sales as long as we have, some faces become familiar. You meet the same seekers over and over again, and you get to know a few of them pretty well. Like us, they spend weekends poking through the flotsam and jetsam of others’ lives. It’s not that we’ve all really become friends in the classic sense; in fact, we rarely see one another outside of the garage-sale circuit. Still, since our interests are often similar, we’ve formed some pretty strong bonds over the years. Some, who when you bump into them on a drizzly morning, wave an enthusiastic hello, and others just give a timid nod and then silently shake their head cautioning you away from that bar of gold you’re eyeing. They are quick to seek advice when trying to figure out whether to buy something they are unsure of, and they then willingly share their knowledge with you when you’re not too sure yourself. They are the people who are glad to lend a truck or a strong back to help get that heavy, oversized whatever home for you. They are also the people whom we telephone when we spot something we think they might be interested in – and people who call us for the same reason.

We found our little girl a seven-piece, 1960s “Thomasville” bedroom furniture set after we were alerted to it by one of the group – more about that another time. A different member of the group lent his truck and his muscles and helped us get it all home. He raises Golden Retrievers, and we told him about the 20 cases of dog food we’d discovered in a garage in Freehold. Sure, it was few months past the sell-by date, but it was only $10 for all of it.

We told the guy who has recreating an old-time bar room in his basement about some elephant head beer taps and gave him a speak-easy door from the 1920s that we found in an old barn. Over the years, we’ve come across lots of other things that he’s planning to use in his bar. In fact, he got the idea for the whole project when some others in the circle called him about some antique bar room tables and chairs and one of those slot machines with the big, round dial in front like in the saloons in the old cowboy movies.

Then there’s the couple who’s crazy for Mad magazines; we turned them onto a sale where there were more than 100 early issues. A week later, they told us about a place where the guy had lots of old picture frames sitting in a shed. We bought them all for just pennies each, fitted them up with family pictures, and now they cover much of the wall space in our home.

We’ve told people about leather upholstered furniture and carnival glass, American art pottery, and classic wooden archery sets. After a friend alerted about a sale on a front porch in Eatontown, we picked up an excellent 1870s Long Branch map for only a couple of dollars.

A cousin from New York City told us she has begun collecting old Swiss disc type music boxes asked us to be on the lookout for them in our travels, especially for ones with the “Thorens” name on them. We had never heard the name and weren’t even sure what a disc type music box was, but we spread the word among our little group of garage sale friends, and within a couple of weeks, we got two calls. The first one proved to be a false lead; it was only a little cylinder type from the 1960s – really just a kids toy that played “Jack and Jill.” The second was exactly what she was looking for, so we sent her a photo of it. It was about the size of a small cigar box, and it was made of dark brown wood and was well constructed with nicely joined corners. All scratched up, faded and not very interesting to look at, it was just an old box. But when we opened it up, we saw a beautifully designed musical movement with an elaborate wind-up mechanism that was in excellent working condition and played perfectly. It was clearly marked “Thorens” as were the five additional discs stored in their own special compartment. When she heard the price of only $20, she said, “Oh, my God. Buy it for me. I’ll be right down!” She said the box alone was worth a couple of hundred dollars and the five discs were worth at least $50 more. She took the train down from the city to pick it up that afternoon, and along with a $20 bill to pay for the music box, she handed us a nice bottle of Swiss “Pino Noir” as a reward for our diligence. She gave us another one to pass along to the friend who told us where to find the music box in the first place. That bottle of wine was absolutely delicious, and is worth more than twice what we paid for the music box. It seems that one way or another, for us, shopping at garage sales really does pay off.