The citywide garage sale is coming up next weekend. It's time to clean out some clutter and put a little cash in your pocket while doing so. In honor of garage sale season, I thought I would do some research on the topic and learn a little history along the way. Here is what I found out.
Garage sales go by many names depending on where you are from. Yard sales, rummage sales, tag sales and lawns sales are all common alternatives. Regardless of what you call it, they are still a great way to get rid of unwanted or unneeded household items.
They are particularly popular in the U.S. and Canada, but they are gaining traction in Australia and other parts of the world as well.
The history of the garage sale is relatively unknown but it can be traced back to the word rummage. "Romage" entered the English language as early as the 16th century. It was a nautical term originally relating to how cargo was packed into the hold of a ship, and then meaning bustle and commotion. As the word continued to evolve, it came to refer to the great amount of miscellaneous cargo stashed away in the hold of the ship.
The first rummage sales were held at the docks. Cargo that was unclaimed or damaged would be hauled out of the hold and put up for sale. By the 19th century, this practice was being called a rummage sale. It would refer to the sale of damaged or unwanted goods from warehouses or storehouses as well.
By the 1890s, the sales were moved to more communal locations such as a park or a church. Many people would donate their unused items to be sold off, a practice that is still common today.
As our homes and our amount of (often unnecessary) possessions increased, the need for modern garage sales was born.
In the 1970s the garage sale became very popular, as homes became the perfect staging ground for people to sell their unwanted goods and generate some extra money.
Today garage sales are still a great way to make some cash, to prepare for a move, or to pare down clutter. Sellers use signs, fliers, television or newspaper ads to get the word out. The internet has taken the garage sale advertising aspect to a whole new level, as people are advertising their sales for days or weeks in advance.
Some locations require a permit to hold a sale. These days, you can find just about anything at a garage sale ranging from clothing, books, toys, household knick-knacks, sports equipment and lawn and garden tools to larger items like furniture and home appliances. It is estimated that garage sale sales could account for $2 billion annually.
Many people enjoy attending sales and searching for discarded items that can be of value to a new owner. The early birds are often collectors, restorers or resellers. Hit television shows like A&E's, Storage Wars, have increased in popularity due to the desire to find valuable treasures. The majority of the items sold at garage sales are inexpensive, but occasionally you hear a story about a rare and unusual find bought for relatively nothing that ended up being worth a whole lot more.
For example, in 2010, a Las Vegas man paid $10 for what turned out to be a $2 million Andy Warhol original sketch. In another instance, a California man paid $5 for a box of junk in 2012 and ended up finding a Coca-Cola stock certificate from 1917 that today could be worth $130 million. The court may have ruled the certificate invalid or he just may be the richest garage sale hunter in history. That may be enough motivation for some to get out and do some neighborhood shopping this weekend.