The estate sale scene where I live sucks the big one sometimes. Not because there aren’t a dozen sales going on at any given time, but because the big shot dealers often kill all the fun: A. They line up first thing to gobble up whatever good stuff they can wipe down and resell for ten times as much in Brooklyn. B. Because of them, the prices get jacked way up. C. They are aggressive and humorless poopie pants.
It’s because of this that I find some of the best sales to be the weirdest/grossest/creepiest ones, where you need a whole case of Fresh ‘n Flush for when you’re done digging through all the piles. These are the sales that dealers and dilettantes tend to steer clear of.
This is why sale-ing with Mom and Pete on Cape Cod is infinitely more fun. First off, they get that some of the best stuff is often buried under layers of filth. It also helps that there aren’t as many dealers on the Cape; it’s mostly just a bunch of normal folk (and some collectors) looking for stuff and having a good time. There’s a sense of good will there that is definitely NOT in the NYC area.
Whenever I visit Mom and Pete, we usually make at least one morning (often Fridays) out of sale-ing: coffee, newspaper, a rough map of the sales, then we jump in the car and go. With lunch at the Sea Street Café afterward. Two weeks ago I drove up for a visit and got some really excellent “smalls” (in estate sale parlance), because my house can’t handle no more “bigs.” Check it:
Two bucks! Best yet, after I bought it, this note fell out:
Juliet was listed as one of the contributors in the book.
Then, at the same sale, on the same set of shelves, was the estate sale equivalent of spotting a unicorn:
Magnetic Play Theatre! This was one of my favorite toys when I was little. My mom gave it to me for Christmas one year, and I still have it. It’s from Czechoslovakia (she bought it at Creative Playthings in NYC, if anyone remembers that store), and I’ve seen a few for sale online, but only in Europe. It’s a miniature stage set with a reversible interior/exterior castle scene, and a little wooden king, queen, prince, princess, and knight. There are two stick magnets you use under the stage floor to move the magnetized figures around. I love how cool and simple and high kwality it is. My friend Liz’s awesome daughter Millie is getting it for her birthday.
Same day, different sale: pristine, FAR OUT records, stored in a trunk in the garage, for 25 cents each:
Don’t hate me for this next one, but in the basement of the same sale was this little gem (also 25 cents):
Don Ho had an eleven-year stint at the Polynesian Palace in Waikiki, from 1970-81, singing his HITS, wooing the ladies, and selling these glasses. Apparently the chain-smoking DH was known for summoning the older gals onstage for wet, open-mouth kisses. In 1979, People mag quoted him as saying: “I haven’t picked anything up from a grandma yet. Besides, grandma don’t yell rape; she appreciates.” KLASS!
Another score from that day: He-n-she purses. Italian leather. $30 for both:
Lastly, a costume jewelry heist. A woman in town was running her own sale (sometimes these are the best–the ones with the handwritten signs, not advertised online for all the dealer vultures to see), and she was selling her jewelry from the 70s and 80s. I got all this for around $20 (and yes, those are coral and amber necklaces, and the earrings are silver):
It’s worth noting that the chain necklace (left) she wore with a crushed velvet pantsuit. No doubt with ample cleavage and a Virginia Slims ciggie.
I now have visions of a Studio 54/Hammond organ/Don Ho-luau kind of summer. The reality is probably something closer to this: