Antique Geeks: My Adventures in Estate Sales

My friend Megan and I are self-proclaimed geeks. We’re part of Generation X which we fit into for the most part. But I was born two decades late because I love music and furniture from the 1960s and 1970s. Megan prefers the 1950s and 1980s. We both agree, though, the less expensive, the better so this morning we ventured out to a few estate sales. Follow along in the form of a “how-to” guide as our adventures brought us all over the city looking for the best Nashville has to offer. If you’re on time, you’re late. If the estate sale begins at 9:00am, it’s completely fine to get there in the 8 O’Clock hour, unless they specifically say not to. A lot of times the good stuff could get picked over before you even get there, so whether it helps to take an early-morning shower or support your local coffee shop with a cup to kick off the day, start early.

Coffee from the hometown Starbucks

What exactly are you planning here, sir? To make best use of time and gas, plan out a route before you leave the house. A lot of time will be spent in the car which is fine, but it’ll pay off if you’re not backtracking from sale to sale. Most estate sales list addresses so make your GPS unit earn it’s keep. Also, be prepared to pay via cash. Some sales don’t accept any other form of payment. 

I am a rock, I am an island. As a loner myself, I typically don’t seek out company, but there are a few convincing reasons to bring someone along when you go estate saling. Most importantly, your companion can tell you if what you like is actually hideous. Trust me, that’s invaluable. They can also spot you some cash if you run out and there’s a wood carving of an owl that you just can’t live without. Sure the lyrics “I am a rock, I am an island” are cool, but come one, call up your buddy and bring ’em along.

Keep your eyes on the prize. If you’re looking for something specific at estate sales, it’s important to keep that in mind. Without a doubt, you’re going to see some cool things. You’re going to see some things you never thought you’d see. Many times you’ll see something and think to yourself, “Oh yes, I’ve always needed one of these,” when in reality you don’t. A good philosophy here is to ask yourself, “Will this look like junk in my house?” If the answer is yes, maybe, or probably, don’t buy it. One truth that fits here is that if you don’t love it in the store, you won’t love it at home so try to stick to what you know you want to buy but at the same time, be open to buying stuff that’s just downright cool. For instance, I like collecting bottles so at the second estate sale I found a great bottle from Korea. It had a root inside it. My friend Megan found books she likes and a few great records. Beware of the fanny pack. If you see people wearing fanny packs, be offensive in your shopping. Whatever you’re interested in, hold on to it until you’ve made up your mind. If you set it down, chances are a fanny pack will come snatch it up like a hungry wolf.

Respect your surroundings. Old dinner plates. Old silverware. Old homes. Old people. If you’re looking for the latest IKEA home furnishings, estate sales are not for you. Just think to yourself, why is this sale happening? More often than not, the person living there died of old age. You don’t know who of the family is there, so be mature, don’t criticize the things you see, and spend some cash! Whether you buy a little or fill up a U-Haul, “vintage” is the new “used” so this weekend check out a few estate sales. You may find what you’re looking for, but you’ll definitely find what you were never looking for.

The first mobile phone. Ever.

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