Everyone dreams about finding a copy of the Declaration of Independence behind some discarded painting at a yard sale. That may not be likely to happen to you but there are still lots of “little wins” that can make you feel like you have won the lottery on any random Saturday.
While most people are sleeping in on a Saturday morning – a well deserved slumber after a work week full of early morning routines – my husband and I head out early after carefully planning our “treasure map” from this week’s listings of estate sales and yard sales. We are giddy with anticipation of what we might find. Like hikers and runners and other adrenaline junkies – this is our rush. In another time we may have been archeologists like Howard Carter searching for a lost tomb. (Come to think of it I had an unusual fascination with all things Egyptian and King Tut in high school.) Today we are digging too – old barns, dark cellars and dusty attics – ripe for the pickin!
How do we classify something as a treasure? Something we bought for next to nothing that has a significant value.
Here are some great examples of some of our recently uncovered “artifacts”.
McCoy Pottery Bowl
Sometimes you find an item and instantly you know that you’ve hit the jackpot. Other times you experience delayed gratification when you get a piece home and do some research. That is what happened with this beautiful McCoy Pottery bowl. I picked it up at a yard sale for $1.00 and was delighted to find that it was worth $100+. Let’s just say that one lucky Etsy customer of mine was happy to give it a proper new home for a price that was just north of that amount.
Art is not something I know a lot about. I tend to shy away from buying it unless it is something I personally like or find intriguing and would be willing to display it in my home. That was the case with the long forgotten Rojankovsky portfolio I found in a stack of ephemera at an estate sale. The piece looked intriguing and something I would enjoy looking through when I got home. It was “fill a box for $5.00” so I tossed it in with my other miscellaneous items. I was basically getting it for free so “Why not?” (This is how hoarders are born BTW 😉 ) I didn’t think it was worth much but was shocked to find the portfolio was a RARE piece titled “Quand la bise fut venue” from 1929. The portfolio, featuring 6 art deco pochoir illustrations, was by Feodor Stepanovich Rojankovsky – also known as Rojan. He was a Russian émigré illustrator. He was well known both for his childrens’ book illustrations that were featured in many of the Little Golden Books. Modern art was more of his passion – the children’s illustrations paid the bills. The portfolio was a promotional brochure for the La Grande Maison de Blanc Opera House in Paris where he had an exhibit in 1929. The “free” piece was my biggest online sale to date selling for hundreds of dollars.
Reed and Barton Cocktail Shaker
We were “free styling” (I love that term from American Pickers) in Raymond, NH one day and hit a yard sale that didn’t look very promising. Tools, tools and more tools – my husband was thrilled. The only good thing about a “tool” yard sale is that most guys who sell tools have no interest in anything else and are willing to rid themselves of “girl stuff” for next to nothing. That was the case that day. I was standing by patiently while my husband decided whether he needed a “spare for his spare” of some power tool and heard the words “Reed and Barton” uttered by another tool hunter reading the bottom of an exquisite cocktail shaker. It didn’t run on batteries so he decided it wasn’t for him. I made a Ninja move toward the cocktail shaker and paid the man the $1.00 he was asking. That was the day I decided that “tool” yard sales weren’t so bad. I sold the cocktail shaker for 100 times my $1.00 investment – better than the stock market any day!
Mid Century “Atomic” Pulley Lamp
Mid century anything is hot right now. I love it and try to incorporate some key pieces into the eclectic/garage sale/estate sale vibe I have going on at home. Some things just don’t seem to fit in no matter how much I’d like to keep them. This pulley lamp that I bought at a church yard sale was screaming “take me home” when I found her. My husband thought I was crazy but I assured him I would not be the only one to admire her. I was quickly proved right when the “likes” starting racking up and the sale was added to my “top ten sales on Etsy” list.
Vintage wooden skis definitely fall under the category of one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Here in New Hampshire, one of the early U.S. playgrounds for skiing, there is never a shortage of old skis just waiting to make their way out of old barns and basements and onto ski lodge owners’ walls. They go for big bucks online. My husband is always on the hunt for them and has sold 4 or 5 sets for 10 times what he paid for them. Sure, he had to lug them home and clean them up but the avid recycler in him is happy to find them a new home – and the money ain’t bad to boot!
Did I mention my husband is an avid recycler? Sometimes this is a bad thing (like when I can’t park in my garage from the overflow of cardboard boxes he has brought home from a construction job so he can “recycle them properly”) and sometimes it’s a good thing (like when he decided to purchase all of the metal rods he found in the basement of an estate sale only to find that one of them was a precious metal called molybdenum and was worth hundreds of dollars). The box lot of metal for $5.00 netted him 100 times that. He always heads to the basement first at estate sales hoping to replicate that glory but days like that are few and far between.
When an unlucky friend makes the mistake of asking us about our outings they typically have to listen to us go on and on about our latest exploits. They invariably will say, “Call me next time you are going.” I warn them…like a man with a metal detector on the beach you have to do a lot of hunting to find treasure….and more often than not you come up empty. If you don’t like the hunt then sleep in on Saturday. Besides, you can always find some of the cool things we’ve tracked down waiting for you on our Etsy page at Lizzie Tish Vintage and Classic Camping.
What are some of your greatest finds? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.