July 13th, 2021
New York - One of the collateral effects of the recent Covid pandemic, which included lockdowns, has been the ability of many who were confined to their own four-walls, to not only tidy-up around the house, but to finally act on that long procrastinated promise of cleaning-out and clearing-out. With the additional time spent at home, people were able to sort, organize and prepare for disposal like never before. As restriction measures eased, and life began to return to some degree of normalcy, garage sale watchers began to notice an interesting trend; listings for garage sales suddenly began to explode.
Grant Howard, a New Jersey native who runs a vintage audio shop on the outskirts of Newark, while also working part-time for an online garage-sale listing service, says that part of his digital responsibilities include aggregating sales listings for the entire state. "During Covid, the number of garage-sales were obviously way down," said Howard, "but as soon as the weather turned and restrictions came off, the listings really spiked." It wasn't just a rebound though, at least according to Howard, who says that weekend postings for neighborhood sales shot way up above what they were pre-Covid. "I'm a bit of a high-end turntable junkie," says Howard, "but finding good examples pre-Covid was getting difficult, now I'm coming across two or three in a single outing." Howard says that he's also noticed an increase in overall quality as well. "In years past, avoiding the children's-clothing sale was almost impossible, but since we've opened back up, I'm seeing all sorts of great collectibles and antiques that were often absent prior to the pandemic."
Other dealers also seem to be aware of the uptick as well. Sharon Miller, a vintage kitchenware aficionado, and part-time decorative arts blogger, says that she cut down her weekend forays before the pandemic simply because they weren't returning any real value. "I was primarily looking for pyrex and mid-century kitchen pieces," says Miller, "but finding good examples was becoming increasingly hard." Miller noted that belonging to an online garage-sale board, was how she first became aware of the sudden increase in overall listings. By the late spring, her neighborhood was experiencing twice as many sales as normal said Miller, but with a much better selection. "I was seeing a lot of good vintage items that I hadn't seen in years - including some valuable 30s era toys and jewelry." Miller thinks that many of the recent garage sales she attended were being held by first-timers. "These were definitely not your regular garage-saler types" says Miller, "the quality was just too good."
A quick scan of sites such as Garage Sale Tracker, Yard Sale Search, or Gsalr.ca, and it becomes plainly evident, even to the most casual of observers, just how much the numbers have changed in recent months. Brad Morris, a dealer from Seattle, Washington, who keeps multiple garage sale apps on his phone from Yard Sale Treasures to G-Sales By Map, says that he can now only visit about a third of the sales he did before - which is a good thing - according to Morris. "Prior to Covid, I was doing a lot of drive-bys, but now I'm literally stopping at every sale along the way because the offerings are so great." Morris attributes the better quality sales to late-gen baby boomers continuing to clear the docket after Covid. "I've been to a lot of sales before on these streets, but these days the homes hosting the sales are new," says Morris, who specializes in comic books, musical ephemera and vinyl records. While finding those hidden treasures can still be a challenge sometimes, Morris admits that it's become a lot better recently as better quality sales seem to be flourishing.
For those selling primarily online, and who rely on "smalls" for the majority of their inventory, the resurgence of quality garage sales has been a godsend. Audrey Humbert, who manages an online discussion group related to vintage shops, says that her members have all noticed not just more garage sales per square mile recently, but sales that are also bigger in scope and encompass a greater selection of items. "I think the lockdown just gave some people the impetus to finally get organized and clear the deck," says Humbert. "For our members, it's meant an easier path to better inventory, and a wider assortment of items to choose from."
How long this trend will last is anybody's guess, but judging from the plethora of current listings on Craigslist and Facebook, it would appear that there is still plenty of supply in the garage-sale pipeline. For Grant Howard, it's not really a question of supply-and-demand though, as much as it's about clearing the clutter. "People have already been living with this stuff forever," says Howard, "but then Covid comes along and they're stuck staring at it twenty-four-seven for months... I think after that, I'd want it gone too!"
- A.I.A. Staff Writers
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