Guest Post: How to Have a Yardsale (That Isn’t Awful)

Hi, I’m Christian Porter. Normally I write with Paul over at his videogame site, Today, however, I have a pressing issue to discuss with you, the yardsale community.

Recently I’ve noticed that, well, let’s not mince words—your yardsales are lame. Don’t worry, you want to sell your crap and I want to buy it. Let me show you how to have a proper yardsale and we’ll all benefit. It breaks down into two parts: how to promote your yardsale, and how to have a yardsale worth going to.


If advertising in your local paper’s classified section doesn’t cost too much then go right ahead, but don’t forget, there are a lot of Internet-based options that are free. Craigslist, for example, works like a charm. A lot of great mobile apps like Yard Sale Treasure Map for Android (also free) can connect to it and spread the word to other potential customers and help map out their routes so they don’t forget about yoursale.

The Sign

Of course, there is one form of advertising that is more important than all others—the (seemingly) simple yardsale sign.

If you take nothing else away from my words today remember this—nothing is more important than having a good sign. If you decided to scrawl some info on an index card and staple it up on the nearest telephone pole then, first of all, I hate you because you have nearly caused me to get into countless car accidents trying to read your dumb sign. But, secondly, nobody’s going to go to your yardsale.

So what’s the trick to having a good sign?

First, you need a big ol’ arrow. Ideally it will take up between a quarter and half of your sign. If you just put the address you make the assumption that your customers know your neighborhood like the back of their hand. Even if your street is a pretty well-known one, arrows are still needed. People who drive by could be from other towns, or they could just be idiots like me and not know any of the streets in their own town, regardless of how common knowledge they are.

Whatcha doing?  Make sure you put “Yard Sale” at the top.  It seems common sense but, sadly, I’ve seen it omitted from some signs. “Garage Sale” is also acceptable, or whatever your regional term for “dumping your garbage in the front lawn and selling it to suckers” happens to be.

Pick the right paper and stock. Normal 8×10 printer paper isn’t going to cut it. I also don’t suggest using dismantled cardboard boxes because they tend to blend in with telephone poles and it’s hard to find a marker, crayon or pen that really shows up well on them. Get a bunch of posterboard. White, yellow or pink works. Most other colors are a bit too dark and don’t work as well.

Never mount your sign on a tiny little stick or you’re going to end up with a yard decoration.

Stick it up properly. So many times I have seen signs fallen over and unreadable because whoever put them up decided that some scotch tape and chewed bubble gum would keep it up. It won’t. Try duct tape or a staple gun.

Try to include your address. This isn’t mandatory, but if you live on 1277 Harbor Road and I just drove by house #4, this will let me know that it might be a bit of a drive and I haven’t accidentally passed your yardsale.

Reassure me. If you live way out in the sticks make sure you put a few signs on your street to let me know that “Yes, you have been driving seven miles down my street but, I swear, you haven’t passed the yardsale; I just live in a rural craphole.” Maybe just one that says “Yard sale” and has an arrow every mile or so.

Include the date. There are a lot of lazy people out there and all too often signs without dates on them will lead you to yardsales of the past. Putting a date on the sign assures potential customers “Yes, the yardsale is today; I am not like my stupid jerk neighbor who kept his yardsale signs out for six weeks after the fact.” Also include the time if you plan on starting late or stopping early. I find that about 8am to 3pm seems to be the average.

Have an art or design degree? How very nice for you, but this is a yardsale sign, not an experiment in pontillism, so leave the art at home. Your sign just needs large, bold lettering telling the reader what’s up and who’s who. If you need help check the Helvetica, Arial or Impact fonts. Don’t know what those fonts look like? Even better, your mind won’t be clouded with a desire to over-design. Just remember, your reader needs to get as much information from your sign as possible as they drive by it at between 30 and 40 mph.

I have no hope of reading this ever.

Place your sign properly. Put a sign at any major road near your house and point people to your sale from there. Place another sign with a corresponding arrow at any intersection that they would need to turn at to get to your home.

Stick with one design theme. This is out of courtesy to the yardsale customer. If you hang five different signs and they all look completely different then it may appear that there are five different yardsales in the area. Do everybody a favor. Make all your signs as similar as possible.

Follow these steps and, ideally, your sign will look very close to this:

Having a Good Sale

Now that we have how to make a good sign down, you have to have a good yardsale.

Quantity over quality. Quality is great, but you have to have some quantity to make the yardsale not only worth going to for the customer, but also worth having for yourself. If you’re out in your yard all day waiting for people to come to your house to buy three baby bibs, two candlesticks and a Land Before Time VHS for a net profit of $2.25, you’d probably better spend that time throwing all that stuff away and working on that thing in your house you’ve been meaning to do for months but keep putting off. You know the thing I mean.

This is a yardsale, not Southeby’s. If you have things that are legitimately valuable, I cannot stress this enough—do not sell them at a yardsale. If you have a guitar autographed by John Lennon that might be worth twenty grand on Antiques Roadshow, at a yardsale you are not only going to sell that guitar for $10 but you’re probably going to have somebody try to talk you down to $5 because it’s got those ugly scribbles on it. And this brings me to my next point…

Know your items. A 25-year-old G.I. Joe action figure might go for $20 or so. A 25-year-old VHS copy of Crocodile Dundee, however, will go for a quarter if you’re lucky. Not everything ages like wine. Madden football videogames may go for $60 when released but that doesn’t mean your copy of Madden ’94 is worth the same (for the record, it’s worth about three cents).

VHS tapes? I’ll take them all for $2.

Price things. If you have a lot of stuff you don’t necessarily have to price everything, but pricing a few things will let the buyer know if you’re completely insane or not. If I go to a yardsale and see a perfectly normal dinner plate priced at $10, I know that you aren’t ready to take this whole yardsale thing seriously and won’t bother asking about the price of anything else I may be interested in. I’ll just consider the whole thing a failure and be on my way.

Get out of my face. There are people who, whenever I so much as glance at their stuff, will feel compelled to start spewing a sales pitch my way. “Oh yeah, that cookie jar is great! Chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, that thing’ll store ’em all. Just make me an offer. Don’t worry about the price on there I’ll work with ‘ya. Oh hey! I see you were just looking at my old Bowflex, that thing’s real great, just didn’t have any more room in the basement, you name the price and it’s yours man…” Shut up.

Consider making it a multi-family affair. Your friends, family and neighbors all have junk too and they’d probably love to get rid of it. Why don’t all of you just set up in the same yard and have a huge yardsale? It’s easier and more attractive for the buyers, and you can all split costs. You can make up the signs, your neighbors will pick up the coffee, etc.

Get the kids involved. Bake cookies for them to sell, whip up a pitcher of lemonade. Even a heartless beast like myself can’t say no to some cheap lemonade or cookies if a little kid is selling it. Though, seriously, and I understand lemonade is so rarely fresh squeezed these days, but if your kid is just selling cups of Country Time lemonade from a two-liter bottle it’s severely disappointing. At least put it in a pitcher and let me believe it’s somewhat homemade. Also don’t let your kid touch my food or drink if they’re gross. I know, parents never believe their kids are gross, so I’ll give you a simple test you can do to determine if they are. Look at your child’s face and hands. How many boogers do you see? If your answer is anything but “zero” then get your disgusting kid the hell away from my food.

No yard? No friends? Well, do you have a flea market near you? Oftentimes tables at a flea market are very affordable and always have a lot of people roaming around ready to buy whatever junk you’ve got on offer.

Follow these guidelines and you’re sure to have a successful yardsale that won’t make me wish bodily harm upon you when I go to it.

–Christian Porter 

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: How to Have a Yardsale (That Isn’t Awful)

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