Yard sales, estate sales: Memories with a price tag
by Laura Johnson
Aug 12, 2012 | 6154 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gail Wilson examines items at an estate sale in Anniston Saturday. (Anniston Star photo by Stephen Gross)
Gail Wilson examines items at an estate sale in Anniston Saturday. (Anniston Star photo by Stephen Gross)
A light mist blanketed parts of east Anniston Saturday as cars began lining up shortly before 8 a.m. for a yard sale outside a stately home on Anniston’s Glenwood Terrace.

About two miles away in Golden Springs and an hour later, nearly half a dozen people lined up beneath the carport of a ranch home for an estate sale.

At the Glenwood Terrace home, an assortment of items — a light switch cover for 50 cents, a few Christmas decorations and some mismatched coffee cups, for example — sat on folding tables on the home’s front porch behind large white columns. Inside the plain ranch home in a neighborhood back behind Golden Springs Shopping Center, large oil paintings, silver tea sets and furniture lined the decades-old living spaces.

As a Saturday excursion into the land of do-it-yourself retail proves, treasure- and bargain-hunters can’t necessarily judge the quality of a sale by the exterior of the home.

Sometimes it just gets down to the label attached to the event: Is it a yard sale or an estate sale? And what’s the difference, anyway?

“The quality of an estate sale is much higher than a yard sale,” said Dan Mason, who manages Anniston-area estate sales. “You’re going to get everything, the good, the bad, the ugly.”

Wearing a bright red T-shirt with the word ‘boss’ written across the front in bold white lettering, Mason sat in a vintage armchair inside a brick home on Anniston’s Crestview, near the top of Henry Road. He explained the difference as his employees, also in red T-shirts, milled around the nearly-vacant home.

At the estate sale Mason was managing this weekend, oil paintings hung on the walls, furniture sat in place and glassware sat atop white clothes on folding tables, displayed as if it were all in a department store. Those details — the uniform appearance of his employees and the placement of the items — are elements that help distinguish estate sales from Saturday yard sales, Mason said.

Yard sales are often two-day events, operated and advertised by homeowners. Estate sales are often operated by people like Mason, who manage the sales for homeowners over the course of three days.

At the estate sale Mason was managing, a shopper could buy a large engraved silver pitcher, a 1890s desk and desk organizer or a 1960s record player and cabinet. One could pick up antique chairs from England or an attorney’s glass front bookcase that dates back two centuries.

At the Glenwood yard sale, shoppers mulled over knick-knacks, decorative items and children’s toys.

Meanwhile, at the estate sale in Golden Springs, shoppers inspected glassware and kitchen appliances and had the option of buying large wooden table toppers priced at $350 and a silver tea set priced at $250.

“Rather than just a garage sale where you have just a few things we have the whole house,” said Ann Yarbrough, who with her business partner, Marcia McNeill, helped manage that estate sale.

When they opened the sale to customers at 9 a.m., six people were waiting to enter. Within the hour more than a dozen cars lined the streets nearby.

Yarbrough and McNeill said managing estate sales is a personal process. Estate sales usually occur when a family decides it wants to sell a number of household items after the death of a relative or after an elderly relative moves out of a long-occupied home.

It’s a quick way to learn about the homeowner and family who are parting with the possessions. Shoppers see the period furniture, art and books that the former owners preferred.

“It’s like you’re walking through someone’s life,” said Vera McGlaughn.

McGlaughn frequents estate sales conducted by Yarbrough and McNeill. She said she comes to look for glassware to use for the cakes she bakes, and for other items.

Oxford resident Carlee Whitaker is no stranger to estate sales, which she said she prefers to yard sales. She meandered through the home’s rooms with a large copy of “Gone With the Wind.” The price: $4.

“I don’t think you could find this at a yard sale,” Whitaker said holding the book.

Her sister, now deceased, preferred yard sales, she said. Not Whitaker.

“I want it all laid out for me,” she said.

“We sell high-end items that people want to keep in their houses,” Yarbrough said.

It took McNeill and Yarbrough two weeks to plan for their sale, much of the period devoted to research and consultation with others to ensure they attached the best prices to the items they were presenting.

The yard sale organizers on Glenwood spent half that time preparing for their sale. Many of the items, they said, were brought to them.

And while a yard sale isn’t always as organized, or as rich in old goods, they’re not devoid of curious items.

In the carport of a tiny brick home in Oxford, a particularly rare item — two gold teeth with enamel — rested not far from more common items. They were sold as part of a $400 package, which included old currency and stamps from other countries, according to the seller.

The history of the gold teeth is unknown. Sheila Mathis, who was holding the yard sale, said she found the items inside her uncle’s home years after he died in his mid-90s.

Family members surmise that the uncle, a WWII veteran who died about five years ago, could have brought the teeth back from war.

By mid-morning the sellers had no takers on the pricey yard-sale package. It set on a plain card table near a collection of the old man’s fedoras, which rested near a pair of vintage suit cases and a glass milk bottle.
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