My Estate Sale Shopping Secrets

Natalie Mason

I have been going to estate sales with my mom for as long as I can remember. You might be wondering what the difference between an estate sale and a yard sale is. Well an estate sale is where everything in the house is for sell and you can walk through the home looking at everything, whereas yard sales are usually just items placed in the front yard. I am not dissing yard sales, but estate sales are so much better.



If you are wondering how to find estate sales, the best spot to look is in your paper. I know in Charleston the company that puts on most of the estate sales is called Total Estate Sales. Once you attend one sale they always have a sign-up sheet where you can get on their email list. They will email you prior to the sale with the location and pictures of the items for sale. I am on the list here in Charleston and I get weekly emails. The sales usually start on Fridays and last through the weekend. It is key to get there Friday or the good stuff gets scarfed up. It is also important to get there and get in line before the start of the sale because sometimes they only let a certain number of people in. If you are not in the first group in you are just missing out on everything.


Estate sales can be overwhelming. People are usually lined up outside way before they start and then it is crazy town once the doors open. I love going with my mom because we can split up and divide and conquer. A big tip is to bring a bag with you. I always bring one of my recycled grocery store bags, that way I can throw items in there quickly and keep looking. Without a bag your arms will get full fast. I have seen people carrying plastic bins to cram stuff in, as well.  


 There are a few main things I look for at estate sales (now that I am writing this, I am wondering, is it a good idea to share all my secrets?). Oh well, here you go. I am feeling generous today.



Many estate sales have some great old vintage jewelry that you can score for cheap. If a necklace is broken you can easily fix it when the prices are so cheap. Think outside the box. Brooches can be remade into necklaces and rings can be resized. Here are a few vintage items I scored two weeks ago for a grand total of $15. I love vintage jewelry because it is so unique.



I looped the large pendant on a chain I already owned and have been rocking the heck out of it.



Two other necklaces I found at an estate sale downtown for $20.  Plus I also scored the Lucite tray for $5!



The necklace on the right is made out of ivory and such a cool piece.



{Dishes & Serving Utensils}

Estate sales are a great place to find random kitchen dishes. A few weeks ago I found this set of vintage white cookware that you can use for individual souffles and pasta dishes. I got eight dishes for $12. I am always on the lookout for classic or vintage white dishes because they can match any other serving pieces.



I like to collect sterling serving utensils for entertaining, as well. Here is another score: $2 for this great pair of old servers. They need to be polished, so don't be judging my tarnished spoons. Look past the fact that are tarnished. Silver is so easy to polish and clean up.





Estate sales are filled with incredible glassware. Glasses are my weakness. I think because I love to entertain and booze it up I love to have cute glasses. Even if it is an odd number of glasses it is still a score. When I entertain I love to mix it up and use different glasses. I found these adorable star glasses for $10. There were only three which probably steered most people away but it doesn't bother me and honestly Matt and I use two of them all the time.



I also love to find pretty pitchers to use for mixed drinks when entertaining. This beauty was $1!! I mean it cost less than a bottle of coke.  



Two other things I found recently were this vintage crystal ice bucket and martini shaker. Both were $4.




I am always on the lookout for good coffee table books at estate sales. Normally the books are super cheap. Nowadays great coffee table books run $50+ a book and you can usually find them for $10 or less at estate sales. Don't judge a book by its cover (literally)—I always remove those cheap paper covers. I check the spines and covers underneath to make sure they are in good shape. I look for books that interest me and that match the color scheme in my den. I found all three of these ivory books at an estate sale. And actually, now that I think about it, my mom found the brass seashell at an ES as well!



{Concrete Potters} 

Concrete potters can cost an arm at a leg but usually they are dirt cheap at an ES. You may want to bring a man with big muscles to carry though because they can get heavy! I know my sad pot is empty—I am in the process of revamping my potters for fall.



{Random Accessories}

Estate sales are the perfect spot to score random decorative accessories for your home. My mom found these adorable foo dogs for me at an estate sale in Charlotte. Love them.



Other items to look for are artwork and furniture. Keep in mind that furniture can always be recovered or painted if you like it and the price is right! Sometimes you can find smocked kids clothes, as well. And occasionally you can find legit purses. True story: my sister went to an estate sale at the home of an ex-athlete in Charlotte and she score a Louis Vuitton garment bag. Had it checked out and it and was 100 percent authentic.


The moral of the story: you can find great stuff at these sales. Just remember, not every sale is great. In fact, most aren't—you just have to dig and know what to look for. I leave plenty of sales empty handed, but it is the thrill of a good find that keeps me coming back! So get on the estate sale bandwagon you will be glad you did—especially since I just shared all my secrets!