Garage Sales, the Internet & A Santa

I’m poking around my house again. About every two years, I hear the call of the Garage Sale Sirens. I begin to pull out various items I rarely or have literally never used and set up shop in my garage for a few hours on a Saturday morning. On average, I would guess that 40% of the items sell. I like to think that means that I’ve cleaned out 40% of stuff I don’t really need. It’s something.

According to Visually.com, the quintessential American yard sale is assumed to have started in the 40’s and 50’s, during the post WWII period of rapid urban expansion when many people were moving to suburban houses with garages and yards. And if one researches further back, in the early 1800’s, “shipping yards would sell unclaimed cargo and leftover warehouse items at a discounted price. These dock sales were then known as “rommage sales.” Later, “rommage” would evolve to rummage.

As I began that rummaging process, I found myself standing face-to-face with my Florida Santa. Should he stay or go? He is a 12-inch tall Dept. 56 collectible figurine wearing a tropical shirt, sandals and is surrounded by large pink flamingoes. He was given to me six years ago by my customer service team at Legacy.com when I left the company to move south. They knew I loved Dept. 56, so it was a logical choice.

In fact, I’ve been collecting pieces and displaying a Christmas village scene for over twenty years now. It includes lots of snow-covered roofs on the homes and businesses and people bundled up as they trudge through the snow.  It’s another way to tell a story.

My new Santa happened to be a part of an entirely different brand under Dept. 56 called “Possible Dreams” which focuses on Santas enjoying outdoor hobbies such as gardening or fishing. They are stand-alone pieces.

Unfortunately, it ended up that he needed to stand alone away from my traditional Christmas scene. When I placed him near it, he looked like a giant, towering over the homes and the tiny townspeople like Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels. I quickly moved him to a spot under our Christmas tree where he shined bright for a couple of seasons. He got kind of buried after that.

My Florida Santa

Garage sales do have a reputation for customers expecting low pricing and high bargaining. Dept. 56 collectibles have a pretty good resale value, so I hesitated including him. But I knew where I could probably turn to sell him to another collectible enthusiast.

EBay. Craig’s List. Facebook Marketplace. If I’m going to highlight the history of the garage sale, it’s important to include its biggest evolutionary twist: the advent of the internet. Today there are virtual “garage sales” everywhere, 24-7. In most cases, it’s free to advertise a listing. You only pay a small percentage if it sells. Or, for an upfront fee, you can choose to “boost” the exposure of your listing to have more potential buyers see it.

So, I decided to sell him in a virtual garage sale. I chose Facebook Marketplace.  I have already sold a few items there and I always select “Local Pick-Up Only” which eliminates the packaging and shipping component on EBay. I took photos and tried to write my most convincing copy. 

“This Dept. 56 collectible titled “Holiday Flocking” is 6 years-old, but I have only displayed this fun beach Santa once. He’s in perfect shape and a great addition to any collection. He’s perfect for Christmas in Florida. Includes original box.” I priced him at $38.00.

Within 15 minutes, my phone “dinged.”

“Hi Melanie. Is this still available?” Facebook Messenger shared.

“Yes, it is available” I typed in.

Seconds later, Joe replied “I’m very interested.”

“Great! What would you like to know?” I asked.

He wanted to know where and when we could meet.  He also wanted to know whether I would accept $30. I countered at $33.00 (more out of principle that I didn’t want to appear too eager and $35 felt like too little a drop from $38.) He accepted. He then asked if we could meet shortly at a public location so we agreed on the nearby Target.

I arrived first. He had told me the make and model of his car, so I was scanning the east end of the parking lot. And suddenly there he was. As my husband and I got out of our car and walked over, I realized that this was no ordinary Joe. I was looking at Santa. Well, almost.  Joe had a full, short white beard, and a big jovial smile. He was shorter than a traditional Santa, but definitely a little round. And just like my Santa, he was wearing a tropical shirt.

He removed the Santa from the box, did a fast inspection and declared him “perfect.” Staring at Joe, this did not surprise me. He then told us that my Santa would be joining a collection of 200 (!) other Santas, and he was so pleased because he didn’t have one with flamingoes. He added that they would start their set-up the day after Thanksgiving.

“This is crazy” I thought. In just one hour, I have been able to match the perfect buyer to my Santa. Not only does he literally resemble his 12-inch tall counterpart, but he is a passionate collector who clearly loves the holiday and will take care of my old friend. What are the chances that a person who owns 200 other Santas just happened to not have one with flamingoes – the very one I was selling? That’s some kind of magic marketing. It was also magical when he handed me $35.00; more than our agreement.

I do still feel, however, that there is a place for the traditional garage sale. This is the opportunity to put out multiple items simultaneously instead of taking individual photos and writing advertising copy for 30-100 items. It has its own efficiency. And in an ironic twist, about 95,000 “old school” garage sales are listed on Craig’s List each week.

I will never get wealthy from garage or online sales, but I get a certain joy from people walking away with something that makes them happy. Joe actually sent me a post-sale comment after I got home. “Thanks again, love my new Santa!” It doesn’t get any better than that.

Has anyone else sold items on Facebook Marketplace or in a garage sale? What was the experience (s) like?


11 thoughts on “Garage Sales, the Internet & A Santa

    1. I understand! I try and avoid that too. It is “work” organizing for this type of thing. It’s just a good feeling to successfully match the buyer with the item. Hope you’re feeling well.

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  1. I may have shared this with you already, but your post reminded me of my mother-in-law’s estate sale. MIL hadn’t yet passed, but we needed to clean out her house and get it ready for rent to help pay for memory care. To help keep peace in the family, my wife agreed to hold a sale, though both of us knew the effort would yield little. By the end of the weekend, we were either giving things away to charity (much of it declined) or to individual people who might want it. We had rented a dumpster because we knew that the remnants would end up there. The whole thing was pretty depressing. As you said, there is an understanding among sales hunters that there is always room for negotiations. When you’ve got something marked for $1.00 and somebody offers you $.50, does it really matter? I couldn’t help but think how sad we couldn’t even give some of her things away near the end of her life. As I was tossing unwanted belongings in the dumpster, I couldn’t help but think of the symbolism. “Is this what our lives come down to? $.50 and a dumpster? Pretty depressing for someone (my MIL) so full of life.

    Your customer sounds like a real character. It’s great that he gets so much pleasure from his Santa collection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, you have never mentioned this sale your wife organized Pete. And the bartering down to 50 cents struck a chord because I’ve lived it and will never understand why someone just can’t pay that dollar. I will hand that person the item for free if it’s so important for them to save 50 cents. You and your wife were very kind to put in that effort in order to keep family peace, even though you both knew the dollar amount it would generate. I didn’t reference it, but a few of my mom’s belongings are part of the sale, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel that same sense of sadness that her stuff didn’t amount to much. We have already given a lot away to charity.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I didn’t mean to be such a downer on your fun post. It really was a delight, Melanie. The notion that he fit the traditional Santa profile makes your tale even funnier. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a FUN post, Melanie. I enjoyed your etymology lesson as I’ve heard both my mother and grandma talk about rummage sales. I’ve never had my own “garage sale” but have contributed to community sales.

    Your Florida Santa made me smile. I have a POSTCARD featuring such a Santa, which I may post this December. These items do tell stories, and I enjoyed your experience with Facebook Marketplace. My story? I got a spiffy new lighting fixture for above my kitchen table. That meant I had to get rid of the old one, so I offered it on FB Marketplace. No takers for the hanging light shaped like a flying saucer, so I gave it to Goodwill.

    Many years ago, I wanted to get rid of my heavy valances: I now longer loved them, but since I paid so much for the custom-made drapery, (living room and dining room). I didn’t just want to give them away. So, I decided to sell one on eBay, just to see if I could. Such a hassle: Taking pictures, opening an account, and then packing the long, heavy thing up to send to a gentleman in New Jersey who bought it for his bathroom. I had no idea how a fixture in my dining room would make sense in a bathroom, but I collected the $90.00 and never used eBay again, except to browse. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marian. Hahaha, you made me laugh about the flying saucer light. That’s awesome. I’m really glad you enjoyed the post and shared your own stories. Do post the Santa Post Card next month, I would like to see it! 🙂 Also, I am quite impressed that you packaged up a valance. That sounds way too challenging to send through the mail. On the flip side, $90.00 is good for an EBay sale, so I congratulate you! I’m scratching my head too on his placement for your dining room valance, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lol Melanie, I would have bought that Summer Santa myself! Hilarious! Yes, I sold some stuff on FB market. It worked fine, like you I had pickup only. It was good because it’s shows the sales locally. Sounds like someone is going to have a big Santa party, lol 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! That’s too funny I had a customer in Canada Debby. 🙂 Isn’t my Santa Joe a character? He has to have at least 20 Santas in every room!!! Meeting him though made my day. His enthusiasm was infectious. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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