Estate sales are a great place to find everything at a range of price points, from furniture to antiques, to art, to jewelry and vintage clothing. You never know what you’re going to find when you enter one, and each estate sale is different.
Here’s a little bit of background about what they are and how they work:
First of all, the term “estate” in this context refers to the belongings that an individual has accumulated over a lifetime. Estate sales are held for all sorts of reasons – sometimes people are moving or just want to get rid of stuff! An estate sale is different than a yard sale in that a company is usually hired to run the sale. It’s a lot of work, so for many families, it’s well worth it to work with an experienced company.
First, get there early! The best stuff goes the fastest, so you want to have first dibs. It’s easy to feel like a kid in a candy store at an estate sale, so arrive with a budget in mind, and stop at an ATM on the way – many estate sales accept cash only. Even if the sale accepts cards or checks, bringing a set amount of cash will help you to stick to your budget.
People shop estate sales for all sorts of reasons. Collectors go to find rare and beautiful pieces to add to their collections. You can also shop for furniture, clothes, or items like gardening tools and kitchen utensils that were made with more care back in the day.
Be picky, and arrive with a list in mind. Don’t buy $100 worth of antique dolls if you came intending to find a mosaic table for your patio. Stay open to inspiration – maybe you find a smooth, slate table you’d rather have instead – but don’t set yourself up for buyer’s remorse. When you decide what you’d like to buy, get ready to bargain! The more you buy, the more leverage you have.
Want to get started shopping estate sales? Go to EstateSales.net to find sales near you. For many sales, you can even view the items on sale in advance, so you can plan what you want to buy.
With that, here is a pictorial of what we found at the estate sales we hit up this weekend:
I usually research what estate sales are in the area and come up with a game plan but this one we just randomly drove by. Score!
Entering the estate sale. Always get a little rush wondering what treasures lie ahead.
Love all these sea treasures. They have so many uses! Great for display on tables, mantles, armoires, or shelves. Also make great bookends, paperweights, doorstoppers, or centerpieces! If shells look a little not-so-fresh, a little bleach will whiten and brighten them right up! Or be creative and lacquer them gold or silver.
Small tchotchkes are great to sort through to find gifts for friends or family that have collections.
I’m a sucker for a vintage monkey! After all Liam’s nickname is Monkey!
Clowns have creeped me out ever since the movie Poltergeist. But I know some people are avid collectors of them!
This beautiful Indian fabric would make chic pillows, napkins, place mats, or part of your wardrobe! Think outside the box when sorting through estate sale treasures. But try to buy with an end game in mind.
I love getting miscellaneous pillows and making my couches eclectic.
Love vintage games! Great for a living room or den show piece. And perfect for game night with friends!
I love random antique plates. They look great displayed sitting up on shelves of a cabinet or armoire, clustered and hung on a wall (alternative to art), or put out to hold car keys, soap, or potpourri.
Using someone’s used perfume is probably not anyone’s cup of tea but the bottles are beautiful. Take them home and thoroughly clean them. Then they can be used with colored water, just as a beautiful display, or they can be used as bottles for hand soap, bath oils, or in the kitchen for cooking oils, vinegars, or salts, depending on the bottle. You might have to ditch the top but just add a small cork that fits.
This antique medical cabinet would make a great spice cabinet in your kitchen or a filing cabinet in your home office. When buying antiques, make sure you check the piece out carefully all over for scratches, nicks, and missing pieces (if livable, you can make these minor flaws a good bargaining chip). You’ll also want to check to see if the piece has been repainted or refurbished, in case you are looking for pieces that are in their original condition. And, if you find an interesting piece, don’t be afraid to ask the person running the estate sale, or the owner, if around, the history or story on it. You can discover amazing things and have a great party convo for your next soire.
I love mismatched vintage lace and linens. I use them for tablecloths, table runners, party displays, cozies, coasters, pillows…sky’s the limit!
Some people are sticklers for matching glassware. Not me. While sets are great, I love mismatching mine. It’s eclectic and you have great stories about all your glassware and their origins. I also use goblets for florals at my parties and for desserts
I love old-fashioned copper pots and pans. If an extremely good deal they look amazing hanging in your kitchen. And old baking tins can also be used for your kids’ crafting! Molding homemade play dough or building kitchen sandcastle cakes at the beach!
Again, I love mismatching my china and collecting for the perfect tea party! Stella is bound to want one for a birthday party one day. Teacups can also be used for florals, or if you are crafty to pour your own candles in.
This antler chandelier is a major score if you have the perfect spot for it. I’d change the lampshades but that’s the beauty about antique finds. If you get a great deal on them you can tweak them and turn them from outdated to totally chic!
This is the all stone inlay on an amazing table from India. Love how they used malachite (my favorite stone) and lapis.
Some things at estate sales just seem like junk but you have to remember one woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure!
Love old books. They look so great on a coffee table or to line your shelves with. They add history to any new home. I always want to keep everything for myself but I’ll share this gem with my InvenTORI customers.
They even had a whole room of vintage Christmas decor.
A dresser filled with great vintage linens, from placemats and tablecloths to kitchen towels and hankies.
Beautiful antique bear (and pregger) collection!
Estate sales are usually very eclectic. So not every piece will appeal to everyone, as seen by my friend Scout. But I’m sure that vase found a great home!
Estate sales can be for the serious shopper, seller, decorator, or collector, or can be a social outing. I love going with my friends who love antiques as much as I do. We make a fun day of it! We grab coffee on the way (early bird gets the worm), pop in and out of local sales, and then discuss our great (or sometimes lack of) finds over a fun weekend brunch.
Papa can you hear me? (random movie quote from Yentl, starring the iconic Babs Streisand)! My BFF Mehran listens to the ocean before he buys this beautiful shell to use as a paperweight on his office desk.
The owner had some amazing antique masks. But I kept the hoarder in me at bay and moved on.
Clothing can be a great find at estate sales. There was a huge 60’s and 70’s tie collection. Sometimes you have to dig and sort, but it’s worth it! Found a couple great ones for Dean and a few that I can turn into chic belts, headbands, and sashes.
Estate sales can be a great place to shop for inexpensive art for your place. This print is in perfect condition and was only $26!
You can find amazing silver pieces to start to build your entertaining serving collection! Don’t be deterred by the shabby look of these platters priced at $22 and $20 dollars! Some silver cleaner and a rag and they’ll be shiny and new!
Every estate sale shopper has an “Ah Ha” moment. This was mine! Finding a first print Julia Child cookbook from 1979. This will lovingly be placed in my prized possession cookbook collection. While I would have paid $100 for this find, it only cost me $5!
This amazing vintage black clutch purse with gold tone bamboo metal handle is in great condition! Couldn’t believe it was $4! Good thing we arrived when the doors opened or this treasure would have been gone for sure!
Not sure exactly what I’ll do with this vintage kids fabric but it was a must have for $15! In the kids playroom it could make adorable throw pillows.
They had a huge basket of vintage scarves. Priced at $1 each it was worth the digging!
Although they didn’t have much clothing, and sometimes it feels odd looking through someone else’s closet, I was thrilled to take home this find! Part Kaftan, part Kimono, but made in Hawaii in the 1940’s. She’ll look so chic for Kaftan Fridays!
Everyone knows I’m a huge vintage jewelry fan! I love to find pieces to add to my personal collection and to use as inspiration for my jewelry lines Maven (sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, IntermixOnline and ShopBop.com) and The Tori Spelling Collection exclusively at HSN.com.
Have you been to an estate sale lately? What treasures did you find?+ Comment