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Eagle Valley garage sale gurus

Theo Stroomer/Vail DailyDoris Andrews of Eagle does some shopping at a complex-wide garage sale at the Eagle Villas apartments on Saturday.
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” They emerge every Saturday, armed with information gleaned from classified ads and from posters that pepper signposts around town.

Who knows what treasures the day will reveal?

They are garage sale enthusiasts ” local residents who find shopping satisfaction by scouring through their neighbors’ hand-me-downs. For them, the purest retail enjoyment doesn’t come from purchasing something new in a store. Rather, they embrace the challenge of heading out to shop and not really knowing what they will find.

Eagle resident Doris Andrews likes to hit garage sales whether she buys something or not.

“I think garage sales are very entertaining. Sometimes you find something that catches your eye,” she notes.

That something can be anything from a used rototiller for $15 to ski clothes priced at 50 cents. Garage sales are generally staged by motivated sellers who don’t want to haul their stuff back inside. They are willing to sell for pennies. Buyers simply need to be willing to overlook a bit of dust to see an item’s potential.

Back when Betty Neal, an Eagle resident, lived in Boulder (where her husband was a student at the University of Colorado) garage sale shopping was an economic necessity. The couple had a young child. Neal shopped garage sales for baby clothes and other items.

“We wouldn’t have survived without garage sales,” she says.

Shopping at garage sales brought out her creativity. One time she spotted a serape, right when her son was going through a Clint Eastwood phase. The humble item proved to be one of his best Christmas presents ever.

When the Neals moved to Eagle and had their second son, she found a double stroller. She and a friend split the cost of the stroller and logged countless miles pushing their boys around town.

Retiree Julia Rhodes of Eagle was also a regular garage sale shopper while raising her children in Texas. Back in the 1960s, Rhodes’ husband was serving in Vietnam and she was left at home with three children under age 5. On weekends, she would pile everyone into the family Volkswagen to visit garage sales.

“The kids thought it was cool. If something would break during the week, they’d say ‘We’d better go to the garage sales this weekend,'” recalls Rhodes.

Today Rhodes occasionally stops by a sale; but she isn’t the hard-core, second-hand shopper she used to be. “Now I live in a one-bedroom apartment. I’m trying to simplify my life,” she explains.

Likewise, Neal doesn’t need to garage sale shop any more. But she still visits sales occasionally ” especially estate sales where antique dishes are likely to pop up.s

A few weeks ago, Neal purchased a Depression-glass plate for a mere $1. Last weekend provided another great find ” a Brighton purse for 50 cents.

For collectors, garage sales are fertile ground. Andrews has a chicken collection so she always keeps an eye out for knick-knacks displaying her preferred poultry.

Eagle resident Jean Covalt hunts for jewelry, particularly turquoise.

One time she found a decorated watchband with a non-functioning timepiece. She purchased the band at a fraction of its value and got a friend to swap out the broken watch with a larger turquoise stone. Today she has a beautiful bracelet.

Covalt’s best find was another slightly imperfect one. She spotted a stained-glass lamp with a tiny broken part. She picked up the lamp for $10 and had it repaired. Now it is valued in the $750 range.

Andrews says there’s nothing she needs when she ventures out to garage sales. She is a crafter, so she likes to pick up beads or other raw material. “Of course, I already have a whole room full of that stuff,” she says.

Like fishermen defending a particular casting locale, garage sailors are reluctant to give away too many of their secrets. Ask them where are the best sales to hit, they are coy in reply. Instead they recommend reading the classifieds and advertising posters carefully.

“Good garage sale sellers will put their top items in their ads,” says Neal. “And when the ad says ‘Moving Sale’ it means they are selling everything at dirt cheap prices.”

Hitting a sale early is a good shopping strategy, but there’s etiquette involved. Don’t show up before the advertised sale times, Neal advises.

And garage sales can be frustrating for the uninitiated.

“If you want a particular item, it’s not going to show up until you quit looking for it,” Andrews says.

Instead, she suggests enjoying garage sales for what they always provide ” a morning outside and a chance to bump into old friends.

“You meet people you haven’t seen all winter. Everyone comes out to garage sales.”

Garage sale shopping transcends age limits. Zachary Bryant, 14, is a dedicated garage sale shopper.

He routinely saves his allowance to shop garage sales, something he’s done since the tender age of 8. He finds video games, movies and other teen-age treasures. “I just shop for something that catches my eye,” says Bryant, echoing the sentiments of more seasoned shoppers.

“One time I found a $115 Robo Rex and they were selling it for $15,” Byrant says.


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