Earlier this year, I decided to attempt an estate sale. This is the report of how it went.

I poked around online and determined, at least for my area, EstateSales.net covers most if not all the local sales. I checked sales for them a couple of weeks and then one popped up that mentioned a few fountain pens. The sale site included a photo of six pens. I couldn’t really make them out but I spotted a white dot of a Sheaffer and an arrow clip of a Parker. My mind said you are just going to find out how this all works. My heart said you could get some really cool pens. The sale started Saturday morning about 10 minutes beyond where I shop for groceries. I figured I could swing by the auction and check it out before buying groceries. The auction started at 7:00 so I decided to arrive by 6:30. I actually rolled up about 6:15.

I encountered some cars parked about and a few people milling around. I approached the house to learn the procedure. I started talking to some guy at random. He told me they were passing out numbers. I received number 51 - not too promising. Turns out they let small batches of people in at a time to control the crowd. My new buddy agreed that all the best stuff would be claimed by the time buyer 51, me, saw the inside of the house. I was determined to complete my learning experience. Then I got lucky when he offered me number 11. He had picked up two numbers much earlier and then gone to eat breakfast. This second number was for a friend of his and it looked like he wasn’t making it. Suddenly my prospects improved. I had not mentioned the pens I desired to acquire.

Just before 7:00 the line fills up and someone from the Estate company emerges to explain the rules. They let the first batch of 10 people into the house. At number 11, I stood first in the second batch. They didn’t wait too long to let in the second batch. The items were displayed all through the house. They just waited briefly to let people disperse before adding the second batch.

Once I find myself inside, I notice they have organized similar stuff in the different rooms, at least the small items. I made a quick pass. No pens. I walked around again, slower, looking more carefully. No pens. I discovered the table where you pay for items and asked about the pens. Someone already bought them. She mentioned the person with either number 1 or 2 departed with the pens. Disappointed and a little flustered, I forgot to ask what the person paid for the pens.

So what did I learn from this single try at an estate sale?

  1. Pens are a hot item.
  2. You gotta show up early.

I still scan the sales pictures online. I added an alert so if pens are mentioned in a sale listing I receive an email. I haven’t attended another estate sale yet but I plan to try again.

Like any new endeavor, knowing the rules is critical. I found A Guide to Estate Sale Etiquette site - worth a read to make you more comfortable at your first estate sale.

p.s. Write a note to someone with whom you enjoy trying new things.