Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hello, my name is Rhonda...

...and I'm a picker. As you saw in my last post, I love treasure hunting. And finding vintage treasure usually involves lots of time spent digging through thrift stores and garage & estate sales.

I bought this transferware, luncheon service for six, from a sweet lady on Craigslist this week. Red "isn't her thing"...fortunately, it's mine.
A few of you asked where I find so much good stuff...I thought I'd share some of my best pickin' tips.

1. Go often. You will have to devote some time to treasure hunting if you want to find the good stuff. You might get lucky on your first trip to Goodwill, but it's unlikely. As Ben Franklin once said, "Diligence is the mother of good luck." The harder I work at finding treasure, the luckier I seem to get. Eventually you will learn which days to stop in which shops, what neighborhoods to shop, and you will even develop an "eye" for the things you like. Speaking of Goodwill...their stores are OK, but personally I love the little church thrift shops. Better pickin', better prices, and the proceeds usually support local mission projects.

2. The early worm gets the yellowware/hutch/firkin/etc. If you aren't a morning person, become one. I am not naturally gifted in this area, but I have been known to be on the doorstep of an estate sale at 5:30am with a cup of coffee and a book. Behave yourself and no one will mind. 

3. Which brings me polite. You don't need to grab, push or be obnoxious to get the goods. I'd rather leave empty handed than engage in rude behavior.

4. Be genuine and friendly. People like to talk and tell their stories...listen and be sincere. Don't try to get one over on people. It's icky and most people can sense it.

5. Don't be squeamish. Sometimes you will have to touch some grimy or unpleasant's inevitable. Take along some hand wipes or carry a pair of work gloves with you.

6. Utilize the local newspapers for sales information.  I like to get the newspapers and plan my garage sale route based on time, what is offered and location. Also note the time sales begin and end.  Please respect people who say "no early birds"...they have probably been working for days to get ready for the sale and would like to sleep until 7 am.  

I found these 1958 princess phone key-chains in a tattered old box at a garage sale last summer. They were under a table where some of the less desirable items had been stowed. I had no idea what they were at the time...but when something is so darn cute, how could I go wrong? Let's just say I made a profit. My point? Look closely and look everywhere.

7. Utilize online sites like, and Subscribe to these sites and have notifications sent straight to your inbox. Get to know the estate liquidators...which companies have good prices, who does a great job...which companies should you avoid? Whether buying or selling, please keep folks abreast of your intentions...and for heaven's sake, respond to emails. If you make an appointment, please, keep it! I am stunned at the number of people who are no shows on Freecycle. They are being GIVEN something and can't be bothered to show up? Always be safe when making contact with someone you don't know. Meet in a public place or take someone with you...they can even wait in the car, but never go alone. I always let sellers know I have someone with me and that I will need to find an ATM to get cash. If something seems off, it probably is...leave immediately.

I just love the old calico, ringers and stenciled porcelains and have been trying to collect enough of these buttons to make a sampler. Thanks to a sweet Craigslist seller this week, I'm ready to begin. 

8. Talk to people...especially people who you are already buying something from. Tell them what you collect. Ask questions. They might have what you need...but you'll never know if you don't ask. Never be pushy or pressure someone to sell something they aren't ready to sell. If you're pleasant, they'll remember you when they are ready.

A friend of a friend called me when she was ready to sell her mother's button collection. She had heard that I like old buttons. I bought 800 of the loveliest buttons I've ever seen from her...and we both went away happy.

9. Be prepared. Fill up your gas tank the night before your pick. Fold down or take out seats in your vehicle if you need to. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. Have a GPS or map of the area you're going to. Get up early and dress for success...wear comfy clothes & shoes.  Make a list with dimensions of things you are looking for and bring along a tape measure. Take a snack and plenty of coffee along. Know where the clean bathrooms are. Pack hand wipes.  Head out with a smile and be nice.

10. Be patient and enjoy yourself. Half the thrill is in the hunt. Cross you fingers and rub your rabbit's foot. Today may be your lucky day!

Happy hunting! Until next time...


  1. Thanks for all the great tips, Rhonda. You certainly scored with all these wonderful finds! I especially love the transferware service.

  2. Rhonda
    thanks for the wonderful tips!
    You are a picker~junker~ love it!

  3. Rhonda~

    Thanks for the tips. I love going to garage sales & estate sales. I can't wait for that season to start up again. Enjoy your day!!


  4. I like the one were it's not worth being rude or fighting over.In our area there are alot of pickers and they are just that rude.Me and hubby have gotten rid of the ads and have gone to differnt areas so we can enjoy ourselves and not have to deal with the dealers who like to fight. Some weeks I might find that one sale by doing it that way and hit the motherload other weeks nothing I usually go 3-4 days in the summer since I set up at fleamarket.I have many picker friends and by always be gracious and friendly they are always fair in return.Warm Blessings!~Amy

  5. Would you like to sell some of those phone key chains. I have been in the phone business for oave 30 years and I have dear frineds also that would love to have one of those treasures. Thanks Mary

  6. Oh RHONDA.. You lovely little picker!
    I appreciate all this *WORTHY* info!..You are such a fun gal!.. I am smiley smiley with memories within your sister and i fought over the same plastic phones..I felt it okay for Barbie to have a slightly larger phone in our doll house & she did not agree. She wanted to use both of our two key chains to make earrings...Barbies phone went missing everyday as my sister danced around with her telephone dangle earrings..UrGH! We would collect similar key chains to build a pull cord for our bedroom light.. Where oh where are those now :0)
    Thanks so much for bringing light to some funny memories!

  7. What a GREAT post, Rhonda - wish I would have happened upon the little telephone charms...I remember those well.

    Unfortunately, our Goodwill and Salvation Army stores in Vegas have hired someone to go through the antiques that come into the store, and have put them in a special area (they actually have it set up like an antique store within the store). What is really sad is that whoever they have pricing has marked everything up WAY more than even the local antique stores would be selling it for! The prices are RIDICULOUS!

  8. Rhonda, perfect tips... You are right need to go early and often... both I am not good at... so I usually means I miss out.... Though there have been a few treasures still found...happy hunting! OLm

  9. Rhonda,
    Thanks for sharing the tips and the buttons are fabulous! Happy Hunting
    lil raggedy angie

  10. What an EXCELLENT post! You have some wonderful suggestions for scoring but what really hit home is the reminder to be polite, kind and courteous repeated in several points. You are tops in my book! Thanks for sharing!

    "Her" and Romeo

  11. I've been a Thrifter~Treasure Hunter~find a bargin all my life. I'm with ya on all the great tips I couldn't have said it better myself.

    Happy Hunting!!


  12. I am a life-long picker. When we were kids, our whole family took a weekly trip to the city dump. We all rooted through everyone's discards. Sounds kind of disgusting now, but that's how it was in the 50's. Nowadays, I go to estate sales, auctions, garage sales, any kind of sales and in neighborhoods where one would rarely go. My husband always goes. He loves it as much as I do. Research is another valuable tool. If you read about things you like, learn how to tell authentic from repro, etc. , you will be able to pick much better stuff.Great advice!

  13. Thanks so much for the excellent tips. I didn't think to look on Craigslist for antiques, even though we've sold furniture on it. I will have to start checking that out regularly!