Many people have the notion that estate sales are just for dealers and collectors. That’s not true! People from all walks of life enjoy going to estates sales. You can enjoy getting the same great bargains dealers and collectors get. Estates sales, especially in older homes, are veritable treasure troves.
The best way to find a great bargain is to be prepared before you go. Unlike retail stores, it’s first come, first serve at estate sales. You don’t have time to wonder if that six-drawer mahogany chest of drawers with dovetail joints is worth $100, because while you are mulling it over, someone who does know will have already paid for it.
Beautifully detailed chest of drawersYou’ll make the best deals if you know what you want or need, and if you understand what the item would cost new. Another piece would run you about $1,000 new, and it is likely the new one would not have the same quality or attention to detail. The saying, ‘they don’t make ‘em like they used to’ is especially true of furniture. That doesn’t mean it has to be antique either. If you find furniture at an estate sale that was manufactured in the 40s or 50s, it is bound to be solid and well-constructed. It may look dated, or it may have some nicks and dings, but these things are easily fixed; adding the cost of reupholstering or refinishing to the rock bottom purchase price will, in almost every case, still result in a great bargain.

Hand-Painted ChinaNo matter what you’re looking for, you’re bound to find a good deal. Some things, like towels, sheets, china, and silverware are often found for pennies on the dollar. That’s because there are many people who lived their lives according to the adage: spend your money where you spend your time. People who scrimped on a washing machine may very well have splurged on Egyptian cotton sheets with a 1,500-thread count, or on a set of exquisite hand-painted China.
Again, the more you know the better deal you are likely to get. For example, bath towels cost up to $20 new; if you find a perfectly good towel for one dollar, you have found a good deal. If that towel happens to be made by Abyss & Habidecor, you just make a fantastic deal; they’re top of the line, luxury bath towels which sell new for over $100. You’ll never make those fantastic buys if you haven’t done your research.
Sheets are often great deals, especially guest room sheets; those tend to be the least-used, but of the highest quality. Good dinnerware and China are usually a steal. Most sets are missing at least a few pieces, or maybe a few pieces have cracks or chips, but if you buy a service for 12 for a mere pittance, you can sort through it and end up with a complete and perfect service for six or eight.
If you absolutely don’t need anything for yourself, you might consider shopping at estate sales for your favorite charity. Shelters and family service organizations are always in need of linens, dishes, and cookware.