Garage Sale

The Enthralling Evolution of Garage Sales

Driving through your neighborhood, you’ve likely cruised by yards scattered with gently used household items. Or you’ve peered into garages their owners have opened up to the world on any given Saturday in an effort to make some quick cash.

Yard sales, also commonly known as garage sales, are a modern-day community institution and a bargain hunter’s version of paradise. Families and community organizations alike (i.e. the church down the road or your favorite charity) round up gently used items to hawk at a discount to cut down on clutter and make a few bucks in the process. Yard sales have made such a mark on popular culture that they have their own holiday (National Garage Sales Day, which is celebrated on the second Saturday of each August). But most people don’t know that garage sales boast an intriguing history, and these events are continuing to evolve while still serving a dynamic role in our society.

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“Rummage” sales: A Humble Beginning

Such sales events aren’t exactly a novel concept borne of the 21st century. The practice of selling unused goods to provident patrons is at least 200 years old.

The modern-day garage sale concept was likely born in 19th century shipyards. Excess materials and unused cargo were hauled to shipyards and sold off to eager buyers at a reduced price. Dubbed “rummage sales,” these events allowed thrifty buyers to fish through their wares on their quest to find the best price for necessities.

Community Rummage Events

Later that century, the happenings formerly known as “rummage” sales evolved to charity events hosted within individual communities.

The initial concept was adopted and moved beyond the confines of the shipyards and docks. Taking the form of bazaars and church-hosted sales, these were regular occurrences where community members could gather and sift through their neighbors offerings.

Modern-day Yard Sales Take Shape

During the 1950s and ’60s, more Americans made the move to the suburbs. Equipped with brand new homes complete with garages and spacious yards, suburbanites gave life to the modern-day concept of the garage sale.

Generally hosted on weekends, garage sales would offer a smattering of home goods, including clothes, shoes, accessories, baby items, furniture, decor and more to neighbors who’d fork over their cash for these discounted treasures. As these events grew more popular, yard-sale hosts began advertising larger events in the classifieds section of local newspapers and posting signage around their neighborhood or town directing other residents to the sale.

Know Your Stuff

While the basic concept of the garage sale hasn’t changed much in the last few decades, the medium for these sales has gone high tech. As technology has evolved in the last 20 years, many of our gently used items are now sold in various places on the web via “virtual” garage sales.

One such site is VarageSale, where members of hyper-localized communities list their items for everyone to peruse. When another member is ready to make a purchase, buyer and seller schedule an offline meetup to exchange the item for cash.

Garage Sales by the Numbers

Obviously the form of garage sales may have evolved over the years, but their function has not. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, garage sales account for more than $4.2 million in weekly revenues in the U.S. alone. That’s a lot of dough, particularly when the average price per item is only 85 cents.

IAnd although the original concept is a couple of hundred years old, garage sales are still going strong with an average of 165,000 hosted each weekend across the country. Based on their lengthy history and continuing popularity in various forms, it looks like garage sales will be around for generations to come.