Hunting for Treasure: Estate Sale Tips and My Recent Experience

Last weekend I went on my first big estate sale trip. I’ve done plenty of garage sales in the past, but I’ve never experienced the craziness that is the estate sale. I definitely recommend it. It’s something everyone should experience at least once. If only to find out what happens to your stuff when you die.

My guide was my friend Jeb. Jeb is a local artist, blogger, and estate sale pro. You can find Jeb blogging about art, memorabilia, travel, and Texas at Junky Trinkets. Here’s a quick link to his estate sale related posts.

I’m so glad I convinced Jeb to bring me along on his estate sale Saturday morning run. I loved it. Here’s how it went down.

Jeb had the morning planned out with around 9 estate sales that he thought would be good. We left the comforts of our northern suburbs and ventured down into the older part of town (closer to the heart of the city), where the real treasures are found.

On the way down to the sales we each went over the things we’d be looking for so we could keep and eye out for each other.

  • Jeb’s goal: art supplies and ideas, sport and Texas history memorabilia, furniture, and other collectibles and rarities
  • My goal: home decor, old books, toys and things for little Miss PT, and to document the experience

I took a few snapshots throughout the morning. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Red Round Bed Vintage

Old School Big Round Red Bed

Vintage Piggy Banks

Vintage Piggy Bank Collection

Beanie Babies

Beanie Baby Collection

Here’s what I ended up purchasing during my estate sale hunt:

  1. Coleman Camping Stove (excellent condition) and 5 Propane Bottles – $5
  2. Keystone A-7 16 mm Movie Camera (non-working) – $11

The stove was a great bargain and will hopefully encourage Mrs. PT and I to get outside more this Spring. I already tested the stove out and it works perfect and looks to have never been used.

The jury is still out on whether the camera was a good find. It looks really cool, but I can’t get it to work. Online I’m seeing these sell for anywhere from $15 to $75 (if in working condition). At a minimum it would be a nice piece for my home office book shelf. It was made in the 40s!

Keystone A-7 16 mm Movie Camera

Keystone A-7 16 mm Movie Camera

Jeb was kind enough to offer up some great tips for making the most of your estate sale experience:

Jeb’s Tips for Estate Sale Success

Plan Ahead – A day or two prior to the weekend, Jeb checked the classifieds of our local newspaper. He narrowed down the list of estate sales based on the description of the items included and the location of the house. Then, Jeb broke out the mapsco and noted the map page number for each of the sales. Finally, he put the estate sales in order of location.

During our trip, I acted as the navigator and simply had to refer to the mapsco number to help us get from sale to sale. Very efficient way to see a lot of estate sales in just a few hours. We saw 9 in total on our trip.

Estate Sale Classifieds

Estate Sale Classifieds

Carry Cash – Of course, most estate sales don’t take check or credit card. Bring your cash and bring a lot of it. You never know what kind of deal you’re going to stumble upon. If you’re looking for one particular item though, my recommendation is to set a budget and stick with it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle – All the items we purchased were $15 or less. There wasn’t much haggle room. However, prices on the bigger items, like furniture, can usually be negotiated.

You’ve Got to Dig for the Gold – The people putting on the estate sale usually don’t take time to label everything or remove everything from desks, dressers, or closets. If you’re looking for rarities and other unique items, go where no one has been willing to go. Take your time and dig the deepest.

Take Advantage of Discounts on Saturday and Sunday – Lastly, keep in mind that prices start dropping on Saturday and Sunday. Most sales start on Thursday and Friday. But Saturday morning may be the best time to go because the weekend rush hasn’t taken everything yet and the discounts are starting to show up.

Bonus Tip: Estate sales are a great place to find gardening tools and shop supplies. Head straight to the garage to find the good stuff.

Looking for more tips? Check out Get Rich Slowly’s guide on How to Shop at an Estate Sale.

Have you ever been to an estate sale? What was your biggest find?

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About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon. He created this website back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence. He uses Personal Capital to track his wealth. All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.


  1. I love estate sales, you can get extremely good deals on all sorts of things. Probably one of the most fun if you go with somebody too. Good tips

  2. Where are the plus size Star Wars comic books?

  3. Wow, that stove might be worth about $50 new! And I’ve seen propane go for about $2.50 per bottle. Nice pickup!

  4. Nice write up PT. I had fun and I look forward to more estate sale trips with you in the future. My biggest finds are documented on the link you posted. I liked buying those $1 football programs and selling them for $150+ on EBAY. That was exciting!