Miniature Pewabic Pottery Vase
Estate shopping is a fun way for the frugal shopper to find merchandise for resale or personal use. There are websites that publish upcoming estate sales which usually take place Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The general rule is full price on the first day, 25% reduction on the second day and 50% on the third day. Price reductions will vary depending on the company running the estate. Ask every estate sale what the reduction is for that day. Read the description of the estate sale to see start time, what form of payment is accepted, the use of street numbers and where to park.
Visit an estate listing website like estatesales.net. Locate the estates in your area. Most estate sale listings include a lot of picture. It is easy to determine which estates are the most appealing. Map out your route, determine your spending budget, bring the appropriate form of payment (or you might be looking for an ATM machine) and bring some extra boxes in case you need them.
It will take some experience to learn the different estate companies, how they price items and their general business practices. There will be estates where items are overpriced or the staff is not very pleasant. Keep a list of the estate companies to avoid so you don't waste time (or gas). If you really like a particular estate company, let them know. Ask to be put on their mailing list. If you are a good customer they will reward you.
When you are buying many items from one estate sale, it is a good idea to bring an "assistant" to keep a list of what you are buying and "guards" your collected treasures. Occasionally you will find something wonderful. You put it in your purchase pile only to find that it has disappeared. Estate sales can get very hectic and the staff cannot watch everything (nor is it their responsibility).
The saddest story - We found a wonderful piece of early Red Wing stoneware (In perfect condition, I might add) . It had gone unnoticed on a garage shelf - until I put it in our (unprotected) pile. Check-out time: NO Red Wing stoneware in sight. Someone had purchased it from our stash. Lesson learned. Having an assistant not only protects you from unfair "looting", it also gives you a complete list of what you bought at each estate and how much you spent on each item. This can be very useful when you are deciding an auction start price.
What about the pictured vase? This was an great estate find. It was found in the basement, pushed to the back of a shelf (Always check the basement and garage shelves). I knew the minute I saw it that it was probably Pewabic Pottery; the size, the glaze and the miniature form. I turned it over (and to my delight) saw a very faint circle mark with only "Pe...ic" visible. We were able to purchase this small gem for under $3.00. It sold on eBay for $190.25. We not only made money on this piece, we were able to place it into a collection where it will be preserved - win, win!
Next time, estate sales 101 Part 2. Find out what happened with the 1919 cast iron fireplace andiron and grate set. This one is very perplexing!