Weekend Finds: A Good Old Fashioned Estate Sale

Lately I’ve been in less of a buying mood and more in a “get something—anything—done” mood. With years of refinishing projects queued up, my full attention hasn’t been on tag sales. When Tammy told me she had a hot lead on a sale and even sent me the posting, I perused the photos and dismissed it as a fussy old lady sale. I ignored her insistence that the seller never takes photos of the good stuff and skipped day one of the sale. Later, when Tammy called to tell me of the wonders she had found, I decided I couldn’t miss day two—the half-price day.


My first find at the sale was a pretty good indication of just how much I had misread the situation initially. This service for eight “Focus” flatware by Gense of Sweden really had me wondering what I must have missed on day one. Of course, had I gone, I may have been tempted to buy it at full price. It was a much better bargain on day two at $25. I have a couple similar sets of American flatware with brown handles, but I am totally in love with the unique shapes of these pieces. Aside from a couple teaspoons and small knives, I was pleasantly surprised to find the set was nearly complete.

IMG_5389Rounding out a tour of Scandinavia are some Danish candle holders. I can’t get enough of these turned wooden candlesticks. Most of mine are teak, but I’ve also got a growing collection of painted ones like this.

IMG_5412One of the difficulties of estate sales is finding large items right off the bat that you must lug through a crowded house until you can find a safe place for your items to be held. At this sale, my albatross was this Replogle globe.


The base is really cool and that’s what drew me to it. But globes are hard to carry in a crowd and somewhere along the way the knob that holds the globe together popped off the little spindle you see poking out to the right and disappeared forever. I actually came back to the sale on the last day (75% off day!) and combed the house for it, but it was nowhere to be found. It’s still pretty cool despite being slightly incomplete.


Often in intact estates you’ll see lots of great lights and other fixtures mounted to the walls that aren’t for sale, but in a basement bedroom I found two great wall-hung bedside lamps. I love the extension lamp’s simplicity, but my favorite is the counterweighted pull-down lamp. That slick brass arm that mounts invisibly to the wall is fantastic, as is the slatted wooden shade. I may rewire this with reproduction cloth cording and move the power switch out of sight, just to clean it up a little, but otherwise it’s in remarkable shape.


My favorite basement finds, however, were hiding in the Christmas room. You know you’re going to find great stuff when you see it packed away in ancient boxes that look like this:

IMG_5427And the ancient boxes didn’t disappoint. I found two boxes stuffed with bead sprays, picks, ornaments, elves and all sorts of Christmas nonsense from the 1950s. Many of the items were never used, still wrapped in their original tissue paper.


Then I’ll have to decide whether to unwrap them or leave them like this forever. But I’ll probably bust them out and stick them all over the house for the holidays.


I would love to have seen what went on in this house at Christmas. It must have been spectacular—or she knocked off a craft store at some point. We may never know the truth.



IMG_5414There was just so much stuff in the boxes that it took a couple hours to sort it all out when I got it home. Some of the smallest items were the most fun, like the hundreds of teeny, tiny spun-head Santa Claus and snowman embellished pipe cleaners I found in the bottom…

IMG_5415…or these Italian made Christmas cards embellished with hand painted wooden figures.


I nearly threw these out with a stack of ugly cards I found stuffed in with a candle until I felt the wooden pieces through the envelopes. I’m glad I thought to open them first. Although I will say the image of a toy-bearing angel juxtaposed with the three kings riding through a snowy northern European landscape is a tad confusing.

IMG_5424The best find in the Christmas boxes by far was this instant elf army. The gold lamé one is my favorite. To out-fabulous 12 other elves is no easy task.


In addition to the Christmas boxes, I bought some individually priced decorations including nearly two dozen of these amazing beaded wire snowflakes in two sizes.


I also got some great clear plastic candy container Santa boots.


On the last day of the sale, everything in the Christmas and toy room was “fill a bag for five dollars.” That kind of thinking causes you to fill a bag with weird stuff like this:


Of course it’s fun weird. The two Easter bunnies are Annalee Mobilitee dolls which, apparently, are a popular collectible and the product of a mom and pop company that ballooned into a multi-million dollar business by the 1970s. The “Watch-it Watch” is a branded product from the tv series Family Affair. It’s not bad for a kids’ toy, it has a Swiss-built movement. I couldn’t resist the Little Red Riding Hood finger puppets, although I don’t remember where the clown comes in.


This advertising ashtray for Resistol hats was another fun find for the five dollar bag.


There were a lot of vintage clothes at the sale and one of the things I picked up in the clothing room was this… bag? I didn’t really know what it was to be honest, I just though it looked cool. It’s open on one end, but has no closure. When I got home I reached inside to check for a tag and realized the opposite side is heavily insulated—it’s an oven mitt. A pretty awesome oven mitt, too.


I love the eclectic things you find in a complete estate. This spooky old gentleman definitely qualifies. This “painting” is actually painted over a tin photograph from about the 1880s. He’ll fit right in with my collection.


There was a fairly large collection of ephemera in the house and on the final day of the sale I found this lithographed, die-cut 1902 calendar. It will make a nice addition to my mom’s collection of Victorian paper goods.


My final find is a reminder to leave no stone unturned at an estate sale, I found this gem on the bathroom counter. This little kit is a perfume typer. Each little plastic vial—called nips—holds a particular scent and the user is instructed to break them open and wear each for an entire day until she can decide which types of scents she likes the best. I couldn’t find a company anywhere on it and I also couldn’t work out how you tell which scent is which. Presumably they are color-coded, but I couldn’t decode it. Still, it’s a pretty cool set.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve been to a really great sale like this and I’m hungry for another one. Maybe one of these days I’ll start listening to Tammy’s instinct.

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