12 Things Found at a Yard Sale You Can Flip for a Profit

Updated on March 6, 2018
Kim Green profile image

Kim has been an estate liquidator for six years and resells some very interesting things.

Do you enjoy the thrill of the hunt? Would you like to make money turning finds into sales? This article will discuss 12 items to look for at a yard or estate sale.

The best way to become what I call a “garage sale entrepreneur” is to become an expert on a handful of items, so when you come across those items, you know how much, if anything, they’re worth on the market.

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1. Vintage Video Games

Vintage video games and video game consoles made before 2000 often command a premium price on eBay, particularly Nintendo systems like the NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, and Game Boy. If you find cartridges for those systems, especially for just a dollar or two, you'll often be able to make a nice profit, especially if the cartridges come with their original packaging.

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2. Trading Cards

Trading cards can sometimes be worth a premium, particularly Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Pokemon cards. Cards with a foil-covered front usually have additional value, but cards with any noticeable wear are generally worth a lot less. If you notice quite a few cards with a foil-covered front and with distinctly different face designs than the other cards for sale—and you can buy the entire collection for a pittance— you'll probably have some value. To learn more about a card's value and what to look for, check out individual cards on eBay, particularly foil-covered ones or cards with distinctive designs.

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3. Tools

Tools that are in good working order can almost always be flipped locally unless the yard sale prices are exorbitantly high. Keep an eye out for corded power tools and full sets of tools that are in great shape, as they're often priced low just to get them out of a garage.

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4. Musical Instruments

Musical instruments that work and are $20 or less are almost always able to be resold for a nice profit. Parents may purchase instruments for their child's future musical career, then sell them for next to nothing when the child moves on.

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5. Electronics

Electronics that work and are on deep discount can also be flipped for a profit. You'll probably want to check your local Craigslist before jumping in because local prices for such used items can vary a lot from region to region. Remember to test any electronic item before buying it.

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6. Bicycles

Bicycles often work wonderfully if you put in the time to clean them up. You can double or triple your money quite easily with an hour or two of cleaning. Functional bikes that are better than department store quality and are priced under $40 are almost always worth it. Department store bikes under $10 or so can be profitable. Vintage bikes can go for over $100.

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7. CDs and Books

CDs and books can be profitable when bought in bulk, then split up and sold individually. If you can find someone selling a giant box of books or CDs for just a few dollars, it's almost always worth picking them up because you can sell the ones that have individual value, then just sell the remnants in bulk. DVD box sets are also worth keeping an eye out for.

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8. Fishing Rods

Bamboo rods and reels are non-mainstream antiques that some collectors will shell out major bucks for. If you see these items and they're cheap, either keep them for yourself or sell them on eBay.

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9. Vinyl Albums

Millennials make up the biggest vinyl buyers, buying new releases from alternative bands like Imagine Dragons and The Killers to rap artists like Kendrick Lamar, even though they are streaming those same musicians on Spotify and Pandora.

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10. Costume Jewelry

Costume jewelry, especially vintage jewelry, can be the find of the day. Be on the lookout for anything by designer Miriam Haskell. Remember to always check for quality craftsmanship and sturdy settings—no glue!

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11. Vintage Mugs

If the 50-cent table has coffee cups, look for The Far Side, The Beatles, and even Starbucks mugs. The older the better. Anything made before 1996 is considered vintage.

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Other Items to Look for

Shrink wrap is always a good sign, as are unopened Apple products and board games.

Things to Remember Before Going to Your First Yard Sale

  1. Remember that the most valuable things to collect also depends on the geographic region you're in. If you are in the South, you are surrounded by Civil War memorabilia, whereas in the west, such as Arizona, it will be bought at a premium. However, the old "buy low and sell high" still applies to your purchases.
  2. You should be both the first and the last person to show up at a yard and estate sale— be the first to get the cool things and the last to get the rock-bottom deals.
  3. When you’re talking money, find out who the owner of an item is because you’ll get the best deal from that person. The owner doesn’t have to worry about paying a commission. If they’re having any kind of money crunch, they’ll want to get rid of the inventory quickly.
  4. Cash is king because a lot of places don’t take credit cards, so you’ll get a better deal if you’re willing to pay cash.
  5. Remember that you’re going to be selling these things to the general public. Just because you love old-fashioned tin toys doesn’t mean the internet will pay a premium for them. Know your audience—pick name-brand things that have staying power.

How to Become an Expert

I became an expert on rugs, so I could spot a quality rug at any yard or estate sale. U.S. rug dealers relied on a supply built up before 2010 (the year when the U.S. imposed more sanctions on Iran). As inventories dwindled, many dealers shifted to selling rugs made in India, Pakistan, and China. With the lifting of the embargo, dealers will be able to get merchandise again directly from Iran. Before the embargo, experts say the U.S. accounted for one-fifth of Iran's carpet exports. In places such as Southern California, home to the largest Persian community outside of Iran, the end of the embargo is reinvigorating a commercial lifeline that had gone cold during the nearly six-year import ban on Persian rugs.

Some rugs take years to weave. Though many countries produce handmade rugs, those from Iran are considered among the most precious because of the time spent and materials used in making them. That said, there's a difference in quality and value of a rug. If you become an expert in something, you will spot the treasures among the trash.

So if you're a fan of Storage Wars or Antiques Roadshow, you already know that one man's trash is another's treasure. Approach yard or estate sales with an appraiser's eye and you could walk away with the gold. Don't hesitate to jump on something. At worst, you can sell them at your next yard sale. At best, you'll turn a nice profit for just a little bit of effort.

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