The art of thrifting…Transform your garage sale finds into treasure


UNEXPECTED TREASURE—Yard sales and garage sales are great locales for picking up items that can be sold or repurposed for home. The key is doing a little research. (Courtesy of



by Michaela L. Duckett
For New Pittsburgh Courier
It’s heating up outside. The warmer weather brings opportunities to enjoy many activities including baseball, picnics, beach time and, of course, garage sales. People are purging what they no longer need or want, and it’s the ideal opportunity to turn their trash into your treasure.

With the explosive popularity of TV shows about unearthing historic memorabilia and valuable pieces of Americana, searching for knick-knacks and artifacts that make one-of-a-kind home decor has become a more popular pastime. But how do you know the difference between treasure and trash?

Larry Singleton, decor manager at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc., is an expert when it comes to collecting historic relics. Singleton and his family have been collecting for more than 40 years, providing real American artifacts, memorabilia and signage to the more than 600 Cracker Barrel locations nationwide.

He recommends treasure-seekers to search for items that appeal to their interests, such as vintage advertisements, folk art or toys.

“When you have a personal interest in the item you’re seeking, the hunt becomes that much more fun,” he said.

He also says it’s important to do your research.

“Familiarize yourself with what makes a piece authentic and what might indicate a reproduction,” he said. “Research and learn as much as you can before you shop. Watch TV shows, search on the Internet and visit local collectors’ stores. Discovering what’s valuable and knowing what’s currently in demand helps guide you in making that ‘big discovery.’”

He also suggests keeping your phone handy to conduct on-the-spot research on similar items to compare prices and make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Singleton said it’s also important to find out the story behind each item.

“While some items might have plenty of monetary value, other historic relics might be valuable simply because of the story they tell,” he said.
Perhaps you’re not looking for treasures to sell but to take home. Historic artifacts and memorabilia can also yield pieces of decor that are more than just pretty but also serve as conversation pieces when guests visit your home.

From outdated odds and ends to forgotten furniture, there is a wealth of worthy items just waiting to be found, re-imagined and re-purposed. Here are a couple of tips on turning garage sale bargains into treasure:

Pretty in paint

Rusty metal, chipped paint and colors from another decade are all common sights for the garage sale shopper. But when you look beyond these imperfections —and at their spray paint potential—you’ll soon find some diamonds in the rough.

Metal products such as tables, chairs, garden tools or even watering cans can receive an easy and instant update with spray paint, which is available in a variety of colors and finishes. Some offer rust protection. Others dry in less than 10 minutes so you won’t have to worry about grass, leaves or other particles getting stuck in your fresh coat of paint.

Turn bland wood chairs, dusty and drab dressers or awful accessories into amazing furniture or accents with bold or bright and basic hues;
New uses for old things

The key to finding items at garage sales is to look at how they can be used in new and different ways. Don’t view that dusty, broken typewriter or vintage camera as mechanical pieces you have to fix, but rather as interesting design elements to be admired on bookshelves and mantels.

Even old books can add a level of sophistication to your home. Grab a handful in coordinating colors to stack on a dresser or end table for instant eye appeal. Buy an old ladder and prop it against the wall to drape blankets. You can even spray paint an old coffee mug rack to create a fabulous jewelry organizer to hang all your favorite accessories. The possibilities are endless.



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