“Any Fabergé eggs?”

“No,” I said as the crowd of pickers gathered at the end of my driveway on a recent Sunday morning and watched as I put out stuff for a yard sale.

“Any incunabula?” asked another. “Those are books printed before 1501.”

“I know what incunabula are,” I said testily. “No, none of them, either.”

“Do you have an original Declaration of Independence hidden behind a framed copy of a ‘Hang in there, baby!’ cat-on-a-rope poster from the 1970s?”


The pickers looked disgusted.

I’m exaggerating, of course. Really, the only thing the pickers were interested in was costume jewelry, hoping, I suppose, that accidentally mixed in among the cheap paste jewels and gold plate were real Tiffany and Cartier baubles.

The community yard sale wasn’t supposed to start till 10 — that’s what the signs posted around the neighborhood said — but ever since 9 a.m., rangy men and women had been sitting in their cars outside our house, early birds eager for some bargain worms.

At 9:30, I broke down and started bringing merchandise out of our house. The pickers erupted from their vehicles.

“Do you have any costume jewelry,” they asked.

“Yes, but it’s still in the house,” I said.

Well, they didn’t like that. By bringing out the big stuff first — golf clubs, a mountain bike, a rowing machine, an entire sporting goods store’s worth of jettisoned pastimes — I was making them wait.

The last time I wrote about yard sales — five years ago — I mentioned how much My Lovely Wife hates having them. She hadn’t changed her opinion.

After 30 years of marriage, I’ve come to accept that my wife is a better judge of reality than I am. When I thought about what we might sell, I envisioned the customers as neighborhood kids, happy to pick up the stuffed animals and unopened art supplies we still had in our empty nest.

But there were no neighborhood kids there at 9:30.

I accept that I may lack business sense. I had some old photography equipment I wanted to get rid of, but I couldn’t stomach the thought of selling something I wasn’t sure worked. So I’d gone out and bought a $14 lithium battery to put in a Canon point-and-shoot camera that I was gonna ask $2 for.

I finally started bringing out the jewelry, putting it on a folding card table in the driveway. The pickers fell on it like piranhas on a hapless Amazon cow. The yard sale had officially begun.

Because it was a community yard sale — with a dozen or so families unloading stuff — the morning unfolded with more frenzy than I’d expected. A lot of people didn’t seem especially concerned with how they parked. I’m used to the slow drive-by, where you scrutinize a yard sale as you creep past at 5 mph, deciding whether it’s worth parking the car and getting out.

What I wasn’t used to was the woman who left her car in the middle of the street — just threw it in park, opened the door and hopped out, fearful, I guess, that she’d miss the Van Cleef & Arpels diamond tennis bracelet hidden with the Beanie Babies.

“They can get past,” she said when cars started to back up behind her.

I felt like saying, “Not if they and their cars are subject to the same physical laws as the other solid objects on this planet.”

She grudgingly got back in her car and moved it to the curb.

The general excitement level was also ratcheted up by the fact that it was the last day of an estate sale at a house just up the street.

This seemed to confuse people. I’d be carrying more merchandise out of the house when I’d collide with a stranger coming in.

“I’m sorry, nothing in the house is for sale,” I’d say.

“This isn’t the estate sale?”

“No, the house with the estate sale is the one up the street behind all the orange signs that say ‘Estate Sale.’ ”

In the end, we grossed $260, almost double the $132 we raised at our last garage sale, in 2012. I guess we’ll have our next one in 2022. Mark your calendars — but please don’t come early.

Picture this

The handsome photo of musician Stephen Wade in my Thursday column was miscredited. It was taken by Michael G. Stewart.

Twitter: @johnkelly

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