Yard Sale Guide

Yard sales are treasure troves when it comes to old videogames. It is common to see old games and systems for Nintendo, Sega, Atari, and others at these sales, and they can all be obtained for rock-bottom prices. Yard saling is an easy way to cheaply amass a sizable retro-gaming collection, and also makes for a fun hobby in and of itself.

By following the tips in this guide, you will be able to effectively manuever sales like a pro and also increase the chances of coming home with a great find!

  • Find websites for all of the newspapers in your area (or get the papers themselves). Browse Craigslist for communities in your area. Compile a list of yardsales-of-interest. Look for buzzwords like "Toys", "Games", and "Multi-Family" to help your chances. A lot of the time you will see multi-family or community yard sales, which are a bunch of sales in one specific location.

  • After you compile your list (anywhere from 20-40 sales), go to Mapquest or Yahoo Maps and get directions from place to place. Plan out a route for the day, then print it and bring it with you. (It helps to have a second person in the car to act as a navigator.) You can also try Liz & Dom's Visual Route Planner, which makes this part of the process much easier!

  • If you do not prefer the list method, you can try driving around your area looking for signs advertising yard sales. Be prepared to follow arrows.

  • Combining both the newspaper/Craiglist and the drive-around methods will yield the best results.

  • You will often find that Saturday is the busiest day for yard sales, with Friday and Sunday also having a smaller amount of sales. This might vary from region to region, so you will want to investigate your local area.

  • A typical yard sale day will last from 8am until 1pm.

  • The early bird catches the worm, and you should always try to head out as soon as you can. If you hate getting up early or if you have a hard time going to bed before midnight, then go to CVS and pick up some Simply Sleep. This is made by Tylenol and is non-prescription. It is also relatively cheap, completely safe and non-addictive, and knocks you out pretty quickly.

  • Make sure you have enough money on you. It is wise to have a bunch of 1 dollar bills on you (as many purchases will be under $5 total), and also a healthy supply of quarters. A checkbook can come in handy if you find a rather large score.

  • It is always a good idea to keep some batteries and spare games in your car, so that you can test portable systems when you find them. Just make sure you take them with you at the end of the day if you intend to park your car in the hot sun!
At the Sale
  • Never judge a yard sale from the car. It is common for videogames to be in small boxes, and they might not be visible from the car.

  • It doesn't hurt to be visibly nice when walking up to a sale. You never know if they'll have anything good, and people are more willing to cut you a deal if they like you.

  • When at a sale, if you are interested in something, pick it up and hold it. Do not put it down unless you are sure you do not want it. Someone else may be just waiting for you to put it down and "think" about it (while they pick it up and buy it).

  • Play it cool. Try not to show too much excitement or interest when you find something, no matter how big the score. The more interest you show, the harder it may be to bargain. If the seller can tell you are eager, the bargaining scale tips in their favor.

  • If you do not see any videogame-related items, you should (politely) ask the sale-runners if they have any. For some reason, a lot of people don't associate videogames with yard sales, so they won't bring out their son's stash of NES games. It never hurts to ask.

  • Examine your items carefully before purchase. There are no returns in the yard sale world!
Making the Deal
  • Cash in Face technique (CIF) - This is an effective money-saving technique to use at the time of purchase. When you mentally know what you want to pay for an item, get that amount of money in your hand. When you go to pay for the item, physically hold out the money and say "Would you take $X for this?" People will usually accept this offer (even if it is lower than they were originally asking). The thought is that when people actually see the money, they instinctively want to grab it. This is a very effective method of "lowballing".

  • Never pay the Initial Asking Price (IAP), unless it is already reasonable or even a 'great deal' that it's not worth it or appropriate to haggle it down any lower. Use your best judgment and go with your gut.

  • If something isn't marked, don't make the first offer (unless you're quite sure that your offer would be lower than what they'd be asking). Making the first offer puts you at risk for paying more than you'd have to.

  • Sometimes you can knock a few bucks off of the asking price by pointing out the flaws of what you are buying (if a system is missing its hookups, for example). Although this is often a useful technique, some sellers may take offense to you pointing out flaws in their items. Use at your own discretion.

  • Always haggle, and always give an offer (the worst they can say is "no" ).

  • Always have the money to pay for your stuff with you. If you say "I'll come back and pay later", you could lose the sale!

  • Multiple item purchases tend to yield bigger discounts. Rather than paying per item, get everything together that you want to buy and make an offer on everything.
When You Get Home
  • Make sure to wash your hands.

  • Test and clean your items.
  • If you find yourself with a few dirty systems or cartridges, pick up a box of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. They are cheap, effective, quick, leave no residue, and don't damage what you are cleaning. They will take off dirt, grime, marker, sticker glue, pretty much anything you can think of. You owe it to yourself to give these a try, you will be impressed.

  • For that tough glue and goo, try using Goo Gone. Paper towels and Q-tips work great as applicators.

  • Toothbrushes are great for cleaning out the vents on Nintendo and Sega Genesis consoles. Pick yourself up hard and soft bristle toothbrushes.

  • More often than not, your catridges' connectors will need to be cleaned before use. The best tool for the job is a Q-tip dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Move it from side-to-side, then use a dry Q-tip to dry the connectors. Do not play the game until it is dry.
Not Satisfied?
  • Always go to sales the weekend after the previous weekend was rained out. The sales planned for the previous weekend are often cancelled and rescheduled for the following weekend. This means potentially double the sales and double the chances you'll score some great stuff.

  • Remember: the deals are out there and more often then not you need to be patient. You may not score anything one week but score multiple items the next.

  • Never give up. Most of the time you will find absolutely nothing at 38 out of 40 sales, and then some really good stuff at 2. You never know what you'll find or when you'll find it. It is 100% random with no rhyme or reason.

  • Don't forget to check your local pawn/thrift shops, flea markets, Goodwill/Salvation Army, and Craigslist. Join your local Freecycle group. These are also great venues to find videogames!
Thanks to all who contributed to this guide.

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