Tag Sales - Stealing from the Dead?

The Line-Up for a Tag Sale.
The Line-Up for a Tag Sale. | Source

What is a Tag Sale?

A Tag Sale is an auction – an auction where all the items have already been tagged with a price label. Tag sales are conducted by professional auctioneers who have decided that instead of transporting all the items to the auctioneer’s premises, decide to save a lot of trouble and hold the auction in the home of the deceased.

It is a lot simpler to tag price labels on refrigerators and grandfather clocks than it is to heave them onto trucks and heave them off trucks at the other end. Although the items are tagged with a price, there is nothing to stop you haggling with the auctioneer for a cheaper price. Don’t be confused by the fact that tag sales are held by auctioneers – there is no gavel banging. A tag sale is more like browsing through an antique, kitchen, clothing, furniture, gardening, mechanical, book store; you pick out what you want and go and pay the lady.

Sometimes Tag Sales are held because elderly people have moved into condos or retirement homes and can’t find space for the nick-knacks they’ve been treasuring all their lives. They may have intended passing the antiques onto their families, but were chastised by their children and told they didn’t want the old garbage. Hence the tag sale!

Many tag sales are due to the owner’s death, and the hair may rise on the back of your neck as you enter the house, especially if you knew the owner. It can be shivery when you enter a bedroom and see the dressing table set out exactly as your friend would have sat at it the week before; grit your teeth and think of the profit.


a tagged clock
a tagged clock | Source

7 Helpful Tag Sale Hints

1 If the Tag Sale is advertised in a newspaper, there will be a list of some of the items for sale, but there will be no photographs. However, if you log onto your locale’s Auction Fever website – www://auctionfever.com/ and click on ‘tag sales’ you will usually find some photographs of the items on sale. If you intend to re-sell the items you are going to buy, this is the ideal time for you to check the prices of the item sold on eBay, and work out if it is worth your while attending the tag sale.

2 Double check with the advert how payment has to be made. Most auctioneers take Debit and Credit cards, but some old fashioned ones only take cash. If it is cash only, make a trip to the bank the day before. Take more cash than you think you’ll need, as it is unlikely that you’ll be allowed to put things aside as you drive off to the bank for cash.

3 If the tag sale starts at 9.00am and you want an article badly, plan to attend at 8.15am at the latest – even then, there might still be a dozen people there before you. Unlike auctions, where you are allowed to browse for an hour prior to the auction, at tag sales you are not allowed in until the tag sale actually starts, which is normally dead on time.

4 If you are serious about getting to the tag sale early, and the sale is in a city, do some reconnoitring a couple of days before the sale. Look up Google maps for the address and any peculiarities of the street, like whether it is a cul-de-sac or a 50 kilometres long main drag. But…do remember that Google maps may not be up to date. Drive around the area looking for legal parking places, and if necessary, calculate how long it will take you to walk a couple of blocks to the sale location. (If you buy a piece of furniture or anything heavy, you can drive up to the door and load it straight onto your vehicle.)

5 Be alert when you are in the line up. A professional tag sale attendee will have no trouble insinuating themselves in front of you – what they do is pretend that a person near the front of the line-up is a friend of theirs. They move up near the head of the queue and start talking excitedly to a supposed friend. The ‘friend’ assumes they are friends of the person behind and the one behind assumes that they really are a friend of the person in front. Keep your eyes open and you may see the ‘cut’ and ‘chat’ in operation.

6 It is a lemming trait in human beings, that they stand behind the person in front, and assume that is the line they should be in; how often have you had to ask ‘is this the line-up?’ Again, another essential is to find out where the line-up is; are you standing at the correct door? Should you be at the back door or the side door?

Find out by knocking on the door. Eventually an irate auctioneer’s helper will come to the door and shout ‘What?’ at you. That is when you ask if this is the right door.

There is a very good reason for doing this. You know what it’s like at a grocery store when there is a long line-up at each checkout – and then another checkout is opened and the girl calls out ‘next over here please’. The extra checkout causes a stampede.

It is the same at a tag sale if you are at the wrong door. You can guarantee that if you’re at the wrong door, you’ll get trampled underfoot when the correct one opens. Do not assume – find out.

7 At a large Tag Sale, there will be a doorman controlling entry. As space in a house is limited, the first 10 people will be allowed in – there will be a 5 minute break before the second lot are allowed in. If you know what you want, and are convinced about it, make sure you are in that first 10 – and have a partner! The partner helps you to do your own controlling.

Reminiscence
Reminiscence | Source

Control the Tag Sale Yourself

As the sale starts and the controller allows you into the house, if you don’t already know the layout of the house interior, you’ll have to ask the controller. If you want a kitchen implement, ask the controller where the kitchen is, and make sure nobody passes you as you ask. You may have to ask the way to the garage, or the toilet.

Suppose you want to purchase a piece of jewellery; there is no such room as a jewellery room, so you’ll have to ask where the jewellery is. After you’ve asked, your partner could take up a bit more of the controller’s time after you dash off to the goodies. If you are first in line, your partner could accidentally stumble and block the entrance for a minute or two.

I can’t emphasise enough how critical it is to be first in the line-up; just last week I was desperate to buy some silver cutlery, but the man in front of me got there first and blocked off the corner they were in. He bought the entire silver cutlery collection. The man is a silver merchant, so all of the beautiful cutlery is guaranteed to be melted down.

The items at tag sales are normally fairly priced, but not the bargains you’ll get at auctions. What you have to remember about tag sales is that the house must be emptied – call back later on in the day and get some real bargains. Happy Hunting!

Odds & Ends
Odds & Ends | Source

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Comments 9 comments

Magdelene profile image

Magdelene 4 years ago from Okotoks

Interesting Hub, I have never actually heard of this kind of sale before. I've heard of many auctions but not a tag sale, so anyone can basically have a tag sale? You have to have an Auctioneer for it though right?


John MacNab profile image

John MacNab 4 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence Author

Thanks for reading and commenting Magdalene. No! You don't have to have an auctioneer for a Tag Sale. All you need to do is advertise it as a 'House Sale' and label all the items yourself; similar to a yard sale. Better still, simply have a yard sale, they're easier.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Great sneaky ideas, John, for winning at a tag sale. You appear to be a pro. I like the idea of bringing a partner along who is adept in fake falls to prevent competition. Here's to continued success in this field of endeavor.


John MacNab profile image

John MacNab 4 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence Author

drbj: Thanks for the compliment drbj. The thing about the partner business is that with us being old, it works. People stop to help me as my wife casually strolls into the sale in haste. Yes, I suppose it is kinda sneaky, but heck, other people bid the prices up at a normal auction. And isn't that what husbands are for??


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

John – I have attended more of these sales that I can count. Here it is a bit more ferocious. It is not uncommon to arrive at 5 a.m. and find someone camped on the porch and both sides of the streets full of parked cars and a shadowy figure behind the wheel. There are experts of every ilk, from furniture connoisseurs who know a $28,000 Herman Miller chair from a Montgomery Wards catalogue purchase from 1958.

You know I am a book dealer (or perhaps was a book dealer) and many a Friday, Saturday and often Sunday morning I would be out in the city well before dawn, in hopes of securing quality books. There are other ‘book people’ who can spot a title across a room and will literally walk across furniture to snag a title off a shelf.

It is fun to attend these sales. It teaches you a good deal about people. There is also an art to reading the advertisements. Some of the advertisement writers should win awards, I swear. Great Hub.


TripleAMom profile image

TripleAMom 4 years ago from Florida

I love any kind of yard sale or tag sale. Most of the tag sales I've been to have been priced higher than I would have liked, but there are deals to be found and it's fun to see the items available whether I buy or not. Great ideas and great hub.


John MacNab profile image

John MacNab 4 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence Author

mckbirdbks: 5 AM???? Shouldn't there be a law against that, Mike? I'd never been to an auction or tag sale until I came to Canada. My Canadian wife is a fanatical tag saler and auction attender - with good reason, but that's another story. I still don't know about any antiques, but I'm handy for paying and carrying. Actually they fascinate me. I love watching the people and figuring out their tactics.

I was thinking about you last week; we were at a tag sale and my wife got into conversation with an attendee who said he had bought an old house, and was looking to auction everything. My wife was giving him advice, when he invited us along to look at the house.

I'd never seen anything like it: when he bought it every room was head high in what seemed to be garbage. He told us he had thrown out 600 bags of the stuff (that made my wife weep) then he started finding tables, chairs, sofas and dead cats. Seemingly after someone was dead and buried, the lady of the house simply locked that door never to be re-opened - except for throwing garbage in. The books were legion. My wife is still drooling and we're going back there again this week. Thanks for reading Mike.


John MacNab profile image

John MacNab 4 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence Author

TripleAMom: Thanks for reading and commenting TripleAMom. I've come to love the darned things myself. Both tag sales and auctions give me a buzz now, and as you say, now and again there are bargains to be had.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

John I have pulled up at an estate sale at four-thirty or five a.m. and found people sleeping on a front porch and in their cars. The people trying to earn a living doing this take their work very seriously. Nothing is beneath them. I have seen people working in teams. In the book business technology has caught up to most everyone (not me) they are all carrying devices that can go online read a barcode and bring back a price range of the online offers. They then can decide in an instant if they want to buy a book. I saw one person at a library sale. He lifted the book and the device read the barcode. He had the device set to beep if the asking price online was ten dollars or above. He did not even have to read a title. Lift and scan, no knowledge necessary. The money at that house was probably in those six hundred bags.

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