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Make Money Online Re-Selling Domestic Yard Sale Finds

Updated on June 12, 2012

Life Beyond Jobs

Making money is getting harder and harder to do these days.

In many parts of the U.S. (including where this author currently lives), the only jobs available are part-time minimum wage positions in fast food or retail, and the competition for those is fierce.

That means more more yard sales (hosted by people needing cash), and more people shopping at yard sales (for bargains on things they once bought new).

Some major name re-sale shops actually now have a chronic shortage of items.

In addition the renewed interest in second hand goods, both buying and selling, more and more people are looking to the internet for web pennies. That's no picnic either, since doing business online means competing with the entire world in anything you might do.

But if you're smart, you can still get ahead of the crowd.

Sites like Etsy and Ebay can be a boon for crafters and resellers of vintage clothing and household goods. While it might seem like a lot of work, if you love yard sales and have an eye for online trends,or if you just need a break from writing, you can sometimes see a better return, faster, by reselling than you might by pumping out keyword optimized content.

You will need a digital camera, a place to stage your goods to be photographed, and an understanding of postal rates. If you stick to smallish items, you can make use the PO's prepaid boxes that ship for a flat rate as long as an item fits inside.

You'll also need a place to safely store your finds until someone buys them.

Finally, most of the items here are from the U.S. So if you live elsewhere, never mind. (Sorry.)

Once you've got that all sorted out, it's time to shop.

Vintage Children's Prints are very much sought after for clothing and quilts
Vintage Children's Prints are very much sought after for clothing and quilts | Source
Vintage fabric is disappearing fast. Look for kitschy prints like this one and yardage for quilters.
Vintage fabric is disappearing fast. Look for kitschy prints like this one and yardage for quilters. | Source
Groups notions and small scraps together and sell as a lot
Groups notions and small scraps together and sell as a lot | Source

Keeping Ahead of the Trends

The items listed here currently resell quickly for a good profit. (Circa 2012.)

Keep in mind that vintage trends change over time, and today's hot items may be tomorrows clinkers.

On the positive side, if you feel a tug towards a certain item and can pick it up cheaply, do it. (I can't begin to tell you how many times I've ignored that impulse only to kick myself later.) Always keep in mind what you can charge for resale while you shop so that you don't over pay.

You need to know that reselling yard sale goods involves a bit of playacting that might make some people uncomfortable. For instance, you don't want to pick up a valuable vintage piece and scream "Wow!" and start jumping up and down, nor do you want to get too grabby, especially when others are watching. Cool and easy does it.

If you feel guilty casually buying stuff that you know the seller has drastically underpriced, this sort of thing might not be for you.

Most people, however, think that all's fair in love and yard sales. It's a YARD SALE.

So all bets are off.

Ready? OK. Here's what to look for:

1) Vintage Fabrics & Notions: Vintage fabrics were a real sleeper until fairly recently, when crafting, repurposing, and Singer Sewing machines took off anew in a big way.

Look for yardage (3 yards and up) in cotton and cotton blends to market to quilters and decorators. Smaller pieces that sell rapidly include feedsacks from the 20s and 30s (hard to find but like gold online), authentic homespun (again hard to find, but worth a fortune to Civil War Re-enactors), and anything from France or with an Arts & Crafts motif.

Cottage-style and Shabby Chic remnants are good too.Choose cabbage flower prints and linen fabric with blue accents or trim.

Vintage notions (pins, needles, lace, scissors, etc.) can be grouped together as one item online. Look for notions with colorful vintage illustrations.

Vintage patterns, especially from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, also sell well.

Colorful interesting old buttons like this can fetch premium prices online
Colorful interesting old buttons like this can fetch premium prices online | Source

2) Vintage Buttons: Keep an eye out for Mason jars, cigar boxes, coffee cans, or fruit tins filled with old buttons.

Every household had once had a jar or tin like this. When a shirt or jacket wore out, the buttons would be snipped off and saved.

Today, some of these buttons are worth a fortune, and even generic buttons sold in the original tin will re-sell quickly for a good price. Crafters buy them, hobbyists buy them, and button collectors buy them. Look for Bakelite, colorful plastic in unusual shapes, big coat buttons with rhinestone trim or pretty carvings, rhinestone buttons, and anything unusual.

Metal military buttons don't sell as well as you might expect, even old ones, unless they are Civil War buttons. If you think you've found a Civil War item and it's cheap, buy it.

Look at the older clothing. Even an item that is too worn to resell may have fabulous buttons.

Barkcloth draperies in atomic prints like this one used to be common but not are worth their weight in money
Barkcloth draperies in atomic prints like this one used to be common but not are worth their weight in money | Source
Tropical prints like this one are typical of 40s barkcloth drapes
Tropical prints like this one are typical of 40s barkcloth drapes | Source

3) Barkcloth: Barkcloth is a decorating fabric that wasy made during the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Most often it was used in drapes.

Barkcloth has a rough texture and usually features a tropical print or an atomic/midcentury modern print. Even a scrap of barkcloth sells quickly (for pillows, craft, etc.)

A full drapery panel or a set of barkcloth draperies can sell for anywhere from $50 to $200 or more, depending on condition and the liveliness of the print.

Barkcloth is getting harder and harder to find, but often people who are clearing out or 'flipping' houses don't realize what it is and think it's ugly junk, so they throw it out or price it way too low.

Midcentury modern furnishings are hot right now, and anything authentic that can be used for accents sells fast. Though it may not be your taste, for people who like it, atomic barkcloth prints are magical.

Your best bet for finding barkcloth is estate sales and first time yard sales in older homes.

Get your sale first and be focused because all the people who show up at opening are looking for the same things you are.

These Bakelite 'hotdog' buttons have a Deco flair that will sell them quickly
These Bakelite 'hotdog' buttons have a Deco flair that will sell them quickly | Source
Assorted Bakelite costume jewelry
Assorted Bakelite costume jewelry | Source

4) Bakelite: Like barkcloth, bakelite is an artificial material from bygone days that is no longer produced commercially.

An early form of plastic, Bakelite is heavier than both celluloid and lucite (two period materials that resemble bakelite), and is found most often in buttons and costume jewelry from the 30s and 40s.

Bakelite was also used in larger items, such as radios, boxes, and table games.

So many people LOVE bakelite that there is now a huge problem with black market Fakelite--a copied substance made by fakers looking to make a quick buck.

For yard sale purposes, just look for anything cheap that might be Bakelite--don't obsess about authenticity, because you don't want to pay a fortune for it anyway. If worse comes to worst and you pick up some earrings or buttons that aren't real Bakelite, you can still sell them if they are brightly colored and interesting.

To test a piece to see if your yard sale find is real Bakelite, some people spray a bit of 409 cleaner on a small inconspicuous section on the back of the piece. If that spot turns yellow, your find is probably Bakelite. (Unless it's Fakelite.)

A better test in my opinion (since it doesn't damage the piece) is to submerge the item in hot water. After a minute or so, take it out, rub it, and smell it. Bakelite will give off a camphor odor after being gently heated this way.

In fact, if it's a warm day you may be able to test on the spot with a quick rub and a sniff.

After awhile, you'll get so you recognize Bakelite fairly easily.

Look for dated floral prints and borders
Look for dated floral prints and borders | Source
This homemade tablecloth is actually a piece of atomic barkcloth. Take off the trim or sell as is.
This homemade tablecloth is actually a piece of atomic barkcloth. Take off the trim or sell as is. | Source

5) Vintage Tablecloths and Linens: Tablecloths from the 40s and 50s are common yard sale finds that sell well online.

Sometimes if luck is on your side you can find an entire box of old linens for a few dollars.

Items that sell best are tablecloths with colorful borders like fruit, morning glories, chickens, and other 40s and 50s themes. Matching napkins are great too. Embroidered pillow cases are another good find.

Less salable items include old dresser scarves and embroidered doilies, but you can still group these small pieces together and sell as one lot for crafters. Don't pass up a box of linens just because some doilies are included.

If any of your finds have small holes or stains, just be honest. Even badly worn pieces will be snatched up by crafters if the print is interesting.

Checked red picnic tablecloths are currently selling for ridiculous amounts of money. (Why doesn't some company produce them new? Who knows.) If you are lucky enough to find one cheap, grab it.

You might not be able to part with it though! (An occupational hazard.)

And that's fine too.

Just have fun, and if you're lucky, you might just make a few bucks.

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    • CR Rookwood profile image
      Author

      Pamela Hutson 5 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Thanks kitty! Yes, you are so right. You have to keep jumping ahead of the trends. Right now people are sewing, but already vintage fabric is getting harder to find. Tomorrow? Who knows what the 'hot' thing will be. ;)

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

      I actually was selling vintage clothing online for awhile and made quite a profit. If you can find the vintage clothing at yard sales, etc. for cheap, then you can turn around and sell them for quadruple what you bought for them. Unfortunately now vintage clothing is a HUGE thing, and so it's harder to find vintage clothing even at yard sales & thrift stores that the stores/people haven't already marked up. Awesome hub, though. Keep it up! :)

    • CR Rookwood profile image
      Author

      Pamela Hutson 5 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Thank you TToombs! I love vintage stuff and books. But I spend so much time reading and writing I never have time for retail lately. Maybe that will change. Appreciate your visit!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Fantastic ideas! I might have to look into some of these ideas. Voted up and more! :)