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Properly Advertising a Garage Sale Makes All the Difference!

Updated on September 8, 2016

Signage Ettiquette

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign! In today's world of professionally made signs everywhere you go, how can you make a sign for your sale that will catch people's attention? I have been to some fantastic sales that had such terrible signage that I almost did not go there, and went to others that were not worth getting out for simply because they had great signs. There are several schools of thought on making signage, and many variations which can work out fine, but there are a few definite no-no's to avoid as well. Certain factors need to be taken into consideration while deciding on how to make your sign, and what it needs to look like. One of the first things is what material to make your sign out of.

Sign build: What you make your signs out of can literally make or break your sale. If your sign crumples in some wind or melts in the rain, it will bring nobody to your sale. There are several choices to consider and I am going to hit on a few of the main ones to help you out. Most of what I teach you about these types will provide you with guiding principles for any type material you may think about using.

While posterboard is cheap and comes in many bright colors, some things to take into account are,

  1. If the color is too loud, it will drown out the more important part of your sign, your words! Yellow is fine if you use a blue or black marker for instance, and hot pink is too loud to write on. I personally find white to be the best background.
  2. Posterboard is cheap because it is very thin. We have certainly all seen signs folded over and unreadable because of a light breeze, so keep in mind it needs to be supported.
  3. A little rain or heavy dew does a lot of damage to posterboard. It will run like mascara on a crying woman's eyes.

There is a new and slightly more expensive alternate to posterboard, and this is foam board. It is lightweight and easy to cut, durable in the wind and rain and also comes in a variety of colors. I have used this and can say it works very well. the only downside being if you are going to use the sign again, this stuff fades fast, so you want to be aware of that.

Painted wood signs are the premium, but also have the highest cost in labor as well as cash. What about buying a pre-made sign from the store? You can, but i find most of them not very eye catching and sorely lacking on room for your details. Besides, it's nice to personalize your sale a bit, and your signs can help you do that.

Sign Design: This is the most important aspect of making signs that work. Improper sign design can make a great looking and very eye catching sign nearly useless. The number one thing to keep in mind is they are driving by, and as such will only have 2-3 seconds to read and remember what is up there. This means you need to write in clear block letters. (use stencils or a ruler) Don't put too many details on the sign as they only confuse them and draw their eyes away from what is really going to get them there.

Color works! Bright red letters or deep royal blue can really be an eye catcher, but stray from colors that are too light like lime green, sky blue and yellow. Nothing lighter than red is a good rule of thumb. Most of what I have learned is from what I think when i see other people's signs and then used or discontinued on my signs. I assume you are a garage saler yourself, what works on you? What catches your eye? What do you wish the other guy had on his sign? Think about it, what are the most important things you need to know about a sale?

  1. First off, that there even IS one, right? This requires a bold headline telling people there is a sale, I prefer yard sale as it leaves more room on the sign, nobody will care if your yard sale is actually in your garage. The reason this is important is because people put all sorts of signs out, for birthday parties, graduations, weddings, baby showers, you name it! They need to know what the sign is for, and from 30 feet away at that!
  2. Where? If you cannot find the sale, you are not going to go to it. I find the best way to do that is not with your address, but a big arrow telling me which way, and how many blocks it will be. Why the arrow? Simple, I am driving 30 - 40 mph and don't have the best memory (I am almost 45) so how can I read AND remember an address? A big fat arrow, now that I can understand as well as remember! It is nice to have the address in case I can't find the sale so I can try again if I want to, which I usually do not.
  3. Is it open? Another must have on your sign is the days and hours you will be open. The dates are really unnecessary as the signs should not be up unless it is on the weekend you are open. The only exception to this is a sale that will be open all week or longer than one week, dates are necessary on those.
  4. A few key items. This is not a necessary part of your sign most times. If there are several other sales about, it may be helpful, but keep it very brief and list item types not specific items. (2-3 seconds to read and remember, remember?)

To see a good sign and a bad sign demonstrated look directly below.

Mock up of a correctly built sale sign, including description of main items, which is not always necessary. No need to be all black, though, color it up!
Mock up of a correctly built sale sign, including description of main items, which is not always necessary. No need to be all black, though, color it up!
An example of what not to do. Can you read this from 30 feet going 40 mph? Will you be at this sale?
An example of what not to do. Can you read this from 30 feet going 40 mph? Will you be at this sale?

Sign Placement

Location! Location! Location! Take the best garage sale sign in the world, and put it in the wrong location, and it will not draw a crowd. For instance, if only 12 people a day drive down the road, and one third of them will stop, you will have a crowd of four all day. You need to get the word out! Put a couple signs, one facing each way, on the nearest main road pointing them down to the next set of signs which will bring them home. To your home! Your first sign says, "turn left here and go 3 blocks" then another sign, "turn right here and go two blocks" and another, "turn left again and it's half a block down where there is a big sign out front with BALLOONS!!!" Just like you are their G.P.S. for a minute or two, get them there! ( be sure you have a sign in front of your house, don't assume they will see your stuff and know you aren't moving or cleaning your garage) If you are near more than one main road, do it on that one as well, but don't expect people to trek more than 5-6 blocks to your sale unless there are other sales in the vicinity.

I love balloons for signage! They do more than one thing. First, they are colorful and moving around in the wind, what an eye catcher! Secondly, fresh balloons tell people this isn't some sign left over from last weekend, these guys are open! Balloons are cheap, the dollar tree is the best place i know of, and easy to use. ( get your kids involved, they will enjoy blowing them up) Put one or two on every sign, just be sure they do not block any portion of your sign.

While we are on the topic of where to put your signs, may i make a suggestion where to put them if they are still up the next weekend, unless of course you are open again next weekend. This is my biggest pet peeve of garage sale season, chasing down a sale that was open last weekend where they were too lazy to take the signs back down. These people are idiots in my opinion.

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Other Avenues

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!! Many people place ads in their local paper or on, and these also are good ideas, but be aware that some ads cost more than a buck or two, and it is difficult to tell whether you get your money's worth or not. Some people swear by ads, and others don't see any benefit at all. I am in between, as an ad should drive someone to your sale, but time of year and special promotions like all town garage sales can make a big difference. If you are the first sale in the spring, put it in the paper as it will really pay for itself. People can't wait for the first sale and they carefully scan the classifieds every day in anticipation, but by midsummer, I am not convinced they work so well. Putting up a sign in a local bank or store a few days ahead of time, where they allow it, may also prove a good use of your time. Some local radio shows allow listeners to call in and get a free 30 second plug for whatever they want, and this, too may prove useful, so be resourceful and know what is available in your area!

I one time did the signs for my sister's sale where we also had stuff, and I used painted wood signs with the logo," THE BIG SALE" and arrows with days and times, nothing else. Every other person who came wanted to know who made the signs and commented on how they were the best they had ever seen, we were 9 blocks off the main road and very busy! The motto? Be creative! Do something out of the ordinary to get people to YOUR sale! Once they are there, be sure they aren't let down by a puny sale not worth getting our for, don't overprice your junk (let's call it what it is) and spread it out to make it look bigger! Salers DO call their friends! Nobody will get out for two tables half full, nor will they wade through giant, unkempt heaps. Great signs won't help a poor sale be great.

Above all, have fun and get rid of your old stuff, hopefully making money in the process. Having a garage sale is a bit of work, and usually doesn't have a substantial monetary reward,( I have known a few who made over a grand in two days) but to me, getting rid of unnecessary stuff while making a bit of extra cash is what it's all about.

What do you think, I want to know.

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    • putnut profile image

      putnut 6 years ago from Central Illinois or wherever else I am at the moment.

      I wanted to edit, but couldn't leave anything behind. It's all important! I like to call it thorough, not wordy.

    • Matt Adele Harris profile image

      Matt Adele Harris 6 years ago from Farmington, Illinois

      Informative but wordy. I found myself wanting to skip down a lot. Perhaps you could use an editor?