June 16, 2006
Story and Photos by Chris Rhoads (dustrho)

Anyone who enjoys collecting Star Wars toys, memorabilia and other collectible items should know that there are many different ways in acquiring new items into your personal collection. One of the easiest ways is by simply hopping in your car and driving to the nearest Toys ‘R Us, Wal-Mart, Target and other retail stores. However, that sometimes turns out to be a bust, since there are stores that don’t keep their shelves stocked to the fullest, and some areas are riddled with scalpers. But, this is easiest way to bring new toys to your home.

Another way is by doing trades and shopping using various Star Wars websites (ours would be your first stop, of course). You could go to the various online retailers that are out on the Internet, such as any one of our advertisers, because they should have what you are searching for. But, if none of those can help you out, there’s always the infamous eBay that’s willing to help you out. I’ve used eBay many times and have come away with some really good deals, those of which I don’t think I could have found anywhere else. However, there is one other place you can find some great deals on Star Wars items, and that would involve garage sales in your neighborhood.

Typically garage sales are advertised in local newspapers, so it’s important to grab a paper on Thursday or Friday before the weekend shows up. Some newspapers will publish this on either day or even on both days in the classified section, and some will publish them throughout the week. Whatever the case, just get yourself a newspaper and start searching for garage sales. You can also try going to your newspaper’s website (if they have one; not all do) and searching there instead, but I tend to just grab a newspaper. Circle the ones that look interesting to you or are at least close to your house, and make a note as to which one sounds the most promising to you because that will be the one you’ll want to hit first. If you wait too long during the day to go to a garage sale, there’s a good chance you won’t find anything truly worth buying.

Other times I will pay close attention while driving my car, as you’ll probably find at least three garage sales signs to and from where you work. Obviously you won’t want to keep your eyes off the road for too long, but you’ll definitely want to remember where you saw those signs so you can be sure to head over there early on the weekend. It’s amazing how many of these signs you’ll come across when driving around, but the only downside to this tip is that those signs could be for a garage sale that has already taken place. Nothing is worse than getting up early on a Saturday morning, rushing out to tackle a garage sale, and come to find that there’s not one going on at that location. For those of you out there who leave those signs up after you’ve had your garage sale, take them down when you’re done!

After you’ve figured out which garage sales you’ll be going to it’s a good idea to make sure you have plenty of cash on hand, because you may just run into that one item that costs a lot of money but is much cheaper than if you were to purchase it brand new from a store. Some people who run garage sales don’t put things “on hold” so that you can run to the bank to get more cash, so it’s best to be prepared in the event that you do stumble upon that costly item. Otherwise, if you run out to get cash and come back to pick up that item, more than likely it won’t be there anymore.

Lastly, don’t drive to the garage sale with a small car or a vehicle that has crap already in it. Meaning, don’t drive there if you have the family in your car, as they tend to take up precious space that could be utilized for good garage sale booty. Also, make sure your trunk (if you have one) is cleaned out for the same reasons… you want to have space to bring back the loot that you purchase on your garage sale hunt. It might also be worth your while to bring water and a snack, as you could be out for a number of hours hopping from house to house.

I’ve been a Star Wars collector for more than seven years now, and in that time I have acquired many items by going to garage sales. Most of those times the garage sales have been in walking distance from my home, which really helps things out because those individuals will usually give you better prices on things they are trying to get rid of. Instead of being a total stranger when walking up their driveway, introduce yourself as a neighbor who lives just a few blocks down the street. You’ll instantly have something in common with the person who is running the garage sale, and it will almost surely create a more friendly experience for both parties which means you’ll end up saving money (hopefully).

I can’t tell you how many times by just being friendly can really help save you more money, because the seller feels much more comfortable and “at ease” with you. Most sellers are flexible with the prices they’ve marked on their products, but those who tend to be happier and more relaxed with your presence will be much more flexible on their prices. I’ve never tried to go too low to humiliate or insult a person when negotiating pricing, but instead I try to at least knock a little bit off the asking price. Just by speaking up you’ll walk away a richer person.

Over the last seven years a lot of the items in my Star Wars collection has come from garage sales. Some of the items were purchased by myself but more were purchased by friends and family members. I have an aunt who has the absolute best luck when it comes to garage sale shopping, as she’ll call me several times a month saying that she’s found this and that. It’s hilarious hearing her try to explain who a particular figure that she’s come across is supposed to be. “He’s blue wearing blue pants, an orange jacket, has big bug-like eyes, and is really ugly. Oh yeah, he also has these big goofy looking feet.” She was describing a vintage Walrus Man figure. She’s usually pretty good with the main characters (i.e. Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, etc), but when they’re the not-so-popular characters it turns out to be an entertaining phone conversation. Regardless of how she finds me stuff, she always pulls through as she has brought a lot of Star Wars toys into my collection, and I cannot thank her enough for it.

Someone else that has had a great deal of luck would be my father, as he has had a couple of outstanding findings in the past. The best garage sale purchase I have ever heard anyone come across (not total dollar amount but what was paid compared to the value of the product) was when he found a POTF2 AT-AT for only six dollars! The AT-AT was in extremely good shape, and was only missing one side gun and the main door panel. It was clean and the stickers were still on there as if they were applied just days ago. Best yet was that it was still in the box! Well, the AT-AT had been played with and was just put back inside the box that it came in, but unfortunately the box was not in very good condition. That didn’t matter to me, as I was happy to have gotten an AT-AT in such good condition, an AT-AT that was the very first AT-AT I had ever had in my possession. What a great feeling! The look on my dad’s face after I opened it (it was a birthday present years ago) was one that I’ll never forget, as you could tell how happy and proud he was of his finding. On that same outing and at the same garage sale, he also came home with a POTF2 Millennium Falcon for yet again six dollars. That too was the first Millennium Falcon I had ever had in my possession.

Just because most garage sales don’t have Star Wars items for sale doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out to them. I have had some really good luck finding Star Wars items, but more so I have had bad luck finding anything worth my while. However, I have had good luck in finding things that could be used for my collection, such as two very large homemade wood boxes that I picked up for four dollars. I stacked them on top of each other which brought it to a height of almost five feet, and they’re being used to hold all of my Star Wars reference books, guides, magazines and newspaper clippings. If I were to have purchased the wood, nails and glue to build those boxes, I would have spent probably twenty dollars or so, so I knew right away that it was going to be a good purchase for me. You can also find display cases, bookshelves and tables that can be used to display your collection, and even old entertainment centers have proven to be a popular find at most garage sales.

Whether you have the time or not, you should try to make time when it comes to garage sales. From my personal experience they have proven to me that they’re worth going to. Even though you might not be looking for anything in particular, you could walk away with that one priceless hard-to-find item that you’ve been wanting for so long.