Monday, June 13, 2011

Cruising National Road and the Longest Yard Sale

I'm very lucky- for the last three years I've lived within a mile of one of the largest organized garage sales in the world. The Historic National Road Yard Sale- which spans the country from Baltimore, Maryland all the way to St. Louis, Missouri, follows US 40- also known as National Road. Typically held every year, starting Wednesday after Memorial Day, this yard sale is 5 days of fun spread across 800 miles. Of course, I can never resist getting in on the action- this year was no different.

All along the route, everyone seems to get into the spirit. We started out at 7am, driving along and watching for signs. Just as often as we'd turn into a driveway, we'd also find ourselves following homemade signs down some dusty one-lane road, past dairy farms or small family cemeteries- each one neat and tidy and well-loved.
The barn WAAAAAAY at the top of the hill was having a sale.  This happens to also be the view out my front door.

The sense of community from National Road dwellers is obvious as most people greeted each other warmly.

My husband's father is an auctioneer and a professional "junker". He likes to tell me that the yard sale/flea market sale is divided into two types of sellers- those who KNOW what they've got and those who just want to make a quick buck.

The ones that want to make a quick buck are pretty obvious- it's the housewife that's clearing out too-small infant clothing or the newlywed couple that's moving out of state and selling their couch. Quick Bucks generally will negotiate with you easily, and are usually too distracted to talk to you as you walk around.
A good mix of quick-buck items and vintage toys met me at this sale.  They knew what they had and marked everything waaaay up or down accordingly.

The other type is a bit harder to spot- they're the ones casually mixing beat up toys with Fenton glass on the same table. They'll have collector's plates from the 60s mixed in with a rack of vintage clothes that have seen other days. In other words, they hide their treasure among the junk because they want you to think that you're finding a rare jewel in the midst of a midden. These watch their wares carefully, waiting until someone has their hand on a gem before casually announcing how rare an item is or how they "don't want to part with it but (insert story here)". If they've managed to get you listening sympathetically, they know they'll make the sale most the time. There's very little room for negotiation with a Junker- they have to make a profit margin. Sure, they'll sell some of the beat-up toys to harried Moms who are just trying to get their kids out of their without breaking the expensive items, but they know the antiques sell.

Everyone gets involved in the National Road Sale. I passed no less than 25 church rummage sales, four lemonade stands, and even the local Goodwill had their doors open. The hardware store was doing brisk business, and I saw several folks lighting up grills in their yard with signs offering pulled pork sandwiches for $5.
Folks, I only drove 15 miles out of the over 800 available- I went to ten rummage sales, stopped at 80 homes, and managed to hit up all the thrift stores on the way.

What did I buy?

As they say around here- Happy Yard Sal-in! 
(I've got some unfinished projects sitting on my porch to work on!)


  1. Wow! I had never heard of this! I'll have to try one year!

  2. Okay, I am officially jealous. I can tell you that the sales here in my part of Los Angeles are just sad, sad, sad little things compared to the ones I used to go to in the Midwest and on the East Coast. Did I mention that they are just sad, sad, sad little things? *sigh*



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