With more and more people looking for older video games this yard sale season, and with more people knowing the value of these items, the competition can be pretty rough out there. I figured I would make a small guide to help those looking for an edge in getting a great score. I can't guarantee that you'll find a box of NES games for $10, but with patience and a little luck, great deals can still be had.
What To Look For In Listings
With dozens upon dozens of yard sales being posted on Craigslist every week, it can be a little daunting to figure out exactly which ones will be your best bet at scoring big. Any listing that specifically mentions video games is an easy one to pick out, and at first seems like a no brainer to add to your potential list. The problem with these posts is that everyone else looking for video games (including resellers) have also seen this mentioned. Most of the time the sellers will have 20+ emails before the sale even starts if there is anything decent mentioned, and most likely the items will be long gone before you even show up. I tend to avoid yard sales that specifically mention retro games, unless it is in my neighborhood. Instead, I try to find keywords and items in their listings that might suggest they could have retro games. Some of these keywords are:
- Kids Items
I also look for items for sale that came out in the 80s and 90s. Things like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joes, Legos, baseball cards, and other things can suggest that someone in that household grew up in the era of NES and SNES, and may have a box of video game goodness waiting to be discovered.
Community Yard Sales
Community and neighborhood yard sales are an easy way to hit a bunch of places at once that can give you a lot of choices and potential to score a deal. These are the sales I normally make note of first. It definitely saves time and gas money when you don't have to go 5 to 10 miles between yard sales. The main thing you have to worry about with these sales is competition. There will be a bunch of other people showing up to these, and lots of them will be looking for the same types of things you are.
Another thing you'll have to consider when it comes to community yard sales is the age of the homes or development. Any place that has homes built at least 20+ years ago will give you a better chance at finding something. When the homes were built in the last 2 - 5 years, there is a good chance that these people have already sold anything retro long ago before they moved into these homes.
Rural Vs. City
Sometimes it can be very beneficial to go to a yard sale that is out in the middle of nowhere. Because these rural homes can have lots of storage space by way of basements, garages, sheds, and barns, the potential for them holding on to boxes of stuff increases greatly opposed to smaller homes in the city. One of the biggest downfalls though is travel time and gas. Don't waste your time and money driving 30 minutes out to a yard sale if their listing doesn't give any indication that there may be something you're interested in.
With the city type yard sales you get more sales that are closer together, but there is normally less space for them to store and hold on to things, and there is more competition to deal with.
When Should I Show Up?
The old saying "The early bird gets the worm", applies to yard saling 100%. The earlier you get to the sale, the more you increase your chances of finding something. Now this doesn't mean I think you should show up to someone's house 2 hours before the sale and camp out. Just use your best judgement when showing up before a noted start time.
Normally I will show up 20 - 30 minutes before the start time of a yard sale I am really interested in. Most of the time they will have the majority of their stuff set up and priced. If they are just getting started I may just drive around the block for a bit, or hit up another yard sale close by and then come back. If they say "No Early Birds", then I show up about 5 minutes before the start time. Neighborhood yard sales I will sometimes show up an hour before hand just to scope everything out and to see how many people are setting up.
Yard Sale Sweet Time
The yard sale sweet time is what I consider the time during a yard sale when you have the best potential to find a deal. To me this is the half hour before the noted start time of a sale and the half hour after. That means if a yard sale starts at 7:00, your best chance to get something good is between 6:30 and 7:30. Anytime after that and your chances decrease greatly as more and more people show up and more things are sold. I'm not saying that you shouldn't stop by a yard sale that has been going on for 2+ hours if you are driving by, just know that it may be a waste of your time to go out of your way to get there.
Take The Back Roads
Taking the highway to yard sales on your list might get you there quicker, but you will miss the potential of finding unadvertised yard sales, or ones you didn't know about. These can be especially good places to find items since no one really knows about them and there won't be a lot of people stopping since it wasn't posted anywhere. I wouldn't waste too much time looking through their items at the expense of being late to a sale you are already heading to, but a quick 1 - 2 minute breeze though can give you a good indication of something awesome being there.
Know Your Valuables
Knowing what items are valuable at a yard sale besides video games can be the difference between striking out and hitting it big. There are probably hundreds upon hundreds of items that I have no concept of their worth, but there are quite a few things I find at lots of yard sales which I know I can quickly resell for a decent profit. This money I will use to buy video games that I have not been able to find through yard sales.
I won't go through a list of these items (mainly because I don't want competition in this area as well), but I can tell you that anything that is small and easy to ship which I can make a $20+ profit on is an easy target for me. I have turned $5 - $10 yard sale items into $60 - $80 video games.
If All Else Fails, Ask
So you've scoured all the items at a sale and see no signs of video games. You may think that it's time to move on to the next sale, but before you go you should take 5 seconds to ask the seller "Do you have any old video games?" You may be surprised at the sellers response. Most of the time you'll get an answer like "No, we don't have any of that", or "We sold those long ago", but this can also be where they pull that dusty box of old Nintendo carts out of the garage and sell it to you for $20.
I have asked this question to sellers dozens of times, and when it actually pays off, it's normally been a pretty good score. Sometimes the sellers will ask me if I am looking for anything in particular which makes it even easier to find out what else they may have.