Start Talking - The Hunt Is Never Over

During my high school and college years, when I still lived at home with my mother, we spent most weekends attending estate and yard sales, going to charity shops like Goodwill and Salvation Army and consignment shops.  We were always on the hunt for something amazing at an incredible price. 

At first we were just shopping for ourselves.  I was totally into Princess Diana, and I would scour every bookstore in the malls I could find to purchase books on her and that incredible 1980s fashion.   I would occasionally find a china mug with Lady’s Diana’s name on it at a yard sale or a thimble displaying one of the royals.  My collection was growing as well as my obsession. 

My mother and I would go to estate and yard sales around Columbus, Georgia and find really interesting things, none of which we actually needed.  We loved finding costume jewelry – sterling silver bangles or rhinestone necklaces or bracelets.  We bought books on the subject, and soon learned that signed pieces (like Hattie Carnegie or Hobe) were the most desirable.  My mother started moaning about all the costume jewelry she gave away when her Great Aunt passed, as well all those amazing clothes.

Because of the variety of things one can find at an estate sale, we found ourselves buying all sorts of cool things, just to have.  An antique dresser at one sale ended up upgrading my mother’s guest bedroom.   A vintage face jug dressed up a bookshelf.   Folk art by R.A. Miller started lining up the walls of my bedroom.  In the beginning we were buying to collect.  A passion would be to display our finds in widowed showcases in my mothers’ living room.  She had one showcase that was only sterling silver mesh handbags, which she had been handed down. 

Twice a year, my mother and I would have a yard sale at her home in the driveway.  We would put out the typical junk from the house, but also items we had purchased earlier in the year, at inflated prices.  I was in charge of pricing, making signs and set up.  We started selling items in the yard sales for more then we paid for them.  We were on to something.   I sold the R.A. Miller folk art, all the pieces to the same person.  I should have kept those.  Not so much because they increased in value, but because I really liked the paint on sheet metal pieces.  I made my profit.  But I’ve never seen another piece at a sale since.   Spending 16 years in New York City and now over 1 year in Pasadena, CA keeps Georgia folk art finds to a minimum.

Start Talking - The Very Beginning

It was the 1970s when I first entered a consignment shop.  It was in Columbus, Georgia and I was with my mother. She knew the owner, a lovely Jewish women who was retirement age, and she wanted to say hello.  I can remember the small white former home, turned into a used dress shop, complete with a slight musty smell, crowded circular chrome racks and hand written price tags.  I was fascinated.  It looked like an upscale Goodwill, where someone had pulled out everything interesting and wearable.  There were a lot of two piece business suits and beaded twin set sweaters with sagging linings from the 1950s.  Some pieces looked to me "old" and others looked like they could be in the local Gayfer's or Kiralfy's department stores of the area.   Both stores have long since closed, but the memory is still open.

There was a lot of chit chat going on, something very southern and very special.  It was a love fest of sorts for these used clothes and a bit of a community.  My mother was inspired to try on a few things and she found something to buy.  

I remember the owner taking out a 5 x 7 white index card out of a scratched tan metal box and writing down the sale in addition to writing out a sales receipt.  It was all accounted for by hand before the item was handed to my mother.  She wrote a check for the item, something I could probably not do many places today.  Stores are allergic to checks decades later.

The store was cramped.  It needed a breath.  But I was full of breath and excitement as I wandered around the took it all in.  I felt the fabrics, memorized the pieces and stroked the sweaters.  I liked this place.  It was  interesting.  It was different.  It was curious.  It felt like some sort of secret we had stumbled upon.  Once secret I would keep my entire life, until now.

Decades later, the secret was finally out.