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On The Road: The World’s Longest Yard Sale

It used to be that I would hit the occasional yard sale and buy the occasional record,  which is why a couple of my walls consist of nothing buy vinyl. Recently, though, this new thing came along called the mp3 that’s invisible yet still makes sound, and I kind of see myself transitioning over to that side of things here in the near future. And the thing is, you can’t buy an mp3 at a yard sale. So when the biggest yard sale in the whole wide world came to my attention this year, I figured, why bother? I have one of those ipod thingies (actually I don’t, but I could borrow one, probably), and rather than listen to Electric Ladyland on a real stereo I could check it out on like some two-inch speakers, so as to get with the times and find out just how bad great music can sound if you allow it to.

Then the phone rang, and the person calling was Julia Wilkinson, who is a guru in the world of yard sale and esales and all points in between. As the editor of Auction Bytes Blog, she emailed me, “I write about selling on auction and fixed-price sites such as eBay, Amazon, Bonanza, etc..and also I write about Antiques and Collectibles.”

“Yardsalers.net is my own baby,” she added, “for yard sale addicts who like to go to sales, and esp. look for things to resell. :)”

Julia also has some published some books. In her words again, “I have two paperback books published w/ actual publishing houses: “The eBay Price Guide” (No Starch Press) – a ginormous price guide to eBay categories. ;), and
eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks” (Wiley) – a visual guide to various tasks and tricks on eBay.” She’s also published some ebooks, which are described in this link:
I have written for Julia’s websites in the past, and when she contacted me this time, I felt one of those retired gunslingers in old Western movies, who even though he’s devoted himself to gardening decides to make it for one last glorious gundown – and here’s the piece I wrote:
 

Didn’t make it to The World’s Longest Yard Sale on Highway 127 this year? Fear not. AuctionBytes Blog contributor and record specialist Jeff Wilson hit up the sales and has lived to tell the tales, and share his finds with you…as well as strategies to keep in mind for next year. Have you ever been? Share your experiences as a comment on the blog!

Although I’ve done the world’s longest yard sale before, several years had passed since I hopped in the car and headed south (I live in Cincinnati) and joined the throngs of people buying and selling on Highway 127, but this week I sprung back into action. Looking back on it a day later, it seems that in almost every respect I got lucky, and in one respect that was true for everyone: it wasn’t a blistering hot day, and although it was cloudy, the only rain we got came late in the afternoon, and it was light.
Recent brutally bad weather in southwestern Ohio was one of the reasons I debated whether to make the trip this year. Also, we went out on a Friday, and already we had heard stories about people doing business as early as Monday, so we wondering if anything was left.And there was one other concern: although I buy other things and look at everything, I mostly buy records, which are a good barometer for a sale overall. If there are interesting records, there tend to be interesting old things in general, but the inflated sense of values has thrown a wrench into things.I took a photo at an intersection that essentially began our journey, as Cincinnati folk have to dance around a little bit to reconnect with Highway 127 when they go into Kentucky. If you’re heading south from Ohio, Google 3500 Dixie Highway (it’s in Erlanger, Kentucky), and you’ll see a good place to connect with the sale. Highway 127 and Dixie Highway overlap, and from there all you have to do is keep turning when you see a sign for 127 South.


There were already sales galore right after we reached that intersection, although the couple we hit seemed more like the handiwork of people who have sales once a week because their home or business is right on a main drag. The farther south we got into Kentucky, the more interesting and collectible stuff we saw, some of it valuable, some of it not; some of it at reasonable prices and some of it not. Visually what jumped out at me first were the yard balancers. The gentleman who makes and sells them, Tom Bechler, said they’re a popular item, and the kind you see in the picture is his biggest seller.

By that point my friend and I were seeing, as we drove down Highway 127, group sales where dozens of dealers were open for business and buyers had pulled their cars over to the side of the road. The farther south we went, it seemed, the more interesting things became. Pulling off to a farmhouse, we met a woman who raises miniature donkeys on her farm. Aseere Farm is located in or near Verona, Kentucky; its email address is asseerefarm@yahoo.com, and its phone number is 859.485.1166. The woman I spoke to says she gets about $400 to $700 for her donkeys. She sells about four a year, and usually during the longest yard sale she sells two. Once she sells the two I photographed, she informed me, potential customers will have to wait 11 months, for reasons that have to do with — well, I think my readers can guess.

 


One of the things I learned this year is the places you will traditionally expect to find interesting things aren’t always the ones you’d expect. For example, hit the second-hand stores, many of which double or triple as other businesses. In Cincinnati, Ohio, I can’t even remember the last time I hit a thrift store; for reasons that my readers already know, they ain’t what they used to be. But the second hand stores that I visited during the 127 yard sale were consistently interesting. At Glencoe Trading Post, which also had a tanning booth between the front and the back of the store, I found some quadraphonic eight-track tapes, which can be valuable, and are the kind of thing you wouldn’t see in a thrift store in Cincinnati. That brought out the digger in me, and in a plastic tote with tapes on top I had a Eureka moment when I discovered about a hundred 45s buried in the bottom. And there were lots of interesting singles, including some by artists I’d never heard of on Cincinnati labels like Fraternity and King. Nice folks working there too, and I got a good photo of both current and future employees before I left. How about the Mohawk on the young’un?

 

Employees at Glencoe Trading Post


At another group sale I found a bunch of interesting stuff unrelated to records. There were some books from before 1900, and the one I purchased was published in 1871. On AbeBooks.com the purported first editions I saw all appeared later in the decade, so I can’t tell you what my copy of A Compendium of Methodism is worth, but I know it has some old-school mojo.

That’s also where I saw a board game called “India” that I photographed because I’d never seen one or heard of it before and it looked interesting. After a quick eBay check on its value (I came up with nothing) I’ll simply leave that one to the expert (i.e., Julia). That’s the kind of stuff I love to see, that you’ve never seen before and is colorful.

 


I also got a kick out of the baby chicks I saw and photographed in someone’s front yard. DK & J Hatchery in Warsaw Kentucky (their phone number is 859.609.9553) sells chickens, ducks and turkeys two days old and up, and the World’s Longest Yard Sale offers some free advertising.

Farther south I met a gentleman named Ken Black who goes around and buys stoneware at yard sales when they’re in season and then takes them to the Longest Yard Sale. A friendly guy who was nice enough to take a photo with him holding an old wine cellar jug from Amana, Iowa, where I have been a few times.

Further south I ran into a lap steel from a gentleman who wanted $400 for that; some nice-looking craftsmanship for that.

During the day I asked several people what their best purchases were thus far. One couple that had driven south from Detroit — this was their first year — said they were quite impressed with the clockface gas pump they purchased for $300. They also said they bought long stained-glass windows that they plan to use as a headboard. Like this couple, there were definitely as many or more people buying stuff to own it as opposed to reselling it later at a higher price. Another example: the Murray riding lawnmower that you see being loaded onto the back of a truck; the gentleman said he paid $75 for it.

 


Another gentleman I talked to said he bought several guns that week, and the best was a 20 gauge shotgun single barrel that he purchased for $100. He also bought the old-school ice cube tray that I photographed.

My favorite purchase took place at someone’s house out in the country. Caroline Smith was reluctant to sell any of her albums, but she did show me some 45s that she purchased when she was living one door over several decades ago. While I pawed through a couple hundred well-preserved early rock, soul, country and rockabilly 45s, she explained to me where she used to buy records, and none of them were close except Western Auto, which, she remembered, sold singles for 99 cents. To think that, at one point in history, auto parts stores sold 45s on the side—now how cool is that?

And finally, another second hand store (this in Owenton, Kentucky) that had the wild card factor; in other words, it had interesting stuff that wasn’t completely picked over. There I pawed through lots of 45s and albums and realized that the effort I’d put into the trip had been worth it. I met lots of interesting folks, found some rare records, and did something besides peck away at a computer. I’m glad I went.

Have you been to the World’s Longest Yard Sale? What was it like for you? Do you plan to go in the future? Post a comment here!