Kya deLongchamps offers a few tips on how to bring home a bargain at a car boot sale
CAR boot sales are stepping it out again as the weather stutters into spring, but not every one of them seems worth the car or foot miles. Many sales do disappoint and are consistently overwhelmed by inexplicable dross from the back of someone’s garage, children’s battered toys, bulging boxes of pulp fiction, scratched CDs by the thousands, and cheap new goods. However, regular attendance is key, and for € 2-€5 for a wander and a fist full of chips, well worth an hour on a Sunday morning. Sales are by their nature transitory and each one is unique as private sellers doing a clear out and traders on the move come and go week by week.
Together with the smaller bargains, there have been legendary buys at car boot sales including a Lalique vase bought in Dumfries in Scotland in 2009 for £1 that went on to fetch £32,450 at auction at Christie’s in London. You can be certain, the buyer trod thousands of miles before alighting on that jewel, and the merest chance of a lifetime find is enough to get collectors out at dawn on their precious weekend mornings. The UK has a thriving boot sale culture dating to the 1970s, so if you’re over the pond check out weekend sales in the nearest village hall car-park or pitch.
Dress comfortably, secure your money out of sight (cash in small notes and coins) and arrive early. Be prepared to wait for new arrivals to unpack their cars and vans as it can take a couple of hours for the full compliment of sellers to appear. Drift closer to cars as they are being unloaded as sometimes the real gems can be snapped up even before the tables are up. It’s often worth being a borderline nuisance and cheekily reaching into an unpacked box. If you’re parking on the field, point the horses for home and ensure you are close enough to make it back to a graveled path if the going gets heavy. Bring plastic bags to carry goods, and a fold up umbrella — essential in our bogy little country if all the pitches are outdoors.
Making an offer is a delicate business, but it’s not personal, and dealing is expected. Don’t be afraid to start with a low ball offer and compromise. ‘Would you take?’ can mean anything that’s comfortable for you regardless of the price on something. At the end of the day with the prospect of re-wrapping and packing up larger goods, sellers may be willing to take just about anything to get rid. ‘What’s your best?’ doesn’t necessarily signal the very bottom price, but gives you an indication of what the seller needs to make to pay for something they may have bought, cover the pitch and so on, but they still may be way above their actual comfort zone.
If there are no prices on the pieces, you may be getting a number that bears no relation to what the seller really expects, but they’ve spotted your belted Joules wellingtons and the Audi keys jangling off your handbag. An offer a euro or two less than the ‘best’ can often winkle the number down even further without any pride lost on either side. The ‘walk-away’ is a technique that can back-fire, but worth a try. Smile, shake your head and start to leave. Sometimes the seller having bluffed their way along will hail you back. Otherwise, keep walking, have a cup of tea, check back later to see if the piece is still there and try again.
Boot sales are a superb environment for fakes, forgeries and even stolen goods to be off-loaded by anonymous traders. Trust your own eye and if you take a wild chance — on your head and wallet be it. Professional sellers can act out the part of private sellers cleaning out nana’s attic, so be wary of feigned incompetence about the background or genuineness of an object. If you’re buying damaged pieces, adjust your offer accordingly and have any electrical goods such as old lamps checked out by your own RECI qualified electrician before use. LISTINGS FOR CAR BOOT SALES For Ireland: Collect Ireland. http:// collectireland.wordpress.com/carboot-sales For the UK: Car Boot Calendar. www.carbootcalender.com www.carboot.com.
Dress comfortably and arrive early to a car boot sale.