Welcome to New York City, home of the dollar slice, the Yankees, Coney Island and of course, the stoop sale! There’s no where quite like a perfectly pitched stoop to pass on your secondhand goods to an expectant new owner. With an ever-changing inventory of kitchenware, closet cast-offs and literature of all sorts, we should all be overjoyed that Brooklyn Stoop Books have taken it upon themselves to document those up-for-grabs hardbacks, paperbacks and other reading wonders found on stoops throughout the borough.
I spent this past weekend welcoming stoop sale season with open arms and an open wallet. I had seen signs advertising Saturday sales and I knew the warm weather would bring sellers to sidewalks everywhere. So I strapped on a pair of comfy sandals and trekked through the neighborhood — and the day was a success. As stoop sale season continues, you’ll want to keep your eyes out for finds in your own neighborhood, free or otherwise. I spent a total of $20.50 and walked home with a vintage tin, two pieces of army surplus goods, a nearly new pair of Timberland boots, a wood engraver and a handkerchief featuring the map of Los Angeles.
Besides the obvious rules like Bring cash! and Be friendly! Here are a few tips for shopping during stoop-sale season.
Map a Course
Decide what neighborhoods you want to peruse. Check listings on Krrb and Craigslist and keep an eye out for sidewalk chalk signs for stoop-sale detours. I thought I could cover most of Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill in one day, but there were so many that I only saw part of Carroll Gardens! It’s a nice problem to have.
I haggled for a pair of Timberland boots and brought the seller’s original asking price of $25 down to $13. How? I was carrying small bills. When I pulled out a ten and three singles and said, “I’ve got $13 right here,” it gave the impression that it was the best I could do. The seller accepted and I walked away with a perfect pair of work boots for half the asking price.
Abide by the Rules
If someone writes “no early birds” on their advertisement, respect their wishes. They aren’t going to give you good deals if you frustrate them from the get-go.
Buy the Lemonade
If a seller’s little, business-minded kid is hawking lemonade, pass him two quarters and drink a cup. Not only is it good to stay hydrated, his parents are more likely to be friendly with you and shave a few bucks off your purchase.
Don’t Skip the “Free Box”
The best sales are hosted by people looking to get rid of things rather than make a profit. They’re the people who are moving into a new place and just need to clear out all the junk. These sellers are more likely to have a give-away section that has great, quality stuff. I’ve found vintage tablecloths with minor spotting and metal odds and ends that are begging for use in craft projects. Always make your rounds at the end and beginning of the month when people are signing new leases and moving.
Prepare for the Long Haul
Bring an extra canvas bag to tote your purchases. Don’t skimp on the sunscreen and wear a hat. Bring water and wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to be doing a lot of walking. Oh, and take a break for a mimosa or iced coffee.
Buy a Handful of Things for the Best Deal
If you buy a few things from one seller, you’re more likely to get a higher discount. I was eyeing a WWII-replica army canteen, and the seller threw in a retro lunch pail. Instead of paying $3 for each separately, I got the pair for $5.
What are your tips for making the most of stoop sales? Share in the comments.