This charming anecdote from an LA Times article about estate sales reminded me about the time I went to an end-of-life tag sale and found them selling all the non-prescription pharmaceuticals, including a half used tube of toothpaste. There were pictures of what appeared to be grandchildren in frames for sale too, and all I could think was “someone really hated this woman.”
Estate sales are, as a rule, fairly depressing. At best, you are getting the leftover refuse of someones life. At worst, you see signs of absolute tragedy and heartbreak. I recall once attending one where the organizers were selling toys from the 1930s. A neighbor told me the couple who had once owned the house only had one child, who died before the age of ten. I still shake when I think about that.
I’m not the only one sensitive to the sadness that underlies much of the rummage trade. The Onion once parodied such sales excellently with one of my favorite headlines of all time — Garage Sale Reeks of Divorce — and expertly explicated exactly why this was so. Nonetheless, I can’t quite bring myself to give up the thrill of the chase. After all, there are amazing items to be had. The family with the lost child, for example, also had a terrific book collection and I picked up an exceedingly rare copy of the memoirs of Countess Marie Larisch for $2. The countess, by the way, is best known to history as the woman as the woman whose reminiscences inspired the opening stanza of The Waste Land. She also introduced the ill-fated Crown Prince Rudolf of Mayerling fame to Marie Vetsera, a meeting that might well have changed world history.
All this brings me to my triumph of this weekend. In the attic of a Scarsdale church, I found several out-of-print Mary Balogh romances. I purchased the group for 50 cents. I’m now selling them on EBay, where one is listed for more than $20.
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