Thursday, July 14, 2016

How to Find Great Antiques in Tucson, Arizona

Granted, I've never really tried to go garage sale-ing anywhere other than Tucson, but man, Tucson is incredibly hard to find good second-hand pieces. It's the unfortunate trifecta of:

1. Being a relatively new city: Although technically founded by missionaries several hundred years ago, people didn't actually live in Tucson until like the 1950's. Even then, the town didn't take off until the 80's. It's hard to have as many antiques when people had to move big, heavy furniture with them.
2. Close to the border with Mexico: If you ever garage sale in Tucson, you will run into several men with old pick-up trucks who go from sale to sale and fill up their trucks with basically whatever they can find. At the end of the day, they head back across the border with their scores. You need to beat these guys to sales if you want a shot at true treasure-hunting.
3. Snowbirds: Most snowbirds are people from northern, cold states that choose to spend their winters here. When you have two homes and only lives in Tucson for six months out of the year, odds are your winter home isn't where you keep your best stuff.

Since Tucson has more idiosyncrasies than most for antiquing, here are my best tips for great finds in 'odd' places.

Garage and Estate Sales:
1. Have a list
Garage sale-ing can be incredibly over-whelming. There are tables of random crap in front of random houses full of random strangers (most likely). Make the process less anxiety-filled by having goals. Have a well-curated list of things you're actively looking for and don't waste your time on anything else. My list is usually fisherman's orbs (those green glass orb things), custom and unique artwork, and anything authentically Art Deco. And if the garage sale doesn't have anything on your list, feel no guilt about wasting no more time there. Seriously, we do a lot of drive-bys where we slowly drive passed, scope the goods, and not even stop. No guilt at all. Secondly, once you have am established list, it makes it easier to target the appropriate types of sales. You'll have better luck for bigger items at moving sales and estate sales than garage sales. Garage sales are great for smaller, niche items, like vintage video games.

Original Post: 'How to Clean an Old Jug'
2. Do your research
One thing that happens when you garage sale A LOT is you start to learn tricks to make it easier on yourself. Over the past five years, I've determined one of the easiest ways to find treasure is to do your research beforehand. Every once in a while, we'll just drive around on a Saturday morning chasing arrows drawn on the side of cardboard boxes, but the odds of success are much lower. The best insurance for finding good pieces is to know how to hunt before ever leaving your home. First, know your town. Know which neighborhoods are more likely to have the type of stuff you're looking for. Second, hop on Craigslist and start evaluating sales. My favorites are always estate sales, but I'll also keep an eye out for well-organized garage sales. I don't waste my time on people who are trying to make some cash off a bunch of bits and bobs they should have just donated to Goodwill. Lastly, the more pictures the better.

Original Post: 'Project House Update: Carpet, The Devil Inside Part II'
3. Become familiar with estate sale companies in your area
Here's a tip that will make your life loads easier: know the estate sale companies in your area. Estate sales are a perfect storm for finding great pieces. First, it's usually full houses of antiques to poke through. Second, the quality of pieces are much better since (as morbid as it sounds) it's not people getting rid of their stuff. They just can't take it with them. Third, companies don't have personal attachment to the pieces they're selling, so prices are more reasonable. I have a company in Tucson I prefer, so I'll check their website on Friday night to see where they'll be Saturday morning and if there's any pieces worth waking up for.

Original Post: 'Project House Update: Carpet, The Devil Inside Part II'
Antiques Fairs and Markets:
1. Go regularly
Get to know vendors and keep an eye out for pieces on your wishlist. If it's there two months in a row, you can probably get a good deal on it. That's how I got my beautiful arch lamp. After eyeing it at the Antiques fair and seeing it still there a month later, we talked them down to less than half of what it was originally priced. Winner winner. Additionally, if you get to know some of the regular vendors, they can keep an eye out for pieces that are harder to find. They see a lot of inventory and if you give them some contact info, they probably have better connections to those hard-to-find gems.

Original Post: 'I Love Lamp'
2. Go early, or late
If you want some of the most and amazing pieces, go early. How sad would I have been if this Unicorn mirror had slipped through my fingers? The best pieces sell quickly, but no one wants to pack their trailer back up. Once vendors start packing up their booths, which is often earlier than you expect, you can strike up some great deals. Prey on their laziness.

Original Post: 'Hunting Antiques'
3. Take your time
Antiques fairs are the opposite of garage sales. These booths are full of items that are well-loved and well-curated. The percentage of crap to gems is sooooo much better than garage sales. Because the odds are more in your favor, take your sweet time. The best little gems, like my bird sconce, are not always as obvious as they should be. Get your hunt on!

Original Post: 'Project House Update: The Birds and the Beach'
Some Overall Tips:
1. Understand your skill set
It's incredibly easy to see a piece and it's potential, yet have no realistic way to get there. For me, my skills of transformation are limited, at best. I can paint something or scrub it clean, but that's about it. Dan's got more skills, like rewiring and rebuilding, but over the years, we've learned to stay away from big projects, like resurfacing and reupholstering. Pass on pieces that are too much work for you or include the cost of hiring professionals in determining the value of the deal.

Original Posts: 'It's a Ridiculously Small World After All' & 'Project House Update: Prepping and Polishing'
2. A great deal is only 'great' if you actually have a use for it
We've gotten pretty lucky and found uses and homes for every deal we couldn't pass up. However, a mid-century modern dresser did live in the middle of our entryway way longer than it should have. I have friends who haven't been so lucky, especially if you aren't in a 'permanent' housing situation.

Original Post: 'And So the Craziness Begins'
3. Understand how the calendar affects sales
Garage sales and antiques fairs always suck more when the weather is bad. People don't want to move big, heavy items around when it's hot or potentially rainy. In Tucson, that means the summer when it's possible to cook yourself on the sidewalk. In college town, you can get some great finds at semester ends (December and May) when people move out of dorms and apartments. And since many antiques fair vendors are snowbirds, the fairs are at their peak when they're back in town.

That's it. That's all I got. I've found some great pieces that I absolutely love, therefore, I'm clearly an expert in this. And if you want more info on a city or town near you, go check out this post from Invaluable. So, go forth and find that catch your life needs!

No comments:

Post a Comment