Trash to treasure, the zen of garage sales

The inside of an old projection television set: $10. One issue of Life magazine from 1978: 25 cents. Life-size plastic feet: $10.

These are just a few of the oddities that can be found at Southwest garage sales, an annual rite of summer for thrifty utilitarians and eccentric scavengers.

In garage-sale culture, one man's old trash can truly be another man's treasure, as Bill Geddes discovered at his garage sale at 4950 Knox Ave. S.

Although he said he wanted to make some money, Geddes had an old reclining chair he was giving away for free.

Garage shopper Dan Giroux said was excited to see the free chair and was glad a friend had made him stop at the sale.

"We're getting an apartment," he said enthusiastically as he loaded the reclining chair into the back of his van.

Geddes said his family had just moved onto the block and having a garage sale allowed them to get rid of some things they no longer had room for, while making some money.

He said this was the first garage sale he's ever held and it was going pretty well. Geddes said the clear sunny weather probably brought more people out and also gave him the opportunity to meet many of his new neighbors.

Rare finds

Geddes said the rarest things he had for sale were some prints from Korea, and they were one of the first things to go.

Giroux said the free chair isn't the strangest thing he's found at a garage sale. He said he tends to find lots of random items.

"The coolest thing I've ever found is a glass old-time milk jug," he said.

Giroux was able to invent a new purpose for the jug, which helped him save some money. "I deliver pizzas and I put in change from customers until I fill it up, then I take it in."

Giroux said another money-saving method -- aside from shopping at garage sales in the first place -- was finding unsold items left outside for the garbage truck.

"Some nights I go alley shopping," he said.

"We found a whole computer system someone had just thrown out," said friend and fellow shopper Melissa Johnson.

"You'd be amazed what people throw out," Giroux said.

John Stowe, who had a June sale at 3841 Aldrich Ave. S., said he was more amazed at what people will actually buy.

The sale was held at a duplex Stowe had co-owned for 26 years with his brother Richard Stowe. They had just sold the building and were using the sale as a way to clean house.

"We had a lot of stuff stored here," said Richard Stowe.

At this sale both brothers said they were astonished at the odd purchase of one female shopper.

Hanging in the back of their garage, away from all the for-sale goods displayed, was an old Nash Finch coffee can, complete with rust. "It was here when we bought the place 26 years ago," said Richard Stowe.

John Stowe said the can was not meant for the sale. "The woman offered $5," he said with amazement.

He said he tried to say decline her offer because he thought it was way too much to ask for an old, weathered can, but she paid the $5 anyway and left.

"They'll buy the damnedest things," John Stowe said.

Ad-mitting mistakes

At that sale there were many specialty items, such as a complete darkroom and countless sewing supplies, everything from a machine to thread and metal spools.

"We didn't put an ad in the paper," John Stowe said.

He said he wishes he had put out an advertisement to attract people for the specialty items. John Stowe said that not everyone is on the lookout for sewing equipment or in need of a full darkroom.

"They should mention what they're selling," John Stowe said.

Fearing that because of this there might be a lot left over, Richard Stowe is already thinking ahead. "We might have to have a sale in a couple of weeks to get everything sold," he said.

Bradley Hanson had everything from old glass liquor bottles to antique speed skates at the sale he hosted on Lyndale Avenue and 31st Street.

He said some of the weirder things at his sale are copies of National Geographic that date back to 1905. Hanson said many of the old magazines are in "mint


Hanson said he likes garage sales so much he helps other people put them on. He said he participates in 20 to 30 garage sales every summer.

"I help people," Hanson said. "I have my own, I help churches."