SideLines: Searching for garage sale treasures

Now that hockey and basketball are finally over, it’s time for that season most of us associate with summer: garage sales and flea markets. You never know what you’ll find.

Although I don’t really need anything, it’s still hard to let a summer go without stopping for at least one. Or a dozen. You just never know when you’re going to find some hidden gem. Two years ago, I found the most incredible nativity scene music box for $1.

For half that price, I also came across a little book of Christmas hymns with a history of each song. I was going to give the book to someone until I started reading it. I hate to admit it, but the book is now nestled on my bedroom bookshelf between a volume on common-sense investing and a book on the Bears.

Of all the sales I’ve gone to over the years, the one that stands out is a flea market some friends and I went to a few years ago. It was set up at an old drive-in movie theater in a suburb north of Chicago. Among the dirt and gravel, a young, neatly-dressed woman stood next to a fur coat she had draped over a speaker. She wasn’t selling anything else, just the coat, which looked very expensive.

Although I didn’t talk to her, the reporter in me just knew there was a great story there. I regret not pursuing it.

Last week, I was dropping off some items for a thrift store run by my local Methodist church when I couldn’t resist the urge to look around. On one counter was a bobblehead doll of Johnny “Red” Kerr, selling for 50 cents.

“Do you know who he is?” some guy who had been looking at shirts asked.

“Sure. He was the first head coach of the Chicago Bulls,” I informed him. “He also wrote a great book about basketball.”

When I set the doll down, the man, who said he didn’t know anything about sports, picked it up and bought it. I didn’t really want the darn thing, but at 50 cents I was still tempted a little. The thing is, I’m the type that has to think about something before getting it. Plus, I never dreamed it would get snapped up so quickly, especially by someone who had never heard of the big redhead.

I moved to another section of the store, where I thumbed through a novel by John Irving. Again, the man came up and asked about the book, of which he had never heard.

Once again, when I put the book down, he picked it up and bought it. He also bought a little rug bed I was thinking about getting for my cat, even though he told me he didn’t have a pet.

If I had been mean, or if I really wanted to help the church, I suppose I could have picked up some really expensive items and put them down in front of him, but I didn’t. I just left.

So, no, you never know what you’ll find at garage sales or flea markets. You could find something unique or just a good lesson: anytime you see something you might be interested in, don’t let go of it until you’re sure you don’t want it.

If nothing else, you can pick up an interesting story.

(P.S. If you go to the Kane County Flea Market, be a little leery of the booth selling three pairs of sunglasses for $10. Two of the ones I bought last month have already come apart.)

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