Some of my best vintage finds have been at estate sales. If you’re lucky (or smart) enough to find a home filled with quality menswear, they can be a real treasure trove. They’re rare, of course – husbands often die before wives, for one thing, and many men simply don’t have nice clothes – but when it works out, it works out big.
Estate sale shopping has been part of my life since I can remember, since my mother’s an antique dealer, but for many it’s a strange prospect. Stranger still is the idea of selling the contents of an estate. When a relative passes, even people who can handle things like burial arrangements are completely unprepared to deal with the stuff their loved one has left behind.
Martin Codina owns a company that runs estate sales in San Francisco, where my mom lives, and he’s a charming character. (When you’re a regular at these things, you get to know the folks in line with you, and the people behind the counter, it’s one of the pleasures of the pastime.) Martin’s been writing about estate sales for a while, and he’s just put together a really interesting and lovely book called Liquidating an Estate: How to Sell a Lifetime of Stuff, Make Some Cash, and Live to Tell About It.
The book has a pleasant style (important for such a weighty subject), and outlines clearly how to evaluate and sell the contents of an estate, from silver to linens to (yes) clothing. It’s also full of fascinating stories about estate sales past.
If you’re interested in checking out some estate sales in your area, try searching on EstateSales.net, Craigslist (search “Estate” in the garage sales section) and even in your local paper. And don’t be afraid to sign up for the email lists of local estate sale companies – they’ll usually send out an email Wednesday or Thursday detailing the contents of their weekend sales. Look for “designer menswear” and show up early.