The Garage Sale Review: Organ donors and liquor pump


Various gems like this vintage record player can be found in garage sales around Austin.
Various gems like this vintage record player can be found in garage sales around Austin.

Salutations, my garage sale amigos!

Saturday marked my inaugural dive into the eclectic ocean of Austin garage sales, and I have to say it yielded some pretty decent finds. There wasn’t anything too extraordinary, but just like fishing or pregnancy, garage selling requires patience: The juicy stuff will reveal itself when it’s ready.

As this is the first week, I figured it would be smart to take it easy on you garage sale rookies and stick close to UT. As you can see on the map below, my route began at 4500 Shoal Creek Blvd., went south to San Antonio Street, veered east across Interstate Highway-35 and ended up at 3402 Merrie Lynn Ave. The entire journey took about three hours (4.86 miles), which is pretty good considering I scored a free “liquor pump” (more on that momentarily) and a Settlers of Catan board game for $1.

OK, enough chit-chat, let’s get started.

View The Garage Sale Review: 6/11/2011 in a larger map

4500 Shoal Creek Blvd.

I arrived at my first stop at 8:32 a.m. and was disappointed. There just wasn’t much there, especially not anything blog-worthy, which is unfortunate since it was the first garage sale. Me being a professional, however, I ignored my misgivings and diligently dug through a bunch of unfamiliar junk until I found something I could show you guys.

As you can see, I uncovered a set of nine magic tricks. The seller, who prefers to remain unnamed, told me she bought the magic tricks in Las Vegas for $10 each (ouch). She was selling the tricks for $2 each — which would have been quite the deal had they been nine MacBook Pros ­— but considering they were just a bunch of crappy, sandwich-bagged illusions with titles like “Three Rope Mystery” and “Magic Coloring Book,” it wasn’t a very good deal at all. I politely declined the magic tricks and journeyed onward, looking forward to the junky treasures that awaited me.

834 W. 37th St.

Even from the street, I sensed the second garage sale had potential. I eagerly started poking around and found some pretty cool books and DVDs, but nothing really jumped out at me. Was it another dud? I guess it depends on how you look at it. There weren’t any unusual finds, but after speaking with Mary, the seller, I realized I had stumbled across a great chance to teach you young, vulnerable garage sale Padawans out there how to avoid getting a bunch of free junk pawned off on you.

Mary told me the story of her “cursed” organ, an instrument that had been given to her and her sisters years ago by their mother in a failed attempt to trick some children into learning how to play an organ. The siblings, who didn’t want anything to do with the organ, didn’t touch it. Years later, it was passed along to the next generation, who also decided that an organ wasn’t something they needed.

As is the custom with unwanted junk, the organ ended up in a garage sale, first priced at $75, then at $50 and finally, offered to me for free. Although a free organ is arguably a good deal, I wisely remembered my parents’ yard and how, over the years, it had gradually become littered with the corpses of free barbecue grills that garage sales had dumped on my dad. I am my father’s son, but I have my own life, and I will not commit the same mistakes that he did. With my own legacy in mind and my conscience clear, I continued on my way.

1702 San Antonio St.

The third garage sale was a considerable improvement over the first two, I’m pleased to say. Patrick and Marci, my gracious hosts, greeted me with a friendly “bullshit for sale” as I walked up. I started picking through the items and a peculiar doodad soon caught my attention. I inquired and the garage sellers told me the object in question was something they called a “liquor pump.” They said that it had never been used, and indeed, except for a little dust, the device was in great condition.

A liquor pump, eh? How strange. It was modeled after an old-timey gas pump, complete with a nozzle and a transparent tank the liquor pumper would ostensibly fill with a liquor (or liquid) of his or her choosing. My eyes lit up as I imagined filling the “liquor pump” with delicious 2-percent milk, my beverage of choice. I guess Patrick and Marci must have spied my enthusiasm, because they gave it to me for free! Additionally, they threw in a pair of tube glasses, which may or may not have something to do with the liquor pump.

This is also the garage sale where I bought Settlers of Catan for $1. If any of you readers are familiar with this award-winning board game, then you know what a great deal that is.

1810 E. 39th St.

When I arrived at the house on 39th Street and saw a brand-new Nintendo Wii for sale ($150), my world was turned upside down. I didn’t know what kind of garage sale I was dealing with. Sure, there were some used trinkets, but other items were in mint condition — an oddity in the world of selling old junk. I asked Zoey, the seller, what the story behind all her unused stuff was, and she explained the Wii (and the unopened Fat Cats calendar) were both gifts from friends that she didn’t need.

The puzzle pieces were falling into place. Zoey was a “re-gifter!” I wish I could claim I didn’t buy the Wii and the Fat Cats calendar because they violated garage sale code (being new) and my rock-solid integrity, but actually it was just because I’m poor. Well, I could probably have afforded the Fat Cats calendar, but I already have one of those.

3402 Merrie Lynn Ave.

The final garage sale in my quest was probably the most exciting as far as unusual items go. Swords and archery equipment (including a pretty awesome miniature crossbow) were scattered around the yard. Cake-decorating kits were displayed on the shelves and I even encountered the second organ of the day.

Kelly Sloan, who was running the show over on Merrie Lynn Avenue, told me all of the weapons were bought by her parents at gun shows and that she was having the garage sale “to get rid of all this junk.” Very eloquently put, Kelly. I started to leave, but not before my roommate, who had accompanied me to the garage sale, belted out an organ solo.

See you folks next week, and remember: Haggling is the highest form of persuasion.

Photos by Aaron West