If you've ever read or heard stories of amazing garage sale finds, you'll notice that the teller has his or her own methods for hunting down hidden treasures at each sale. Do you have yours? If not, here are some good places to get started on tracking down the best items.
Yes, it's annoying to be the early bird, but if you go early, you'll find the items that no one else has had a chance to snag yet. Don't go before the sale is open, as the host may not take kindly to your presence. If you do arrive early, park a discreet distance away and wait until the sale begins. Greet the host with a statement that you're looking for hidden treasures; they may have some to point out to you. (Although usually they'll just take you straight to the stuff they think won't sell!)
When looking through boxes of items, always dig to the bottom. Don't think that the stuff on top is all the good stuff; methodically make your way to stuff underneath. It's easy to overlook a limited edition action figure or antique spoon buried in the midst of cheap plastic animals and old baby bibs, but if you're diligent, you can find the treasures.
Get to the bottom of the book box! Perhaps even more often than in the 25¢ box, some very interesting books will be sitting underneath all the romance novels and outdated magazines on top. Be careful when you dig through a book box -- you don't want to rip the pages of a valuable first edition. Also, don't set the books that were on top on the ground; that's pretty rude to the host. Instead, squat down and set them on top of your legs as you sort, or find somewhere clean and safe to temporarily place them.
Although most items will be sitting on top of tables, don't neglect to check under tables as well. There might be some goodies stashed away from the sun, or they might just be too big to fit on top. On a similar vein, check near the sales table, as the host will sometimes put the most valuable items there to keep them safe, and people often assume they aren't for sale.
Walk the edges of the sale, instead of just focusing on the inside. This is a good technique if you've arrived later in the day, since casual customers will just walk up through the center of the sale and scan around to see if they spot anything interesting. Being more intentional about looking at each item in each area may land you a treasure a casual hunter wasn't able to find.
If all else fails, ask the host up front if there are any special items you could take a look at. Really, they should be excited to show off their merchandise, since they're trying to sell it all, and if they give you a hard time or refuse to show you anything special, gently remind them that you're here to give them business and can take it elsewhere.
GarageSaleCow.com is a great place to find hidden garage sale treasures, too! With totally free resources for garage sale fanatics of all types, we are a wonderful treasure in and of itself!