Rating the Suburbs 2013: Treasure Map

Track down garages-sale finds buried beneath mounds of dusty records and clothes by following these clues.

Charlie Olivo knows how to find a great deal. The recent Kent State University interior design grad is a pro at discovering quirky pieces at estate and garage sales. This is the way Olivo furnished his Parma Heights apartment and built most of his wardrobe. But he's also grown a home business reselling valuable collectibles. Olivo agreed to become a used-goods personal shopper at an estate sale for an afternoon to share his advice to help you score at your next garage sale adventure, too.

» BE SELECTIVE. Olivo tends to give estate sales preference over garage sales. "Usually garage sales are just people's junk ... or outgrown baby clothes and toys," he says. Instead, he frequents estate sales — liquidations of an entire home's contents that usually follow a death or a move to a nursing home. His exceptions are neighborhood-wide sales such as the June 16 Tremont Yard Sale, which reduces sale-to-sale travel time.

» HAVE A GAME PLAN. "My friends and I go get coffee, go through the newspaper classifieds and highlight and make a little map," Olivo says. Craigslist also posts garage and estate sales, and he watches the websites of estate liquidators such as his favorite, Julie Breznai. Most garage sales start on Thursday, Olivo adds, and estate sales on Friday.

» DISTINGUISH NEW FROM OLD. The stereotype holds true — choosing garage sales in affluent suburban subdivisions usually yields nicer, newer items, while sales in older communities uncover interesting vintage finds. Olivo also looks for yard signs that appear to be written by an older person as a clue to finding vintage treasures.



His Top Finds

Herman Miller Eanes fiberglass chairs 1931 framed downtown
Cleveland aerial photographs
1960s-era Stratford alligator skin shoes
"They are original Herman Miller, I assume from about 1952. I'm keeping those. They'll be sold in my estate sale someday." Price: $40 for all three "They're silver gelatin photos in the original frames and are autographed by Perry Cragg, who was a photographer for Life Magazine." Price: $100 for both "The guy who had them took really good care of them. Based on what I've read about them, they are the quality of a $3,000 to $6,000 shoe today." Price: $25
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