For garage-sale aficionado Valerie Mills, a $20 purchase netted her a 5,000% profit.
The Orangeville, Ont., resident recently dusted off her rare, 12-pound collectible – a Whitefriars Glassworks Banjo Vase designed by Geoffrey Baxter she bought eight years ago at a thrift store — and sold it on History Television’s Pawnathon Canada for $1,000. “I knew it was worth something, but not that much,” she said.
Bargain hunter Linda Skarott recently came across a limited-edition Giorgio Armani bear at a flea market. She negotiated the $20 price down to $15, then turned around and sold it for $110.
The 58-year-old North York resident loves the thrill of the chase and regularly visits the book and china sections at flea markets and Value Village and Goodwill thrift stores looking for fabulous finds to resell. Rare military books are her favourite.
Her latest $1 thrift-store find is a real treasure – a rare signed copy of Mr. Tettley’s Tenants, written in 1944. She hopes to take it on Pawn Stars in Las Vegas or possibly make a second visit to Pawnathon Canada to score a 100,000% profit. “My research shows that it’s worth $1000,” she said.
Popular shows depicting storage locker bidding wars, auctions and antiques have ignited the bargain hunting spirit nationwide, and the accompanying curiosity about what their wares are worth.
Now in its second season, Pawnathon Canada is all about thrilling finds and hard bargaining. This season’s series, which kicked off mid-June, features Canadians showcasing precious heirlooms and quirky memorabilia, looking for cash from the best dealers in Canada – the pawn masters.
“There has always been an allure of finding the hidden pirate treasure, the silver coin in the change that we get when shopping, finding a rare lost piece of art or old furniture amongst the stuff being disposed of at a garage sale,” says renowned Toronto pawn star Howard Green. “We all look for the treasure. It is almost like going to buy the lottery ticket for each draw even though we know the odds are against us.”
Green, a pawn master on Pawnathon, has a keen eye and loads of experience – actually 50 years at Williams Pawnbrokers in Toronto giving unwanted items to new homes. He’s passionate about Faberge and original Canadian art.
“One of the best things is that sometimes I do find that rare item … sometime it’s a collectible …” says Green.
Besides flea markets and thrift shops, estate sales can be a boon to collectors. Ken LeBlanc, 43, has a rare cheque signed by James Dean worth at least $2,500.
LeBlanc, of Moncton, N.B., purchased the cheque at an estate sale in Saint John. He frequently peruses yard sales and flea markets – he once found a Bobby Orr thermos at a yard sale, paid 10 cents and sold it on eBay for $150.
LeBlanc, founder of Propertyguys.com, appears with his cheque on an upcoming episode of Pawnathon. The cheque, along with rare celebrity-signed photos and lots of sports memorabilia, are up for sale at Markken.com.
“There are definitely a few finds out there but you do have to look,” he says.
You have to slog through a lot of sales and items in order to find treasure at garage sales, says Alison Ross. “Jewels can still be found by the knowledgeable sleuth.”
People treasure hunt not only for the thrill of the chase “but also because the objects tell us about ourselves. Objects record historical times and events, they reveal present interests and are harbingers of the future,” says Ross, owner of Kilshaw’s Auctioneers in Victoria, B.C., and the newest dealer to join Pawnathon Canada.
She says Pawnathon Canada is a great mix of history and experts talking about items viewers may have or want to have.