YARDSPOTTING : BARGAIN-HUNTERS SCOUR THE VALLEY FOR TREASURES AT OUTDOOR SALES.
Listen up. Just like everybody else on his block, Rex Estell has some wisdom to share about yard sales.
``Here's how you do it,'' he says. ``You get a feeding frenzy going.''
The Canoga Park astrologer rifles through a pile of tables, sofas, Mercedes-Benz hubcaps and a single, ancient tractor tire in his front yard. From behind a tree, he produces a beat-up wood tennis racket.
``You get enough people here and you get them competing over this,'' he continues. ``It's probably valuable to somebody. I could just take this to a landfill, or I could get a dollar for it.''
Recycling is what yard sales are all about, he says. Selling stuff. Buying stuff. Selling more stuff. This is what Saturday mornings are all about, too, when houses in practically every neighborhood around the San Fernando Valley become suburban bazaars, franchises in an almost-underground consumer culture.
The number of these merchants has even inspired a proposed Los Angeles City Council ordinance that would limit yard sales to five a year per property. This would affect mostly the professionals, a small portion of this retro-economical bartering system. But many other yard-, garage-, moving- and estate-sale gurus see the law as unnecessary, as interference in their weekend entertainment.
All it takes is a few laps around the block to see the breadth of front-yard commerce: The couple downsizing before heading to the East Coast, the widow finally unloading all that her husband held dear, and the professional swap-meeter offering used office equipment.
And then there are the buyers, the wandering browsers and the dapper, Starbucks-wielding antiquers. They mix with the savvy barterers and the novice cash-spilling suckers.
They all have something to say about how to buy, sell or otherwise make money or get a deal on somebody else's possessions, somebody else's good stuff.
Nancy Gross of Encino, for one, has plenty of ideas. She buys her good stuff in bulk.
``You gather everything you want first, and they'll give you a discount on it,'' she says. ``You say, `I'll give you $3 for all of these.' ''
Gross had been walking around her neighborhood when a yard full of antique horse harnesses and painted wood-carved fish and potato mashers drew her, which is nothing new.
``I'm late to a lot of things because of yard sales,'' she says.
She hasn't bought anything yet (she's only been here two hours), but her friend Misa Howard has a small bag of good stuff, including an eight-track converter for a car tape deck.
But as much as they shop, Howard and Gross won't cover even a fraction of the sales this Saturday in the Valley. They won't hit the 96 advertised in the Daily News, the 257 listed in the Recycler, the dozens mentioned on Ventura County's ``Sunday Morning Garage Sale'' show on KVEN-AM (1450), the countless others advertised on telephone poles and traffic signs - or the one billed as an ``Organic Yard Sale'' on a bulletin board outside a Studio City Whole Foods store.
That's David Lancon's sign. That's part of his plan for competing in the street-side marketplace. His classified ad, too, is the only one to use the word ``hip,'' and the stuff he sells along Coldwater Canyon Avenue includes boxing gloves, a surfer's dry suit, old albums and a 1960s American guitar, propped on a stand.
The guy is a pro.
``You gotta be able to sell,'' advises Lancon, who also works as an Alice Cooper look-alike. ``You gotta be able to hustle.''
When a customer picks up a busted tape recorder or table saw blade or O.J. book and asks, ``How much is this?'' Lancon answers: ``Cheap.'' And then he quotes ``50 cents'' or ``a dollar'' or ``10 bucks, it's brand-new.''
Being a buyer and a seller, a swap meet regular and occasional garage salesman, he knows what works - how to find and then get rid of good stuff.
The ad, for example, can tell a lot about a sale. Lancon suggests looking for events in older neighborhoods, which may have more sophisticated junk. And check out anything that says ``estate sale.''
These often take the form of an open house, with the deceased's belongings all up for grabs. A good ad may also warn: ``No early birds.''
``That means they have a lot of good stuff,'' he says. ``But sometimes when people say `estate sale,' it's bogus. Nobody died.''
A giant station wagon stops in the nearby alley and a stiff, well-dressed man with a starch-white buzz cut jumps out, leaving his door open. He sifts quickly though two boxes of Lancon's books and returns to his car, passing on Faye Resnick's Nicole Brown Simpson diary and Howard Stern's ``Private Parts.''
``I'm a book collector. I collect illustrated nonfiction only,'' explains the man, Duke Daneault, pointing through his window to two full boxes of books. ``I only go out on Saturday, for one hour, from 8 to 9. After that, all the good stuff is gone.''
But for some, finding treasures can take more than an hour. The Rosenbergs of Woodland Hills spend all week searching. The quest has become full-time work.
``This isn't one or two days a week,'' says Howard Rosenberg, whose last job was as a screw salesman. ``This is every day.''
On Saturday morning, his front yard looks like an insurance office with no walls, a rather common sight. Chairs and desks can be bought in yards all over the neighborhood.
He and his wife, Gloria, spend the week scooping up odds and ends at auctions that unload wares from evolving offices or defunct restaurants. On Saturdays and Sundays, they offer their finds to whomever happens to be driving on Victory Boulevard. They are exactly the kind of people the proposed ordinance would put out of business.
``It'd be hard to make a living without this,'' Rosenberg says.
One customer then asks about, but passes on, a box of industrial drill bits, each about the size of a soda can, that Rosenberg says could sell for $400. Another shopper buys an armload of salsa bowls for $1 each.
``We got those from a restaurant going out of business,'' Rosenberg says, ``and he'll probably put them back in a new one.''
While some merchants like Rosenberg will haggle and haggle for the best price, others couldn't care less if their stained sofa fetches 10 big ones, two bits or a mere pittance.
Andrew Gold, for example, stands several miles away in the driveway of his Sherman Oaks home and watches a woman he doesn't know pick through a pile of old clothes.
``How about 10 for this?'' asks the lone shopper, holding up a tiny blue T-shirt.
``Ten?'' says Gold, who put no price tags on the goods he wants to unload before moving to Connecticut.
``Ten cents,'' she says.
He shrugs. Sure.
He won't make much money here, selling clothing for a dime and offering a pair of edible underwear, still in the box, for a quarter.
``Oh, do we have those?'' he says of the pina colada-flavored treat. ``I didn't know.''
Bargain hunters spend all day looking for a yard like his. Those who stumble upon it also find a huge wicker bookcase and a big, cushy purple chair for next to nothing. Good stuff.
And those who look a little further may find a philosopher to explain what it all means, why the citizens of the Valley trade the contents of their houses back and forth, why Saturday morning is full of so much good stuff.
``We've reached the peak of consumerism,'' explains junk wizard Estell. ``Everybody has three TVs and three refrigerators. Everything gets recycled. Everything gets reused.''
Photo: (1--Cover--Color) Trash or treasure, it's up forbid on Valley front lawns
(2) The San Fernando Valley seemingly becomes a giant swap meet on Saturday mornings.
(3) Josue Esecarroto checks out a car jack at a yard sale off Winnetka Avenue. Some say the good stuff is gone by 9 a.m. Saturday.
(4) Don't want it? Chances are somebody else will. And so it goes on the Valley's yard sale scene.
(5) Rex Estell shows off two original paintings a friend gave him to sell at his sale. Part of the Canoga Park astrologer's yard-sale philosophy: ``Here's how you do it. You get a feeding frenzy going.''
(6) It's not too hot for Santa Claus at this Tarzana yard sale.
(7) Howard Rosenberg spends all week looking for the office furniture and other equipment he sells every Saturday at his Woodland Hills home.
Gus Ruelas/Daily News
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|Title Annotation:||L.A. LIFE|
|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Article Type:||Statistical Data Included|
|Date:||Aug 17, 1996|
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