Whether you frequent garage sales, flea markets, antique stores, estate sales or second-hand shops, the common denominator is the same: The thrill of the hunt.

Can you spot an item that will get your heart pumping faster?

The Tulsa World recruited a panel of “experts” to help with your treasure hunts. Good luck.

Flea markets and antique stores

Tips are from Collector Con founder Eric Eaton.

1. Always check after the “rush” periods. Most people don’t like to load up so you can really make great deals on things later in the day.

2. Buy in bulk. The more items you buy, the less per item and you can always find great deals that way.

3. Most important, always ask them if they have anything else. So many times at garage sales, etc., they might not have thought about selling something, but if you ask about it, you can get awesome buys.

Record albums

Tips are from Warren Showman, owner of Blue Moon Discs, 2606 S. Sheridan Road.

1. One of the most important things to remember is the cover of the record is as important as the record itself. Each is 50% of the value but 0% with just one.

2. As with most collectables, condition is very important. If something is very rare, it might still have pretty good value even in so-so condition. Generally though, near mint is preferable.

3. There are many reissues out there now, but just because something is a reissue does not mean it is worth less. It actually can be worth more. Price check on eBay.

Comic books

Tips are from Terry French, creator of Northeast Oklahoma Comic Swap Facebook group.

1. I’ve said this many times, and it follows a slightly altered quote from Thomas Edison, but hunting comics is 99% perspiration and 1% luck. Get out as often as you can and hunt books.

2. Make contacts. An adage that still rings true in life, as well as hunting comics, is you get more flies with honey, so when making contacts, be nice and sincere to the people you meet. It goes a long way.

3. Be passionate and do your research. Passion will keep you on the hunt, while the research, of course, will help you know what to look for. You will have to continue to “up” your knowledge. It’s a vast field, and you will continue to learn more as you go.

Garage sales

Tips are from Stacy Phillips, garage sale “expert”

1. Make some extra room in your vehicle; you never know what you will fall in love with.

2. Don’t be scared to haggle a little if you really want an item. Just don’t be obnoxious. You don’t want to insult anyone.

3. Go early. Most sales start around 8 a.m. You want to see their best items, and it will be cooler outside. Keep hydrated during the day, bring along extra water and bring hand sanitizer or wipes.

Hot Wheels

Tips are from Carl Fritsche, T-Town Wheelers president and online seller (Carl’s Car Shack).

1. Know what you are looking for and buy what you like.

2. Ask questions from those who have been in the hobby for many years.

3. Join the local club, the T-Town Wheelers (search for the group on Facebook). We have lots of members willing to help those with little knowledge. The T-Town Wheelers have a 70-table show scheduled July 25 at St. Mark’s Methodist Church, 10513 E. Admiral Place. Vendor space is sold out.


Tips are from Scott Kinney, promoter of the Vintage Tulsa Show.

1. A lot of people use eBay improperly to determine an item’s value. In the collecting game, you’ll inevitably hear some variation on the following: “It’s only worth what someone will pay for it.” This is true, and eBay sold listings will show you what people are paying for items in real time. The key is to look at the sold price listings, not what sellers are asking (often misleading). For step-by-step instructions on how to find eBay sold listings (it’s easy, don’t fret), go to YouTube and search “how to find eBay sold listings.” This is my evergreen tip.

2. If you find yourself hunting toys at a garage sale, flea market, estate sale, etc., find and ask the purveyor if they happen to have the types of items you’re specifically looking for or more of the items you seek. This tip has often paid off for me. You never know what someone may have at home or in storage. If the lead seems promising, give this individual your contact information. If they’re willing to provide their number to you, follow up later to refresh their memory.

3. Be willing to roll up your sleeves and get dirty. I’ve bought toy collections from elderly individuals who are no longer able to crawl into an attic or lug boxes up and down basement stairs. Situations like this can be a win-win for all. If you’re physically able, you can (A) help someone clean up a cluttered area and (B) help the person out financially. How is this a win for you? Your labor can often earn a steeply discounted price! Look for other ways to make exchanges mutually beneficial. In the long run, you’ll feel better about your hobby if you make trusted friendships in the process.

Glass bottles

Tips from Henry Tankersley, Tulsa Antique and Bottle Club president

1. Glass bottles can be found in the ground. They may be found in river beds and may be dug up in old dumps or old outhouses. One hundred years ago, many places had no trash pickup and because bottles could not be burned, they were frequently thrown down the outhouse. Serious diggers use old maps to determine the location of old dumps or houses that had an outhouse, where collectible bottles can be dug.

2. Estate sales, flea markets and antique shows can be sources for old bottles.

3. Auctions are the best source for truly collectible old bottles. There are a half dozen auction houses around the country that auction old bottles. Doing a search on the internet will help you locate them. Only the best old bottles find their way to these auction houses, and they can be pricey. Most glass bottles less than 100 years old (screw-top bottles) have little value. Some exceptions are soda pop and beer bottles from the 1930s-50s, some of which are collectible. Old cork-top bottles are collectible, and the best are those in colors other than clear, have embossed lettering or were molded in shapes.

Sports memorabilia

Tips are from autograph/card/sports memorabilia collector Robert Taylor

1. I tell everyone who collects cards or any autographed piece of memorabilia to do homework before making a purchase. The counterfeiters and autograph forgers are getting better and better. If you see a card worth $5,000 for sale for $100, it’s likely not real.

2. Just because an autographed item has a certificate of authenticity, it doesn’t always mean the item is an authentic autographed item. If a forger can produce an autographed item, they can also make up a COA. PSA/DNA, Beckett & JSA are the top autograph authenticating companies in the hobby. You may pay a little more for an autograph that is already authenticated by these companies, but you will know that you’re getting a genuine autographed piece of memorabilia. The same goes for any type of sports cards. PSA, Beckett & SGC are the top graders of sports cards. Cards are graded from authentic to a gem mint 10. If you purchase a sports card that has been graded by one of these companies, you can rest assured you are getting a genuine card and not a reprint/counterfeit card.

3. Most importantly, have fun with whatever you are collecting, whether it’s sportscards, autographs or, like me, both. The thrill of the hunt is the challenge.


Tips are from Randy Coker, president of the Tulsa Area Marble Club.

1. It is difficult to distinguish one marble from another unless you have been doing it for a while, so learn about the differences or get someone to help. For instance: Antique handmade glass marbles mostly were imported from Germany from around the 1850s to the 1920s. They will always have some form of pontil mark (a raised or blemished mark at both poles) left by the steel rod used in making glass.

2. Beginning collectors should know there have been billions of marbles made and 95% of marbles they find at antique stores, flea markets and garage/estate sales will have little or no value to collectors. If you are buying marbles with the intent of making money, you will be sadly disappointed. Buy what appeals to you and what you would be proud to display in your own home.

3. Go to a Tulsa Area Marble Club meeting or a marble show to see how to identify and appraise a marble on its appeal, demand, condition and age. You may want to purchase a book on marble collecting and identification. Dealers who have been collecting for a number of years can be a great source of information. I will be at Gardner’s Used Books & Music from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 27, to show off some of my marbles, evaluate marbles for others, talk about marbles and perhaps sell a few. I always have free marbles to give away to kids.


Tips are from Joe Crosby, Oklahoma Philatelic Society vice president and Oklahoma City Stamp Club president.

1. The first rule in real estate is location, location, location. The first rule in stamp collecting is condition, condition, condition. Always insist on at least fine to very fine condition, no tears, no missing perforations, no felt-tip pen cancellations, no thins and no faded color or stains. This applies whether you are collecting mint or used stamps or covers. You can find stamps for your collection almost anywhere, so always be on the lookout. My dad was a real collector. He taught me the stamps don’t find you. You find them when you look for them.

2. You can collect whatever you want. There is no right or wrong. Learn as much as you can about your part of the hobby. No one will know it all. Remember, superior knowledge always wins. Stamp collecting is not a financial investment, it is a fun, lifelong learning experience.

3. If you acquire stamps you cannot use in your collection, please find a young person and give them away to encourage their acquiring a lifetime hobby. The more time you spend teaching a new collector, the more you will learn about collecting yourself. Also, join a local stamp club. The friends you make will last a lifetime. The Tulsa Stamp Club meets on the first and third Thursday of every month from 7-9 p.m. at Asbury Methodist Church, 6767 S. Mingo Road. Bonus tip: Never take advantage of someone who has inherited Uncle Henry’s old stamp collection, but if a stamp dealer has priced something that you know is a real bargain, there is nothing ethically wrong with taking advantage of your superior knowledge.

Yard sales

Tips are from Chris Heiska, yardsalequeen.com. See the site for more tips.

1. If you find yourself at a truly great yard sale (great prices and a lot of things you want/need), don’t be in too much of a hurry to run off to the next yard sale. On many yard sale days, you may only find one or two really “good” sales and a lot of crappy ones. You may have wished you had spent more time at the better sales rather than rushing off quickly.

2. If you see an item you may or may not want, pick it up and carry it around a bit before deciding. If you don’t, by the time you decide you want it, someone else may have bought it and you’ll be kicking yourself the rest of the day. If you are at yard sales with small kids, try to hold their purchases, too. I’ve seen situations where a kid will put down a toy for a split second and another kid will grab it.

3. If an item is priced too high and the seller won’t negotiate, give the seller your name and phone number and tell them you are interested if it doesn’t sell by the end of the day and they are willing to come down on the price.

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Jimmie Tramel






Scene Writer

Jimmie is a pop culture and feature writer at the Tulsa World. A former Oklahoma sports writer of the year, he has written books about former Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer and former Oklahoma State football coach Pat Jones. Phone: 918-581-8389