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8:04am on Monday, 5th June, 2023:

Car Boot Sale


Yesterday, we invested in a pitch at a car boot sale to dispose of stuff that my mother owned which conceivably had value to other people, plus some things of my daughter's and some other odds and ends that we no longer needed.

For the benfit of people who live in places where cars don't have boots, a car boot sale is like an outdoor flea market. Although there are professionals who use them to sell assorted goods of possibly suspect origin, most of the sellers are ordinary households getting rid of objects they don't need to people who do need them. No-one ever declares their earnings from car boot sales as tax, and the government never chases them up on it because it costs more to do that than they get back. Things typically sell for small amounts — 50p, £1, a few pounds at most — and bartering is always worth a try.

Our pitch was unusual because we priced up most of the items we had on sale. Few other pitches did that. It turns out that this is a good move, because otherwise people know where they stand. For example, I almost bought a booklet of parlour games from another seller, but didn't because I didn't want to ask and for the guy to look me up and down to decide how much I could afford to pay (my wife's reaction: "Why not? You'd have got it cheap").

Most sellers were selling the same kind of things, basically clothes, children's toys and household goods. There weren't many selling glassware, which we had a lot of and sold quite a bit of, too. My mother had a knack of breaking exactly one item from any set, so we had numerous sets of 5 or sets of 3 for sale; next time, I'd remove one from a set of 5 and sell it as a set of 4, so people didn't think it's incomplete.

The car boot sale we went to was in a car park (Colchester's park & ride). This meant it was on tarmac, which was good because the ground was flat and unmuddy. It was bad because red spider mites were rampant and got everywhere. We thought at first we'd brought them with us, maybe on a garden gnome or something, but no, everyone else had them, too.

We didn't sell many clothes, mainly because it was too windy to hang them on a clothes horse for inspection. My daughter will be flogging those online.

We did sell a lot of brassware. Did you know horse brasses could be used as buckles on home-made baskets? Or as coasters? Or as actual horse brasses? Also popular were items of jewellery, ornaments and glassware. Books and CDs/DVDs weren't of interest to buyers, though.

We took along my mother's small plates to sell at 20p each. We didn't sell any for the first three hours, then in the last half-hour we sold maybe 20 or 30 of them. Once couple bought 12 featuring places they'd visited, which they were going to use to decorate the kitchen of the house they were moving into in Bath. It's nice to know they went to someone who would appreciate them.

In the end, we sold plenty of things we weren't expecting to sell and failed to sell some things we thought were dead certs. It was more fun than I was expecting it to be, and after accounting for the £12 pitch fee we made about £120 in profit overall. OK, so as a pharmacist, my daughter could have racked up twice that amount working for the same period on a Sunday, but it was a bit more relaxing and we got to chat to some interesting people. I'd do it again if I had more bric-a-brac to dispose of.

I may regret not having put any suncream on.

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