Call them garage sales, yard sales or rummage sales — they are the grassroots of retailing. The Internet is teeming with advice on how to organize one, tips on buying, even garage sale etiquette. Haggling is expected, by the way.

Gregg Donaldson reels off the bargains he’s found at garage sales.

A brand-new Bosch kitchen set for $25. A new percolator coffee pot for $2. A Steuben bowl. Two Waterford lamps for $20 each.

“You never know what you’re going to find,” said Donaldson. The Springfield, Ill., resident might hit 20 to 30 garage sales each weekend through the summer. “It’s like a treasure hunt every day.”

Call them garage sales, yard sales or rummage sales — they are the grassroots of retailing.

The Internet is teeming with advice on how to organize one, tips on buying, even garage sale etiquette. Haggling is expected, by the way.

More sales

There is some anecdotal evidence that more and more people are having garage sales -- and that more people are shopping the venues, hoping to find deals.

“I think there’s been an increase in the number of sales,” said Tom Kramp, a veteran garage sale shopper who looks for items to resell. “I see more subdivision sales than there have been in the last couple of years.”

He said he used to see a regular group of people who stalked yard sales in the spring and summer.

“The pickers, or dealers, will come knock on your door at 5 or 6 a.m. to see if they can get in early and get the choice stuff,” he said.

Now, there are more sales and more people, many of who are looking for children’s clothing and toys. People also look for children’s furniture.

“If they get a dresser, it’s probably older and made out of wood instead of pressed wood, too,” Kramp said.

“The economy has a little bit to do with it,” he said. “People are trying to save a buck or two.”

Resellers, in addition to garage sales, can look to thrift stores, estate sales and auctions for inventory to either sell on eBay, at another auction or flea market, or at their own garage sale.

Plotting a strategy

Donaldson isn’t looking for items to resell. On this Saturday, he’s looking for new-in-the-box items for Christmas. He may also look for clothes and other items to give to Toys for Tots.

“When my two sons moved out, I bought all their furniture and floor lamps at garage sales,” he said. “It was all new stuff.”

He gets up early on Friday and Saturday and consults the garage sale ads, looking for ones that open at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. He then plots his strategy as to which ones he’ll go to first, minimizing travel between sales and coordinating locations.

He said it helps to have a sharp eye — being able to spot that Steuben bowl, for example.

“I once bought some watches that didn’t work,” he said. “I knew one of them had a lifetime guarantee, so I exchanged it for a new one.”

Donaldson has been going to garage sales for about six years. He doesn’t remember why he started.

“I do know that in the winter it breaks my heart to have to buy something at full price,” he said.

“At Christmastime, when I take cookies on a plate, if the plate doesn’t come back, who cares?” he said. “I only paid a dollar for it.”

'Too much stuff'

Garage sales can be not only good for buyers, but can be a financial boon to sellers.

Melissa Sanders, along with her four sisters, hosted a sale last week in her Harvard Park, Ill., neighborhood. They made about $1,200.

Donaldson held a sale himself a month ago, when he downsized in a move, and made about $400.

Although Sanders said the extra money is nice, that wasn’t the reason for the two-day sale.

“We have a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old, and we have way too much stuff,” she said. “My husband said it would be nice to be able to walk through the basement.”

She and her family will use the money they made to take a couple of “staycations.”

A garage sale novice, Sanders “read up on all the garage sale tips I could get” before having her own sale. She got the idea to hang clothing from conduit pipe placed between two stepladders from the Internet.

Sanders said baby items drew the most interest from the 100 or so people who attended her sale last weekend.

She and her sisters planned on being open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, but they went past 1 p.m. one day, and a man knocked on her door at 6:50 Friday morning.

“He said he had to get to work, so we let him look,” Sanders said.

“Our idea was to donate anything that was left, but I couldn’t part with a few baby clothes,” she said. The leftovers that were donated filled a minivan and half-filled a pickup truck, she said.

There is also a social aspect to garage sales, Donaldson said.

“I talk to people and get to know people,” he said. “You’ve got to get there early, though.”

Best garage sale finds

Here are a couple of the responses to an online request for your best garage sale finds:

"I purchased a Lighted Christmas Village for my mother a few years ago, and she never got the chance to use it as I never had the chance to give it to her. She passed away that following January, after a month-long stay in the hospital with lung cancer.

“I kept it and put it up until last year, when we moved into a house that had no space for it. I gave it on to my neighbor, Judy, and she absolutely loves it. It was placed on her entertainment center last Christmas and looked wonderful. When we would drive by you could see it through the window and it made me think of my mom.

“The funny thing about this is my mom was with me when I bought it, and I hid it until that Christmas.”

-- Debra K. Lowe

"My best garage sale find was a silver, turquoise and coral cuff bracelet for $4.

I garage-sale on my lunch hour almost every Friday, and my favorite thing to buy is jewelry. Several years ago, I was at a neighborhood sale and saw what looked like a copper bracelet in a baggie for $4. I thought it was really heavy to be copper, so I bought it thinking I had a new treasure to add to my jewelry collection.

“When I got home, I got out my polish to shine it up, and to my surprise, the copper rubbed off and what was underneath was spectacular. The bracelet is signed by the maker. I wore it while on a trip to Arizona and was told it was worth over $500.

“It is still my favorite bracelet and I wear it all the time."

-- Cindy Gibbs