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By Gael F. Cooper
Yard sales are the ultimate form of recycling.
Whether your neighbor is hawking a souvenir spoon collection on her lawn or your church has gathered congregants’ donations for a fundraiser, you can dig up some hidden gems at these sometimes-luxe, sometimes-loopy sales.
Plus, pat yourself on the back: Giving these items new life will likely save trash from filling up a landfill.
Here’s a look at things you’d be smart to snatch up at the next yard sale you visit:
Not all of us are educated on many lines of kitchenware, but Le Creuset cookware and Pyrex glassware warrant a little sleuthing.
Both are sought-after for resale — I cite them in “Hunt Down and Cash In on These 21 Thrift Store Treasures.” Or, you could incorporate them into your own kitchen stock.
You can print your digital photos or illustrations cheaply enough, but the cost of frames can hang up even the best gallery-wall intentions.
Hunt down frames at yard sales instead.
Single-use appliances are so tempting. You can almost convince yourself you’d regularly use that cake-pop maker or hot-dog cooker or snow-cone machine. And maybe you would.
But don’t splurge on a new one when you can pick up your neighbor’s barely used gadget for one-tenth of the price.
Who knows, jelly making just might become your jam.
Snap to it: Legos have been popular for generations. Kids love them and grown-ups — if they’ll admit it — often find the plastic bricks mesmerizing and fun, too.
You may not pick up a complete NASA space shuttle set at a yard sale, but a giant crate of mixed bricks should assemble hours of fun.
And if you happen to find the right set, you could really cash in. As we reported in “Your Old Legos Could Be Worth More Than Gold,” a 2015 analysis by the British newspaper The Telegraph found that certain Legos offer better returns than some common investments.
Cookbooks and online food sites are tasty, but there’s something about a carefully curated flip-top box full of handwritten recipes.
Grandma’s famous Christmas cookies, the prize-winning recipes Mom meticulously snipped from the hometown paper, Dad’s deviled-egg secret — each family’s treasured treats are special.
You won’t get rich by buying up these cherished collections, but the fun of traveling through another family’s delectable diary is worth it.
Never pay full price for a basket: Yard sales and thrift stores have enough for an entire army of Little Red Riding Hoods.
I like to scoop them up cheap and save them for teacher gifts, filling them with favorite snacks and a good bottle of wine.
Resolving to get in shape, but don’t want to trudge to a health club?
Don’t sweat it: It’s likely that someone with great intentions bought an exercise bike or other piece of workout gear, then sat on the couch and failed to use it. Make their fitness fail your core find.
Don’t scoop up a secondhand car seat or crib, as we detail in “10 Things No One Should Ever Buy Used.”
But it’s generally fine to buy items like baby clothes, strollers and bassinets used. And the price is a real pacifier.
Are you Barcelona-bound? Heading for Hawaii? There are online travel guides aplenty, but a good, solid travel guidebook often comes in handy.
Here’s a savvy traveler’s tip: The history, maps and basic info about a region may stay the same for decades, but if you buy a guidebook that’s more than a few years old, verify that hotels and restaurants are still in business before showing up at one. Bon voyage!
Obviously, Olympians don’t pick up their ice skates or soccer knee pads at yard sales. But backyard athletes and kids starting out should make it a goal to acquire some sports accessories there.
They’re often only lightly used.
Creep it real at Halloween by buying used costumes — whether child- or adult-sized — at yard sales.
They’re often barely worn and frightfully cheap.
Wedding gowns, prom dresses, tuxedos with lapels that span a continent — formal wear is a yard-sale favorite.
Not everyone wants to go all Molly Ringwald in “Pretty in Pink” and remake a vintage prom dress, but discarded duds will delight kids with princess dreams.
Or, use them for Halloween costumes. You won’t feel guilty splashing fake blood on a $5 wedding dress to create a zombie bride ensemble.
Not every kid is a Prince-like prodigy. Many of us were nudged into music lessons, then abruptly quit the school band and shoved that barely used clarinet under the bed for the next decade.
You may not find the best-quality band instruments at yard sales, but at yard-sale prices, your young Mozart might not care.
No, not the 1994 Quentin Tarantino movie, but pulp paperback books — cheap reads with lurid and colorful covers.
A good pulp makes a juicy purchase — whether you want to frame the cover, read the book, resell it or give it as a white-elephant gift.
Everyone has Monopoly, but not everyone owned the wonderfully goofy Mystery Date game — in which players opened a plastic 3-D door, hoping the correct handsome hunk was waiting.
A vintage board game could make for a perfect gift for that friend who helped you survive the ‘70s. But be warned: Pieces are probably missing.