This Mommy Runs on Caffeine

This Mommy Runs on Caffeine

August 17, 2010

Trade in and Trade up at Consignment Sales

I discovered my first baby/ kid’s consignment sale last March when I was early in my pregnancy but would soon need maternity clothing. A friend of mine had told me about it and I saw a few local television shows doing a live segment, so I thought I would check it out. I happened to stumble by on the last day of this local sale which coincidentally is also ‘half-off’ day and I hit the mother lode for maternity clothes. I managed to get a wonderful work and 'play' wardrobe for around $80- about the cost of two or three designer pieces. I was hooked! The next (there are two sales during the spring/ summer and fall/ winter sales in this area- well, now three- Wahoo!) sale was going to be right after I found out the baby’s gender and I was going to check out clothing, gear, etc. Since then, I’ve attended about eight of the sales and have participated as a consignor at four. It’s seriously addictive. So stop reading NOW if you don’t want to save money on your gently used clothing, toys, gear and more; or better yet perhaps make a little money too!

There is some preparation that does go into making your items salable, but it’s worth the effort, especially when you get your consignor check a few weeks after the sale! The first part is cleaning and de-cluttering your house and yard- when you are changing out seasonal clothes, go through them and inspect them for rips, tears and stains. If they are free from all of the above, great- it goes into the “Consign Me” Box. A good rule of thumb for what to sell is to ask yourself the question, “would I buy this myself” (yea, you’re getting rid of it now- but why? Is it just too small or is it because it’s not usable or completely out of style- think older than five years. If it’s just small, great, sell it, if you said yes to the other questions, pitch it in the garbage.) If toys are broken, missing pieces or have been recalled than those are not acceptable items either. You can certainly try to consign them, but it is either going to get rejected at inspection at the sale (and you’ve wasted the time prepping and tagging) or they are going to get pulled from the floor, or worse a happy-go-lucky buyer is going to purchase it, get really mad and contact the consignment sale management and you’re going to get a bad mark as a consignor. Remember, if you wouldn’t buy it in its current shape, most other people won’t either.

Once you have your “Consign Me” box nice and full and you’ve registered for whatever sale you are going to participate in, it’s time to prep items to take to the sale! I’ve researched the most popular ones on the internet and they all have a computerized tagging system for consignors to use, so you will need to have ready access to a computer and printer. Additional supplies include: Cardstock (60# or 67# stock- in WHITE or pastel color only); Safety Pins (#2 size <1-1/2”> and #1 <1-1/16"> are good sizes to start with- the really small ones are a pain!); Clear Packing Tape in a dispenser roll; Clear Plastic Ziptop Bags in Gallon size; Zip Ties or Heavy String (for securing shoes/ packages); Hangers- lots of them, and NOT metal ones (the metal ones are horribly inconvenient for organizing, shopping and breakdown at the sales- some sales prefer metal, but not the ones I’ve done- so check with the management to be sure); Scissors; Batteries (for toys- they have to work to sell) and optional is a “Tagging Gun” and Plastic Barbs to tag clothes. (Please note: Only use the tagging gun through clothing tags to avoid damaging clothing- it’s inevitable that the barb will make holes in garments if tagged elsewhere.) Also handy: a lint roller; rolling rack; steamer; Magic Eraser (for toys and ‘solid’ items to remove scuffs); tubs and plastic to store your wares until time to pack up and transport to the sale.

Clothing should be sorted into seasons- my particular consignment sale only allows clothing for that particular season- so heavy jackets, winter holiday, rain/ snow gear and such are only allowed during the August/ September sales. The same would go for shorts, bathing suits and water toys for April/ May sales. However, there is still a need for some lighter type clothing for Fall (it’s often warm here well into the end of October) and layering clothing for the Spring (we get some chilly breezes in July too!) Maternity clothing is usually all season as are any type of children’s school uniforms.   Now that you’ve sorted seasonally, time to size! Sort items into gender and sizes and then the fun begins!

What to price your items: There are a lot of variables. Knowing that you are selling to a bunch of other like-minded budget savvy moms; your best reference will be to think: what would I pay? (Yes, it would be nice to garner $10 for a set of two onesies, but it won’t happen, so use your own frugality to set your price point.) Also, quality of the item; desirability; name brand and quantity. If you are selling new items (not newer, new- like in a box or with tags) it’s safe to price your item at about 70% of retail. If not, I think that a good deal is when I find something about 50% or retail value. Also, remember that the goal is to SELL the item and get rid of it and not have to lug it back to your home and possibly store for next season’s sale. That’s money gone. You also have the option to have your items as those that go at 50% of ticketed price on the last day- so if you have a pair of jeans that you’d like to get $4 for, but you’d happy if it just sells, period, then select the half-price option in your tagging software. Trust me, it’s much better to get some cha-ching in the end- the quantity that you are selling makes up in the end. (If you live in an area that has multiple sales in a season with the same consignment outfit, you may be able to roll your items over to the next sale at that full price- it all depends on your preference) Most hanging items should start at $3; also only mark in full or half/dollar increments.

DESCRIPTIONS: I know that tagging can be monotonous, but taking a few seconds to type in a more detailed description of your item is of a huge benefit to you AND the volunteer staff if your item and tag is separated- it happens and if after doing a Boolean search for “Carter’s” in the computer and 1000 items come up, it’s a crapshoot if the tag gets remarried to your item. However, if you have a description that say: Carter’s 9-12mo 3pc set: Pink Butterfly onesie; striped pants and matching pink butterfly socks, there is a very good chance that your item makes it back out on the floor and off to a new, loving home. Additionally, if a piece goes awry, it can be tracked down.

ATTACHING TAGS: Tags should be on the right hand side of clothing (the opposite side of the hanger opening) or through the tags (not fabric itself); on flat part of other items (particularly the top) and secured with tape on at least two sides, but NOT over the barcode; if you are bagging items, the tags should still be attached to the outside. When printing tags, use a printer setting above “draft” mode to ensure clear barcodes for scanning.

I’m only going to ‘hit’ on the items that I can offer good tips on- there are so many categories and these are where I’ve often overheard people asking questions.

HANGING GUIDELINES: Use only one hanger- hang your first item with the hanger neck facing left (like a ?) and then pin the item at the shoulders to the hanger- this prevents the item from slipping off of the hanger and being tossed about and not visible to sell. You can then pin other items to the front and back in a nicely merchandised fashion- think like you see sets of children’s clothes at a retail store. Most sales have a minimum price point for hanging items- $3- due to space issues. I’ve seen consignors even go as far as to tape the safety pins, but in my experience, it hasn’t been necessary.

PANTS: Sets are always nice- secure to the hanger with safety pins. Even better- if you have a full outfit (pants, shirt, matching socks and/ or shoes, and even other accessories) bundle them all together on one hanger (include small items in a plastic bag secured to the hanger) and value price- these items are very popular!

COSTUMES/ DRESS-UP: Although seemingly more popular during the Fall sales, dress-up items are accepted at either sale. The more complete, the costume, the better- remember to include special accessories or even make-up if you have it. I went crazy here for BabyK- bought a very mini Minnie Mouse and an adorable fish costume- she had several “set” changes for her first Halloween last year and will probably never be the same. LOL Use a search engine to find out what the retail price is and go for about 40% of that.

Shoes: shoes should be free from scuff marks and as much dirt as possible; clean shoelaces are good too. You don’t want to go “Ewww” when you pick them up. If there isn’t a shoe box, use a zip tie through the eye holes to loosely secure them together and tape your tag against the zip tie. If there is a box, I would suggest putting it in a clear bag and taping. If you just tag the box, and not the shoes, your item will probably end up in the Lost Tags section and not make it to the cash register.

Books/ CD’s/ DVD’s/ GAMES: Tagging books is precarious- you don’t want to damage them, so just use your best judgment- if you are going to bag books together, the bag might get opened anyways. I’ve seen many consignors tie bundles together with twine or even wrap them in food quality clear wrap. All levels of books are popular- from parenting and pregnancy to baby soft books, chapter books, etc. Using regular office-style tape instead of packing tape lessens the chance of damage.

If you have smaller games with plastic coverings that won’t damage if taped, secure the smaller game to a large piece of cardboard (think something too large to ‘fit’ into a purse or bag) with packing tape. Receipts are checked on the way out, but using your own ‘inventory’ control is very handy!

I recommend that you only sell media with original covers- I’ve seen it either way, but some sales are more strict.

Anything goes here- it’s amazing to see what sells! Larger outdoor toys usually sell quickly for around 50% if they are in good condition. If you can use a zip tie to secure your tag, I would recommend that you do that and reinforce the top of the tag prior to hole punching; your toy will keep its tag until the register. Additionally, printing out multiple tags (1/3, 2/3) for a toy set (table and chairs for example) is also a good idea. Most importantly; install batteries and test (and then turn back off until you get to the sale)- if they don’t play, they go back home with you until it “works” again. (Carry extra batteries in your vehicle on your way to the sale!) If you happen to still have the user manual, include that with the toy and you can possibly increase your value (worst case, Yours will sell when compared to five others since it has a manual!).
Secure puzzle boxes (please, count the pieces- it’s annoying to NOT get a full puzzle!) in a clear bag and tape.

BEDDING: include as many pieces of the set that you can and put in a large bag or wrap with a clear plastic. Include a concise description on your tag so that curious shoppers are tempted to open the bag.

FEEDING GEAR: Popular items: clean bibs (sell in sets); sets of utensils; tableware; bottles (again, sell in sets- Avent and Dr. Brown are good sellers if priced correctly! I just buy new nipples for the bottles); even breast pumps sell! I’ve even purchased new, sealed formula or baby food.

POTTY TIME: High end fabric diapers are hot! As are any disposable diapers- we had a batch leftover when K transitioned to the next size and those all got snapped up on the first day of the sale. Wiper warmers; changing pad covers (changing pads or any type of ‘mattresses’ are not accepted in California); lap pads; diaper disposal systems (clean and deodorize please!) range from $8 to $15.

INFANT ITEMS: Toys/ rattles/ pacifiers- it’s all game- items sell best when packaged into ‘sets’ and still have lots of life left. This is one of the best places to score discounted infant gear.
Car seats usually have to be the complete travel system (base/ seat/ stroller combo) and less than five years old- you will have to sign off on a waiver prior to consigning. High chairs/ booster seats should have all straps and safety pieces.

OTHER STUFF: You are selling to moms- so think what do moms love? Craft items (you know that you have extras!) Party gear; new in box ‘regifting’ things- time to clean your house and make a little money!

If you have any questions that I haven’t answered or have your own tips, please feel free to comment!  (I am not affiliated with the Just Between Friends organization other than loving the concept and being a bargain-minded mommy!)

Happy Consigning!


  1. This is some GREAT information!

  2. Hi new friend, I am now following you via MBC.

  3. I love the blog! Great information on everything JBF! Thank you for writing this!


I love comments!