Sunday, March 5, 2017

White Elephant Sale

     Every year, for just two days, a mythical sale appears in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, a sale that offers mountains of clothes, kitchen equipment, furniture, books, shoes, sports equipment, holiday supplies, stationary and more on the cheap. No, this mythical sale isn't a unicorn. It's the White Elephant Sale, and for you bargain shoppers out there, it's most definitely a Bay Area Miss-Me-Not.
     Sale items come from donations that are accepted year round, so each WES has new stuff. A preview sale takes place in January, with shoppers getting first access to the goods for $15 (ticket bought early) or $20 (at the door). Then in March, everyone else gets a chance to treasure hunt, admission free, Saturday and Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm. All proceeds go to the Oakland Museum of California, and an army of volunteers helps rake in those proceeds, which surpassed $2 million last year.
     Though the selection is better the earlier you go, my sister and I always go on Sunday because almost everything is half off. One year, we found a large skillet with lid for just $4. Another, a vintage dark-wood chair for just $15. My sister always finds a huge bag full of yarn and buttons (most of them, high-end or unique) for her small business for 1/3 of the cost she'd pay in store or online. This year, we found like-new jeans for $2 a pair.
      But just the looking itself can be more fun than the buying. Where else can one find a large leather lounger with ottoman for just $150? I mean, that would complete the den, we apartment-dwellers joke. Or a high-end jacket for $4? Perfect for that meeting with the board. My sister and I like to peruse the antique furniture, the fine china, the old typewriters, and the oddball knick-knacks. We like to imitate the art, imagine using a pristine $10 kite surfing board on the Bay, take a trip back to childhood hunting through toys we had as kids, and look through shelves and shelves of books we don't have room for.
     Watching people find treasures is almost as fun as defending those treasures from others, and as the crowds start to thicken as the day goes on, one may have a tense tussle or two. Mine came in the craft section when a woman reached over the basket of yarn I was entrusted with to grab a skein before my sister could scoop it up. I held my ground and put the section on lock down in no time, yarn be saved.
     As with all things in the Bay Area, getting to the WES can be a headache, but with proper planning, that headache can be minimized. There's a free shuttle that goes to the WES from the Fruitvale BART. And free parking can be found in the area around 333 Lancaster Street provided one gets there early; people even park under the freeway by the Fruitvale Station shopping center. We usually get there around 9 am to find a spot, and the line to get into the sale is usually pretty long by 9:30 (the doors open at 10 am). Whichever way you choose to get there, just remember you may be hauling quite a bit home.
     Below are photos from this year's event, but they don't do justice to the size and grandeur. If you want to adorn your home with unique, affordable things that have a history, mark your calendar and start putting together that shopping list because the next sale is only a year away.

The Location

The Line

The White Elephant

The Space



More White Elephants

The Yarn

The China

Kitchen Gear


So Much Furniture

Holiday Gear

This Turkey

Cash Register

And Another Cash Register

Stationary Lap Desk


And Another Typewriter

Collectible Stamps

Owl Collectible Stamps

And This Crew...