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Try Before You Buy: Howard Cross of Grass Valley, Calif., reads the paper as he waits in line on the desk chair he plans to purchase at the Great California Garage Sale.
Try Before You Buy: Howard Cross of Grass Valley, Calif., reads the paper as he waits in line on the desk chair he plans to purchase at the Great California Garage Sale. Max Whittaker/Getty Images
When times are tough, there's always one way to make a buck: Sell your stuff in a garage sale. And for California, times are plenty tough. So the state is holding a massive sale, as part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's effort to alleviate the state's budget crisis.
For the two-day event that ends Saturday, the state is selling off seized property and surplus supplies. Officials rounded up everything from chairs to motorcycles to antique pianos.
Bargain-Hunters Set Their Sights
It looks a lot like Toys 'R' Us at the opening of the Christmas shopping season. A line of at least 1,000 bargain-hunters snakes around the state's giant Sacramento warehouse.
"I've been here since 2 a.m.," said Ollie Scott. "These are my daughters. They've been here since 8 last night."
Scott and her daughters, Talissa James and Cherril Scott James, camped out with lawn chairs and doughnuts. Talissa hopes to buy a few things she wouldn't normally be able to afford.
"I'm looking for a laptop for school," she said. "I'm a college student this year, and I'm looking for a projector. I didn't tell anybody about that. I want that in my house."
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People wait for the start of California's garage sale Thursday afternoon in Sacramento, Calif.
People wait for the start of California's garage sale Thursday afternoon in Sacramento, Calif. Max Whittaker/Getty Images
A Rush Of Interest
Before the doors finally opened, an announcer issued a warning, hoping to head off a stampede: "At the opening of the door, please no rushing. Be respectful of others. Thank you very much for coming."
With the doors open, a lot of people make a beeline for the laptops — and at $200 or less, it's understandable. BlackBerries, cameras and office chairs are being snapped up, too.
Fred Aguiar, who heads up the State and Consumer Services Agency, says departments cleaned house and came up with all kinds of surplus state goods.
Describing the spread, Aguiar said, "We've got a surfboard here, we've got watches, rings. We've got bicycles, we've got seven dentist's chairs."
Yes, that's right: dentist's chairs. They came out of state prisons. That's where some of the oldest stuff came from, including thousands of 20-year-old jackets intended for inmates but never worn.
Schwarzenegger On The Scene
There are more than 600 cars and trucks to be auctioned off. The garage sale was the governor's idea. On Friday, Schwarzenegger stopped by for a surprise guest appearance — and to autograph some motorcycles.
Bidding the crowd good morning, Schwarzenegger asked, "You buy anything? You better buy one of those cars."
Tools are displayed Tuesday that will be sold during the Great California Garage Sale in Sacramento, Calif.
Tools are displayed Tuesday that will be sold during the Great California Garage Sale in Sacramento, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli/AP
College student Jessica Marcado took Schwarzenegger's advice. She camped out overnight to get a bargain on a new car.
"For the car I got and the price I got it for, I think it was totally worth it," she said. Then she described the car: "A Chevy Cavalier. It was a 2002; 52,000 miles, and I got it for 2,800 bucks."
The state expects to net around $1 million from the garage sale. That's pennies in the piggy bank by California standards — lawmakers recently closed a $20 billion-plus hole in the state budget.
Marianne Russ reports for Capital Public Radio.