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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

When times are tough, there's always one way to make a buck. Sell your junk in a garage sale. Well, times are pretty tough for the state of California. So today and tomorrow it is holding the mother of all garage sales.

From Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, Marianne Russ reports.

MARIANNE RUSS: 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 warehouses.

Ms. OLLIE SCOTT(ph): Well I've been here since 2 AM. These are my daughters. They've been here since 8 last night.

RUSS: Ollie Scott and her daughters, Talissa James(ph) and Cherril Scott James(ph) camped out with lawn chairs and donuts. Talissa is hoping to buy a few things she wouldn't normally be able to afford.

Ms. TALISSA JAMES: I'm looking for a laptop for school. 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.

Unidentified Woman: At the opening of the door, please no rushing. Be respectful of others. Thank you very much for coming to the garage sale. A lot of you been here long time.

RUSS: A lot of people make a beeline for the laptops — and at 200 bucks or less, you can understand why. Blackberries, cameras and office chairs are being snapped up, too. Fred Aguiar heads up the State and Consumer Services Agency. He says departments cleaned house and came up with all kinds of surplus state goods. Mr. FRED AGUIAR (Head, State and Consumer Services Agency): We've got a surfboard here, we've got watches, rings. We've got bicycles, we've got seven dentist chairs.

RUSS: Yup, you heard that right - dentist 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.

Unidentified Man #1: (unintelligible) 103,000 miles to get here..

RUSS: There are more than 600 cars and trucks to be auctioned off. The garage sale was the Governor Schwarzenegger's idea. And he stopped by for a surprise guest appearance and to autograph some motorcycles.

Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (California, Republican): Yeah, thank you.

Unidentified Man #2: Hi, Arnold.

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: I know this gentleman. Pleased to be here.

Ms. JESSICA MARCADO: Good morning.

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: How are you? Good to see you. Did you buy anything?

Ms. MARCADO: Not yet.

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: Not yet. You better buy one of those cars.

RUSS: College student Jessica Marcado took Schwarzenegger's advice. She camped out overnight to get a bargain on a car.

Ms. MARCADO: For the car I got and the price I got it for, I think it was totally worth it.

RUSS: What was the car?

Ms. MARCADO: A Chevy Cavalier. It's a 2002, 55,000 miles, and I got it for 2,800 bucks.

RUSS: The state expects to net around $1 million from the garage sale. That's pennies in the piggy bank by California's standards. Lawmakers recently closed a $20 billion-plus hole in the state budget.

For NPR News, I'm Marianne Russ in Sacramento.

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