OPINION: Fun, games and Zimmer frames - the joy of selling at a car boot sale

Arminghall Car Boot Sale

Car boot sales are a very different experience if you are selling, rather than buying - Credit: Nick Richards

"Got any games, mate?"

That was the greeting from an unknown punter as I pulled up in a wet field last Sunday at 6am.

How times have changed.

Last time I was selling at a car boot sale more than a decade ago it was gold, silver and medals that everyone was after.

I pointed suggestively to my slightly bashed up Game of Life (which later sold for £4) but he was off.


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"I meant Nintendo, mate!"

To some people the idea of selling things at a car boot sale is akin to visiting the nit nurse or taking your car to a garage with a problem you've told the mechanic that you've already Googled.

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A necessary evil where the end result negates the intervening torture.

If buying at a car boot sale makes you feel like a cross between Del Boy Trotter sniffing out a cushty deal and Indiana Jones plundering valuable relics then selling at one is the complete opposite.

Having people rake through your possessions has many parallels with having that nit comb dragged through your hair as a child, it feels a little rough, a little personnel and something you just want to get over as soon as possible.

It's not for everybody - the car boot selling that is. There's something slightly unnerving about people looking down their non-facemask covered noses at the tat that you've offered up for their perusal on a wonky pasting table that's bowing in the middle.

Especially as they generally prod, poke, shake and sneer at your items for sale with about as much tact and delicacy as someone trying to peel a hard boiled egg wearing boxing gloves.

Pasting tables are a bit 1990s actually, most car boot sellers either use those posh picnic tables you'd see at a school fete or they just spread everything out on a massive tarpaulin.

The woman next to me has a Zimmer frame for sale, the lady opposite is telling me she's a regular booter, just as her plastic clothes rail collapses.

Then there's a glorious pause after we've all set up and the buyers are officially allowed in.

Like cats at a catnip convention they arrive at your smorgasbord of table top tat to assess if any of it's worth buying.

You probably know that the best stuff is snapped up in the first 15 minutes - and that if you arrive late as a seller there are people already pressing their faces against your car looking for clues as to your boot's booty.

Nick says selling at a car boot was the most face-to-face human interaction he's had in a year

Nick says selling at a car boot was the most face-to-face human interaction he's had in a year - Credit: Nick Richards

Sellers who get in early before the general public often come in twos, so one can go round and grab anything valuable before the hoards descend.

Mr White Van Man next to me arrived at the same time, spread out some tables and then vanished for an hour, I assume to secure all the best bits from other stalls before unleashing boxes and boxes of trainers just as the sale was in full flow.

I realise I'm painting a bit of a negative picture of selling at a boot fair so far, but it really is far from that.

If you can overlook the people who don't seem to have any idea what social distancing is, the sudden devaluation of everything you thought might be worth something and the fact people look at your books and DVDs like they are something from another lifetime then you'll be OK.

Car boot sales are overflowing with hilarious characters all with a slight madness about them. While anybody with any sense is probably still laying in bed, we are all here buying, selling, chatting and engaging.

From the woman who said I had a very neat stall to the old boy who asked if he could buy one trainer and get the other free, there's something very reassuring about standing in a field for a couple of hours just people watching and checking that, after the miserable last year and a bit, good old British spirit is alive and well.

One lady was so enthused at a pair of old boots I was selling (£7) that she kept them on after buying them. I gave her a pedal bin liner for her wellies. She gave me a lovely smile in return.

I'm not sure the road map for Britain's post pandemic recovery mentions attending a car boot sale, but seriously, if you want to see an example of positive human spirit and general good nature set against a backdrop of sizzling bacon fumes then head to a field on a Sunday morning.

It's the most interaction I've had with good old human beings for well over a year and they didn't disappoint.

For me this was the culmination of a fortnight of sorting out unwanted stuff and I made two important rules.

Firstly I made a vow that anything unsold would remain in the car until I'd taken it to a charity shop or the dump, so it did have some kind of purpose.

Secondly I was going to leave at 10am.

I think I took £3 I'm the last hour so packed up and went.

Although that's harder than you'd think. A three-point turn in a field with your hazard lights on and dozens of people around you is as big a test of your skill as then heading towards the exit through a row of tables, tarpaulins, people and unsold Zimmer frames at 5mph.

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