French Tag Sales

June 27, 2011

In France, garage sales/yard sales/tag sales are called Vide Greniers (pronounced veed-gren-ee-ay). And they are organized by the community. Each town picks a weekend and a location and any resident that wants to join in, sets up a table with all sorts of random stuff they’re ready to sell.

Now that summer is here, we see signs for vide greniers all the time and try to stop whenever we happen upon one. We rarely buy much, but it’s always fun to see what’s there. Here are some of the treasures we’ve brought home so far:

1) A little lunch pail.
This is actually very small — about 7 inches high. Perfect for a light lunch or a big snack. I bought it hoping Betty would use it for her daily snack container. But when she saw it she just looked at me and sort of sighed and shook her head no. I’m sure she’s wondering why her mom can’t figure out how to buy a normal snack container with a Hello Kitty on it.

2) Alarm clock.
The colors on this made it pretty much irresistible to me. And I love that it says Made in USSR. It’s broken, but I bet it’s fixable. It was 1 euro (about $1.50).

3) A dress for June.
This is so sweet. It’s still a little big for her, but she’ll grow into it soon. Does buying clothes at tag sales gross you out? I do it all the time. In France, it’s especially nice, because everything is cleaned and pressed and hanging neatly. This was 2 euros (about $3).

4) Two vintage cameras.
Ralph picked these out because he wants to use them as movie props. The Brownie Flash is the kind of camera you hold at your waist and look through the top. The Brownie Starluxe II comes in it’s own little leather case. I have no idea if either one works, or if you can even buy film for these sorts of cameras. They cost 5 euros for the set (that’s about $7.50).

5) A print of Argentan Cathedral.
We thought this would be a fun souvenir to bring home. It’s an image of our town cathedral. I love that it shows a market scene, because the market is still held in the very same place today. It came in a throw-away frame, but we’ll just roll up the print when it’s time to transport it home. This cost 1 euro (about $1.50).

6) A giant apothecary bottle.
This is the most expensive thing I’ve picked up at a vide grenier. It cost 10 euros (about $15) and I have no idea what I’ll do with it, or if I’ll even be able to bring it home. It’s big — about 20 inches high — and heavy. And I almost left it behind. By the time I was halfway back to the car, I realized I couldn’t live without it and went back for it.

What do you think? Treasures or trash?

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nike June 27, 2011 at 5:35 am

Nice finds!
The bottle seems to be an old wine bottle! I´ve seen that some people like to collect their pennies in those.

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2 Design Mom June 27, 2011 at 7:46 am

What a fun idea! I think it could hold a lifetime supply of pennies.

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3 Jane June 27, 2011 at 5:48 am

Hello Gabrielle,
I love your trash & treasure finds, specially the dress and the box brownies. I’m not grossed out by buying garage clothes though I must admit I would have to wash them all over again, even if they were clean and pressed.
The thought of being able to shop in a market that has been in the same place for hundreds of years literally sent a shiver down my spine. I live in Canberra, Australia’s capital, which is lovely in many ways and has a really great farmers’ market. But it is a really young city – our centenary celebration is coming up in 2013 – and one does get to longing to be around old streets and buildings and gardens.
I don’t know you but I have been thinking of you and your little girl this weekend. I hope all is well and wish her a rapid recovery.
Jane
PS What is the meaning of ‘tag’ in tag sale? Is it that things have price tags on them or is it that they are passed on from one person to another like tagging in a game?

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4 Design Mom June 27, 2011 at 7:48 am

Hi Jane! I think tag refers to price tags. In America, it seems to be a regional thing. Some places say garage sale. Others say tag sale. In New York City, sometimes they’re called stoop sales.

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5 FreeRange Pamela June 27, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Oh, you forgot “yard sale!” My husband and I have noticed the changes in nomenclature as we’ve moved to various places. In his native Scotland, they are often called “boot sales” because people sell things out of the trunks (boots) of their cars.

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6 dunski June 27, 2011 at 6:01 am

I would guess that the “lunchbox” is a old military Lunchbox, which was used to cook food on an open fire. A few years ago we would still use those to cook food in youth camps or at family activities..like bread, noodles, meatball sauce, veggies… and so on. Ok some many years ago.
I think: great treasures! No trash at all. I often find cute clothes at such sales.
We have kids clothes sales every other season here in villages. You bring your clothes with tags and names or codenumbers beforehand. A group of women, usually the villages women-society, will sell them in a gymhall and afterwards you can pick up your leftovers and the money you earned. I love those. Usually we’re able to buy alot of clothes for very little money. Esp. shoes, or bikes. Funny thing is, that they usually don’t have boys-pants ages 3-6… I guess all those boys have the same talent. :)

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7 Design Mom June 27, 2011 at 7:50 am

Great observation on the little boy pants. So true! I don’t think a single pair of Oscar’s pants have made it to the goodwill pile.

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8 Cerise June 27, 2011 at 6:12 am

That dress and those cameras are fantastic! I don’t have a problem at all buying second hand clothes. You can usually find something wonderful!

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9 Victoria June 27, 2011 at 6:16 am

I think those are all amazing finds! I’m so jealous. I adore France and I wish it was practical to just nip across the Channel and hunt down some beautiful finds but I live in the North of England rather than the South :( x

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10 Design Mom June 27, 2011 at 7:49 am

England is so close and yet so far!

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11 robyn June 27, 2011 at 6:48 am

treasures!
i particularly love the lunch pail and the jug. those are the kinds of things that i find completely irresistible, and my husband finds that to be completely inscrutable. of course, he’s an engineer and has an eye for function, not things that are “charming”.

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12 christy June 27, 2011 at 6:56 am

I think they’re all treasures – especially the dress and the lunch pail. Darling. Betty’s reaction is darling too!

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13 Heidi June 27, 2011 at 7:14 am

Great finds! I always love to see what other people pick up garage saling or vide greniering?? :) Betty’s reaction to the lunch pail is so funny, I wonder how many times my kids will do that!
I love finding clothing second-hand, that is how I buy virtually all of our clothes. I cringe more at the idea of someone throwing out perfectly good clothing than buying it and using it myself!

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14 Design Mom June 27, 2011 at 7:48 am

I love second hand clothes too!

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15 sarah June 27, 2011 at 7:38 am

ooh…love everything. i wish you could buy some things to give away! would love to win that old bottle.

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16 Jenn June 27, 2011 at 7:57 am

Most definitely treasures!

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17 steph t. June 27, 2011 at 8:01 am

treasures!!!
i LOVE to scour sales like that.
you never know what you’ll find and of what value it’ll be for YOU, in particular.
i think that’s why i believe garage sales are fun.
plus, who doesn’t love a little bit of thriftyness in this day and age?!
i buy second hand clothes too.
especially b/c for the really nice designer brands you get for WAY below cost.
it’s worth it. ;)
no shame in getting a deal, right?

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18 Ashlea Walter June 27, 2011 at 8:06 am

I don’t know what I’d do WITHOUT second-hand, new-to-us clothing! Wash and go…

p.s. I LOVE that lunch pail!

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19 Barefeet InTheKitchen June 27, 2011 at 8:09 am

I could not be more jealous! I love secondhand shopping. Enjoy every moment of it while you are there. Those are some amazing finds.

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20 Sarah June 27, 2011 at 8:25 am

Definitely not trash! I especially love the print. That’s my favorite thing to bring home from travels as I love being able to look at them on my wall and instantly be taken back to the time and place where it was purchased.

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21 Starr June 27, 2011 at 8:30 am

Gorgeous dress. The English version of a yard sale (midwestern term) is a Car Boot sale. You fill up your car with things to sell and drive to a field or parking lots that’s been designated as a sale spot. It almost feels like a swap meet.

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22 Catherine June 27, 2011 at 8:31 am

I bought a click l’île this one in Poland a few Years ago (while traveling) and I LOVE it. Your other findings are so great too!

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23 Mom in Mendon June 27, 2011 at 8:44 am

Great stuff. Love the picture of the cathedral. The cute clock gave me pause. “Why does a French clock say ‘Rostov’ “? Then I finished reading.

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24 Tamara June 27, 2011 at 9:20 am

Love the baby dress! I think if you can afford it, love it, and use it, its rarely trash, right?

It is a bonus when its available for a song. Particularly if you intend to have kid in the U.S. for college or many other fairly expensive life points.

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25 ~j. June 27, 2011 at 9:36 am

I like your choices! I don’t buy clothes at [yard/garage/tag] sales because it’s such a hassle to sort through, and that’s just something I don’t enjoy doing. (I also don’t buy clothes at D.I./Salvation Army, not because I’m a snob – maybe I am – but because I don’t like to search. Also? Not been to TJ Maxx, which I hear is the same have-to-search-through-it concept.) I wonder if having the clothes neatly pressed and hanging would make a difference, as presentation really does matter (to me).

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26 Janelle June 27, 2011 at 9:54 am

With 5 kiddos, second hand clothes are the norm. Except, of course, for the previously mentioned “little boy pants”. Ya, those don’t exist. If I find a REALLY good clearance sale, prices barely above second hand, THEN we buy new. And shoes too – used shoes give me the willies except for the ones for our smallest people. Great treasures – I heart the dress!

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27 hikooky June 27, 2011 at 10:01 am

Ah – such gorgeous finds! The little dress is SO SWEET.

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28 Dee June 27, 2011 at 10:19 am

Treasures for sure. I especially like the dress and clock (my husband has one just like it).

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29 Rebecca June 27, 2011 at 10:24 am

These finds are great – especially the lunch pail. Your story about Betty not wanting to use it is just precious! :)

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30 Jen Byard June 27, 2011 at 10:27 am

Treasures! Tag sales in France…so fun. I laughed at Betty’s response. I bring home treasures for my boys rooms all the time but they’d rather decorate with lego and star wars posters :) glad to hear about Maude!

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31 Jessica June 27, 2011 at 11:07 am

I love going to estate sales with my family on weekends! My 5 year old likes to pretend that they are treasure hunts :) We love finding old cameras at the sales. I have the Brownie Hawkeye camera ( very similar) and it takes 620 film which is still available ( Yay!) at B&H in NY or from their online store.

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32 Dustin June 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Great finds! I especially like the apothecary bottle. The 15 stamp on the bottom is a nice touch. I find myself drawn to these types of pieces because of their craftsmanship. Seems like we don’t make anything to last anymore.

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33 dawn smith June 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm

LOVE your finds! My favorites are your cameras, I have a brownie myself. I often wonder what that camera has seen and the moments it captured. I enjoy the treasure hunt of yard sales. Personally my favorite find is a silver necklace butterfly charm from the designer James Avery I paid $1 and it retails for $80.

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34 jen June 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm

total treasures! especially the cameras. i love “vintage” cameras. and second hand clothes is the norm for me as well.

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35 Hiskia June 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm

treasures! and buying second hand children clothes is not gross at all, but a perfect way to stand out at a young age ;-)

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36 Victoria June 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Hi Gabrielle,

my name is Victoria and I’m from Russia. So you have fans even here :)
First of all I’d like to say I really impressed by you, your family and your life style! I always adore reading your posts.

Then, I hope Maude is ok now and wish her full and speedy recovery!
And finally (that’s why I decided to leave a comment) – the alarm you’ve bought was made in the former USSR in the city where I live now – Rostov (Rostov-on-Don actually)! Fancy that! And Rostov clock’s factory still exists and works!

P.S. I have three kids (10, 7 and baby – was born last March) and last year we just went to Thailand for 6 months,our baby was born there). It was a really great experience in my family’s life!

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37 Laura Zarrin June 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Treasures, for sure. Keep those tag sale pics coming! I’m living vicariously through you. This weekend I fell in love with a French metal canister set in orange and thought of you. Going to a French tag sale is now on my bucket list. Meanwhile, I’m working on some paintings featuring those French coffee pots you posted awhile back. Thanks for the inspiration!

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38 Erin @ Small Types June 27, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Treasures! I love the pail and the dress!

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39 alessia June 27, 2011 at 2:46 pm

what a treasure find except maybe for the alarm clock..just because my mother has a similar one and the clicks are so loud I cannot sleep. I used to hide the clock in a drawer at night

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40 Tracey June 27, 2011 at 3:24 pm

This post had me “Laughing Out Loud”!
My sons have the same responses to my “choices” for the accessories.
(This year I tried to get my 1st grade son to choose a hand crafted elephant lunchbox over an IronMan one…I’m good but not that good…I lost)

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41 mandi@herbanhomestead June 27, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Wonderful finds! I am an avid thrifter, so no way do 2nd hand clothes gross me out. And the story about Betty- that is so my experience with my kids! Also, it reminded me of when I was in high school. My dad and I would go junking together and I found this awesome aluminum lunch box. I covered it with stickers (probably Hello Kitty was in the mix!) and carried it to lunch every day at school! I loved that lunch box…

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42 Marci G June 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Some of my most favorite souveniers from our trip to Europe are an antique yellow pitcher I picked up at an antique shop in Rostock Germany, a large print of the Vasa viking ship in Stockholm Sweden (we had it framed for my sons bedroom) and an amber necklace from St. Petersburg Russia. I packed the pitcher as my carry-on on the plane to make sure it stayed in one piece. You will LOVE your big brown jug when you get it home!! Yea for you!!

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43 elz June 27, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Love all of those finds. I would definitely ship the bottle when you come back stateside. It looks similar to ones on sale at Ballard, Pottery Barn, etc for at least $60.

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44 Andrea June 27, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Wow…the USSR!

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45 Megan June 27, 2011 at 7:29 pm

TREASURES! ALL OF THEM! But especially that perfect dress that is going to be passed down to your grandchildren as a reminder of the time the whole family lived in France. Brilliant!

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46 Amanda Z. June 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm

These are amazing treasures, and the best souvenirs since they all have a story. I still have a sweater I bought 10 years ago in a thrift shop in Switzerland.

My weakness is church rummage sales – just this weekend we bought 40 small classroom chalkboards (for charting graphs I think) for $10! My husband wants to cover a wall with them. We also got a small flat top school desk for our baby boy’s room for $2! And a matching small chair for $5.

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47 . tiny twist creative . June 27, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Oh, I love to buy the kids used clothes. I’m a big thrifter. Its good for the environment and most baby clothes have barely been worn since they grow so quickly. I ADORE that dress, just beautiful. Perfect finds.

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48 From Belgium June 28, 2011 at 5:38 am

That dress is sooo cute. I would use the wine bottle as a ‘décor’ – element somewhere in the house or outside on the terrace.

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49 Kathryn Carmona June 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm

You know I wish I was French thrifting with you! Good eye as always Gabby!

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50 Design Mom June 29, 2011 at 7:19 am

That sounds so good to me, Kathryn! You are best yard sale shopper I’ve ever known.

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51 elisabeth*itsyfactor June 28, 2011 at 7:02 pm

That little dress says “June” all over it! Can’t wait to see it on her.

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52 jen June 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm

I love that little lunch pail! I can totally see it hanging from a doorknob with flowers or from a kitchen cabinet with sweets peeking out the top – so fun! And the dress is going to look great on June!

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53 Design Mom June 29, 2011 at 7:19 am

I love those lunch pail ideas, Jen! Thank you.

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54 Anna@HGTV June 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I love, love, love yard sale shopping in new cities. What a dream it would be to hit the vide greniers in France! Great finds.

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55 Randi June 30, 2011 at 5:57 am

That little lunch pail is the best. My kids are the same way – a Spiderman lunch box trumps an awesome Bento box any day. Bummer.

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56 Holly July 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm

I have been wanting one of those apothecary bottles for a long time now! The ones I’ve seen in Round Top, TX and other antique places are in excess of $150! Wow, what a steal for $15. I would have hauled it back, too! Good find!

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