French Tag Sales

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?

56 thoughts on “French Tag Sales”

  1. 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.
    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?

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  2. 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 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. :)

  3. 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!

  4. 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

  5. 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”.

  6. 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!

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. Mom in Mendon

    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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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).

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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!

  21. 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!

  22. 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

  23. 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)

  24. 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…

  25. 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!!

  26. 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.

  27. 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!

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

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

  31. 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!

  32. 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.

  33. 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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