A table and chairs obtained at an estate sale will continue exhibiting the original owner’s good taste.

As my wife, Sharon, and I continue the search for a few pieces of furniture to populate our house, we have taken to following estate sales. It’s fun to see what’s available from week to week — and a little disturbing also.

Until this year, I had never been to an estate sale. As far as I can tell, this age-old tradition, like most other things, has been altered by the internet.

Estate sales I recall from decades ago were more in the auction category. I still own an antique bedroom suit that my father bought at an estate auction after a farmer down the road had passed away.

“I heard he actually died on it,” my sister said as I was testing out my new bed.

“Well, he sure died comfortably,” I shot back.

That is the slightly unsettling part about estate sales. They usually occur shortly after someone has passed on. The person’s family has kept whatever items were wanted, and the rest is being sold.

Sometimes the belongings are moved to another location before the sale. But more often, in my limited experience, the sales are held inside the home of the departed owner.

As I wander around in these recently vacated living quarters, I try to conduct myself as respectfully as any other mildly depraved scavenger. Because the internet site for the sale has put up a photo gallery prior to the opening, I usually know exactly what I’m after.

If I walk in and find someone displaying a strong interest in the coveted item, I’m not above pretending to be a member of the sales staff.

“I’m so sorry, sir. We should have already put a sold sticker on that item. Let me go and see if I can find one.”

I have never really done that. But I did recently snag a nice media cabinet that someone who arrived ahead of me was examining. Unlike my competitor, I went and found an actual sales-staff member and asked her to place a “sold” sticker on the piece.

Sometimes, the ruthless bird gets the worm.

My newfound interest in estate sales stems from a longtime love of antiques. Not everything found at an estate sale is antique, but most items are of sound quality.

At a time when finding durable, made-in-America items at all, much less at decent prices, is difficult, estate sales are a valuable resource. In addition to the media cabinet, we are enjoying an awesome, American-made table and chairs in our kitchen.

The wear marks are evidence that the previous owners enjoyed that quality furniture for many years, which adds value to our own experience. A person has passed on, but I have to think he would be happy that someone else is enjoying his excellent taste.

At a recent sale, I flipped through a collection of albums that included many of the same music from the ’70s that used to spin on my turntable in that era. That’s the kind of estate-sale find that makes you want to go home and enjoy the things you have — while they’re not quite up for sale yet.

Contact Mark Rutledge at