Payson's Yard Sale Queen Has Shopping Down To A Science


She's known among yard sale enthusiasts as the Payson Yard Sale Queen, but true to her special calling, Marla Graham is uneasy with things royal and regal.

"I always wear jeans and T-shirts when I go yard saleing," she said. "That's official yard sale attire.

"And I buy something at just about every yard sale, even if it just costs a quarter," she said. "The way I look at it, it's a matter of respect for the person holding the sale."

Graham's passion for yard saleing coincided with her move from the Valley to the Rim country seven years ago.

"I started going to yard sales when I moved to Payson because I didn't know my way around. I'd get the addresses from the Roundup, and I'd do what the paper is doing now ... I made a map and I'd put dots on a copy of it each week."

Yard saleing soon became Graham's primary form of entertainment.

"I've never been a shopper, but the people here are so friendly that it's like going to visit a neighbor," she said.

Since the Roundup publishes a "sneak preview" of the weekend's yard sales, Graham's preparations begin with a stop at the newspaper every Thursday afternoon.

"One Thursday I was working late," she recalled with a chuckle. "When I got to the Roundup, it was obvious this lady was just locking up, but I innocently said, 'Oh, are you locking up? I just need a yard sale report.' She said, 'No problem,' and got me one. I'm sure my face just beamed."

Every Thursday night, Graham sits down with the "sneak preview" and a map to plot her strategy. At 6:45 a.m. Friday and Saturday, she and her current sidekick are on the road.

"Gigi has been my sidekick lately. I've had several over the years," she admitted. "I either wear them out or they get cured."

By the time the amateurs are arriving at their first yard sales, Marla and Gigi are calling it a day.

"We're usually done by 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m.," she said. "We've hit them all, usually about 12 each day. That includes the pick-up sales that aren't advertised, and the ones that are just advertised on the radio."

Graham keeps an open mind, examining every item at every yard sale.

"I'm not looking for any particular thing. I look at everything. I'm not one of those who goes in and says, 'Do you have milk cans?'"

But over the years, she has amassed a few collections.

"I make it a point to buy a book and a basket every day I go yard saleing," she said. "And then I collect bud vases, red glassware, angels, and bells. Bell is my maiden name."

Graham estimates that she spends $20 every weekend, not counting those big ticket items like furniture that come along every once in a while.

"There's always a buy of the day, which is either the one thing you couldn't live without, or the cheapest thing you bought," she enthused.

A tour of Graham's house confirmed her claim that none of her yard sale treasures are hidden away in closets.

"When I get home from yard saleing, I examine my treasures, clean them, and find a place for them," she said.

The most unusual item she ever bought at a yard sale? "The oddest thing I've ever bought and one of my most prized possessions was a love bird named Peppy."

As you might imagine, a veteran yard saler like Graham has a few pet peeves.

"A lot of people like to barter, but I won't do that," she said. "For a while I kept running into this little man at yard sales, and whatever an item was priced, he'd offer less. If it was $1.25, he'd offer $1.05. Finally I turned to him and said, 'For God's sake man, it's a yard sale!'"

Conversely, Graham doesn't appreciate people who overprice items.

"When you hold a yard sale, you're not going to get what you paid for something," she said. "If that's what you want, you need to put your stuff in a resale shop. When I walk into a yard sale where everything is overpriced, I'm out of there in 10 seconds."

Finally, Graham thinks a yard sale should start at its appointed time, and not a minute before.

"If a sale starts at 7 (a.m.) I respect that, but a lot of people don't," she said. "One man had a great solution. He put up this sign that said, 'Early Birds Pay Double.'"

The best yard sales in the Rim country, Graham thinks, are held at two churches Mount Cross Lutheran Church's November sale for Habitat for Humanity and Payson First Assembly of God, which holds two sales each year.

"The people at Assembly of God are so nice, I feel like I'm shopping at Dillard's," she said.

How does it feel to be on the other end of a yard sale? Payson's Yard Sale Queen wouldn't know.

"I had a yard sale once, and they're way too much work," she said. "I give my stuff to the Payson Senior Center."

Is she addicted to yard saleing?

"I may be," she admitted, "but I'm working on it. I'm trying to cut back on baskets."

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