The Oakland Museum needs your money more than ever, and while last year's White Elephant sale managed to happen before the pandemic set it in, this year's will, for the very first time, be fully online.
The massive warehouse rummage sale, known for its excellent vintage clothing, furniture, and knick-knack finds at often reasonable prices, obviously won't be the same without the long lines, crowds, and chaos. But without all that madness, and without the usual preview sale reserved for museum members, you just might have a better chance of scoring some treasure this year.
The sale starts at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 1 and goes on until May 23. But if thrift shoppers show their usual zeal for the White Elephant Sale, the online store will likely be very picked over after Day One or Two.
As KQED reports, volunteers with the Oakland Museum Women's Board have been hosting the White Elephant Sale to raise money for the museum since 1959 — and in recent years, the sale brings in about $2 million per year. Typically, the warehouse that hosts the sale is collecting donated goods all year long after the March sale is over, and volunteers dutifully work to categorize, organize, and catalog everything, separating the stuff into 20 separate departments.
The selection of items is broad and often deep, with everything from exercise equipment, to toys, to whimsical salt and pepper shakers.
Volunteers have been assigning SKU numbers to items and writing descriptions for the online sale since October, and there are reportedly 6,000 items up for sale. The only possible downside to things moving online is that volunteers may have discovered what some vintage housewares and other things are actually worth this time, while usually some steals slip through.
"What’s been exciting is that it’s given a lot of our members and volunteers an opportunity to learn some new skills and delve into the history of our items for sale," says Sherry Westernoff, president of the Women’s Board, speaking to KQED.
Technical glitches with the very first online White Elephant Sale seem inevitable, and one detail in the Pro Tips section of the sale website should be cause for some anxiety among ravenous shoppers — the shopping cart here won't work like other websites, and you can't "reserve" anything by putting it in your cart.
"Even after you put your items in your cart, it’s not yours until you pay for it," they warn. "Keep in mind that someone else can still buy it before you have a chance to."
If you're looking for oddities for your eclectically decorated apartment, they recommend searching under "Vintage" or "Unique."
Also, there's no shipping. When you make a purchase, you'll be asked to select a date and time to come pick up the item at 333 Lancaster Street in Oakland. The organizers recommend choosing a date in late May if you intend on shopping the online sale more than once, so that you can pick everything up all at once.
And, as always, all sales are final. "Not sure if it will fit? Buy it. If you don’t like it, donate it to the 2022 White Elephant Sale," the organizers say in an Instagram post about the clothing department.
The Oakland Museum of California lost about $3 million in revenue this past year, and this sale often accounts for about 10% of its annual operating budget. So, shop away!
You can also just donate to the museum here.
Photo courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California