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Oakland Museum Holds Annual White Elephant Sale Next Weekend By STEVEN FINACOMSpecial to the Planet

Friday February 24, 2006

Start your spring cleaning and decluttering early. There’s less than a week left to get rid of your extra and unwanted, but useable, belongings by giving them to the White Elephant Sale (WES) at the Oakland Museum of California  

On Saturday and Sunday, March 4 and 5, thousands of shoppers will converge on the WES’s block-square warehouse on the Oakland Estuary waterfront looking for discounted treasures. 

Many of the items they buy will have arrived just days before, donated by those who wanted to enjo y a less publicized aspect of the sale—the opportunity to shop early, without crowds.  

Why go at all to this gigantic garage/rummage/estate/indoor flea market/Antiques Roadshow reject sale? Because you’ll discover things there that you always wanted or w on’t realize you want until you see them.  

Some people go with very specific goals in mind. On recent visits I crossed paths with a woman whose sole destination was the shoe section, and a man looking for additions to his collection of vintage airline silverware.  

The shopper in line behind me had stocked up on lampshades. Another was buying wicker baskets for a community gardening project. A third had a box of old trophies she intended to recycle, with new winner’s names applied, to her Cub Scout pac k. 

Others go for the serendipity and fun. A used bicycle? An early 20th century wooden sideboard with original beveled mirror? Sewing machines from virtually any era? A board game you haven’t seen since childhood? Persian carpets and luxurious comforters? A bag of homemade or vintage Christmas ornaments? A framed David Lance Goines poster? Stuffed animals? Chairs made out of wine barrels? Or a new entry for bragging rights about who owns the oddest or ugliest table lamp?  

All those things, and more, wer e for sale at the warehouse this past weekend. 

Here’s how to donate. 

The warehouse is open for donations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through this Saturday. 

To shop during those hours, all you need to do is arrive with donations with a cumulative value of at l east $50 per person in your group. Your contributions will earn you a one-time, same-day, shopping pass. 

The volunteer staffers make a quick assessment of whether your donations are acceptable, but don’t assign specific values to them. So meeting the $50 minimum is up to you.  

Bring your donations to the Derby Street end of the warehouse, off Glascock Street, where there’s a large, roll-up, gate and concrete ramp. A red-vested volunteer will direct you inside to the donation counter.  

Parking for pi ck-ups and drop-offs only is allowed next to that entrance, so you’ll also need to find a place to park on nearby streets.  

If you’ve never been to the WES before, it’s arranged a bit like a department store. Take a quick walk around to familiarize yours elf with the location of each department—toys, housewares, books, electric, music, clothes, furniture, art, and so forth. 

When you select items to purchase, take them to the counter in the same department. The volunteer staffers will total prices, bag yo ur purchases, and give you a receipt. You’ll pay later. 

Leave by the main exit mid-way on the Glascock Street side of the warehouse with all your items. Volunteers will collect the receipt tags from your bags, total them up, and you pay for everything at on ce. Lines grow long, but also move fast, as each shopping day ends. 

There’s also a 10 percent surcharge added to the total price, in recognition of the privilege of “buying early.”  

A few do’s. Get a receipt form, which you fill out yourself, at the ent rance if you need a record that you made a donation. Keep track of your shopping badge, since it can fall off with the small pins provided. If you make a large or bulky purchase, there are metal shelves near the exit to store it until you’re ready to leav e. 

Some quick don’ts. Don’t bring children (although they’re allowed at the big March sale). Don’t bring food (you can’t eat it indoors there).  

Don’t lose the receipts stapled to your purchases; you’ll need them to check out. And don’t forget what your purchases look like. One friend spent a considerable time selecting a bag of books then, after getting home, discovered he had paid $16 for someone else’s bag of baby clothes he’d hurriedly picked up off the storage shelves. 

When parking outside, pay at tention to street signage and don’t block driveways, sidewalks, doorways, or railroad tracks on nearby streets. 

Finally, don’t bring useless junk to donate. The sale is for useable items, not your broken-down castoffs. And some sorts of donations—compute rs, for instance—can’t be accepted for various reasons. It’s very helpful to check the WES website to see the full list of unacceptable items. 

Everything goes to a good cause and a new home and your gift will make you feel good—and also make room for all the new things you’ll be bringing back home. 



The White Elephant Sale Warehouse is at 333 Lancaster St. in Oakland. Take 880 to the southbound Fruitvale Avenue exit. Immediately at the bottom of the exit ramp turn right onto Derby Street and go straight ahead three blocks to the warehouse door. 

Check the White Elephant Sale website at for details and updates.