Chris Heiska of Lusby, Md., collects old shaving brushes, tin lunchboxes and antique ice-cream scoops. John Schroeder's passion is vintage radios; he's bought more than 100. Anyone can feed his obsessions on eBay, but for some collectors, there's nothing like the rush of rummaging through a great yard sale. "It's all about the treasure hunt," says Schroeder, a Minneapolis-based copy editor and author of "Garage Sale Fever!" ($12.95; gsfever.com).
Garage sales have long offered a fun, if slightly geeky, way of spending a Saturday afternoon. But the explosive popularity of eBay, PBS's "Antiques Roadshow" and BBC America's "Cash in the Attic" have transformed them into a chic, mainstream obsession. While trawling for treasure in your hometown comes with its own rewards (Schroeder once found a childhood photo of his mom that way), many tag sales are worth a journey--or at least a detour on your next vacation.
Florida: Its high concentration of retirees (read: decades' worth of accumulated junk) makes it "unquestionably one of the best places to shop at estate and yard sales," says Joe Rosson, cohost of "Treasures in Your Attic" on PBS. Tiffany lamps and Steuben glass are among the deals you're likely to find. Shop along the pricey neighborhoods on the coast, south of St. Petersburg and Daytona.
California: Susan Goldberg (garagesalesusan.com) has found Oscar-nomination plaques, reels of film and Eero Saarinen furniture in and around her Los Angeles neighborhood. Silver Lake, a hip L.A. area that's home to --writers and producers, is chock full of weekend sales. Palm Springs is the best place to find midcentury modern furniture, because of the surplus of sleek Alexander homes built during the 1950s. Beverly Hills yard sales are few and far between, but Goldberg once lucked into reels of the '60s horror film "Spider Baby" at the home of star Lon Chaney Jr.'s dentist.
New York and Massachusetts: Hit the Berkshires for great estate sales, where the entire contents of a house are sold off. Stately homes in Lenox and Great Barrington yield troves of vintage clothing, jewelry and furniture. Pick up a copy of the Berkshire Eagle, check the classifieds and head out. Stop by Meissner's Auction Service (meissnersauction.com) in New Lebanon, N.Y., which hosts antiques auctions every Saturday.
World's Longest Yard Sale: It stretches for 450 miles from Kentucky through Tennessee to Alabama (Aug. 4 through 7; 127sale.com), and draws shoppers from all 50 states. Besides collectibles like Depression-era glassware, the sale is known for the homemade BBQ that dots its route.
Before setting off on your treasure hunt, Rosson recommends browsing price guides like "Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price List 2005" ($16.95; kovels.com). But often it's the unexpected find that's the sweetest. Heiska (yardsalequeen.com), once came across the perfect cake topper for her brother's wedding: he was planning to honeymoon in Disney World. The topper was of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. "It was a 50-cent cake topper for a $500 cake," she says. It was the ultimate yard-sale happy ending.