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The White Elephant: The Bay Area's Biggest Garage Sale

The White Elephant: The Bay Area's Biggest Garage Sale

Picture of Terri Washington
Updated: 9 February 2017
The streets are packed with cars and a sea of people carrying their eco-friendly bags, all rushing towards a warehouse located near the Oakland Estuary. Welcome to Oakland, California, home of the 56th Annual White Elephant Sale (Mar 7 – Mar 8) – the largest in North America. All proceeds benefit the Oakland Museum of California.
White Elephant Records
People looking through hundreds of LPs | Courtesy Terri Washington

There is not a lot that you cannot find at the White Elephant Sale. The array of items includes decorative Christmas ornaments all the way up to living room furniture. No section is lacking in people; there is something there for everyone. Just when you think the sale has nothing to offer, you find yourself in the book section, where thousands of books line the walls, or you bump into the snow globe shelves featuring small winter wonderlands that you did not know you needed.

The more popular sections included items that you could stick in a bag and go. The purse section had plenty of customers, in fact so many that most of the items already had sold stickers on them just two hours after the start of the event. The section included luxury purses from brands like Coach and Prada as well as simple, everyday bags.

The jewelry section featured a devastatingly long line of customers due to the vast amount of jewelry donated by the community. There were so many people crowded around the area that upon walking up to the section you would not know what they were selling if it were not for the banners and signs naming the area. Every type of jewelry was popular: rings, necklaces and earrings were being grasped tightly in the hands of the customers in line.


Instrument White Elephant
One of the many instruments found at the sale | Courtesy Terri Washington


The White Elephant Sale is organized by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board. The sale is the only fundraising event the Women’s Board organizes, and it has contributed more than $20 million to the Museum’s various programs, facilities and exhibits over the years. Last year alone, the sale raised nearly $2 million. All items featured at the White Elephant sale are donated by the community. Clean and gently-used items make the cut to the sales floor, and the treasure trove is great.

The entertainment sections were packed with people. With the infinite amount of books in the book section, there were droves of people looking through the boxes and shelves. Just some of the books included were encyclopedias, biographies, religious works and literary classics. As popular as the books were, the adjacent section contained a lengthy line just for entry. This section featured movies (of the DVD, Blu-Ray and VHS variety), musical instruments and, most importantly, records. This area had not only some of the better deals and the cheapest items featured at the sale, but also the items that brought the most exploration. There was not a true filing system amongst those items, therefore people feverishly hunted through bins and boxes, making the area the most fun.

All in all, the White Elephant sale is an experience that every Bay Area native should try. If you are a fan of garage sales, the White Elephant sale is definitely for you. If you are just looking for a few items to fill your home, the White Elephant sale is a great place to go hunting, especially as you are supporting the Oakland Museum in the process. With a warehouse packed with everything including clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, sports memorabilia and other hidden gems, the annual White Elephant Sale will surely be a continued success for years to come.