Buying Garage Sale Toys: Safety Tips to Know Before You Go

May 15, 2013 | As garage sale season heats up, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) is reminding parents and caregivers to ensure the safety of any toy or game that is purchased second-hand.

“Toys such as building blocks, board games, dolls and action figures are generally durable and timeless, making them great candidates for garage sales. However, budget-conscious families should never sacrifice safety and quality for bargain-bin prices,” said Joan Lawrence, TIA’s ‘Toy Safety Mom.’ “Second-hand playthings should appear to be only slightly or lightly used – never broken or falling apart.”

Before purchasing a second-hand toy or game – whether at a garage sale, yard sale or thrift store – be sure to follow these important safety tips from TIA*:

  • Always check and follow age guidance, safety information and instructions on toy and game packaging. If the seller no longer has the original packaging, an online search for the toy and its related safety information might help. Never purchase a toy if there is any question about its age-grading or how it functions.

  • Carefully inspect the toy’s condition. Ensure that it is sturdy and does not have any broken or missing pieces or loose parts. Stuffed toys should be clean and have secured eyes, noses and seams. Check that batteries in electronic toys are firmly enclosed and inaccessible to children.

  • Although recalls are rare, you will want to make sure that the toy hasn’t previously been recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Visit to search for the product at hand.

  • Be sure to clean the toy before handing it to your child. Toys that can be exposed to water can be cleaned in a dishwasher or surface-washed using child-friendly antibacterial soap or baby wipes. Stuffed animals placed in the freezer overnight will eliminate dust mites. Some can also be cleaned in a washing machine; check the care label on the toy.  

  • Avoid buying vintage or antique toys for children.  Most were made before current standards were in place and should only be considered for purchase by adult collectors. Vintage toys can be used as display pieces and should be kept on a shelf away from children’s reach. 

“When in doubt, shop at a retailer you know and trust,” added Lawrence. “The toy industry works year-round to ensure that all toys on store shelves are reliable and safe.”

For more safety tips, visit the Toy Safety section on Consumers who regularly buy used products may also find CPSC’s guide for second hand retailers helpful in avoiding products that could harm them or their family.

*Keep in mind that these rules apply only to children’s toys. For information about other children’s products such as cribs, playpens, car seats and children’s jewelry search, as these items may not be appropriate for second-hand purchase.