Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Conducting an Estate Sale for Your Family

Amber bottle with red glass stopper from Christian LaCroix
Christian LaCroix and Other Perfume Bottles are Collectible
When someone in your family needs to shuffle to a retirement center or assisted living, or dies, a lifetime of collections and maybe collectibles needs a new home. Family members often have an estate or yard sale to "get rid" of some of Grandma's "stuff." As an estate sale buyer and appraiser for more than 20 years, I can share a few ideas with you.
In general, you need to save everything and try to sell it. Don't cull for the American public, especially at a first sale. Well, maybe you can pitch the butter tubs and foil pie tins. Few estate salers are looking for a matched set of butter tubs.
I see families save National Geographic magazines from the 1960s forward. Unless you have a hologram issue, give these to some grade school or middle school students to read. The libraries won't take them, because there is an abundance. Nat Geo before 1960 may have a Coke ad on the back cover that has some value. Recent magazines may sell for cheap, but they aren't really collectible. Magazines from the first half of the 20th Century are collectible, and many through the 1950s interest collectors because of advertising, styles and history.
Sometimes I'm asked to come look over an estate before the items are put out for sale. When I arrive at the location, there is usually a large stack of rubble at the street. The family has tried to clean up before I arrive, and they have relegated these items to the curb:
perfume bottles
ladies hats
fishing lures
wooden boxes
ashtrays and old lighters
smoking pipes
gag gifts and miniatures
old toys like dollhouse furniture
junk drawer items
old postcards and envelopes with stamps
fountain pens
wall hangings and art
old photographs
20s furniture and other items "out of style", including vintage clothing
Here's what they leave inside for the sale:
Clothes that aren't old enough to be collectible
Kitchen items in current use
Plastic and wooden baskets and bowls
Everyday dishes and glasses with dishwasher etching
Prints on cardboard with plastic frames from the 60s
Pressboard furniture
You get the idea. Everything of value got pitched before I arrived. We've gone through stuff at the curb and tried to revive some of the items, but often they've been rained on and it's more effort than they want to exert. 
Six smoking pipes from various makers, all used and collectible
Smoking Pipes are Collectible, Even USED Ones
Don't make this mistake. Someone will go through the items at the curb and take your valuables while you're selling the cheap stuff in the house. If you don't know what you have, look online or ask someone who deals with antiques or collectibles. I look at photos for free and go to homes for an hourly rate. What you think is junk may make a collector's day. Pass it on to someone who appreciates it, and make some money while you're at it. But, please don't put it out at the curb until you've tried to sell it first.
Have some fun, make some money, and give collectors the pleasure of shopping with you.
See you next time!