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Converting "worthless" collectibles into estate sale profits

Every week new articles from major news outlets pop up like this one from MSN 30 Collectibles That Are Now Worthless.

As an estate seller, it seems that record numbers of people are indeed selling off their collections, and shoppers are not exactly chomping at the bit for most of it.

But here are my estate sale expert tips for how to turn a negative resale market into a better overall estate sale for you and your clients consistently in a down market.

First, I always read all of the stories like this one about how pretty much nothing most folks have in their homes for an estate sale is really worth anything. Second, I kept links and handouts of these kinds of articles to share with prospective clients in my estate sale consult packages and email templates.

Finally, on my consults or when conversations pertaining to value came up, here are the 4 key points I made to help get unwanted collectibles sold:

  • At an estate sale small sales all add up: $3 sale x 300 shoppers buying $3 = $900! $3 isn't a lot, but $900 for a pile of old tchotchke is nice!

  • The more things we have in the sale, the more photos the sale has, the more displays the sale has, and the more people the sale attracts. More people = more overall sales, the collectibles will help sell other everyday functional items in the house faster and for more money

  • If the collections do not have much value (if the clients don't love them and want to keep them) selling them now means that the clients also don't have to lug them around, paying to pack, move, and store them. Estate sales offer positive cash flow instead of negative cash flow. Estate sellers can start at tagged prices, and then go to bulk and box lots at the end to help get the most but still liquidating everything for the client.

  • Even though most records (or whatever is in the collection) are not worth anything, as your liquidator, if you have one in mint condition that has a lot of value, a professional seller is motivated by commission to sell it in the best market and to get the most. If it made sense to sell something at auction or to consign it in another venue - I would.

Here is what happened when I laid out these points:

Usually, the families were relieved that they had a professional's perspective on the local and national market to help them let go of items without feeling guilty. Sometimes the consult started out with one or two of the heirs feeling that they should hold on to the Lladros to sell them on their own later. I always asked why they planned to keep items. If it was sentimental, that is always a good reason in favor of not selling. But if it was because one day they "might" be worth something again at some unknown point in the future. Or just because they thought those would be worth more and therefore best to sell independently without an estate seller: I would ask them what experience they had with really doing that? Did they know they would still have to pay commissions on the sales to eBay? Were they going to be able to take professional photos and ensure that they did not break items in transit, etc? Although some families think they should do this to get more, it is usually not well thought out and having the items in the estate sale is usually the best solution if they are having a sale. I saw it as my job to help them realize that. I believe it, so it doesn't sound salesy, because it is true!

Collections also require care that families often have not considered in advance. Maybe the client is planning to hold onto a Nagel lithograph from the 80s because their mom paid so much for them. They will not be hanging up in their house (because it is out of style, same reason we can't sell it the estate sale for much), so they plan to put it in their garage. The garage is not climate controlled, and it is full of hazards: the paper will get moist and wrinkled, the water heater will burst one day, bugs can get under the frame and start eating away the pigment and paper, the glass breaks when they moved it ripping the paper. Now something that is worth maybe $50-150 today is worth $0 once it has sustained damage.

Most people are not decorating with Patrick Nagel any more, it is in the garage.

Maintaining art, antiques, and collectibles requires a lot of care and attention. Clients often have not really thought that out when they come to us as liquidation professionals, they are just dealing with a loss. I always saw it as my job to help them consider a few of the things they might not have thought out yet pertaining to personal property care or liquidation. I spend a lot more of my time seeing these situations and realizing the ramifications of them. And I am here so that my experience can benefit them.

As estate sale professionals, we have to deal with the current market. We exist in the current reality. A liquidation sale allows people to cash out and invest in other things: a family vacation, a low cost mutual fund, a month of assisted living expenses. The market is unpredictable, it might go up. It might go down too. Nobody knows. We do know the current market though. What do the clients need - Hummel figurines, or extra cash?

As an estate seller, during my consults, I worked to really understand how I could best help the family that was thinking of hiring me. I was always finding ways to help my clients realize that it was OK to let go. Some families made it easy. They wanted me to help them let go. Sometimes a family opted to hold on to their collections. If there was not enough left to do a good sale, I felt that the conversations we had made it easier for me as a seller to let them know I would have to pass on their estate.

The bottom line counts. I found that everyone appreciated honest perspectives and conversations like these help determine if a sale is going to be good for both the clients and my liquidation business. Whenever you explain that the sale has to be good for both sides, clients start to realize that you are part of their team and you both have jobs to do.

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