Estate Sales Tips and Secrets
What the Heck is an Estate Sale and How Do I Find One?
Estate sale? Tag Sale? Moving Sale? These are terms that often cause great confusion, but they actually all mean the very same thing—the liquidation of 50% or more of the contents of a single residence.
Folks often think that an estate sale implies that the personal property of a deceased, wealthy person who lived in a grand mansion is being sold off, but the reality is that anyone of any economic standard can have an estate sale. Contrary to popular belief, an estate sale isn’t just held if the owner of the household goods is dearly departed either. It can be someone living who is divorcing, entering assisted living, facing bankruptcy, needs to reduce their number of possessions or is simply moving to another residence. If you’re selling a large portion of your possessions at one time, it’s technically considered an estate sale.
Estate sales can be run by professional companies that charge a percentage of the total cost of goods sold. These liquidation companies take the guesswork out of figuring out the value of objects and they carefully research, appraise, price and display each item so the family gets the most profit possible.
Some adventurous families attempt their own hand at running an estate sale to keep all the profits for themselves. This can often be tricky and time-consuming to do for the average person who may not have the expertise in how to value objects or even know if an item has more worth than the price they’ve put on the tag, and therefore they could actually be losing money. Oftentimes, even though you are paying a fee for the knowledge of a professional company, you come out ahead thanks to their quick ability to valuate everything correctly and their commission ends up being a wash. But if you have the time to research your items for sale, by all means rock with it!
Unlike garage or yard sales, estate sales are almost always held inside the home. Buyers line up outside the dwelling and wait their turn to scour the contents inside, so arriving early is key. In some instances there are set prices on pieces being sold and you pay what’s marked on the price tag, but more commonly, the price is negotiable and up for reasonable haggling.
In the case of a dearly departed owner, the estate sale can often yield a treasure trove of objects that have been acquired and collected by that individual over their lifetime. It is not unusual to discover art, jewelry, antiques, furniture, coins, cars, books and other goodies that can be valuable, rare or simply unusual. Stories of finding first edition copies of books, a painting by a famous artist, a 1955 Aston Martin in the garage or a fun vintage dress are not unusual when it comes to an estate sale. You simply never know what you will find!
As a bargain hunter interested in buying at an estate sale, there are several ways of finding out where your local ones are. The classified section in your newspaper is a good source, and you can also hook up with the estate companies in your town and check their website for listings as well. You can use search engines such as Google to find local sales or peruse Craig’s List to search out estate sales in your general area, too.
9 Reasons to Use an Estate Sale Liquidation Company Instead of Doing it Yourself
There’s no law that says you have to use an estate sale liquidation company to manage your sale for you, and you can certainly go ahead and run it by yourself if you’ve got the time and gumption for it.
Estate companies charge anywhere from 25-45% of the total cost of all the goods sold. That might sound like a lot to the average person, but truly you end up getting most of that expenditure back because they can more accurately price items so that you score top dollar on it. They are as interested in making as much as they can as you are. In fact, it is not unusual for a professional company to get you double or triple the value for your items than you would. Ca-ching!
Here’s what a professional estate company will do for you:
- If you are the family of a deceased family member, these companies can take the stress out of disposing of the contents of the home during an overwhelming and sad time. Children of the deceased may find it too difficult to wade through Mom or Dad’s stuff when they’ve just lost them, so allowing the pros to just deal with everything and sell it is oftentimes a less upsetting option.
- Estate sale companies typically have a vast database of buyers that they can tap into and notify instantly once you decide to have a sale. If you’ve got tons of china or art to unload, these pros can send out special invitations to these specifically interested folks and entice them to your sale with crafty and clever advertising and emails. These buyers, who can include dealers, collectors and retail vendors, rely on these estate liquidation companies to ensure that they will not be wasting their time and that the sale with be worth their while.
- The cost and task of advertising and marketing an estate sale is the responsibility of the expert you hire, so that’s one less thing you need to think about or pull money out of your pocket for. If you’ve never advertised for an estate sale yourself, this is not a time to start cutting corners. The pros know exactly where to post adverts, such as in the local newspaper and online sites. It’s critical that the marketing of the sale be handled with expertise because the numbers of interested buyers that show up to your event can make or break how much money you end up making. These experts have a knack for photographing and describing objects with proficiency to draw in buyers that the average seller may not have a talent for.
- Pricing and valuing items is one of the most difficult things for folks to master. A skilled estate sale company who has been in business for a long time will have deep knowledge of how to price contents fairly. They are able to do this quickly because they have years of know-how in the market value of objects and they are able to tap into pricing databases and books that are available to them. They not only know how to value a rare antique, but they can quickly determine a fair price on a toaster, too.
- If you have rare or valuable objects in a home, estate sale companies will ensure security of these items for the family if necessary. Most reputable companies are insured and bonded, so if something breaks or is stolen, the family is protected and covered for that lost value.
- Oftentimes, there are items in the home that the family doesn’t want or they have no financial value worth selling. The pros can dispose of these items quickly and without any emotional connection.
- If you are a busy person, estate sale experts take all the worry out of having to sit around at a sale and dealing with the public for the duration of the event. You don’t even have to be present, and you can simply go about your business attending to other more pressing things.
- Estate sale companies are experts in how to best display the contents of the home so that everything is easily accessible and can be viewed by buyers. They will clean things that need some TLC and make sure their presentation is as attractive as possible. They will often bring racks and shelving with them that will display clothing and other smaller objects in the best way for buyers to peruse.
- At the end of your sale, there may be some items that remain unsold that buyers were not interested in. The experts will advise you on the best way to dispose of these contents so you don’t have to deal with it. Some will even offer to simply buy the remaining items themselves or will simply remove them at no additional cost to you.
Mobile Devices Bring Newfangled Technology to the Traditional Estate Sale
The two questions everyone is asking at an estate sale are: “what is this?” and “what is it worth?” The average buyer at a tag sale event is often faced with guessing if the contents of the home are reasonably priced and if the objects they hope to purchase have any real value.
It used to be that estate sale buyers would come armed with pricing catalogs, books and homemade spreadsheets to attempt to figure out if an item at the tag sale was valued fairly and what would be a reasonable haggle price. This is especially critical if your intention is to re-sell the item in question later, such as with dealers who turn over their goods at retail prices. If they don’t purchase their inventory at a reasonable wholesale cost, then they really aren’t able to make money.
Oftentimes these books and catalogs toted around by buyers were out of date, and the ability to check what an item may have sold for at a recent auction or retail shop was next to impossible unless the shopper had access to professional resources or friends in the business they could tap. If buyers were lucky, the estate sale provided the opportunity to view some of the items in advance so they could cram in as much research as possible before the event o make a more informed decision.
Mobile technology has radically changed the state of estate and tag sales. Even a first-time novice buyer armed with a smartphone or tablet can quickly have access to the most up-to-date value on virtually any object available for purchase. These devices quickly allow a buyer to check the signature on a painting or verify what that stack of vintage PEZ dispensers is currently selling for on EBay. You can research the hallmark on the bottom of a piece of pottery or check the authenticity of an item right on the spot so that you can make an informed decision if you are paying fair market value.
Not only can an iPhone or iPad be useful tools that can assist a buyer in making an educated decision on what to pay for an item, but sellers can also quickly make a call on a good listing price to put on an article. In fact, if your item has a bar code on it, there are even apps that can read the code and tell you exactly what the object is currently selling for at a number of sources. This is ideal when buying or selling books, magazines, and any other item packaged with a ubiquitous bar code on the back.
Even if the item in question has no code or identifying mark on it, it is super easy to Google the gizmo in front of you with a brief description and get some information about it or its value. Mobile devices level the estate sale playing field so that both buyers and sellers can feel more comfortable about pricing.
Mobile devices can also be helpful in finding a local estate sale in your area. While you are on the road, you can find tag or moving sales in the area you live and plan the best route to get there in a snap. Even while in the car, you can get an idea of what they are selling and check out photos to determine if the event is worth visiting on a sunny weekend.
Finding Value: Tips to Buying Jewelry at an Estate Sale
Buying jewelry at an estate sale can be a tricky proposition if you don’t arm yourself with some education in advance. It’s easy to get all dizzy by the glittery bauble in front of you, but in order to know what you are looking at and its value you need to inform yourself prior to plunking down some serious coin on a jewelry purchase at a tag sale. There are great deals to be had if you know what you are doing.
If you are serious about hunting for estate jewelry, its worth investing in a loupe (a jeweler’s magnification tool), and learn how to use it properly so that you can explore the piece in an enlarged state to see things like flaws or hallmarks. Your local jeweler or watchmaker is usually more than happy to give you a quick lesson on how to use a loupe or you can check here for instructions.
Get ready to find the answers to a few questions before you make your purchase:
- 1. What is the condition? Are there scratches, damaged prongs, broken clasps or missing parts? Check that the finish isn’t worn or that there have been repairs that have been done. Soldering Observe the quality of the craftsmanship
- Is it authentic? Figuring out if a piece of jewelry is a fake is certainly critical before you go plunking your hard earned cash on the sparkly trinket. Ask to see if the sellers have a purchase receipt, appraisal or certificate of authenticity that can give you an inkling to it’s history. If no documentation is available, you are buying at your own risk based on your existing knowledge. Grab your smartphone and try to research the
- 3. Does it have any identifying marks on it? If there is a maker’s mark on the piece in your hand, you are in luck! Grab your iPhone and do some immediate investigating on sites such as Antique Jewelry University, which can help you identify what those marks are and help you in determining value
- What is its age? Unless you have a proof of purchase, age can be a tough one to determine since there are sellers who unknowingly do ungodly things like polish a piece of jewelry to make it look shiny for sale. Patina can provide a clue that might help you figure out if a piece is the real deal. Also, beware that items can be artificially oxidized with some pretty simple chemicals that are readily available to look older than they are. Look for signs of normal wear that a piece of jewelry might naturally have, such as where a wrist watch might have contact against a hard surface, etc.
- Does it have any stones? Diamonds, rubies, emeralds and other such stones embedded in a piece of estate jewelry only add to the difficulty in determining its value and authenticity. Here again, ask for any documentation or appraisal that may exist. Grab your loupe and investigate color, clarity and cut for other signs of value. There are gemology classes online and in many local cities that offer crash courses in the basics of identifying key characteristics in stones. Definitely look for stones that are bright and vibrant, but be careful that they aren’t simply glass fakes.
- Know your metals. Knowing whether something is gold versus gold-filled is critical when it comes to determining the value of jewelry.
Of course, not every piece of jewelry at an estate sale is going to be a Tiffany ring or a Cartier watch. Lots of folks seek out inexpensive vintage or retro pieces that can only be priced at a few dollars. If you like it, by all means buy it!
9 Secrets to Make Your Estate Sale Shopping Experience a Success
Buyers in search of treasures at estate sales can be a bargain hunter or collectors dream. Pro shoppers who have been prowling estate sales for years have all sorts of tactics that help them garner a steal and keep one step ahead of the competition. Here are their secrets to success:
- 1. Location! Location! Location! Savvy estate sale buyers all agree on one simple fact: the neighborhood the estate sale is in makes all the difference. It may not be obvious to some, but estate sales in ritzier areas are where the chances of scoring the best deals will be. “I’m always on the lookout for antiques and I know that the best place to find them is in the historical neighborhoods in my town.” says Richard Farris. “I don’t waste time in low-rent sections neighborhoods because I will not find what I want. I go where the money is.”
- 2. Get the Inside Scoop: Experienced tag sale shoppers just don’t show up at the door step of an advertised event unprepared. They visit preview events at the home the day before the sale (usually on Fridays), they scout out the internet for photos and descriptions of the contents of the home, and they don’t hesitate to call the liquidation companies managing the sale. “I try to do as much research up front before I even show up to the sale,” says Mary McQueen. “I collect silver teapots and copper pots specifically, and I want to make sure what I want is going to be there. If I’ve got to make a few phone calls in advance, that’s exactly what I do so I don’t waste my time.”
- 3. Get on the A-List: The local liquidation companies that are hired to sell the contents of the home typically have a sign-up sheet at the front door or on their websites where you can add your email address to get info on any upcoming sales. Don’t miss your opportunity to get on these lists because these firms provide lots of valuable upfront info on the sale that will help you research the goods in advance.
- 4. Be an Early Bird: So a stampede of folks doesn’t race into the home all at once, buyers are asked to line up at the front door and are allowed in a few at a time. Obviously, those that get there early have first dibs on the best stuff. “The most variety is available on the first day,” says Mia Vendrata, “and the cheapest stuff is available on the last day. If you don’t go on day one, you really are missing out.”
- 5. Bring the Green! You’ve only got one chance to be in the house once your place in line comes up, so don’t be caught without enough money in your pocket to buy that treasure you might be looking for. Having plenty of cash on hand is critical, as most sales do not accept credit cards or checks.
- 6. Hold onto it if you Intend to Buy It. It may sound silly, but if you’ve got your eye on something you want to potentially buy, you had better grab it and keep it in your possession. If you put it down even for a second, another buyer can easily swoop in and pick it up. It is not unusual to be stalked by another bargain hunter who is enviously eyeing your treasures just waiting for you to put it down. Bring a large bag or box with you to hold all your goodies while you are browsing.
- 7. Four Hands Are Better than Two: Seasoned buyers will often bring a partner with them to the sale, and will split up and go in separate directions so that they can scope out the greatest number of items simultaneously. Come up with a plan of action where each of you grabs as many potentially valuable objects as possible and then meets in a certain area to review the goods to make decisions.
- 8. Haggle Respectfully: Mama always warned you to never pay retail, and that’s certainly the case at a tag sale. The home owners are itching to dispose of everything, so that puts you in a solid bargaining position. Don’t be a greedy fool and try to insult the sellers with an insensitive offer, however. “I respectfully ask those running the sale if they can go lower on the price,” says Joe Mays, who is a veteran estate sale hunter of 20 years. “I try not to give a specific number right off the bat if I can help it, so I can get a sense of their bottom number.”
- 9. Check Quality and Condition: The biggest mistake novice buyers at estate sales make is not carefully inspecting an item for problems. Cracks, crazing, chips, repairs, heavy wear, water damage and other such woeful issues severely reduce the value of any item. An old painting with stains, tears and wishy-washy colors will have little value no matter how talented the artist might appear to you.
Fake Estate Sales Exposed
Most estate sales are run by reputable folks who are on the up and up and wouldn’t dream of defrauding an unsuspecting shopper. Unfortunately, there are a small percentage of tag sales that are less than trustworthy.
There are plenty of tales of events that advertise to the public promising all sorts of objects like Baccarat crystal or Mont Blank pens for sale, and then when the unsuspecting folks arrive looking for these collectible trinkets--they are not there or are claimed to be sold. These bait-and-switch events attempt to lure crowds in to try to make a sale on mediocre goods that don’t actually exist.
In other in instances, tag sales are advertised in the newspaper as the estate of 90 year old granny with a lifetime of goodies in the attic. When you get there, you realize that it’s no such thing and they are selling junky goods.
Another downer in terms of phony estate sales, are sellers trying to pass off bogus items for the real deal. If you see a too good to be true price on a supposed Tiffany lamp, you can pretty well be sure it’s a counterfeit. Antique furniture is another place where scams run large because most buyers don’t know what they are looking for to ensure its authenticity. You can be sure that older furniture wasn’t put together with glue, staples, particle board or shiny screws. It’s important to educate yourself on the construction of furniture through time so you can attempt to determine real value.
Designer items such as hand bags, wrist watches and jewelry are unfortunately something that are commonly fakes at estate sales, so beware. A lot of time the seller is unsuspecting and doesn’t realize it herself. Be sure to ask for a certificate of authenticity or a receipt whenever possible to confirm that a designer item is authentic.
Art is also something that can notoriously be forged, so take care when buying it at an estate sale. Unless the claim is backed by some authoritative proof to show evidence that the painting truly is Great Uncle Frank’s Jackson Pollack painting, you better be ready to bring a professional along with you to validate the piece for you. In some instances, you can buy the piece with the ability to return it if it is discovered to not be what it has been advertised.
If you want to avoid being scammed, go to estate sales run by highly regarded estate sales liquidators who have insurance and are bonded to protect their business. You can check the Better Business Bureau or references to ensure the sales company is on the up and up. When attending an estate sale run by the family, things certainly get trickier and you open yourself up a bit more for the opportunity for fraud. Remember, if your gut tells you something doesn’t exactly feel right, then it’s probably a good time to walk away before spending your hard earned cash.
If you are a collector of a particular item such as vintage glass, jewelry or art, then make it your business to educate yourself so that you can spot fakes quickly or bring an experienced friend with you to help you out. Don’t just buy an estate sale without checking carefully that the item is truly what it is!
Finding Value: Simple Tips to Buying Art at an Estate Sale
Estate sales are a terrific spot to buy art of all kinds, and it’s not uncommon to find pieces that are quite old and have been hanging on a wall for the seller’s lifetime. The average buyer isn’t looking to find a rare Picasso or Chagall at an estate sale, and if you go hunting with the right attitude you can luck out and find something interesting for your own abode or to resell.
Here are 9 tips to help you on your art hunting adventures at estate sales:
- Location: Older, wealthy neighborhoods are your best bet for finding quality art. These areas usually have homes t hat are well appointed and decorated with plenty of art hanging on the walls.
- Be willing to pay a bit more: Keep in mind that paintings, sculptures, pottery and ceramics are usually one of the more sought after objects at moving sales, so the prices tend to be higher than some of the other goodies lying about.
- Don’t cheap out: Go ahead and haggle, but don’t go and blow a deal on a great piece to get a discount of only a few dollars. If you really like it, just grab it before someone else does.
- Consider condition: Even if you like the pretty pastoral scene depicted in the print you are looking at, don’t buy it if it has water damage, tears or is in otherwise rough condition. If you are madly in love with a painting that has some condition issues go ahead and buy it, but be warned that repair costs can be substantial and certainly far more than what you’ve just paid for it.
- Be ready to clean: Just because a piece of pottery looks a little dull and dusty doesn’t mean that it isn’t a worthy buy. Sometimes a little elbow grease is all you need to spiff something up a bit.
- Sometimes the frame is worth more than the picture: Don’t ignore an otherwise hideous painting that might be sitting in a stunning gilded frame. There is big money in wood frames, and the bigger and more ornate the better. Brisk business can be had reselling pretty frames.
- Consider a facelift: If an attractive painting or print might be a great addition to your collection, don’t avoid buying it because it is in a tacky, cheap looking frame. Buy it and consider changing the mat or re-framing it in something that is more to your taste and style.
- Signatures: If your piece of art has a signature on it, it can certainly be helpful in finding out a bit more about it. Yank out your mobile device and see if you can quickly gather any information about the artist. Likewise, flip your piece of art over to check to see if there are any labels or stamps on it that might help you identify the object’s value or provenance.
- Ask for Proof: Never hesitate to ask if the seller has proof of authenticity or a receipt for the piece of art you are interested in buying. Turn it over and see if there is a label that might give you more clues about the artwork. These will help you in terms of gathering evidence that it is authentic and help you determine what true value is.
Furnishing Your Home with Estate Sale Finds
Whether you are just starting out with your first apartment or you’ve got a well established abode, estate sales are a Mecca of furnishings to appoint a home inexpensively. It doesn’t matter if your tastes run from old world antique, groovy vintage or unconventional modern--you are sure to be able to appeal to any style when shopping at a tag sale.
If you have a specific genre of furniture in mind, be sure to research the estate sale you plan to attend in advance. If you’re looking for retro couch, don’t waste your time going to an estate sale advertising 19th century goods.
Try to keep an open mind and think outside the box when shopping for furniture at an estate sale. That too dark end table can easily be painted out white and have a whole different look with some new knobs. An old farm table can easily be converted into a bathroom sink by simply cutting out the necessary holes for a faucet and plumbing. It’s easy to re-purpose an item and use it in an unconventional way if you’re even half-way handy and have a few tools. An armoire can be converted into a nifty bar, and dining room table can be a unique desk for your office, and a kitchen table can serve as a cocktail table once you take a saw to those legs and bring it down a few inches. It’s easier than you think!
If the shape of an old brass bed is appealing, but the gold color is not—grab a can of black metal spray paint and give it another vibe entirely. There are also inexpensive metal refinishing kits that will give the patina of aged copper or antique silver. Hate the flowery upholstery on an otherwise good looking chair with good bones? A yard of fabric and a staple gun is usually all it takes to make seating look brand new. Just look for furniture that has good bones, doesn’t wobble and has good construction. Unless you’re a carpenter with some skill or have the funds to do it, you don’t want to buy something that is falling apart and try to piece it back together.
Kitchenware abounds at estate sales, so it’s a no-brainer if you’re looking for quality pots, dishes, appliances and utensils. You can easily outfit an entire kitchen in no time at these sales. Rugs are often pricey to purchase in a store, but they tend to be a common and inexpensive find at moving sales. Stay away from rugs that are frayed, have loose threads, unusual odors, discoloration or water damage.
Art is always fun to source at tag sales as you never know what you’ll find. Anything from oil paintings prints or sculptures are likely to be present at any of these events that are sure to match your décor. Don’t hesitate to consider other objects as interesting alternatives to traditional art, such as maps, chalk boards, pieces of antique fabric or even pages from an old book. Interesting architectural items can be hung on a wall decoratively like pulleys, farm tools, and old wood crates. Wooden doors and shutters can be converted into clever tables or shelves; and old vintage suitcases can be stacked and used as unique end tables that have hidden storage.
Re-purposed home furnishings bring a distinctive chic appeal to any home that is sure not to have that builder grade look that your neighbors have. If you’re looking for something different than what everyone one else on the block has, estate sales are a sure fire way to give your residence a one of a kind look that will make friends and family envious and thinking you’ve spent a fortune.
How to Advertise Your Estate Sale to Bring in the Buyers
Promoting your estate sale to the public is the only way they are going to know about it and show up, so this often ignored key component can make or break an event. It’s not difficult to market an estate sale; you just need to start at minimum two weeks in advance to start drumming up excitement. Here are some ideas to make your sale a buzz worthy event:
First off, timing is everything when it comes to hosting an estate sale. Don’t make the mistake of holding your event on a weekend where most folks are traveling or out of town. Major holidays are not the best times to have a tag sale because potential buyers are typically involved with their families, going to BBQ’s and busy with scheduled holiday events. Check your calendar for any large scale events that might otherwise keep a buyer from coming to your sale such as a county fair, a local parade or Super Bowl Sunday.
If you are not the greatest writer, this is a good time to spend a few dollars to hire a college student who is an English or Journalism major to help you craft some splashy copy. Your goal is to provide your audience with a colorful and detailed description of the sale to come to tease their senses and get excited.
Post your estate sale online at sites such as www.estatesale.com for shoppers that are not just local, but are also willing to travel a good distance for what you have to sell. Hardcore collectors are more than happy to make a day trip out of a good estate sale jaunt and trek many miles to peruse through your Granny’s vintage crystal and delicate linens. Photos are critical to lure people to your sale, so be sure to take lots of them of the items you are offering and post them for folks to take a gander at in advance.
Your town’s newspaper will bring in local buyers in your immediate area, so posting an inexpensive advert in the classified section is a cheap investment. Post flyers in the local shops, churches and supermarkets that are near your home to alert the neighboring population. Don’t hesitate to pop simple postcards or flyers in your neighbor’s mailboxes either to help spread the word about your impending event.
Finally, be sure to post clear directions to your estate sale around town so that buyers can easily find you. Big, colorful signs posted on utility poles with clear arrows pointing the way to your sale help drive a lot of road traffic to your event. Put a bright ribbon or balloons up on the mailbox in front of the home so that folks don’t have to second-guess where the bargains are.
Not all Antiques are Valuable at Estate Sales
Folks who want to get into estate sales often jump in envisioning the thrill of hunting through Granny’s antiques or finding some heirloom that has been in the family for generations for a ridiculously low price. They enjoy the history that a piece has and the thrill of potentially finding a rare antique that hasn’t seen the light of day. Of course, in reality, this is not common—but what keeps folks going back to one sale after another is the possibility of that extraordinary find.
Truly valuable pieces are typically reserved by the family or gone by the time an estate sale kicks in, but sometimes you can still find a wonderful treasure of merit if you dig around and get there early enough.
Let’s start off with assessing exactly what an antique is. Most folks agree that something that is antique has to be at least 100 years old. Whether it has any value is a whole other thing entirely, however. Simply because something is old does not make it collectible, and that is truly what gives something value in the end. Great Grandma’s spinning wheel might be 125 years old and very cool, but typically these pieces have a low value because they are not (A) terribly rare; they are (B) big, hulking items that take up a lot of room so most folks don’t have the room to house them; and (C) not collectible because no one is really interested in them. What makes an antique have value is usually its rarity and how collectible it is. And if they are in limited quantity, that only ratchets up their value further.
I have a Singer sewing machine in a marvelous oak case that belonged to my Great Grandmother. It’s not quite an antique yet as it’s only about 75 years old. However, even when it reaches antique status as far as age goes, it still won’t be very valuable. Why? Because there are a ton of these delightful and pretty sewing machines still out there in many attics. Most of them retail for around $150 bucks tops. Sigh!
So, if your piece—as old as it might be—isn’t in high demand by collectors, it truly doesn’t have much value at all despite its genteel age.
Also be wary of reproductions! Boy oh boy do they look like the real thing—right down the dovetail construction and the patina of age. The mirror has the telltale signs of dark, smoky look that suggests age, but is it authentic? What is a buyer to do to discover a fake or repro? It’s getting harder to do since these masterful reproductionists are getting more clever at faking it. Look a lot closer for signs of wear. Pieces that are truly old will have dirt stuck deep in the crevices that will just naturally build up over time and can’t be faked easily. Dull spots on handles or pulls where decades of hands would have put natural wear on are also a good sign of authenticity.
If a piece is an antique, but doesn’t have intense value and you really like it—go ahead and take it home. Value is often in the eye of the beholder in the joy it brings them, and sometimes resale worth is truly irrelevant. If at the end of the day you love it, go ahead and buy it!
Rules and Etiquette for Haggling at Estate Sales
Culturally, Americans don’t tend to be the haggling type in comparison to our international cousins who don’t hesitate to bargain to score a lower price on nearly anything. I once stood amused at an Indian tourist at Macy’s in New York City fiercely attempting to negotiate a lower price for a watch for his wife with a helpless sales clerk. “I pay cash!” he stated. The fellow appeared aghast when the sales woman calmly tried to explain to him that in America we pay exactly what it says on little price tag. You can only imagine his expression when she added the tidbit about sales tax as well.
Keep in mind that the purpose of an estate sale is to quickly unload stuff, so the opportunity to haggle is absolutely expected. Don’t be afraid to go ahead and ask for a discount respectfully, but don’t go thinking you can get something for nothing and rudely toss out an outlandish price either. There’s no faster way to get dirty looks or even get kicked out of a tag sale than to insult the sellers. Typically, it’s fair to simply ask: can you do better on the price? Oftentimes, the sellers will quote you something that might surprise you and be even less than what you had in mind.
Your negotiating capability is lowest at the beginning of a tag sale when the most stuff is available and greatest toward the end when fewer items are lying around. So, if you are a hardcore bargain hunter, going on the last day will yield the best deals.
If you really are dying to get your hands on an item that is out of your price range at the moment, don’t hesitate to put a price and your phone number on a slip of paper and hand it to the sellers. Let them know that if the object you covet is not sold by the end of the sale that you’d certainly like a call.
To respectfully haggle, follow the following rules of haggling etiquette:
- Be sweet. A charming attitude and a smile when you ask for a discount scores high points with sellers and is likely to get you a price break. This is no time to be pushy.
- Don’t disparage or loudly poke fun at the listed prices on the items! You won’t get very far by saying stuff like, “these sellers are crazy if they think they are going to get $50 for THAT!”
- Don’t embarrass yourself by attempting to get a killer price reduction during the first few hours of the sale. Typically prices are reduced during pre-set times as the sale progresses. If you are interested in finding out when that happens, do ask the sellers for guidance.
- A great way to get a lower price is to buy several things as a grouping. If you are interested in several items, don’t hesitate to ask: how much can I get these three pieces for?
- Don’t lowball. Sure everyone wants a great deal, but offering less than 50% of the asking price is pretty offensive to most anyone. Be reasonable when you are asking for a discount.
- Criticizing the merchandise to try to get it more cheaply is also a tactic that rarely works. I once witnessed a customer tell a seller that she would give her $2 for that “ugly red area rug no one wanted.” The angry seller quickly told her exactly where the exit door was.
- Know that not everything can be reduced in price. There are oftentimes furnishings or items at a tag sale that the family does not want a price reduction on, or the piece has been carefully researched and the price is already at fair market value. In these instances you need to get over yourself and just pay the actual price or move on.
Young Buyers Change the Flavor of the Old Fashioned Estate Sale
It used to be that buyers at estate sales were seeking out antiques, jewelry with a history and other aged object of desire. These days professional estate sale liquidation companies are seeing younger shoppers coming in to buy things they could easily be buying in a store.
“I just rented my first apartment,” says newbie tag sale hunter Rachel Pierson. “I need everything to set up my kitchen like plates, a toaster, mixing bowls and a blender. I’m on a really tight budget and need quite a few things, so buying them retail just isn’t an option for me.” She explains that the previous week a local estate sale yielded four chairs for her kitchen table. “I got all of them for just $25 and just repainted them white.”
Younger shoppers are looking for deeply discounted deals on everyday objects at estate sales and not grandma’s antiques. They are looking to buy gardening tools, cooking utensils, bedding, basic furniture, electronic equipment, and lighting.
“I’m going on a trip to Texas next month,” says Charlie DeBow. “I just picked up this rugged Samsonite suitcase for just $4. I could have never afforded something of this quality if I had to buy it in the store.”
Sellers are finding that funky, retro styles are selling best for the younger generation when it comes to furnishing their homes. Vintage objects from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s are being hunted down the way antique china used to be ten years ago. Young buyers are not finding any real function in owning fancy dinner plates only to be used for a once a year formal family dinner. Instead they are on the hunt for practical and casual items that have every day appeal.
Thrifty younger buyers have grown up in an era where recycling is the norm, so the idea of salvaging a piece of furniture or tool to prevent it from ending up in a landfill has sensible appeal, too. They are crafty and more than happy to repaint or recover a find to give it a fresh, new feel. It’s also not unusual to see hipster shoppers being economical about snapping up half filled bottles of dish detergent or cans of coffee for pennies on the dollar. “Those single serve coffees are expensive in the store,” says 23-year old Martin Freeburg. “I just got these three boxes for a buck. A steal!”
4 Tips for Organizing and Displaying Items at an Estate Sale for a Quick Sale
Selling items at an estate sale is not always as easy as inviting people into the home and telling them to pick out what they want. Often folks may overlook items that are valuable because they are either out of sight or not as presentable as they could be. The seller risks not making as many sales, and buyers get frustrated because they miss out on snapping up items they may have been vying for. Unfortunately, this is a common situation and is a losing situation for both parties, so you will want to avoid it at all costs.
Here are three simple tips to keeping your customers engaged in what you are offering:
1) It definitely helps if you do a thorough cleaning of items that you will have on display that are overly dirty, dusty or greasy. Buyers at estate sales do expect to do some spit-shining of purchased treasures, but spiffed up items definitely attract more people to them. Of course, be careful not to make things overly polished and remove the much coveted patina that comes with natural age that adds value.
2) When it comes to small items that are valuable, it is highly recommended that you put them on a display shelf or case right up front with someone watching closely. This is not only for security measures to prevent theft, but also to exhibit them in a professional and attractive manner. Once someone looks at an item within a case they will almost always want to know what makes it so special and this will peak their interest in making a purchase. Be sure that items are easily accessible and not hard to get to for buyers, and make it easy for them to navigate around the groupings you display to avoid breakage and good traffic flow.
3) Organization is very important when it comes to selling a great variety of objects like in a moving sale. Get things up off the floor and on folding tables so they can easily be viewed and handled by your buyers. Consider giving each table its own theme; for example, items made of wood could be on one table, items that are made of silver could be on another table, etc. This makes it easy for individuals to identify items they may have more interest in buying than others and will give them a variety of selections to choose from all in one area. Collectors love when they can zero in on all the pottery in one place rather than having to go hunting all over the house for it in random spots. Make it easy for your shoppers to buy!
4) Don’t keep your buyers guessing what the price of your items is. Make sure everything is clearly labeled and has a decipherable price tag. If you don’t want to provide a discount on a particular object, make sure it unmistakably says on the tag that the item in question is not up for haggling.
The Differences between Estate, Garage and Yard Sales
Surprisingly not many people know the differences between an estate, garage and yard sale and will often refer to them as generally the same thing. However, there are some distinct differences that distinguish these sales and allow you to tell them apart. One thing that all the sales have in common is that they all take place within or around the home; but outside of location there are some unique differences that are worth taking note of so you know what to expect.
A garage sale is usually held to get rid of someone’s personal belongings or items around the household that are taking up space and no longer wanted. This sale is usually held in the garage and items put up for sale can range between clothing, video games, small pieces of furniture, cooking products, toys, desks, electrical appliances and other such items.
Garage sales can be very unpredictable, especially when the items being sold have been sitting in storage for a while. In most cases, stuff at garage sales is generally inexpensive, but there may be some valuable gems in between all the knick-knacks that the sellers may unknowingly sell cheaply. There have been many stories of people being able to discover a painting by a noted artist for a fraction of the price their actual value.
Yard sales are very similar to garage sales, except they take place in the front yard or driveway of the home. Yard sales are popular for selling off unwanted clothes the kids have outgrown or little used household items to raise funds or make more space. In some cases the person could be preparing to move and does not want to have to pack up all these extra items they barely use. Community yard sales are a common site around America, where entire neighborhoods of homes collectively put all their goods out on the same day and a buyer can go from home to home hunting for treasures.
Estate sales, on the other hand, are bigger events that take place inside of the home and are usually held to sell off more than 50% of someone’s property. Estate sales are common in the event that a relative has passed away or an individual who lived in the residence is moving out and downsizing significantly. Divorce or bankruptcy is not an uncommon reason to have an estate sale either. These sales can be run by professional companies who can calculate the proper worth of each individual item, and then charge a total cost of the goods as payment in return for their efforts. In most cases the fees professional companies charge will be worth it and will not result in any loss of revenue on the sellers end.
Estate sales offer the greatest chance at scoring something of real value, including antiques, art, crystal, furniture and anything else you can think of in a residence. The cost of the goodies for sale at an estate sale are usually priced higher than those at yard and garage sales, but you also have a better shot of scoring a really interesting deal on something truly unique and not just cast-off junk.
Both yard and garage sales typically happen over the course of a single day, usually on a Saturday morning, for example. It is not uncommon for an estate sale to last two or three days and include a preview day so that folks can check out what is going to be available.
One common thread between all three of these sale events is that haggling is typically expected. If you can respectfully negotiate with a seller, you might be lucky enough to grab a discount. Unless an item is priced “as is” due to predetermined market value (which can happen at an estate sale), you can go ahead and try your hand at scoring a sweet deal.
5 Estate Sales Mistakes to Avoid
When holding an estate sale and going through a professional firm there are several things you want to avoid so that things go as smoothly as possible. Organizing an estate sale can be pretty overwhelming so if possible you will want to seek out help from an estate sale liquidation company to help make things a lot easier. Most estate sale companies are used to handling estates that are valued at tens of thousands of dollars, but that does not always mean that the companies are reputable, so you will want to check your sources and weed out the untrustworthy ones.
Here are 5 common mistakes to avoid when hiring a company to run an estate sale:
- Make sure to research the company before you agree to sign a contract and try to find out how long the company has been providing its services. Knowing whether its employees are members of professional associations, have specialized credentials or are just regular people with no background in estate sales is important as well. Unfortunately scams will arise and knowing exactly who you are doing business with will help prevent any rip-off from happening. If you are not comfortable with the employees of the company, then do not hesitate to contact a different company instead. Failing to properly review the estate sale company can be costly and is a mistake made far too often.
- Always compare rates and fees of estate sale companies and make sure they are clear and you fully understand them. There could be additional fees for security, moving expenses, trash removal, advertising, cleaning and other related estate sale expenses. The company will already take a percent of the total amount gained from the estate sale, so you do not want to get hit with any unexpected fees that you were initially not aware of. Commissions and fees should be requested by you beforehand and compared to other companies so that you get the best deal possible. A lot of people do not make as much money as they can because they make this blunder.
- Do not make the slip-up of removing items from the home after you hire a professional company, because the company could charge you for any loss of commission. So if there is anything in the home that you want to exclude from the sale, let the company know ahead of time so that things do not get mixed up.
- If you want to clean up before the big estate sale and toss any items you believe to be junk, go ahead, but make sure you are certain these objects in fact have no value. That old piece of dusty pottery or seemingly ugly vintage lamp could be rare and actually worth thousands of dollars.
- Lastly, do not make the error of not hiring a professional estate sales company. If you do not know what you are doing and cannot properly research the value of certain items then you are almost certain to lose out on a lot of money. An estate sales liquidation company can assess the value of all of the items for sale in the home, clean up after the event and oversee all of the transactions. Some companies will even offer a lump-sum payment for items that are left unsold. Despite paying a commission, you often end up making more using an estate sale company instead of going it alone.
Finding Value: A Quick Guide to Buying Pottery at an Estate Sale
Pottery is very common to find at estate sales and can sometimes be one of the most overlooked items of value. Knowing what to look for when picking out pottery is very important if you plan to start collecting or reselling pottery.
One of the first things you will want to identify is exactly what type of pottery you are looking at. Pottery comes in a variety of different types, styles, sizes and is differentiated by their firing temperature, the forming method and the type of decoration. You might be wondering why the firing temperature is relevant at all, but it does offer a clue to what the strength, durability and hardness of the piece is. Low firing temps will result in bright colors, but less durability and weaker strength.
Identifying valuable pottery can also be done by looking at the trademark often found on the bottom of the piece. An artist or maker will often stamp or paint their name or initials on the bottom to brand it as their own. There are several online sites that help you identify the makers marks, for example, a piece of sought after Roseville pottery would have a large letter “R” with a small letter “v” nestled within it. Simply use your mobile device or a book on pottery markings to check the piece you are looking to buy.
Checking the appearance and condition of the pottery is important. Missing pieces, cracks or chips could substantially decrease value of the pottery, but keep in mind that some older pottery may have small cracks or crazing that is a normal part of age that should not concern you.
Some of the most well known pottery makers in the United States include Roseville, which originated in Ohio and was produced from 1890 to 1954. Roseville pottery is usually colorful and plastered with decorations such as flowers. McCoy pottery is also one you should keep an eye out for as it is highly collectible. Production of McCoy pottery began in 1910 in Ohio, and pieces such as planters, vases and cookie jars are hunted after by buyers. McCoy pottery is not always marked, but the pieces that are may include marks such as “NM USA,” “McCoy USA” or simply “McCoy” on the bottom. Hull pottery is also well known and was produced from 1905 to 1986. It was usually colorful with various layered glazes. It’s pretty easy to identify in that the Hull markings on the bottom are pretty easy to pick out.
It can be difficult to estimate the exact value of collectable pottery, but a quick search on eBay can give you a better idea of what price you may be able to grab a piece of pottery for or get for it in resale value. Estate sales usually offer a preview day, so if pottery is something that you are on the hunt for, take notes and do some research then come back and try to haggle the seller for a better deal. But take note that well known pottery will have a market value, so you may have to pay a pretty penny if you really want it.
Finding Value: Guide to Buying Tools at an Estate Sale
Estate sales are great places to find a variety of different types of tools--everything from gardening to power tools to antique hand tools. It is not uncommon to find tools that have barely been put to use and are in pristine condition and are still in the box; or used tools that are usually in not so bad shape that can be repaired to like-new condition on the cheap.
In an estate sale, you will generally find the tools will be laid out in the garage or basement and will be easy pickings if you can get to them first. If you are not terribly familiar with tools (especially those requiring electricity or gas) then it may be hard for you to distinguish between the good and the bad and detect if tools are worth the price on their tags. By all means bring a buddy who is well schooled in tools and can help you make a proper selection.
Antique hunters are often on the prowl for older tools with a cool history. Very old wood working tools, for example, are a hot collectible and have a high resale value. Even if the blades appear rusty or the wood handles a little dusty, many of these coveted instruments still have plenty of worth to tool buffs who are more than happy to give it a bit of elbow grease to get it back into use and add it to their collections.
Here are some quick tips for buying tools at an estate sale:
- Whenever possible whip out your iPhone and research the tools before you buy them. If you use eBay for your research then you may find hundreds or thousands of results. If you know exactly what you are going to use the tool for, then power ampage should also be of concern. Will the 18-volt power drill do the job or will you need something a bit more heavy duty such as a 20-volt one? The more you know about what you need the less research you will have to do.
- This may sound silly, but when buying a power tool do plug it in to make sure it actually works! You don’t want to get home only to discover you hit the “on” button and the thing is silent. With fuel driven tools such as gas powered items, this might be a trickier endeavor. If you have to put the tool aside and run out for a can of gas, by all means do so. Check the oil as well, because a tool that has had oil or fuel sitting in it for years could be problematic.
- If you want to save money, then it is best that you do a quick price comparison. The same used tool you find at an estate sale could be priced at your local home improvement store for the exact same amount, but brand new. Even if the tool is priced cheaper by $10 or less, you will still be better off purchasing the tool brand new. Websites like Craigslist, Amazon and eBay are all great sites to find refurbished tools and many of the sellers offer free shipping.
- Before you use the tools you have purchased from the estate sale make sure you know how to operate them properly. This is both a safety worry and a concern for avoiding any possible malfunctions. If you purchased the tool and it’s still in its original box and has the instruction manual, then you are in luck. Don’t be a goofball and go ahead and read the darn thing so you know how to use it correctly. If the instruction manual is not available, don’t hesitate to search for it online or call the manufacturer itself to request one.
- Make sure you check for condition to ensure the instrument you are buying isn’t falling apart. Ensure handles are firmly placed and not wobbling about, look for any missing or broken parts, or that there are no cracks. If an electrical cord is frayed, you could easily take it to a repair shop to get it replaced for just a few bucks. You want to check that any wood parts are not split or dry to the point that they are not salvageable. Heavy grime or grease is not going to be easy to clean up, so be sure the tool in question is going to merit a major cleaning.
What are the Differences between Vintage and Antique?
Telling the difference between vintage and antique can be a lot harder than you think and quite confusing, especially when it comes to collectibles. Typically antiques are classified to be at least 100 years old, but vintage items can be from pretty much any decade or era under a century in age. For example a 100 year old farm table may be described as antique, but a table from the 1950’s would properly be referred to as vintage. Curiously, even when the vintage table becomes 100 years old (and therefore antique), it may still be described as vintage because of its particular design. Ain’t that a head scratcher!
Another way to distinguish between vintage and antique is by taking a look at the relevance of the item. A horse buggy from the 1800’s would be considered an antique since it is no longer used and exists mainly as a relic dating back to an early time. Alternately, a 1940’s Ford Coupe will be considered a vintage car because it is still perfectly drivable and there are still many people who can recall plenty of images and memories from the car. The coupe still has a significant amount of collectors in today’s era that would eagerly put it in their garage if they have the bucks to buy it. Sometimes vintage items will be referred to as classic by collectors when they are truly a coveted and a special piece that is sought after.
When it comes to clothing, it is a lot easier to differentiate antique and vintage clothing. A hat from a century ago could easily be made out to be antique, compared to a hat from the 1950’s through the 1970’s which would all be considered vintage. A specific year of creation is often what the term vintage refers to, so even a hat from the 1980’s or later could be considered vintage. An example would be a vintage 1980 Stetson hat. Vintage clothing is a hot trend that collectors chase at estate sales, and you will find plenty of consignment shop owners prowling through Grandma’s closets in search for groovy shift dresses and handbags. TV shows like Mad Men have added fuel to the vintage clothing trend.
Normally items such as antique furniture along with other items that are 100 years old or older will be handled by professional antique dealers. Vintage items are usually bought, sold and traded by private collectors or amateurs looking to make a quick buck since they are highly hunted after by enthusiasts.
Unknowingly, sometimes the terms vintage and antique will be tossed around by sellers for the same item and cause buyer confusion. To add more perplexity to the matter, other sellers may use the terms classic or retro to describe items that have been reproduced to look exactly like items that are actually vintage.
If you can discover the age of the object you are hoping to buy, you can determine whether it is antique or vintage. It isn’t terribly hard to do with a bit of sleuthing and research.
What Kind of Antiques can Beginner’s Start Collecting?
Estate sales can be wonderful places to hunt for antique items and collectibles that can be grabbed for decent prices. Don’t think it’s always going to be easy to take home the item you desire, however, because it can be very competitive as well. Other buyers and professional antique dealers are also trying to get to the treasure before you do so they can resell them.
Do not let that scare you away though as professional antique dealers will usually stick to finding antiques in their specific area of expertise, such as paintings or books. Keep in mind that sometimes estate sales shoppers will get to the home hours before the doors even open. This is because some estate sales only allow a certain amount of people in the door at the same time. This means you need to get there early if there is something in the home you truly covet.
If you are new to buying antiques at estate sales and want to try to break into it at a reasonable price point try your hand at collecting some of these suggested items. They are highly collectible and are pretty easy to resell.
- Mettlach Beer Steins are collectible oversized German beer mugs that are typically sold for anywhere from $10 to $50. They are often mixed up with other steins that have been reproduced and are then sold for less value than what they are really worth. These steins were produced between 1885 and 1910 and are often sold on sites such as eBay for hundreds of dollars. These items are great antiques to look for because they have distinguishable marks that make them easy to identify, there are a lot of reference books available for them, there is a steady market and the prices of them are pretty stable.
- Sterling silver is very common among estate sales even though a lot of people may not even know that they have sterling silver on their hands. Sterling silver can be in forks, jewelry, knives and more. Typically sterling silver will be marked with the purity of the silver and sterling silver is 92.5% silver with 7.5% being other metal. The letter “S” or “SS” could also mean that it is sterling silver. Sterling silver is not magnetic so you could keep a magnet on hand as well to wave over the pieces. Alternatively you could take the silver to a jewelry shop to get a second opinion if you are unsure.
- Hummel figurines are usually priced around $30 to $100, but there are rare Hummel figurines that can go for hundreds and thousands of dollars. What you want to look for on these Hummel figurines is the marking “M.I. Hummel” and the trademark on the bottom. There are also marks of authenticity that tell which year the figurine was made and serve as a collector reference. The best way to find out the true value of a Hummel figurine is to send it to a certified appraiser or look it up online to determine what they have been recently selling for.
Estate Sales Can be a Vintage Lovers Dream
For vintage lovers, walking into an estate sale can be the equivalent of a kid going to Disneyland. This is especially true for estate sales that are held in neighborhoods built in a certain time period, because typically these homes will have many classic items that were purchased by the homeowners to keep the style of the home based on its time. Homes constructed in the 1950’s, for example, are likely to have goodies of that particular era. Anything from retro clothing, furniture, jewelry, and toys are what vintage collectors look for since they are highly collectible and easy to resell. What makes these estate sales even more appealing for vintage lovers is that older items can be bought at bargain prices.
Vintage furniture is particularly great since it gives you the chance to decorate your home in your own style and is even less expensive than buying brand new furniture that is manufactured to have the same look. Why pay for the new stuff when you can have the real deal and at higher quality? If you are a fan of the TV show Mad Men and find the eclectic 1960’s look appealing, then estate sales are right up your alley.
Keep in mind that retro furniture from the 1950’s to the 1970’s can sometimes be in rough shape or in kooky color schemes. Don’t fret over it if it has good overall bones since a piece can easily be reupholstered if you think it’s totally groovy. Refurbishing the piece can be totally worth it if you really like what you find and it’s unique. If you don’t have the expertise to do it yourself, make sure you use a reputable source to help you return the object to its former glory.
Vintage clothing is another hot find at estate sales and is highly resalable if you have a little side business on eBay or at a consignment shop. Retro outfits are all the rage with fashion forward folks at the moment, so don’t hesitate to snap it up if you see it. Finding vintage clothing can be great for doing some photography, displaying, wearing or even just general collecting. Retro clothing is usually fairly cheap (even the designer brands)and many folks at estate sales ignore them, but you will undoubtedly spot the vintage clothes freak stocking up at any given sale knowing she’s hit the jackpot.
Shoes and hats from the 1950’s are always a nifty find and are sure to give your wardrobe a one-of-a-kind look. Make sure to check condition to ensure that there is no dry rot or other issues that might cause the piece to fall apart. Otherwise a damaged zipper or frayed hem can easily be repaired by a talented seamstress on the cheap.
Vintage jewelry is almost always out at estate sales especially in homes that are near historical places. They are often found in old chests, boxes or drawers that have not been touched in a long time. Pearl necklaces can be common depending on the location of the estate sales and are beloved by vintage lovers. Vintage costume jewelry can be great fun to search through and it’s inevitable that you will find a unique piece to wear that no one else in town will have. Bakelite is a fun costume jewelry that was made of plastic resin during the 1920’s-1940’s in clever colors that is sought after by the trendy set.
If you love to hunt vintage trinkets, it is safe to say that estate sales will normally contain a good amount of classic items and are likely to still be available on arrival since there may not be as many people interested in them as you. But be warned, as vintage continues to gain in popularity you can be sure to see more elbows flying and cat fights to get at them.
Living Celebrity Estate Sales Give Fans a Chance at Memorabilia
Estate sales aren’t just for unloading belongings of dead folks, and many very much alive individuals have estate sales for all sorts of reasons just like us mere mortals--divorce, downsizing, moving, bankruptcy, etc. Celebrity estate sales are a blast if you can manage to find one to attend. These typically happen in areas where celebs and famous folks are living, such as Los Angeles and New York City. If you are into memorabilia owned by your favorite artist, then these events can be a fascinating view into how the bold and beautiful live.
Baywatch babe Pam Anderson had an estate sale back in 2008 at her Los Angeles pad, and the pickings were divinely fabulous. Pam loves eclectic shabby chic furnishings and antiques, so those who adore this well-worn look were deliriously delighted by the findings. Clothes, designer handbags and luxe jewelry worn by the buxom star were all up for the taking. The sale was handled by the Estate Sale of Los Angeles.
Just last weekend, St. Louis Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan had an estate sale at his Nashville, TN, home. The entire contents of the three story house were open to the public and up for picking. Antiques, artwork, furniture, outdoor and garage goodies were available for the eager public to take home.
In 2011, Dukes of Hazzard’s John Schneider (Bo Duke) opened his Agoura Hills, CA, home to the public to grab an interesting collection, including a Stratocaster guitar, Christmas collectibles, movie scripts and electronics. The sale was handled by Paragon Estate Sales.
Another weird and wacky estate sale last week was held by Oscar winner Nicholas Cage in Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, the banks have not been happy with him in terms of his crazy spending, so the mandate came down from the banking gods to force Mr. Cage to kindly liquidate.
Country star Wynona Judd famously has estate sales when she moves or wants to downsize her memorabilia. She’s previously sold motorcycles, holiday decorations, board games, books and a heap of other loot her fans would love a piece of.
If you are a fan and want a fun way to get your hands on celeb memorabilia, then estate sales of the rich and famous are intriguing to chase. You never know what piece of superstar history you could come home with.
Tips for Bringing your Estate Sale Goods Home Safely
When purchasing goods at estate sales you will need to bring your own boxes and wrapping supplies to make sure your goods make it to your destination safely. No bags, wrapping, boxes, blankets, tape or similar supplies are provided, so be sure to think ahead and bring your own. Avoid the risk of having a newly purchased antique roll around in your car trunk or crash land off the passenger seat!
Essential items to bring include newspaper, tape, boxes, twine, scissors, bags, paper towels, tissue, pillow cases or other light fabrics, packaging peanuts, labels and of course a pen. Depending on what you plan on buying you may not need all of them, but it would not hurt to have them on hand just in case.
Don’t be stingy with wrapping something, and carefully take the time to overwrap and protect your new treasures. Keep in mind that if you break something purchased at an estate sale, there are no refunds or returns. The old adage “you break it, you bought it” holds true at any tag sale. Use extra newspaper and tissue whenever possible, and be sure to tape everything thoroughly so that it doesn’t unwrap.
If you are loading items in a truck then you will want to pack the heavy boxes on the bottom to prevent crushing any other delicate items. It may sound like common sense, but never risk setting furniture on anything other than the floor of the truck or van itself. Cover items individually to prevent scuffing, scrapes and other possible damage. Small fragile items should be wrapped and cushioned with crush paper, blankets, towels or other soft padding. Fragile items should also be placed with fragile items and not heavier purchases.
Any goods with cords should be fastened with tape or zip ties so that they do not dangle for both your own safety, and to prevent the snagging on other protruding objects. Avoid over packing boxes and give your newly purchased goods plenty of room to breathe. Label items that require special handling especially if you will be seeking help moving them once you reach your destination. If something is delicate, by all means tag the box as such so that anyone assisting you move them knows they need to be gentle.
Pack like items together whenever possible to avoid breakage and easy unpacking. Figurines should be packed with figurines, glass with glass, tools with tools, and so on. When placing the items in your vehicle, make sure they are tightly packed and will not slide around or fall when driving and riding over bumps. A handy roll of twine or rubber bungee cords can assist in keeping everything in place in the trunk of the car once you’ve got it loaded up.
Getting Over the Ick Factor of Buying a Deceased Person’s Stuff at Estate Sales
Even if you do not believe in ghosts, you still may not like the thought of owning the items that a deceased person once owned. Many estate sales are held due to the death of the items that are for sale, and it may unnerve you to possibly know that your newly purchased treasure might be one of the very last things they held or touched. Some folks are simply squeamish about buying stuff that belonged to someone who is now dearly departed, while others simply don’t give a hoot and relish a great bargain.
For the easily offended, buying from the dead is definitely something that can linger in the back of your mind especially if you are superstitious. It just may not feel right to take stuff from a person that is no longer on this earth with us. Some cultures bury items that a person once owned with them when they pass away so they can travel with them to the otherworld. Many of these items have been found in Egyptian tombs and consist of things such as seeds, gold, clothes and more.
So how can you get over this? Just look at the bigger picture and realize that almost every item that is not brand new was once owned by a deceased person or one that eventually will be. An antique could have been owned by generations of dead owners—and that only adds to its value. If it is not a living estate sale, you can be sure that everything there may have been passed down from generations. Most buyers at estate sales simply separate themselves from the reality that the trinkets for sale were ever owned by anyone at all. They think about it no differently than shopping at a retail store, flea market or garage sale and picking up a bargain. Keep your mind occupied with trying to find a good deal, haggling, looking in dusty corners for objects of desire or something you can easily re-sell and you’ll forget where the stuff came from.
Some folks consider it a perfectly green way of recycling! Instead of this individual’s valuable goods going into the dump, shoppers are eager to own them and make them their own. Wouldn’t you hope that after you’re gone that all your goodies will continue to be loved by your family and others? With this in mind, you should not let the thought of owning a deceased fellow’s tea set overwhelm you, but instead embrace it and proudly display every cup and saucer!
Finding Value: Tips to Buying Vintage and Antique Chairs at Estate Sales
If you go to estate sales often, chances are an antique or vintage chair or two has caught your eye. If you immediately start thinking about how great the chair would look in a particular area of your home, it’s likely that this furniture piece is for you. However, there are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re buying chairs at an estate sale to ensure you get the best deal and leave the sale completely satisfied.
Chairs abound at estate sales, and the key is to check for overall condition. Make sure it isn’t wobbly and that the legs aren’t coming apart. Sit it in and make sure it has a good sound structure.
Read on to find out more:
- Take advantage of the preview. Estate sales often have a preview a few hours or the day before so customers are able to check out items in advance. Use this to your benefit to get a good look at what will be offered for sale so you can focus your attention on the signature chair that is just for you. The preview also lets you know if actually attending the estate sale is worth your while and has what you are looking for. In addition, you can begin researching the chair in question to determine its value and what you are willing to pay for it. If it’s an antique, you can hopefully discover if it is authentic and not a reproduction.
- Have a Way to get the Chair Home: It may sound silly, but a chair isn’t something that can easily be carted off in a small car once purchased thanks to its gawky shape and size. Make sure you arrange a way to have your new chair taken from the estate sale directly to your home as soon as you pay for it. In many cases, the estate sale facilitator will hold your chair there until the end of the day once you pay for it and return with a truck or van to cart it away in. If you’ve got a friend with a large vehicle, this is the time to call them for a favor to help you get it home. Be sure to bring a blanket and tape to cover it so that it does not get damaged in transit.
- Tomorrow is Another Day: Many estate sales go on for at least two days. If you see a vintage suede chair that you want, but know you’ll have to change the seat cushion due to a stain or rip on the original one; or if the chair has scuffed wood that needs to be refinished, the price of the chair may be reduced on the second day. Keep your eye on the piece and ask the estate owner as many questions as you need to about the furniture piece. There’s a good chance the chair may be there the next day, along with small items that you may have overlooked, like artwork or throw blankets that will complement the chair. Some estate sales also offer discounted prices on the second day of the sale, so you’ll save even more money on your purchase.
- Recover Ugly: Many times, chairs at tag sales can be in rough shape. Don’t overlook a chair simply because the seat cushion is stained or torn, as it’s fairly easy to recover junky fabric and give your new seat a whole new look. If the cushion inside is flat, it’s not terribly expensive to buy a new piece of foam cut to size to give it a new life. If a vintage chair has a shape you just love and good bones, it might be worth reupholstering it entirely. This is not a job to be taken lightly, and you should consult an expert in your town to help you revamp the chair. It really isn’t that expensive if you truly adore it and shop around.
It’s also a great idea to show up early to the estate sale so you can get first dibs on all the chairs you want. Happy shopping!
Finding Value: Tips to Buying Crystal at Estate Sales
The discovery of a valuable treasure at an estate sale can be one of the most exciting experiences of a lifetime. If you are a crystal collector and are on the hunt for a specific type of item, unearthing a nice piece is a huge thrill. However, beware of purchasing crystal at an estate sale until you have learned a few necessary facts about identifying authentic crystal.
Often glassware and stemware manufacturers tout their products as real crystal when they are simply glass, and are deceiving the buyer. But since estate sales are normally selling antiques and other old and collectible items, the crystal you find there will most likely be authentic.
One important thing to remember is that if the crystal piece you desire is rare, has intricate detail, is of high quality and heavy, is old and in great condition—then you can expect it to be at the forefront value-wise. Below are a few other rules of thumb to help identify authentic crystal at an estate sale:
- Look for maker’s marks: The majority of true crystal pieces will have a maker's mark on the bottom. It may be the name of the manufacturer, the country where it was produced, and/or a number or symbol of some sort. If you have been buying crystal at estate sales for any length of time you will usually be able to tell who the manufacturer is even if there are no markings. If a piece of crystal was manufactured under special circumstances, such as for a royal family event, and there is evidence of such on the piece, it highly increases in value. Makers such as Baccarat, Waterford, Belleek and Lalique are just a few of the better crystal manufacturers to keep an eye out for in your estate sale hunts.
- The older and heavier the better! When it comes to crystal, age is a big determining factor in deciding its value. Old pieces are even more valuable when they are out of production. Another way to tell how old an estate sale piece of crystal is by the pattern. Oftentimes, popular patterns are easily recognizable as made by a particular manufacturer. Hard to come by pieces are also more valuable, as rarity is a big plus. Also, true crystal is heavier than typical glass due to the weight of lead oxide it contains.
- Condition is king: A piece of crystal in pristine condition is of the utmost value. Condition does drastically affect the value, and complete sets are more valuable than sets with missing pieces. Some things that can lower the value of crystal are chips, cracks, and scratches. If the piece is an antique, a defective piece can still be valuable, however. The quality of the crystal you find at an estate sale has a big effect on its value also.
One last tip is a very easy, quick test for you to try: tap your finger gently against the curved area of the glass. Crystal glassware will produce a distinct and clear ringing tone which will continue to slightly vibrate for a few seconds. If you do the same thing to ordinary glass, it will simply create a pinging sound and will not vibrate at all. Interested in learning more about the differences between glass and crystal? Check this site out.
This short list of tips for finding value when searching for crystal at an estate sale is far from exhaustive, but if you use it as a rule of thumb you can most likely walk away with a treasure.
Finding Value: Guide to Buying Vintage Clothing at Estate Sales
Buying vintage clothing at estate sales can offer many deals and plenty of unique pieces that are sure to spark your interest. Vintage garments could be from as early as the 1930’s to the 1980’s at this point, but the most sought after eras will be from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. There are many things you should watch out for when picking out vintage clothing, especially depending on what you wish to do with them afterwards. Some folks buy vintage clothing from estate sales to resell on their personal website or eBay store, while other folks may purchase vintage clothes for their own collection or fashion purposes.
Knowing how to identify vintage clothing should be one of your primary concerns. There are a few things you want to look for to determine if you are actually purchasing authentic vintage clothing. It is not hard for folks new to vintage clothing to become confused about what time period vintage clothing is actually from. Generally if the label on the clothing says it was made in China then it is probably newer. You will want to look for clothing that is from places such as France, USA, Italy or Hong Kong. Vintage clothing also may have union labels printed in blue or red/blue text. Once you really start getting good at identifying vintage apparel then you will be able to tell if the clothing is older just from handling the fabric and feeling the texture of the textiles. The patterns and colors will also be a hint, though there are many designers now remaking new apparel to look vintage, so be careful.
Always inspect the clothing as carefully as possible, most vintage clothing will generally show some signs of wear and if it does not then you should be a little wary. Collectors and the fashion forward chase retro style clothing because it is stylish and unique, and you are certain to be wearing a one-of-a-kind piece that does not look off the rack.
Estates are a great place to buy mid-century clothing because you are more likely to get a great deal instead of buying it in consignment shops or eBay where it’s already been marked up. You also get a chance to see the garment up close, which you certainly cannot do when buying it online. Don’t hesitate to ask the person running the sales if you can slip into the bathroom to try it on if you are buying it for personal use.
Things you should check for when purchasing vintage clothing include old stains, odors, discoloration or fading in fabric and holes or tears. Old stains can be extremely difficult to remove so you will probably want to pass up any stained clothing that you come across. Apparel with ages old odors usually suffers the same fate, as smells that have been stuck to the fabric for a long time will likely remain to be. Vintage clothing is generally safe to endure regular dry cleaning method, but make sure to do your due diligence to be sure of it.
If a great vintage piece is simply missing buttons, needs a zipper repaired, has a seam come undone or needs a hem shortened--it is still a worthy buy, as it’s cheap to take it to a seamstress for a quick fix. Certainly take advantage and haggle down the price with the seller if you see any issue that affects condition.
Enjoy your groovy vintage finds and wear ‘em with style!
Finding Value: Guide to Buying Coins at Estate Sales
A ton of estate sales contain many hidden treasures from years of hoarding by the owners. If you are a coin collector, estate sales are usually a treasure trove of finds of old and valuable coins. Buying coins from estate sales is great because, unlike on the internet, you get to inspect the item up close and there is no associated shipping time or costs. You get instant satisfaction and the thrill of the hunt!
Another advantage of buying coins from an estate sale is that the person you are buying from may have very well been a collector themselves, so the coins could be in good or mint condition. If you are unsure of the value of the coin, then you should whip out your mobile phone or laptop or call a friend to do a quick search on the Internet. There are plenty of catalog books that provide the value of coins as well, so don’t hesitate to make that investment and carry it with you. It is critical to be informed about what you are actually purchasing.
When you are browsing coins at local estate sales watch out for chests or boxes full of coins, because it is not difficult to cram a load of worthless change into a container to make them appear more valuable. Many sellers will do this to trick a person into believing that they could be buying something that has hidden valuables inside when there really is none. If you see words in the advertisement referring to a “collection of coins” being offered, that’s what you want to make a beeline for. These personal compilations are usually extensive, curated and well cared for. If you can buy from someone who had a passion for collecting and it was a hobby, then you are all the better off.
Another thing to keep an eye out for is sellers who are offering a bonus for buying coins. Usually the coins contain little to no value and the seller is just looking for someone to take them off their hands. Keep in mind that once you buy items at an estate sale there are no returns so you will want to be especially careful of this. If you are unable to do research on the coins or know exactly what to look for, then it is better not dole out your hard earned dough instead of buy something blindly and blowing your loot. So always try to gather as much information as possible about the coins before you make your purchase.
Are Professional Estate Liquidation Company Fees Really Worth It?
An estate sale is an event in which the possessions of a house are sold, usually after the death of the homeowner. People also hold “living” estate sales brought on by major transitions in life, such as divorce or job relocation. Estate sales can be held by individuals or professional estate liquidation companies.
If you have been presented with the task of holding an estate sale, you may be thinking of handling it yourself rather than hiring a professional estate liquidation company. After all, won't you make a lot more money if you don't have to pay the usually 30-35 % fee a professional estate liquidation company will charge? You would think the answer would be a resounding yes. Think again.
There are some very good reasons to use a professional estate liquidation company rather than DIY. You will almost always make more money by going this route while saving yourself tons of time, headaches and heartache.
Professional Estate Liquidation Companies Possess Expert Knowledge
If you have ever watched Antique Roadshow on TV, then you have experienced the shock of finding out that something as ludicrous as an old, beat up toy is worth $1500. Professional estate liquidation company employees are trained to recognize the value of items.
Estate sale companies do the hard work. They decide what will sell, and will sort, clean, price, organize, handle the sale, arrange delivery of items, and clean up afterwards. Usually they will arrange for the remainder of items not sold to be hauled off. And professional estate liquidators hands-down have more contacts. A good estate sale agent knows how to get the word out.
When pricing items, a professional estate liquidation company does not start out--as most of us would--with 'garage sale' prices. A professional will price items fairly higher and know which items are vintage, sought after, and will get more money for items you might consider worthless. An estate sale professional will price each item, even down to a pair of salt and pepper shakers. They will usually accept credit cards and sometimes even checks. People are much more ready to buy when they don't have to run to the ATM for cash.
Professionals Remove the Emotional Equation
It is usually impossible to avoid being emotional when handling an estate sale, since the need for it was typically brought on by a traumatic family event. Rather than spend time shedding painful tears sifting through a beloved's cherished possessions, letting a professional handle things removes the emotional element. For them, it’s just doing a job. Also, having a professional estate liquidator in charge cuts down drastically on the chance of theft or destruction of property. They are organized and efficient, keep all small items in a guarded place and normally post employees in each room.
Despite paying a commission fee, 90% of sellers make way more money—sometimes 4 or 5 times more--using a pro liquidation company instead of going it alone. That’s worth every cent in the long run.
Finding Value: What to Look for in Collectible Lamps at Estate Sales
Lighting is a household item that is abundant at estate sales, and whether you are a collector or rare lamps or simply looking for something as a decorative and unique item in your own home—you are assured of finding something interesting in your hunt.
You can find all different types of unique lamps at estate sales including valuable Tiffany lamps and artistic vintage ones. When preparing to purchasing a lamp there are a few questions you may want to ask yourself first, such as where the lamp will reside in your home and if it will match the style of your home. The purpose of the lamp is also important and you should consider variables such as if you will use the lamp for work, put it on a night stand, or set it in your entertainment room.
Once you have found a piece you are interested in, you should examine the overall condition of the lamp and analyze any type of damage to determine if repairs can be done. Just because a lamp has damage does not mean it is worthless, but it will be less valuable. For example, scratches or scuffs on the underside of the lamp could reveal chipped paint made to look as if it is made from copper metal. These lamps should be avoided if you are looking for value in your purchases and want something more authentic.
How do you know if you’ve got a valuable lamp in front of you at an estate sale? Manufacturing labels including raised imprints and embossed stamps can unveil the lamps maker, and you can usually find these on the base or underside of the piece. Sought after antique lamps are by Pairpoint, Van Briggle, Duffner, Tiffany, Fulper or the Pittsburgh Pilabrasgo Co. These are highly collectible and have a well-known market value. Be prepared to pay handsomely for a lamp of this type and expect high competition from other buyers in terms of getting a hold of one.
Lamps with markings for Stickley, Steuben, Bigelow, Kinnard, Jefferson and Wilkinson are also of high value and are beloved by lamp collectors. Not every lamp will list a lamp maker so make sure to look out for as many clues as possible, even a handwritten note or model number on the lamp could help you identify the manufacturer. Metal pulls and switches should also be closely inspected for manufacturing clues, pay close attention to the details and markings you discover.
Tiffany lamps in particular are highly popular and valuable. These lamps can easily be recognized because of their unique style, thick heavy iron stands and colored glass shades. Tiffany lamps date all the way back to 1895 and can really add intricate design and color to your room. The most popular Tiffany lamps feature themes such as vintage flowers, and sport lampshades with purple or vibrant red hues or similar botanical themes. Mission-style tiffany lamps are more subtle and use light colored square pieces of glass to appear more modern. If you’re lucky, these lamps can be found for a lot cheaper than retail prices at estate sales which makes them a great find.
Of course, a big name lamp may not be in your budget and you could be looking for something that isn’t necessarily from a well-known manufacturer. If you are looking for a decorative lamp for a table top at home, you’ll find plenty of inexpensive options at estate sales. Don’t frown at a lamp with an icky looking shade, for example. These can be easily replaced for very little and can give your new lamp an updated look.
When buying any lamp, make sure to plug it in to ensure it works. It doesn’t hurt to bring a bulb with you to test out your options. If you do spot a great decorative lamp that does not work as intended or has a missing or broken cord, it is not terribly expensive to re-wire a lamp. It’s actually a fairly easy DIY project if you’re even partially handy. Be sure to haggle down the price of a lamp if it has any issues that you need to correct or repair.
Tips to Buying Sports Memorabilia at Estate Sales
Sports memorabilia is typically anything that is directly related to a sports personality or event. This includes items such as footballs, boxing gloves, baseballs, a sports jersey and even cards. Photos or any other sports equipment that have been signed by an athlete is also considered memorabilia if the signature has been certified. It’s definitively not uncommon to find all sorts of sports related paraphernalia at an estate sale, and hunting for it can be great fun if you are a sports buff.
Estate sales usually bring years of collections to the public, and if you catch wind of an estate sale being advertised with sports memorabilia, you should run to it right away. There is big money in getting your hands on popular goodies involving all types of games and the famous figures involved. True fans and collectors usually hoard years of sports collectibles and equipment thanks to their rabid loyalty to their particular team or sport.
Keep these two tips in mind when buying sports memorabilia at estate sales:
The Value is in the Who! There are many factors that can increase the value of a piece of sports memorabilia. Collectors will highly value a prized athlete’s autograph with greater esteem than a no-name player. Signed goodies such as NFL helmets by historic players such as John Elway or Joe Montana will command top dollar, so be ready to pay big if items like this are on your must have list. Serious collectors will not be able to resist fair prices even if they are higher than normal, and will gladly take any sports memorabilia off your hands to showcase at their home if you are on the selling end of things.
If you want to start a collection and don’t have a big budget, you can certainly grab pieces from up and coming players that have the potential for higher value in the future. You are taking a bit more of a chance than buying pieces relating to better known names, but the prices will also be a lot lower with the potential for an upside later.
Make Sure it’s Authentic! This can’t be stressed enough when it comes to sports memorabilia since fraud is a big problem in this area of collection. It is estimated that $500,000,000is lost annually due to fraudulent memorabilia sales, so be keenly aware of fake goods. If you can’t authenticate the signature, the chances of you purchasing a fake are high. Of course, not every seller has a certificate of authenticity on hand, as they could have met the player at an event or caught a winning home run ball. In this case, it’s important to verify the signature against a true siggy that you can find online or in a book. If something looks amiss, it probably is fraudulent. It is estimated that half of the autographed merchandise on the market is fraudulent, but you should not scare you away entirely either--just be aware and keep a keen eye to help you spot fake collectibles.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from fraudulent autographs is to familiarize yourself with the signing habits of the athlete whose memorabilia you will be buying. Most athletes will enter into contract agreements with memorabilia retailers and agree to autograph items that can only be sold through a particular company. You can find out which companies sell that athletes autographed equipment and match it up to the manufacturer of the autographed equipment you are purchasing. Price guides can be very helpful for determining the value of memorabilia. Places such as Beckett.com and Sportsmemorabilia.com are excellent places to start and are very reputable.
Hunting for Stamps at Estate Sales
Stamp hunting at estate sales can be potentially profitable and fun, and it isn’t unusual to find old and rare stamps that have been sitting around for decades. Finding valuable ones can be quite satisfying, but be warned it’s not as easy as it looks. Let’s check out what prospective stamp collectors should keep an eye out for when browsing stamps at an estate sale. If you arm yourself with some good tools like a stamp collectors guide book and bring a mobile device to the sale, it can make things far easier to research right on the spot.
Estate sales will often advertise that the previous owner was a stamp collector, and that’s when you’ll know that a potentially good compilation might be available. In this case, you might find entire books full of stamps that are usually only sold as a full volume or collection, instead of one by one. Sometimes, the collector chose to keep each stamp in an individual bag, and these could be offered singly. If you open up a stamp collection book and see a few stamps you want among others you don’t, sometimes it is still worth the purchase as you can resell or trade the ones you don’t need.
Valuing an entire collection book of stamps is much more difficult to determine than pricing a single stamp since each one has its own unique market value. In these instances it would be helpful to contact your local stamp collecting group and ask if someone with expertise can join you at the sale to help ensure you are getting the best deal.
To start figuring out what the value of a stamp is, you’ll want to see what the denomination is, in other words, how much it originally cost at the time of purchase. Sometimes, the color of the stamp also has an impact on value, and you can check for it in the stamp identification section in the Scott Postage Stamp Catalog. This catalog makes it easy to help you determine what most stamps are worth nowadays.
Another sign that a stamp might be of value is if the perforation is in excellent condition. The perforation is the white torn edge around the stamp, and if it’s damaged or missing the stamp will probably not be worth much at all. The majority of valuable stamps are unused, or in “mint condition.” If you find stamps that have been used, they most likely will not be of much value unless they are extremely rare.
The watermark of a stamp can oftentimes indicate value as well, and you’ll find that most stamps issued after 1917 won’t have one. The watermark is usually a simple pattern, symbol or letter; and sometimes the same stamp will have different watermarks, which makes it just as desirable for collectors even if the stamps look the same. To find the watermark just get somewhere with good lighting and look at the stamp while holding it up in the light. The age of a stamp can indicate value too. Generally, the older the stamp, the more valuable it will be.
If you bring along your stamp pricing guide and smart phone, you will be assured of making a good offer on a stamp that has caught your eye. Don’t hesitate to negotiate with the seller if you are buying a lot of stamps or an entire collection. Happy hunting!
Tips for Finding Vintage Furniture from the 1940s-1970s at Estate Sales
Quality, one-of-a-kind furniture pieces are often the most attractive items at an estate sale. Vintage furniture has gained a resurgence in popularity because younger folks are using pieces that have been in their families for years and can save money and honor family traditions. The vintage home decorating style has also become especially appealing due to television shows like Mad Men which showcase nifty furniture and fashion styles from the 1960s. It just looks cool!
Vintage furniture also has a great appeal because it tends to be well made and sturdy. The pieces are usually constructed of wood and not the crappy particleboard and staples put-together stuff one often finds in less expensive pieces made today. There’s something to be said for the quality of workmanship on pieces made from the 1940’s through the 1970’s.
Keep these tips in mind when you shop:
- Build a rapport with the estate seller. Chances are you’ll be going to an estate sale of a facilitator who has organized this type of event before, and who is knowledgeable in selling furniture of this era. Ask lots of questions and learn about the history of the pieces you are considering, like how long the owner has had the piece and where it was purchased. It could give you lots of clues as far as value. This will make it easier for you to negotiate the price of a vintage Eames chair for your office or a Stickley table that would be perfect for your breakfast nook.
- Look for gently used furniture. Even if the furniture piece you find is an enviable vintage item, it’s best that it’s only gently used. A chest of drawers or nightstand that has been well cared for will hold up much better than a distressed piece that shows obvious signs of wear and tear. And if you think you may want to sell the piece in the future, you should choose furniture in the best condition possible so you can get a return on your investment. Non-upholstered furniture tends to hold up best, so when you’re getting vintage furniture from an estate sale that was made in the anywhere from the 1940’s to the 1970’s, search for pieces like dining room tables and chairs, coffee tables and rocking chairs painted in colors that are indicative of these eras like bright pastels or food-inspired colors like carrot orange and pea green.
- 3. Get furniture with good bones. The frame of the furniture piece should be sturdy, even if the padding is worn or there are scratches and dents on it. After all, you can sand down certain spots on the arms or legs of a chair to smooth them out, or replace the seat cushion on a vintage chair you really want. If resale is on your mind, always choose pieces from quality brands like Thomasville, which was established in the late 1960s and provides signature pieces for your home like beds or formal dining furniture made from quality wood like cherry or other hardwoods. If you plan to resell, it is best to leave a piece alone and not try to refinish it, as this usually devalues it. If you have a valuable piece, be sure to take it to a professional who can restore and damage without reducing its worth.
- Don’t Rule Out a Refresh. Of course, if you find a piece that you just love and it’s in a bit of rough shape, that shouldn’t stop you from grabbing it at a great price if you intend on refinishing it. It isn’t terribly hard to reupholster a shabby chair or put a lick of paint on an end table if resale value isn’t of utmost importance. If you can’t bear a harvest gold chair, but adore its shape, don’t hesitate to spruce it up in a fresh blue that is more to your liking and fits your decorating style.
- Measure! It’s a good idea to take your home’s room measurements with you to estate sales to give you an accurate idea of how a piece will fit in your home once you purchase it. You can keep your measurements on your mobile phone or a simple piece of paper in your wallet. Some buyers are smart enough to even have a drawing of the rooms they need pieces in to help you further visualize the space.
How to Negotiate a Contract with a Professional Estate Sale Company
The need for an estate sale can come about for a myriad of reasons. Maybe you inherited a home and/or its contents after a death in the family, or it could be that divorce has forced you to liquidate assets or move. Whatever the reason, if you are faced with the task of setting up an estate sale, it is highly advisable to let a professional estate sale company handle it for you to get the most bang for your buck. Before you sign a contract on the dotted line, be sure to get references from friends and check the Better Business Bureau for ratings on the firms you might be considering using. Ask the liquidation company for names of previous customers they’ve handled sales for, and be sure to call them about their experience.
Every professional estate sale company has its own way of being compensated. Some charge a flat fee, while others charge a commission on the gross sales. Estate sale companies may have a contract that includes a minimum fee plus commission; or there are companies that even charge by the hour. It’s important to figure out which option will give you the biggest return before considering signing a contract with them. If you have a lot to sell, for example, an outfit that charges an hourly rate might not be sensible if your event will have several days of selling and might require lots of research hours to determine pricing.
A professional estate sale company contract will include far more than just what they charge. There will be specific things they handle, such as advertising, permits, and licenses if there is a need for such items. The contract will state if they arrange for delivery for buyers, and how they handle all aspects of research, pricing, labeling and selling your estate sale items. If you have high value items, make sure you include a clause about security for your goods so that their value is protected.
Make sure there is mention of how they handle the final payout--is it daily or a lump sum at the end? You also want to make sure they provide you with a print out of a record of sale for each item sold, too. If there are any upfront costs to you, be sure that it is clearly stated in the contract so there are no surprises. If the estate sale liquidation firm accepts credit or debit cards, make sure it is unmistakably confirmed in writing who pays the fees. For help with understanding what professional estate sale companies do, reference this great article from Estate Sales Junkie.
Be sure your contract mentions what happens to the remaining items left unsold after the sale. Estate sales will usually provide you with several options such as directly buying out the remaining goods from you, junking them or donating them to a charity on your behalf, or you could choose to hang onto whatever is left. Don’t forget to include how clean up is dealt with as well—will you handle that or are you expecting them to leave the house fully empty and swept up?
Don’t ever work with an estate sale company that cannot show you a certificate of insurance. This is critical in case something gets lost, is damaged or is stolen. You want to be sure that all the people that will be entering your home and the contents are covered in case of any liability.
Choose at least 3-5 professional estate sale liquidators to interview, and be sure to ask lots of questions so that your expectations are fully met, you have a great experience with no surprises and you unload all your goodies at top dollar. If contracts are intimidating to you, don’t hesitate to have your lawyer review the document before you sign it to ensure you are protected and getting the best value out of the relationship with the liquidator. Covering all your bases upfront will ensure a positive relationship with a qualified estate sale company.
Guide to Finding Designer Clothes for Less at Estate Sales
Finding designer clothes at estate sales could be compared to searching for the holy grail for fashion buffs. The adventure is time consuming, extremely competitive, and your booty could be worth its weight in gold. You may be seeking designer or vintage clothes, shoes, handbags and accessories to wear yourself, or maybe you plan on reselling them on eBay. Either way, to help you get off to a roaring start as a treasure hunter of these coveted items, here are a couple of tips for finding designer and vintage clothes and accessories at estate sales for less:
Map Your Route
If there are several estate sales you are interested in attending that are advertising designer and vintage clothes and accessories, get ready to map your course so you can efficiently get from one to another with minimal fuss. Make a list of the events by placing them in order according to your beginning location, then get a map and make a battle plan. There is no sense in backtracking or going in circles and wasting both gas and time.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm
Getting there first cannot be stressed enough. Even ten years ago that would not have been the case, since apparel was not a hot item and often disregarded for the more traditional antiques. You could shop for designer and vintage clothes at estate sales at your leisure without getting elbowed for coveted name brands. But over the last few years, the market for these items has exploded—and the younger, fashionable set can’t get enough of names like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Coach. Many of the current generation, such as the Steam Punk crew, thrive on wearing only vintage and this has put some fierce competition into finding designer duds at estate sales. So be the first to arrive, and if you spot an estate sale advertising designer and vintage clothes and accessories, get there an hour earlier than normal and get in line.
Know thy stuff! Many vintage clothing and accessories do not have labels, and the items that are labeled will most likely be from companies you may not instantly recognize. Don’t hesitate to pick up a book detailing the top designer names of the last 50 years or take a course in fashion at your local college if it is available. There's this super guide to buying vintage clothes at Vintage Fashion Guild that will be extremely helpful in your pursuit of knowledge.
Check Your Threads
Just because a desirable designer label is in front of you, it doesn’t necessarily mean the buy is a worthy one. Since most of the clothing at an estate sale will likely be previously worn, be sure to check for wear and condition. Make sure there are no rips, tears or stains. If you have the ability to sew or know a great seamstress who can fix a zipper or re-hem a skirt, then you are in luck! Old stains are extremely difficult to remove, even in the dry cleaning process, so avoid this pesky problem at all costs.
By following the above advice you will soon find yourself garbed in the finest vintage or designer attire by snapping them up at estate sales at bargain prices; or you’re entrepreneurial spirit will get a financial boost from re-selling your designer goods on eBay. Either way, your wallet is sure to be better off!
4 Tips to Buying Electronics at Estate Sales
If you’ll be visiting an estate sale soon, you may be hoping to find some quality electronics at affordable prices. To ensure you get the best deal, it’s best to know what to look for in electronic devices so you won’t leave the sale with a defective or malfunctioning brick that the seller just wanted to get off their hands. Keep these tips in mind when buying electronic gadgets and you’ll be satisfied with your purchases.
1. Make sure it works! Remember that just because a TV or other appliance with a plug dangling from it is on sale. Does not mean that it’s necessarily in functioning condition. Most goods at an estate sale are sold “as is”, so that means you can’t get a refund or make a return if you get home and find that it’s not working. So, ask all the questions you need to while you’re at the event, such as about the age of the electronic device, and whether it’s been stored in the garage for years or used recently.
Verify that the stereo, TV or DVD player or other doodad you’re purchasing is working by simply plugging it in right at the estate sale itself to ensure it fires up and does what it’s supposed to. Ask the folks running the event first if its okay, and you will usually find that they have no trouble with you testing out the product. If they do, let that be an indication that the purchase may not be for you. Plugging the device in will show you how long it actually takes to come on, and will let you know if some features work slower than they should. The estate seller may also let you put in a CD or DVD into the device to make sure it plays correctly. However, remember not to be a pest and take advantage of this for too long--a minute or two of testing should let you know if the item is worth buying.
2. Bring batteries! If you might be purchasing a battery-operated item, bring a few batteries to the estate sale of various sizes so you can test the item out. Don’t expect the seller to have any on hand. You should also inspect the battery component for corrosion. If you do spot rust or other decay of the battery element, this typically affects the function of the device and shortens battery life. Unless the price of the item is completely worth your while and you are handy, it’s best to leave the appliance behind if the corrosion is severe.
3. Check the insides! If you see a CD jewel case that is supposed to house music from one of your favorite artists, do open up the case before leaving the estate sale so you can be sure that the CD you are expecting is in fact in there. If the electronic device you are purchasing is still in the box, be sure to open it up to make sure the right product is inside. If there is no instruction manual or parts are missing, don’t hesitate to respectfully haggle and try to get the price down.
4. Check the price! Before you buy, make sure you are getting a good value for the gizmo in question. Whip out your mobile device and check what the market price is of the item you are hoping to purchase truly is. Would you buy a used TV for $100 bucks if you could score a brand new one for just $50 more? If you are re-selling electronic gadgets on eBay or at consignment shops, is your return on the investment worth it? If not, then it might be best to let the merchandise stay right where it is.
Finding Value: Guide to Buying Fine China at Estate Sales
If you’ve been looking for a set of exquisite china that is both beautiful and affordable—an estate sale might just be the perfect place to get what you want. However, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind before you pay for a set of china that has caught your eye. After all, you may have plans to keep these fine dishes long enough to pass them on to your children. Following a few simple tips will ensure that you walk away from the estate sale with china you’d be proud to display at your next dinner party.
1. Know your china types. It’s important not to get too excited when you see a china set in a color or border pattern that you like without knowing what type of china you’re looking at. All china plates are not created equal, and you need to make sure you’re not taking plates home that will easily shatter or become scratched within weeks. For instance, earthenware is the weakest form of china, and probably shouldn’t go in the dishwasher. Stoneware, however, is microwave and dishwasher-safe, Porcelain china is made from flint, kaolin and feldspar, which makes it particularly strong—you can even use it in the oven without having to worry about damage. Fine china is a step up from porcelain, and bone china is made from bone ash and has a delicate look and feel, and is the highest of china grades. Be sure to ask the seller what type of china you’re looking at so you can match the price with the quality of the dishes.
2. Determine the worth of the china. Talk with the seller about how old the china is, and how heavily it was used. If the dishes were mainly used for special occasions and the price is within your budget, chances are you’re getting a good deal. If you’re purchasing the set as a housewarming or wedding gift for someone, dishes that have been gently used are best. To see just how fine the china is, hold it up the light and make sure the plate has some translucent quality to it. The more translucent the china, the better quality it is and the best overall buy it will be.
3. Pay a price you’re happy with. Do some research on the history of china and the value of rare china pieces like oyster plates or china from WWII. Remember that the price of the china is as much as you’re willing to pay for it. If you’re interested in a china set but think the price is a little too high, talk the seller down until you come up with a price that you’re both happy with.
4. Maker’s matter. There are hundreds of manufacturers of good china, and by simply turning a cup or plate over you can usually see who produced your piece and where. Wedgewood, Lenox, Noritake, Royal Doulton and Villeroy & Boch are just some of the better manufacturers you want to keep a look out for in your hunt for pretty china pieces. There are also thousands of interesting patterns that you will see that would be a perfect fit for your dining room table. Everything from a simple gold rim to a heavily patterned floral will be options to consider. Simply choose something you like!
5. Condition. Look for plates, saucers and cups that have minimal scratching. Pay particular attention to the dinner plates, as this is where a knife would cut the surface. Check for chips, cracks or crazing, as this majorly devalues the piece. If you can find an entire set, you are much better off than buying partial pieces. The addition of extra peripheral pieces such as salt and pepper shakers, tea pots and gravy boats increases the value significantly as well. A good, full set of china will have a minimum of service for 8 and if you find one that can handle a dozen dinner guests you are even luckier.
Finding Value: Tips to Buying Books at Estate Sales
Acquiring books from estate sales can be very intriguing and profitable. Folks purchase books for different reasons such as to resell, read, give as gifts, or just have as a beautiful collection on a shelf. Whatever your reason may be, when buying books at an estate sale you will want to establish a budget and know what to look for if you want to get the most for your money.
You will have three core options in terms of buying books: popular books from the last 20 years in both paperback and hardback format that will be cheap and you will be able to purchase singly or by the boxful. These will be your standard fiction, non-fiction, how-to variety that most of us find at the local library or book shop. These can be a great value if you’re looking to build a quick library or have fun with reading. Usually you can pick them up for pennies on the dollar.
Next, you’ve got vintage books that have a bit more value and will usually be in hardcover form. They may be first editions, but are not considered to be rare or highly prized by collectors. These books are easy to resell and are typically sought after by buyers and you can make a brisk business by marking them up and flipping them.
Finally, you’ve got the cream of the crop—rare, antique or sought after first editions. These books are the holy grail of book collecting and you should always dig around for them at estate sales. Find a first edition of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and you are in luck! That’s a $45,000 find! Even a first edition of the Harry Potter books in pristine condition can have good value and is collectible—especially if it is autographed by J.K. Rowling. An author’s signature ratchets up the value of any book tremendously, so always open up the cover to see if there’s a siggy.
Here are a few tips for buying books at Estate sales:
- First you will want to try to arrive as early as possible. This will prevent all the good books from being taken before you can get your pick, and also allows you to ask the seller questions and get help finding what you are looking for. Do not be afraid to ask questions, sometimes you can learn a lot and gain more knowledge not only about the books, but also about the original owner, which can reveal if they were a true collector or not.
- Getting the estate sale brokers business card or contact info is always a great idea as they can inform you of future sales that may contain lots of books or other rarities that you may be interested in. Brokers like building a loyal base of buyers and collectors, which is of great benefit to them—and you--since you get first dibs on upcoming book bundles.
- Remember to bargain whenever possible to get books at lower prices. This is usually overlooked because so many people take items at face value when purchasing goods from estate sales. If you are willing to buy the books in bulk or you are buying various different items, then you should be able to easily negotiate a lower price. You could even get the broker to throw in an extra item to make the deal even better.
There are nifty apps and tools for your smart phone and tablet, such as bar code readers to help you scan through modern books and textbooks to see if there is anything that should be left behind or picked up. The majority of rare books will not be able to be scanned since they didn’t have codes until the 1970’s (called an ISBN), so you will need to be knowledgeable about the current demand of certain books. Non-fiction books in particular tend to sell for more than fiction books, for example. A quick search on your mobile device will easily reveal the current market value of any book—old or newer.
Buying Knives and Switchblades at Estate Sales
When purchasing knives at estate sales, it is invaluable that you have some knowledge of what to look for. Generally there are a few types of knives, such as the folding and fixed-blade variety. However, there are many subsets for these knives as well like there are Bowie knives, hunting, tactical, pocket knives, those for throwing, multi-tool knives and switchblades. So there are all kinds of different knives designed differently and used for different purposes.
Here are a few tips for identifying knives and switchblades at estate sales:
- Fixed-blade knives consist of bowie knives, hunting knives and tactical knives, although tactical knives can be either a folding knife or a knife with a fixed blade. Tactical knives are not just used for fighting, but also emergencies such as survival situations or S.E.R.E (survival, escape, resistance, evasion) tasks. Most tactical knives have a serrated blade to make tasks such as cutting through rope much easier. Bowie knives are sharp heavy duty knives that are primarily used for hunting and dressing game. These knives usually come with a big sheath and have a thick handle which increases the knives strength and is difficult to break. Hunting knives are typically skinning knives, such as fillet knives for fishing and camping
- A switchblade is a knife that opens automatically when you press a button so they eject their blade vertically. Take note that if they exceed a certain blade length they can be illegal to carry in most states. A few popular switchblade makers to collect include Smith and Wesson, Boker, Schrade, cold steel and Italian stiletto switchblades.
The majority of blades are stainless still which prevents rust and gives the blade the strength to get jobs done without hassle. High-carbon steel blades are also common and are easier to sharpen, however they also require more care and are sometimes harder than stainless steel knives. For increased hardness sometimes manufacturers will give the carbon steel knives a titanium nitride coating.
Blade ratings are important if you want quality and are often rated using the Rockwell C-scale. A knife with a low c-scale means it could lose its edge rather quickly and may be soft; a high c-scale means the blade could be so hard that it cannot withstand high pressures or impact. Unfortunately you cannot know the c-scale of a knife just by looking at the knife at an estate sale, so if possible bring a price guide with you to determine if the knife has a balanced c-scale rating.
Knives have all different types of handles, wood, rubber, leather, bone, micarta, stainless steel and more. All of these knives have different pros and cons over the others, so just choose what fits comfortably in your hand.
Antique knives usually have hallmarks on the base of the blade or on the handle of the knife. A lot of antique pocket knife manufacturers would stamp a full name on the blade such as Shrade. A French pocket knife maker known as Opinel has a hand with a finger pointing at a crown as its hallmark logo. Typically the best way to identify antique knives is to refer to a knife identification website or book until you become more familiar with the knives.
There is a huge resale market for knives and switchblades, so you can make a brisk business of reselling your estate sale knives on eBay or consignment shops.
Guide to Buying Collectible Cigarette Lighters at Estate Sales
A cigarette lighter is the most important tool for a smoker since it provides a convenient and dependability when lighting your pipe, cigar or ciggy. Many folks not only use cigarette lighters for smoking, but they are also highly collectible and sought after at estate sales thanks to their decorative appeal.
There are a large variety of cigarette lighters on the market and you will want to be able to identify the ones that present a good value versus those that are not worth buying. If the lighter cannot be deemed as collectible, then you sure don't want to waste money on it as they are not worth preserving. There are a few different factors you want to take into consideration during the selection process of collectable lighters.
Some of the best lighter brands to look for at estate sales include Bic, Ronson, Zippo, Colibri Pergusa, Visol, Azen Neo, Prestige and Initiated, Ligne 2 Champagne, Turbo Shagreen and Xikar Triple Jet. Zippo in particular, has been one of the most popular and recognizable brands ever since its inception in 1932. Zippo’s use a classic flint wheel ignition and offer a disposable and replaceable fuel soaked wick. This makes Zippo’s ideal for a lot of conditions since they are highly weather resistant. Zippo lighters prices can range from $20 to $30,000 for the first edition antique versions.There are literally thousands of varieties of Zippo’s, so collecting them is very interesting and great fun. Get a Zippo price guide and do some research to ensure you are buying the right Zippo lighters and not wasting your money.
Take a thorough look at the lighter for any possible significant damage. If there are many lighters at the estate sale and you are searching for a specific brand, then make sure to check for the proper embossment of the logo on the lighter. There are a few fake insignias within the present market, which is why the manufacturers typically give tips and guidelines on checking for the suthenticity of their lighters. Genuine lighters also do not normally fade out, so checking the finish of the product will let you know if you are looking at lighter worthy of collecting or not.
Fake lighters may not even retain the shape of the original product and may differ in size and appearance. A good lighter will have a high fuel capacity, be easy to use and have great built quality. Lighters that have a fuel window to show how much butane is left are also a nice bonus. You should also be able to adjust the flame of the lighter with a tool such as a small screwdriver, but some lighters offer adjustments that can be done by turning a wheel with your finger. Most lighters can be used ambidextrously with either hand, but it is best that the lighter has good ergonomics and comfortably fits in your hand.
Metal lighters are far more valuable than cheap plastic kinds, so be on the look out for high quality metals. These lighters will have a certain heft and weight to them which will be undeniable when you pick them up. Look for minimum scratching or marks when buying a lighter, too. Avoid anything that has dents, deep gouges, or that you can't verify actually works. A non-working lighter has a much lower value, if any. When buying lighters at estate sales, keep a container of butane on hand to refill a lighter that might be out of fuel so you can verify it works as intended.
With literally thousands of different lighters out there, collecting them can be an exciting hobby, and there is a huge resale market out there as well—so purchasing them at estate sales to resell is a viable option worth looking into.
Finding Value: Guide to Antique Buying Dolls at Estate Sales
Would you believe that doll collecting is the #2 collection hobby in the United States, second only to stamp collecting? If you're thinking about joining the ranks of doll collectors and want to learn how to get started buying antique dolls at estate sales, first there are a few crucial things you need to know.
One very important thing to remember is that buying antique dolls at estate sales and other venues can get really expensive if you are not careful. Antique doll collecting requires discipline, so set yourself a budget or you'll end up broke with a house full of dolls and no room for your family. Collecting dolls can become like eating potato chips--you can't stop at just one.
The smartest thing to do starting out is to decide on collecting only one genre of doll. You could, for instance, begin by collecting only antique baby dolls, or maybe you'd prefer being a Barbie doll collector. (For the record, however, Barbie dolls are considered vintage dolls, not antiques. Antique dolls are ones created before 1930.)
Before you begin searching for antique dolls at estates sales, auctions or tag sales, you most definitely must do some research. Just learning the basics will do in the beginning, such as what types of antique dolls are considered the most valuable, understanding how condition affects the value of an antique doll, and learning antique doll terminology. A great place to start your education on buying antique dolls at estate sales is with this comprehensive article from So You Wanna. The article includes a list of doll genres and information about their value. There is also a ton of other information online to help you educate yourself on antique doll collecting. Or you could subscribe to Antique Doll Collector magazine and do your studying offline.
You will find dolls made out of a variety of materials available to you, such as wood, wax and porcelain china. There are many prized doll makers to collect from depending on your budget, but some of the better ones to ferret out on your estate sale search are Kestner, Danel & Cie, Wilhelm and many others. Be careful about reproductions in your doll hunt, as it is common to find replicas of original antique dolls. Be sure to look for maker’s marks usually hidden on the neck under the hairline, under a foot or even on the doll’s back. Look for clues to the doll’s authenticity before you plunk down your hard earned change.
Condition really does matter when it comes to doll collecting, as these toys were usually well played with by little girls who might not have been so gentle with dolly. Look for original and complete clothing, original hair and that there is minimal wear and tear on the most exposed parts of the doll, such as the face, hands and feet. Check for chips, missing paint and other damages that would devalue your purchase substantially. It’s not easy to find an antique doll with zero wear, but do your best to seek out something that looks like it was well taken care of and preserved.
Once you have taken the above tips into consideration, you are ready to begin your treasure hunt. Besides having a blast, collecting antique dolls can be very lucrative. Extremely old, rare and priceless porcelain dolls from France or Germany have actually sold for $40,000. An Izannah Walker of Rhode Island doll (c. 1817) will sell for around $17,000. Early folk art dolls from the 19th and early 20th century can bring a cool $1500. The resale market for antique dolls is tremendous, and if you know what you’re doing, you could have a lucrative hobby turning over dolls. Ca-ching!