As a Worthologist, I’ve been able to evaluate all manner of historic items from a suit made expressly for a future president, early American flags, rare suffragette items, lots of signatures and so much more. It’s always exciting to hold a piece of history in your hands and decipher its value. But then, what to do with the more utilitarian or decorative item that don’t make it to museums or auctions?
Most of us have that experience already; loads of items from a family that needs to move on. Visiting my Dad recently found me reviewing a lot of large glassware, from tall, ribboned glass vases, gold trimmed cake plates, thick glass bowls and Fenton iridescent bud vases to an etched glass basket and several pieces of Carnival glassware. Most were given as gifts to my Ma, who passed on about 10 years ago, but still remained in closets or shelves. They needed a new home, but where?
First, though, do some preparation. The way dealers would like to see items is where it doesn’t have to be sorted or organized in their presence. Put items back in original boxes as much as possible. Only sell items in good or near new condition; donate or discard toys with lots of wear. Separate items by kind; glass, toys, textiles, etc., into easily recognizable groups. Bag small like items together. Keep larger like items in boxes together as much as possible. This makes the inspection happen more quickly.
Second, try to do as much research on as many items as possible because a dealer will always ask you first what you are looking to sell it for. It is your research that will help you to know what it can sell for and to ask for at least half of that value right up front.
The more readily available venue is the traditional antique or dealer store front. The owner is also usually the buyer and has knowledge about a particular specialty, such as glassware, textiles, toys, machines, paper, aviation, etc. A call to the shop beforehand will provide more understanding as to their particular specialty with an appointment to follow. Then take only the items for that specialty. Do this for the high-value items.
For the other smaller or decorative items, consider the flea market dealer who will want a lot of items that are the most inexpensive and the more plentiful; small toys, books, ceramic figurines, that kind of thing. Sell by the lot, not by the piece. Sorting like items into plastic baggies helps to focus the buying and selling to a quick decision. Don’t expect to get very much. A full gallon baggie of superhero action figures would be about $5 while a baggie full of costume jewelry would be about $10 and so on. Here items in the original boxes do well.
Consider finding a friend who does online selling and wholesale large amounts of items in good condition to them to resell individually, not on consignment. Consignment sales, while helpful to the shop owner, may take a long period to realize a return, even at 80 percent of its value
Lastly, with what’s left, consider donating textiles, kitchenware, small glassware, toys, paperback and hardcover books to library, school and local fundraisers that raise money for local programs. Get a receipt at retail value as a tax deduction. You can also consider donating heavy furniture to local firehouses, schools and nonprofit groups such as Habitat for Humanity for their use or resale as well.
According to federal and state laws, you cannot sell or donate baby strollers, cribs, playpens or plastic toys older than five years. These must be given to friends or discarded because of safety concerns. Clothing, hats, scarves, gloves and bedding should always be washed or dry cleaned beforehand. Footwear, socks, underwear and similar personal items should always be discarded, never donated.
Lastly, always check out the painting, the drawing, the signed book, photo, jersey, ticket, poster or any item that appears to be limited in number. Many items have been picked up at garage sales at a fraction because the research was never done.
Always do the research and you, too, may find that rare item such as the box of pristine set of first-edition comic books found in the attic and sold by the family for near $1 million, the painting found in the close that sold for $10,000 and … well, you get the idea.
Tom Carrier is a general Worthologist, with an expertise in a wide variety of subjects, including vexillology, or the study of flags.
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