advertising, American Society of Appraisers, antique collections, antique dealers, antique fairs, antique marketplaces, antiques, appraisers, auction houses, collectors clubs, eBay, flea markets, garage sales, online auctions, selling antiques
(originally published to Helium writing site, now gone)
People sell their antique collections for various reasons. There are a large number of avenues for selling a collection and each has its advantages and drawbacks. Which one to use really depends on a person’s individual circumstances and the size, value and uniqueness of the collection.
The first thing to do is to get your antique collection valued. The best person to do this is a qualified appraiser. You can find a list of appraisers in the Yellow Pages, or through the American Society of Appraisers (www.appraisers.org), which also lists appraisers outside the US. At least three appraisals should be sought to reduce the chances of being paid less than your collection is really worth. You can also find antique appraisers through web searches. Ring them up and visit their premises. Appraisals are also done online. This is often cheaper than using a conventional appraiser but may be less reliable as the appraiser is valuing your items from photos.
Once you have an idea of the value of your collection, it’s time to consider the various ways of selling it. One of the best ways to sell an entire collection is through an auction run by an auction house. Visit a few local auction houses and see if they are willing to purchase your collection. Having items in your collection with a common link, such as those made in the same period or by the same manufacturer, will help.
Often there are specialist buyers at auctions who are interested in entire collections as they know they will probably pay less than what they would pay item by item. However, this also means that you will get less, but this might be far less time consuming than trying to sell one item at a time, and chances are that some items will be very difficult to sell. Auction houses charge various fees, although you can generally get a better price for your collection than selling by other means.
Consider online auctions too. You can do this from the comfort of your home. All you usually need to do is register with eBay or other internet auction sites and you can post your items straight away. You will probably have to break up your collection on most occasions as you’ll need to photograph each item for the internet. It depends on your collection as to whether this might be preferable to an auction house. An appraiser might be able to guide you.
If the items have no real connection with each other, internet auctioning might be the answer. For eBay, you get 80 characters (used to be 55) for the title of your item or items. Use them all and use them wisely, so that people are more likely to find your items when they search on various key words. Don’t use meaningless phrases such as “nice old chair”. Include the name of the maker of the item if known. The internet is probably the best way to reach a broad audience of potential buyers. As well as eBay and Yahoo, there are numerous smaller auction sites on the web. You may also like to consider a couple of specialist online antique marketplaces to sell your collection: http://www.oldandsold.com and http://www.igavel.com.
Antique dealers might be a good avenue to sell your collection. They are quite abundant and operate out of various shops, warehouses, and often the back room of their homes. They can be a mixed bag, so it is important to do your research to find a good one. Many specialize in certain fields, for example furniture, art, jewelry, cameras, gramophones, military items, and so on. Some specialize in areas such as Victorian or colonial, art deco, estates and imports. If your collection is specialized, an appropriate antique dealer may well be the best bet. You may receive less money than through auction, but you probably have more chance of selling the whole collection as one, and that could save you considerable time and bother.
Another option if you have a specialized collection to sell is collectors clubs. If you search the web, you might find a club whose members are interested in the same items as those in your collection. Most have contact details, although this might be a post office box number of a secretary or the like and your letter asking if a member might be interested in buying might only see the light of day at the next monthly meeting. So this can be a slow selling process, although you may find the perfect buyer who will buy your whole collection. Some clubs have stalls in museums or libraries and this might be a good place to try and sell your items.
You might like to try your luck and sell your collection at an antique fair. Search the web to see when and where antique fairs are held and obtain relevant details from the organizers. Ask about the cost of hiring a stand as this can vary greatly. If you can, seek a stand near to other stands selling similar items to your own as this attracts more customers to your stand. It’s good to get there early as keen buyers tend to be there at opening to secure bargains.
Flea markets may be an alternative, especially if your collection isn’t a particularly valuable one and you want quick cash. This might suit if your items consist of old books, records, kitchen items, toys, and sundry household goods. But be aware that many buyers who go to flea markets only intend to spend a small sum of money. Similarly, garage sales will get you quick cash, although most people won’t come along intending to spend up big.
Advertising in national, state and local newspapers is an option to consider. Some areas have newspapers or magazines that specialize in providing a marketplace for buyers and sellers. In Australia, for example, the Trading Post is a good place to advertise. It used to be a newspaper but is now online (www.tradingpost.com.au). They have categories such as Classic & Unique Cars, and Collectibles & Memorabilia. Right now, the latter category has 1175 items for sale. It costs as little as 50 cents to advertise and you only pay if you sell.
It’s time to weigh up the pros and cons of how you want to sell your collection. Are you happy for the collection to be broken up? Do you want money quickly or are you able to wait longer for potentially a higher price? In the end, pick the option that is best for you, and this might even be to keep your collection.