The Real Value of Our Antiques and Heirlooms

We each have items in our homes that came from a loved one, passed down through the years.  To us, these items are special, unique, and valuable.  Sometimes, these items are even more special, unique, and valuable because of our feelings towards the loved one who gave it to us.

If you can, place those feelings to the side for a moment.  We really need to have a fresh understanding about the market, the economy, and what our heirlooms are really worth.  As an appraiser, I come to the table as an objective third party who has the ability to look at items through new, yet somewhat critical eyes, much like a detective.

I see flaws others may not.

I see condition issues others may not.

I see that someone drilled a hole through the bottom of a Ming Dynasty vase because they wanted it to be a lamp (ugh!).

I see that someone uses 21st century screws to reinforce an 18th century piece.

However, there is more to it than that; we must dig a little deeper to get to the crux of the matter.

The truth is that in today’s market, a c.1830s bird’s eye maple English chest will sell for far less than a “Made in China” piece you can buy at Rooms to Go or IKEA.  I saw it with my own eyes at an auction recently.  The gorgeous English chest sold for $100 and the black lacquer Oriental chest made 30 days ago sold for $350.

WHY?

Gone are the days of truly caring about quality.

dark traditional ornate bedroom

Gone are the days of the younger generations wanting traditional furnishings.

In are the days of how the item looks and functions.  Maybe not for all of us.  This trend is picking up speed and we see more of it as each day passes.  Size and space also enter into the equation, since we are in the middle of a major simplification trend.  Both our homes and our furnishings are getting smaller.

I address the older generations when I say this and I hope it will be realized:

Dark brown furniture gives the younger generation the willies just to look at it.

dark heavy china cabinet

Boomers don’t want any more of it, and are trying to downsize and let go of the dark heavy furnishings, as we speak!  Being surrounded by heavy, large, dark furniture is not what people want today, let alone my daughter’s generation.  She doesn’t want it now and she will not want it later.  It won’t pay to pressure her or store items for her.

It doesn’t matter how old it is.

It doesn’t matter what you paid for it.

It doesn’t mean anything to a stranger or the public who come to purchase it.

If we don’t want it and our children don’t want it, others will not want it either.

dark heavy dining room

Of course there are exceptions to every rule and all families are different.  But if we dare to peek into the future, what will become of the older, dark furnishings in 2 years? 5 years? 15 years?

Those of us in the industry have seen a steady decline since 2008 so it is no surprise to us.  It’s alright that not everyone will accept what we have to say, but at least, listen to the market.  It has spoken loud and clear!

©2016 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

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Published in: on May 6, 2016 at 10:20 am  Comments (5)  
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Condition, Condition, Condition

When it comes to the worth of heirlooms and antiques, one characteristic of value needs to be understood and it’s not how old the item is.  It’s condition.  Original condition!

We all know what the word original means: initial, first, earliest, the real thing.  It means the appearance of an item has been left intact, the way the artist or creator intended it to be in its original state.  No stripping, refinishing, repairing, painting, gluing, drilling holes, polishing, lacquering, etc.

Original to a collector wanting to buy a fine item means they prefer it this way.  The mellowing of leather or wood that only the passage of time can accomplish to near perfection, which also demonstrates the piece is true to the period, blemishes included.  These blemishes are part of the item’s history.  If it could talk, the stories it could tell!

Many seem to be of the mindset that if mother’s tables are antique, they are definitely valuable.  This is simply NOT the case; please pass the word along!  Age is only one characteristic of value.  While it certainly can be a contributing factor of value, many other factors are also evaluated when a professional assigns value.  Condition is right up there at the top of the list.

I’m called to an estate to see mom’s antiques, but they are in poor or fair condition.  They could be covered in years of nicotine, mold/mildew, or have been continually exposed to humidity or cold.  Maybe someone painted the primitive table sage green, or cut down the legs of the dining table to make a nice coffee table.  All the owner understands is that these items are old and should put considerable cash in their pocket.

An appraiser sees these items are not in good condition, or the original condition has been altered permanently.  Getting it back to a “sellable” condition will take a small miracle, not to mention more money than the piece may actually be worth.  These pieces can still be sold and a fixer-upper may want them, but at a fraction of the price people have in their minds.  The owner of the pieces gets upset because the pieces are not selling for what they perceived they would sell for.  I know … it’s a lot to take in!

If you are downsizing or selling the contents of an estate, look at the items from the perspective of an appraiser or personal property expert.  Consider all the flaws and permanent alterations to pieces before setting expectations too high.  Otherwise, you might be quite disappointed.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on September 15, 2015 at 11:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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One Chip Can Do A Lot of Damage

In my world of personal property, one little chip or ding, fracture or re-glue, can mean the difference between going into the trash or selling it for far less than if it was in perfect condition.   As an appraiser, I know that original condition is just one very important characteristic when assigning value.

My entire career has centered around selling items that are in good, original condition — not stripped of its original finish, not repainted, not repaired or refurbished — just plain original condition.  That original condition attracts the collector toward the mellowness of color that only the passage of time can create on a beautiful wood piece, imperfections and all.  Those imperfections “prove” to the collector’s discriminating eye its true age, and the history and personality of the piece.  Worn leather, distress marks, scars from accidents, etc. are all part of the life of our antique possessions before they came to us.

The collector knows some of these marks are positive attributes, but the average person is in search of perfection — perfection of body, perfection of mind, perfection for each facet of their lives.

The truth suddenly occurred to me!  We should look at ourselves and each other in the very same manner as that special collector.  We are aging; we have earned our stripes.  We have gained insight and wisdom through the passage of years.  Yet we too have many imperfections: a chip here and there, a few fracture lines, a scar or blemish.  We should strive to do our best to live with our original condition for as long as possible.

While one chip can greatly diminish the value of an antique platter, our own self-worth only grows deeper with our well-earned battle scars from a life well lived and loved.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on July 15, 2015 at 10:46 am  Comments (6)  
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An Example of the Changed Antique Market

People always ask why their mother’s or grandmother’s handmade antique Persian rug is selling for so little.  After all, it is a work of art, a beautiful creation out of the imagination of an artist who took many months, if not years, to create with talented, nimble hands.  It’s old too, so it must have value.  How can this rug which mom paid $9,000 for in the 1980s be selling for $500 today?

WP_003180Behold the image in the photo; an image you see every day from Target to Walmart, from Costco to Bed Bath and Beyond. (Strolling through Costco was the inspiration and the photo for this blog.)

Machine-made, hand-tufted copies of real, antique Persian rugs.  Rugs recreated with pretty colors and patterns most likely taken from the old beauties.  Some are a wool blend, but most are inexpensive acrylic.  The answer is right there for all to see, if we are paying attention.  Cheap, machine-made copies that look good enough for the majority of people and their style, color theme, and most importantly, their budget.

Why would someone pay $9,000 when they can have a pretty look-alike for under $200?  They don’t have to worry about spilling on the look-alike rug, or the effects of small children and puppy accidents.  This rug can be replaced cheaply in a year or two when people have grown tired of the colors and want a change, or when it wears out.

The reasons are numerous:

  • These rugs are inexpensive, but look good with our furniture,
  • We don’t worry about them as if they were an antique,
  • Very few people care if it is real or not, wool or acrylic, hand-knotted or machine-made.

This is how we’ve changed and manufacturing has figured us out and is meeting our demand.  We don’t necessarily need top quality with a price tag to match.  We just want something attractive, so they make them by the millions.

On the flip-side, there will always be those, myself included, who are enamored with a genuine Persian, or a genuine antique.  Even the feel of a genuine Persian rug lends credence to the love that went into making it, as well as the spirit of the artisan is locked into the weaving.  But, I don’t spend a lot of money on these either.  I recently purchased two antique Persian rugs for $200 each at an auction and they are stunning.  An interesting observation: the new machine-made rug that wasn’t nearly as pretty also sold for about $200.  Go figure.

I have also seen other interesting trends, such as fine antique furniture pieces selling for $100 – $250 and the next item sold was a fairly new, “Made in China” cabinet for $350.  Why?  Because it had the look someone wanted.

One must wonder if we are living in times where quality doesn’t matter as much to the masses.  What they are looking for is simply:

  1. What looks good?
  2. What is in their budget?

This is yet another reason why the antique and collectibles market is soft.  The average person doesn’t think of these things I present here.  It always comes down to supply and demand, and has nothing to do with what someone paid for an item.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on January 8, 2015 at 9:20 am  Comments (3)  
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Estate Items: What’s Hot and What’s Not?

As we head into the new year, we also head into continued uncertainty with our economy, among other challenges.  The past few years have left some battle scars on the personal property industry, and the economy is still in a weakened state.  We are witnessing the market become flooded with traditional furnishings.  One has to wonder:

  1. When will the market return?
  2. What is currently selling well, if traditional furnishings are selling low?

How I wish I had that crystal ball!  Since we don’t, we can only read the trends based on our experience.

This list is not all-inclusive, but just the highlights of the market.  Items on the “NOT selling well” list are still selling but only if prices have been significantly lowered by the seller/liquidator.

Just this week, we saw a fantastic antique English, curly maple chest of drawers sell for $150 at an auction.  A few years ago, that piece would have brought $1,000.

Please don’t blame the seller; this isn’t the seller’s fault.

The market is simply not bearing healthy prices on many items at this time.

This is the new normal.

What’s currently HOT and selling well?

  • Mid century furniture, some Danish modern, designer furniture from this era
  • Military items: Civil War to present day
  • Genuine and costume jewelry
  • Sterling silver/gold/platinum
  • Vintage toys
  • Record albums: classic rock, jazz, blues.  Not opera or classical yet.
  • Vintage electronics and stereos
  • Utilitarian items: housewares, cookware, kitchen ware, tools, camping, etc.
  • Used cars/boats
  • Vintage garden and patio items
  • Guns
  • Yard items/ornamental/garden tools

What’s NOT selling well?

  • Traditional “brown” furniture
  • Glassware: clear etched, cut crystal, pressed glass, etc.
  • China sets and painted porcelains
  • Victorian furniture, other dark heavy antique pieces
  • Holiday items/collections
  • Rugs: Persian, Oriental
  • Collector plates and figurines (Franklin Mint, Bradford Exchange, etc.)
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Common antiques
  • Dining room furniture, hutches
  • Print media: numbered prints, mass-produced art items

If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that things are always changing.  For now and for quite some time to come, these are the trends and predictions.  One day, this will change too; we just don’t know when.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Our Addiction to Acquisition

The world seems to be much smaller than it used to be; the same is true of our living space.  I think we humans have a problem with buying and collecting too much.  Two questions baffle me, even after all these years of handling estates:

Why do we collect so much stuff?

What possesses us to continually buy things we don’t need, don’t use, and eventually become a monkey on our backs or a burden to loved ones?

In order to understand, we must go back into our long-ago and far-away to understand our ancient ancestors.  My very unscientific and unproven theory is that, as far back as caveman days, we were hardwired to hunt and gather.  Fast forward to the 21st century.  We don’t have to hunt any longer and it requires no effort or discipline to acquire things.  We’ve become extremely proficient at gathering too.

People have truly become anchored by spending and acquiring stuff.  For some, they become emotionally paralyzed in trying to let go of stuff.  Stuff weighs people down, as I see so often in my work.

Now we have so much stuff, many people are about out of money or in great debt.  When they sell some of what they acquired, they get upset when they can only regain a fraction of what they paid.  As we let go of some stuff (that on some level we equate with success), we go through a very real fear that we won’t be able to replace it one day.  What was once a comfort is now headed out the door.

To some people, acquiring things is a hobby.  For others, it is an obsession.  Yet our lifestyles are so different today; many are downsizing because they don’t want their possessions holding them back.

Here’s a history lesson on the acquisition of and attitude towards stuff:

We know the Depression Era folks rarely thew anything away.  This behavior is ingrained in them to never go without again, having survived such challenging times.  This generation has a tendency to go overboard on “stocking up,” a fear based response.  This is also a psychological decision which brings comfort, since everything is close if they need it.  As a sign of success, they are proud of their possessions, because during the Depression, they did without them.

This may explain why they keep leather straps, old shoelaces, myriad Cool Whip containers, mayonnaise jars, aluminum pie tins, pantyhose, pencil nibs, and enough rubber bands to stretch around the neighborhood.  They also collect canned foods because “you never know when you are going to need them.”

The older Boomers are so traditional and as loyal as their parents; they generally have a difficult time letting go of stuff.  They may feel a profound sadness in letting go of previous generations’ things, even as they realize the younger generation no longer wants these things.  They are in the middle of making tough decisions to keep or sell these items.

This generation is responsible for keeping storage companies in business.  But they don’t realize the items in storage lack the value of what they are paying for the storage costs.  They live with high hopes that their children will change their minds and keep these things, and even higher hopes that their grandchildren will want them.  If I was a betting woman, I would say, “NO, they will not change their minds.”

The younger boomers are still somewhat traditional, but generally do not feel the pressure to hold on to these things.  This generation can let go much easier.

Enter the young generations X and Y.  I can’t say much that would surprise you.  They have little sentimentality.  They seem to not have a desire for things of any kind, except what you can buy in IKEA.  This generation would never understand the concept of keeping furniture for decades, or covering every table surface with trinkets.  Theirs is a much simpler world.

They acquire virtually.

We acquire physically.

Do you see the huge division of thoughts, beliefs, and emotions causing problems in the market?  We have too much supply and not enough demand from the younger generations.

What do you think will become of our antiques and collectibles with the passage of time?

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Beware of Snowballing Family Lore

I would be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every time I heard a family member tell the story of an heirloom in which the story gets bigger and better with every telling.  It’s like the old parable, “The fish that got away was THIS big …” and every time the story is told the fish miraculously gets bigger.

As estate professionals, we have the same challenge when discussing and valuating family heirlooms and other treasured items.  I visit clients in their homes and enjoy each of them as I listen to their stories.  However, I know what the values really are, regardless of the verbal family stories.

The hard part for me, and for the client, is providing proof that the following really happened:

  • “Did you know Abraham Lincoln sat in that chair?”
  • This belt buckle once belonged to Robert E. Lee.”
  • Our grandmother told us Teddy Roosevelt took a picture with daddy, but we don’t know where that picture is.”

We know what these items are worth on a monetary level, but you can’t place a value on sentimentality.  Sentimentality is priceless.  Sentimental items are what we mostly find.

Could some of these family stories actually be true?  Who’s to say.  Perhaps they are.  But without provenance, or history of the piece, it leaves a question mark and it’s impossible to valuate.  The needed proof would be, for example, a photo of Abraham Lincoln really sitting in that chair with the original upholstery, or a document that proves it was at a historic event or with a person of distinction.  Without proof, we can only appraise what we see based on the characteristics or its aesthetic value.  It then becomes just an “old chair.”

I look back into my experiences with all kinds of families and wonder why most people seem to exaggerate about possessions.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • It’s their version of the truth as they see it.
  • To make the item more “valuable”
  • To accentuate the positive.
  • To make the mundane more exciting
  • To give their heirs a legacy they believe is valuable

Maybe Abraham Lincoln did sit in that chair.  Or maybe he sat in one just like it, and that’s how the story got started.  Someone heard what they wanted to hear and generations of tongues did the rest.  It happens in every family.  Remember too, that people hear what they want to hear.

The bottom line is that we professionals don’t want our clients to be disappointed when they go sell these items and the prices brought don’t match the stories behind the pieces.  Very often, this is the case.  Setting your expectations in neutral before the estate process gets started means we all are one step ahead.

Research professionals before you hire them, but then listen to them with an open mind.  We know the items in the majority of our estates, and if we don’t, we can research them.  Have faith that we handle these possessions every day and can advise you correctly and honestly.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Where, O Where, Have All the Experts Gone?

Experts in antique books, stamps, silversmith, woven rugs, Persian rugs, clocks, estate jewelry, advertising, coins, etc. are getting harder to find for several reasons:

  1. They have died.
  2. They are up in years and no longer practice.
  3. They have gone out of business due to lack of interest and sales.
  4. The younger generations aren’t interested in learning the craft of their elders.

Now we are left with a shortage of rich-with-experience “old-timers” in these specialty areas.

  • How will we be able to identify historic items and other pieces of significance after they are gone?
  • How will we ever know the stories behind such items?
  • Without these elders and their expertise, what will we have to teach our children and grandchildren?

This wealth of information has fallen on the deaf ears of the younger generations; now they have no trade to fall back on in life.  It’s really sad, but it’s their decision to make.

I was in Arizona a couple of years back and talked with some of the Native Americans.  They instantly saw how I lit up holding their silver jewelry, wondering how they achieved a certain shape, scroll, or color.  This conversation led to another, when I asked the elder silversmith if he had taught his son and grandson his wonderful skills.

Silver_Buckles

“Neither wanted to learn,” he said.  “Now they have their fancy phones and games, but they have no way to make a living.  They don’t know much.”

Spotting a weaver, I went over and talked with her as well.  You’d be amazed how well a huge smile opens doors.  Hers was the same story.  All of these middle-aged and older people learned their skills from their parents and grandparents, but very few of their children were interested.

As someone who loves the estate industry, you could say that I study the possessions of those already passed.  I wonder how appraisers in the future will be able to do their job, as experts die off.

This Estate Lady is collecting unusual books about all of the topics I mentioned at the top.  At the rate everything is being read online, the real books containing rare information will be considered trash one day.  I can see some of these books being dumped.

I know what is inside those books is more valuable than the things I appraise.  They contain knowledge, and you can’t put a price on that!

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on September 4, 2014 at 9:45 am  Comments (3)  
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Caveat Venditor

“Let the Seller Beware” When It Comes to Selling Gold

Pick an industry – any industry – and there will be good and bad people in it.  The estate industry is no different.  You find dedicated souls who are simply outstanding and go the distance to help their clients, and then you have those who are in it for a quick buck and could care less.  You must heed my advice:

SELLER BEWARE!

Sadly, people do get ripped off every day, and more people get taken advantage of when selling gold jewelry than the sale of anything else.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Most people take their jewelry to jewelers, thinking this is the logical place to sell it.  While that’s not a bad choice, there are other options.  You owe it to yourself and the estate to shop around.  Some go to coin shops, antique stores, or private collectors.  Try locating places closest to the refinery; you are likely to make more money.

Here are some tips to help you get your fair share:

  1. Have sterling and gold identified as genuine.  Do not sell it at this time; just get help in identifying it.  Do not sell it in a rush, unless you have to.
  2. Find a local place that is close to a refinery, get a quote, then take it to jewelers.  Do research online to see if you can find a local resource.  Most jewelers sell to refiners, so you may want to go straight to the source.  Have your facts together first.  It is worth taking jewelry to multiple places to get the most $$ you can.
  3. Pay attention to daily spot price of gold and silver, http://www.kitco.com.  Prices fluctuate throughout the day every day.  This site will give you a per ounce price.  You need to understand that the per ounce they are referring to is pure bullion, pure gold, pure silver, NOT 14K, 10K, etc.  These are not pure, so the spot price will not apply to a handful of 14K jewelry.
  4. The troy ounce is used in the weighing and pricing of precious metals: gold, platinum, and silver.  The troy ounce is different from an ounce you would weigh on your kitchen scale.  If you get into weighing metals, you will need a jewelers scale that includes troy ounces or “ozt.”  You can buy an inexpensive jeweler’s scale online.
  5. Let’s say that gold is $1,300 per ounce.  You will not get $1,300 per ounce for your 10K or 14K because it is not pure gold.
  6. Divide today’s gold price from Kitco.com in dollars per ounce by 31.1 to get today’s gold price per gram.  There are 31.1 grams in an ounce of gold or silver.  If today’s price was $1,300 per ounce, then: 1300 divided by 31.1 = $41.80/gram.  Then, multiply by the fineness of the gold:
  • 10K = .4167
  • 14K = .5833
  • 18K = .7500
  • 22K = .9167
  • 24K = 100% gold

So if you have 10K and the price of gold is $1,300 per ounce or $41.80 per gram, then the price of your jewelry is $41.80 x .4167 = $17.41/gram.  If you have 10 grams of 10K at $17.41/gram, your scrap gold is worth $174.10.

Remember, this is for illustrative purposes.  The gold still has to be tested/assayed to determine the true percentage of gold.

TIPS:

  • Keep gold coins separated, because they have numismatic value, as well as metal value.
  • You can purchase your own gold testing kit, but it will be tested again when you go to sell it.
  • Weigh your items by grouping together (10K, 14K, etc.).  Use a loupe to look inside the piece to find a mark.  Not all pieces are marked; this is why they should be tested.
  • loupeperson1
  • Scrap gold dealers in store fronts (“We Buy Gold”) will likely buy from you at 30-60% LESS than the gold’s worth.  A jeweler will usually pay more than this.
  • Be aware that often gemstones set in jewelry are not included in the offer.  Those seem to just go along with the gold, which doesn’t seem fair to me.  IF it is a large stone, you may want to have it removed from the setting BEFORE you scrap the gold.  Please have the stone identified!
  • Private collectors may offer a very fair price, if you can find them.  Know the worth before you sell.
  • Gold refiners pay 90% and sometimes more, but they may have a minimum weight requirement.
  • Old dental gold is usually between 8K and 18K; it must be tested as well.

If you dislike math, this helpful website for gold scrap weight conversion and melt value calculator will do the figuring for you:  http://www.silverrecyclers.com/calculators/gold_calculator.aspx.

For a list of reputable dealers in the U.S., see US Mint page on recommended coin and gold buyers:  http://www.usmint.gov/mint_programs/american_eagles/index.cfm?action=lookup.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

 

 

The Downside of Online Auction Sites

Aside from the ever-increasing fees that have hurt the “little guy” trying to make a decent living or extra income, there is nothing wrong with online auction sites.  In fact, they have opened our eyes to a whole new world we never knew existed just a few short years ago.  We can easily shop globally from the confines of our desk to find comparable items, best prices, and unique finds.  Our online reach can take us anywhere.  That’s the good news.

Anyone can post anything online, often without knowing what the gismo is, what it’s called, with little accountability for errors or condition issues, and certainly without understanding the values.  That’s the bad news.

From the perspective of an appraiser, online auctions bring income to millions who ordinarily would not have that income, but there are pros and cons to consider.

Back in the day before these sites, an item could legitimately be called “rare and unusual” and might sell for $1,000.  Today when you search for the same item online, suddenly there are 2,193 of them across the world, ranging in price from $5.99 to $5,000.

You are witnessing the flooding of the market.  In addition, prices that are either too low or too high are hurting the market.

Because we are all connected online now, there is very little rarity, not many surprise “finds,” and no uniformity, as prices are all over the board.  It is up to the buyer to beware and purchase carefully.

With so many of the same or similar gismos being listed, we must:

  1. Give thought to what that has done to values (and it isn’t good).
  2. Recognize that as elderly collectors pass away and someone attempts to sell the entire collection online (or even at a local auction house), they will inadvertently be flooding the market.  When selling a large collection, a handful of hard-to-find pieces will sell well, but the remainder will sell far lower than expected.

Too much of the same/similar items being dumped on the market and listed online (supply), and not enough people to buy them (demand), drives prices and values downward.

Are we shooting ourselves in the foot?  Yes, but we’re in too deep to make any serious changes now.  We’ve become accustomed to the lure of sales and discounts.

With online auction fees climbing, one has to ask if it is actually worth it, between the soft economy and the fees that eat your profit.  Yet, to many people, it is a source of income they need, to make ends meet.  A Catch-22 situation, indeed.

Other challenges with online auctions are:

  • It takes the fun out of being at a physical auction where buyers get caught up in bidding wars, and items may actually sell for more in person than an online auction.
  • Online auctions take the “social” out of attending local auctions.  When you stop and think about it, online auctions are “anti-social.”
  • Tangible experience.  With an online auction, you can’t personally examine the item(s) you would like to bid on.  You just look at photos and bid accordingly.  With a local auction, you can preview, handle, examine, test, etc. to be sure your bid is where it should be.

As a result, many items from online auctions end up being returned because:

  1. The seller did not properly describe the item, or,
  2. The pictures did not represent the item accurately, or,
  3. The buyer is fickle.

Online auctions are neither positive or negative.  They certainly do boost viewers and more people are shopping from their homes.  But as an appraiser, I wanted to offer some unique thoughts into the world of online auctions.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

 

Published in: on June 12, 2014 at 9:30 am  Comments (2)  
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