The Smart Collector: Ready to unload a collection? Here's advice from a pro

2011-11-27T00:00:00Z The Smart Collector: Ready to unload a collection? Here's advice from a proDanielle Arnet Tribune Media Services Arizona Daily Star
November 27, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Q: Help! Any advice on how to sell my collections? I've amassed hundreds of items related to covered bridges. I want to take a load off my children.

Q: How do I sell my old Coke bottles and old movie cameras? Where do I find buyers?

Q: What can I do with my collection of Christmas nutcrackers and Coke polar bears? I'm sure there are a million hugs from children who might enjoy having them.

A: Getting rid of a collection is a common reader concern. The final sentence in the last letter really touched me: Readers often express the hope that a new owner will appreciate their collection, yet this gentleman thought of a different solution and a special group.

And that "load" comment from the first writer - anyone who reads this column knows how I stress that.

Donating an appropriate collection to a children's club or facility, organization, or school is a lovely gesture. Many collections are instructive and/or educational. If they make attractive visual displays, so much the better.

Here are my general suggestions for readers who want to unburden themselves of a collection:

First, research what you have. Look for prices of similar items on eBay (check completed sales), www.worthpoint.com, and www.liveauctioneers.com

Price guides in a local library are another resource. If nothing similar is found, there probably is no demand for your items.

Decide if you want to sell or donate. Take a dispassionate, dead-eye look at your treasure(s) and ask, "Who is my likely buyer, and where do I find them?" Then target a specific method.

If selling, options are eBay, auction, a local dealer, garage sale, etc. Of course, value will be a factor in how you should sell.

Some collections, such as the covered bridges aggregate, are tricky. Quirky collections often sell best on eBay, where millions shop. Who knows? Someone may be looking for that exact theme.

Do not expect to achieve the retail values you found in research. Buyers, especially dealers, pay half or less. Auction has associated costs.

Bottom line; know the ups and downs of each method of selling. Believe me, they exist.

If not selling on your own, be sure to have written confirmation of costs and how payment is handled. A contract is best. Deal only with businesses you know to be honest and reliable.

In all cases, be honest about what you have to sell. Get ready to be tough. You invested love and a lot of yourself in amassing the collections. But the minute you decide to sell, it's just stuff.

Q: Years ago, my husband caddied on a golf course south of Chicago where Mafia types played. One player gave him a set of dice marked with initials that I know to be those of a member of Al Capone's gang. Are they worth more because of the owner's dubious past?

A: Notoriety often sells. But as with all celebrity items, proving ownership is vital. Basically, it's up to you to establish a clear link between the dice and their (perhaps) owner.

Or you could approach auction houses that sell show biz and celebrity-related memorabilia. Tell them the story that the owner was killed in a bank robbery, etc., and see if they're interested in selling the dice.

AUCTION ACTION

A lesson on how merchandise has to be the right stuff: This May, Sotheby's Geneva achieved new world records when a circa 1900 emerald and diamond tiara from the collection of a German noble brought $12.7 million. On the other hand, a necklace, brooch and earrings made of colored diamonds that may have been a gift from Empress Catherine I of Russia did not sell when offered this month.

Perfect in every way, aesthetically and gemwise, the tiara contained remarkable emeralds and diamonds. For some reason -perhaps the $10 million estimate - buyers shied away from the set.

In the same sale as the set, a yellow 110.03 carat yellow pear-shaped diamond brought $12.3 million. It was the right stuff.

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