Author Archive

Summertime Yard Sale Strategies

Written by traderchris on . Posted in Uncategorized

Some people think of summer as the ideal time to have BBQs, spend time outdoors, and go on vacation. My father would tell you that it’s his favorite time of year because yard sale season is well underway!

Why have a yard sale? Well, it’s an easy and cost efficient way to downsize and de-clutter all of that stuff that’s been building up for several years (or decades…) And you don’t have to drag things much farther than your garage or driveway in order to sell them. So, how to proceed?

1. Take inventory of what you want to sell. A good yard sale will have a nice variety of things and should easily fill-up your garage or driveway. If you have a few things to sell but not enough to entice people to stop, ask a few neighbors if they have items they’d like to contribute (they might even give you a cut of their profits if you offer to haul the stuff over and take care of the selling.)

2. Price appropriately. Nothing turns off people faster at a yard sale than overpriced items. You shouldn’t expect to get retail prices selling stuff on blankets in your driveway. Most items in yard sales cost a few dollars or less. And if someone asks to buy in bulk, consider giving them an even better deal (especially towards the end of the sale). If you have a lot of expensive clothing, jewelry, or other items that you need to sell, they should probably be listed at an estate sale or consignment store instead.

3. Advertise both online and locally. Craigslist is a great way to advertise your yard sale for free. It also never hurts to place a paid ad in the News and Observer online, as many people use that for sales info, too. Be sure to list the types of items for sale as well as the street address.

The evening before / morning of the sale is a good time to put out your signs. A good sign is sturdy, easy to see, has bold lettering, and lists both the address and direction of the sale (as not everyone has GPS and/or may be looking for a yard sale in the first place.)

4. Start selling early! Saturday morning at 8 am is the standard start time for most yard sales. 9 am or later start times are too late, as you’ll miss a lot of early bird buyers. If you want to get a jump on the local competition, consider starting at 7:30 am or even the day before.

5. Carry plenty of change. Yard sales are typically a cash only affair, so have plenty of small bills and change on hand.

If you have more expensive items to sell (i.e. large power tools, a john boat, or lawn equipment), consider opening a Square or Paypal Here account so that you can process credit cards on your mobile phone. The more ways that people can pay, the more likely you are to close a sale on those more valuable items.


The original article can be found in the June 2014 issue of Southern Neighbor available here:

Preparing for “Antiques Roadshow”

Written by traderchris on . Posted in Uncategorized

I recently had the chance to guest appraise at several local “Antiques Roadshow” type events. For anyone not familiar with it, “Antiques Roadshow” is a program on PBS where experts provide appraisals on items brought to them by people who live in or near the host city. People often wait in line for hours, hoping to gain a better understanding of their items and to find out if it has any value.

My limited firsthand experience revealed that most of the items brought to these type of events have little more than sentimental value in most instances. Unfortunately, I have not yet seen the market for Grandma’s china or depression glass to have rebounded yet, so I have to find a polite way to say that most of these types of items are not worth much. (The one exception I had encountered last year was a hand-painted Limoges plate that had originally been designed for the Rutherford Hayes White House. It later sold to a collector for over $3100!)

Another common misconception out there is that if something is old, it must be worth something. Alas, this is also incorrect in many instances. Age often lends rarity and/or provenance (ownership history) to an item, as fewer and fewer of the same items tend to survive with time. Yet, if the item is no longer collected widely (i.e. stamps) or doesn’t have historically significant provenance (i.e. old photos of unknown relatives), then the market for those items can be very poor.

So, what makes an item “Antiques Roadshow” worthy?

1. It has an interesting provenance. Anyone who collects anything almost always has at least 1-2 favorite pieces with a good story behind it – typically about how it was acquired or who had owned it previously. If you don’t have strict proof of provenance (i.e. photos of the item with the previous owner or purchase receipts showing custody), the next best thing is a signed affidavit from the current owner, attesting to the history of the item.

2. There is current demand for the item(s). Chinese antiquities are hot right now. (Most) books are not. Collecting trends come and go with time, so what may have been popular when the items were originally collected may have already peaked in value / interest. You can get a sense of what’s in demand by talking to local dealers, auctioneers, or simply typing in what you wish to research on eBay and click on the “Show Only Sold Listings” button on the left side of the browser window.

3. It hasn’t shown-up on tv before. You can actually browse an archive of items shown on any previous “Antiques Roadshow” by visiting wgbh/roadshow/archive/index.html . You can search by keyword or even by price. Assuming that longtime viewers like a bit of variety, the producers of the show probably search for things that complement other items that have been filmed in the past.


The original article can be found in the May 2014 issue of Southern Neighbor available here:


Finding the Diamond in the Rough

Written by traderchris on . Posted in Uncategorized

I’m usually so busy with consignments that I rarely get a chance to go out and look for items to buy and re-sell on my own. However, this past week, I received an e-mail from for a sale that was too good to pass up. The location was in Fearrington Village, about a 10-minute drive from my home. The items being sold were top notch, a nice mixture of antiques, luxury goods, and smaller collectibles. There were even good pictures posted with enough information for me to do some pricing research beforehand.

I woke-up early the next morning to get ready for the sale. Knowing it would be cold and that I might be waiting around for a few hours, I dressed in several layers, packed myself a little snack, and even prepared myself a travel mug full of piping hot coffee. I put a bunch of empty boxes and packing material in the car and headed off, excited about the morning’s prospects.

When I pulled into the neighborhood about 10 minutes later (and two hours before the start of the sale), imagine my surprise when I saw dozens of cars already lined-up along both sides of the street. “Oh no,” I thought, “other people know about the sale, too!”

I parked and quickly grabbed my gloves, hat, and small folding stool and headed towards the house, not realizing that I had left my mug of hot coffee in the car until it was too late. When I arrived, I felt a little more relieved, as there were only 10-15 people in front of me… or so I thought. A few minutes later, I overheard someone murmuring about “the list”.

“List?” I thought to myself. “What are they talking about?” Then I saw a yellow pad sitting on the steps with names and numbers. By the time I added my own name to the list at 7:15, there were 82 people ahead of me.

This baffled me. There were obviously not 80 people standing in front of me, so how could this have happened? I began to catch snippets of conversations from others in line. Apparently, there were seasoned estate sale stalkers that would go to great lengths to get prime positioning on “the list”. Some would come by the night before to start a list, while others may arrive at 5 am to get on the list, then sleep in their cars for a few hours. I even heard a few stories about unscrupulous attendees that had stolen or destroyed lists when others weren’t looking, just so that they could get a higher spot.

As it got closer to 8:00 aScreen Shot 2014-04-30 at 11.01.40 PMm, when numbers were to be handed out for the entry order, people started coming out of the woodwork. It was like a swarm of estate sale locusts! A number of people starting cutting in line while others simply pushed as close as possible to the entrance of “the hive”.

After watching the scene unfold a little while longer, I thought “this is ridiculous,” and decided to leave empty-handed and a bit in despair. On the drive back, I swore off going to estate sales ever again.

Of course, that promise was short lived, as curiosity got the better of me and I returned to the same house the next day, when everything remaining would be marked down.

As I expected, everything I had originally wanted was long gone. Most of what was left was either overpriced or miscellaneous chachkies. As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed that no one had touched either set of nice stereo speakers in the house. The pair of bookshelf speakers were marked down 50% to $15.00, and I managed get the matching set of floor speakers for only $30.00, after revealing that they needed some new foam inserts (which cost about $10 and 30 minutes of time for the do-it-yourselfer.) My faith in estate sales had been restored! Well, maybe not completely, but at least it was somewhat salvaged.


The original article can be found in the April 2014 issue of Southern Neighbor available here:


To Auction or Not to Auction… That is the Question

Written by traderchris on . Posted in Uncategorized

Doll DressI love auctions. There’s nothing more exciting that to see something you’re selling zoom beyond your expectations. On the flipside, it’s also quite possible for prices fall far short of what you had hoped. So how, when, and why would you choose auctions over selling items with a fixed price?

Auctions can either be conducted locally by a licensed auctioneer or online, with websites such as eBay or uBid being the most popular. A local auctioneer can typically handle anything from a single item to a large estate and can make arrangements to either haul everything off or hold the auction on-site. Most online auction sites allow users to auction items themselves, which may be preferable if you’re the do-it-yourself type.

If you’re in a bind for time or simply have a large collection, then an auction may be the best way to sell your items quickly and efficiently. Depending on the size and the scope of what you want to sell, an auction can be arranged and items sold within as little as a few weeks.

If you have something particularly rare or valuable, an auction can be a great way to bring the best price for your item. As the items are usually advertised in advanced with a limited window to place a bid, auctions will oftentimes bring out the competitive nature of serious collectors… and their large check books! (See the doll dress in the photo for reference.)

MeccanoWhile there are a number of positives attributes of auctioning off items, the biggest negative factor is less control than one desires over the final price, which can result in items selling for less than expected. Local auctioneers will typically sell to the highest bidder without a minimum or “reserve” price (I once sold a large lot of furniture through a local auctioneer. He nearly forgot about a huge antique dining table and sold it towards the end of the night for a mere $20, which made me sick to my stomach…) Formal auctions will oftentimes have estimated sales prices published in their auction catalogues and will start bidding at 1/2 of the lowest estimate. Occasionally, items may only receive a single bid at this opening price.

Online auctions can start as low as $0.01. I’ve sold more items at $0.99 than I care to remember (such items are typically low quality or obscure). If you’re unsure of the demand for an item online, I’d recommend either starting the auction at a higher price or listing the item at a fixed price instead.

Ultimately, things are only worth what other people are willing to pay for them. Sometimes, it’s a good surprise. Other times, it’s not. But it’s always fun and exciting.


The original article can be found in the March 2014 issue of Southern Neighbor available here:

A Basic Guide to Collecting

Written by traderchris on . Posted in Uncategorized

I’ve had the privilege to work with a number of collectors since I started my business and also spend a lot of time reading about different collecting trends. If you or a friend / family member has a collection or some sort or perhaps just want to start one, here are a few basic guidelines for a good collection.

Collect what you like. Owners of great collections have a passion for what they collect. They can usually tell you anything that you want to know about their collection, including the history of the item(s), variations, errors, etc. If you collect solely with the hope that your collection is an investment, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment down the road.

Do your homework.  If you’re serious about building a good collection, you should learn about your subject as much as possible. Which pieces are considered entry level and which are advanced? What’s an acceptable level of damage or wear? Do reproductions or fakes exist and if so, how do you tell the difference? Where are the best places to get good deals?

Buy the best quality that you can afford. Unless you plan to collect cars, then most collections can be started with a relatively modest amount of money, perhaps with as little as a few dollars. Over time, as your collection grows, you may find yourself shifting from quantity to quality, which typically means greater expense may be involved with each purchase. I know of one local coin collector who has told me he’s at the point of adding a new coin to his collection every 1-2 years, due to the particular quality and expense associated with his collection.

Keep the box. If whatever you collect comes with specific packaging or a box, be sure to keep it, ideally in the same condition that you originally received it. Boxes and packaging materials can add 10%-30% to the final value of a collectible and can sometimes be harder to find than the collectible itself. A vintage Barbie box is worth $25-$50, a vintage Rolex box may sell can sell for $100 or more, and a 1950s Hubley Atomic Disintegrator toy cap gun box may fetch up to $400 (without the cap gun!)

Pass it on to other collectors. Whether you spend a few years or a lifetime putting together your collection, at some point, it will be time to pass it along. If family members or friends don’t share the same level of enthusiasm for your collection, don’t burden them with having to deal with it themselves. Take the time to find a good outlet to either sell or donate your collection to others who will appreciate and take care of the items as you did.


The original article can be found in the February 2014 issue of Southern Neighbor available here:

A Quick Guide to Downsizing in 2014

Written by traderchris on . Posted in Uncategorized

A lot of my clientele consists of retirees or people that have managed to accumulate more items that they care to maintain. Since it’s the beginning of a new year when people feel the greatest motivation for change, I’ve decided to make a slight detour from my usual focus on collectibles and instead write a quick guide to downsizing effectively and efficiently.

First, give the people or organizations that you care about most the opportunity to request items that they wish to inherit or have passed along. Most times, there may only be a handful of items, with the remainder not necessarily being things they need or want (how many extra bunk beds or food processors does one possibly need?) It’s an important conversation to have with your beneficiaries while you are able and will help to minimize disputes down the road.

After certain items have been earmarked for friends or family, the remaining items can be divided into three categories: 1. Sell It 2. Donate It 3. Trash it.  I’ll expand a bit on each.

Items that should be sold include things like furniture, jewelry, household goods, fine clothing, etc., which are items that retain some degree of value, even if they are used. Sometimes these items have appreciated in value and you may receive more that you thought they were worth. If you’d like someone else to do most of the legwork in selling your items, then a consignment shop or auction house might be a good fit for you. However, if you’re the do-it-yourself type or want to keep most of the proceeds for yourself, Craigslist, eBay, and a number of other sales venues exist for that purpose.

Items worth donating may be older (i.e. vintage clothing or appliances), slightly damaged, or may have more sentimental value than resale value (wedding china and travel souvenirs come to mind…) These items are considered usable and functional, but might not be worth the time and effort to sell in the venues previously mentioned. If you have enough items to donate, sometimes you can arrange for a free pick-up from the charity or nonprofit that is receiving the items. Another good resource is, which allows members to post items available for free to each other.

Finally, if the items are not functional or have been damaged beyond repair or repurpose, it might just be time to throw it out. Items that have significant mold, mildew, rust, or that were inhabited by furry critters for several decades are probably the best candidates for the trash. Who knows, perhaps as soon as you put that rusting hunk of junk on the curb for the trash collector, someone else may come along to claim it as their new treasure.

The original article can be found in the January 2014 issue of Southern Neighbor available here:

What’s it Worth? – Vintage Stereo Equipment

Written by traderchris on . Posted in Uncategorized

When I was a freshman in college, I spent my entire Christmas break working two jobs so that I could buy a new home theater system for my dorm. It cost me $500. It lasted me a few years before I passed it down to my Dad. After setting it up and plugging it in, Dad said that it whirred for a few moments, coughed out a puff of smoke, and died. Thanks Sony.

So why is it then with all of the advances in technology today, do people still want to acquire and will sometimes pay a hefty premium for vintage stereo equipment? Simply put, they don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Marantz ReceiverQuality of sound has somewhat taken a backseat to the demand for an increase in the number and type of component connections in modern stereo systems. This is especially prevalent at the mid-range price point ($250-$500) that most people are willing to pay for individual stereo components.  As newer technology is crammed into these components, royalties must be paid to license the technology and less is spent on research and development to improve sound quality. So while the newest components will have the most bells and whistles, they will often fall flat in a head-to-head comparison of sound quality against their vintage cousins.

So, what types of components are most desirable to collectors or audiophiles? Vintage stereo receivers and speakers routinely top the list. For receivers, some of the most sought after makers are McIntosh, JBL, Marantz, Pioneer, and Sansui. For speakers, it’s Western Electric, JBL, Jensen, Tannoy, and Altec Lansing. Certain models in decent condition can easily sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars to the right buyer.

JBL SpeakersOne important reminder when you’re considering selling any type of vintage stereo component is to have the unit thoroughly evaluated by an electronics expert prior to sale. Buyers don’t necessarily mind purchasing a vintage piece of equipment that may need some repairs, but the last thing you want to do is ship someone a “Mint” pair of speakers that’s been sitting in a box in the attic for 25 years, only to have them returned for not working as advertised.

The cost to have individual components evaluated will typically run $25 – $50 at a good electronics repair shop, which I consider a very reasonable investment if the equipment will then sell for several hundred dollars or more. Doing your diligence upfront will give prospective buyers the confidence to spend their money with you and will minimize the potential for a costly return.


The original article can be found in the December 2013 issue of Southern Neighbor available here:

What’s it Worth? – Records

Written by traderchris on . Posted in Uncategorized

Time to set the record straight on records (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Every month, I get at least 1-2 inquiries about selling records. Most of the time, I can’t help but cringe a little as soon as I hear the request. Yes, it’s true that vinyl has made of bit of a comeback in the last 10 years. However, you have to keep in mind who is buying all of those records (mostly younger folks) and what they’re buying (unfortunately, not Benny Goodman or a lot of swing band albums). Record collecting today is driven directly by a few factors: genre, rarity, and condition.

By far, the most popular vinyl genre is classic rock from the 1960s – 1970s, with the Beatles and Elvis leading the way for some of the most desirable albums.  NextScreen Shot 2013-11-27 at 10.43.23 AM is a genre called “Northern Soul”, which originated in northern England in the late 1960s and consists primarily of lesser-known American soul artists that produced mostly regional albums in small quantities. Finally, hard-to-find pressings of certain classical albums can command prices into the thousands of dollars (although unless you are a very particular collector, you will most likely not own a classical album like that.) If you think you have something that may be valuable, visit , which lists the results for millions of record sales.

Next, it’s a matter of determining which albums may be worth selling individually. You’ll want to make a list of albums by artist, then either go to or use a book such the Goldmine Record Album Price Guide by Martin Popoff  (at nearly 700 pages, it’s vast, but not all inclusive). If stumble across a figure in the price guide, be sure to compare it with a recent comparable sale online, as that will probably be a more realistic idea of what your album is worth.

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 10.41.26 AMFinally, what is the condition of the album (including the inner and outer sleeve, as well as the record itself). Serious collectors use a grading scale to assess the condition of each album, which I’ll touch on briefly. “Mint” is perfect, having never been played and without any damage; “near mint” may have a slight defect, such as faint ring wear on the outer sleeve (this is the baseline for the price guide and most collectors); “very good plus” may have some signs of wear, but was handled carefully by the previous owner (worth 50% of a near mint album); “very good” albums may have surface grooves, or damage such as tape/stickers on the cover (worth 25% of the near mint value). Anything graded below very good may not be worth selling, unless you manage to have something truly rare and valuable, regardless of condition!

The original article can be found in the November 2013 issue of Southern Neighbor available here:

What’s it Worth? – U.S. Coins

Written by traderchris on . Posted in Uncategorized

On a business trip to New Jersey a few months ago, I stopped by my aunt’s house for a visit and a good meal. As dinner was cooking, she brought down a small box of coins that were given to her by my grandfather. She said that she didn’t have any interest in coin collecting and wanted to see if there was anything worthwhile in the box. Inside of 5 minutes, I found the most valuable coin in the lot – a $20 gold piece from 1900. It later sold for $1700 and was part of the nearly $5000 worth of coins in that small box.

Many coin collections I look at typically consist of rolls or baggies of old US coins. Sometimes, I’m just given a pile of various coins to pick through. It helps to know what you’re looking for to sort the coins into different values.

Many U.S. coins made in 1964 and earlier have a high silver content – 90% to be exact. The Dollars, half dollars, quarters, and dimes from this period are typically what hold the greatest value. For example, an old Roosevelt dime from 1950 may not look like much, but at current silver prices, they’re worth about $1.70 each. And since a lot of people have rolls of these old dimes, at 50 dimes per roll, they’re worth at least $85 from the silver content, versus the $5.00 face value.

Unless they’ve been obtained by a serious collector, most coins are likely to have been used and are in circulated condition. If they are made of gold or silver, they are always worth at least the gold or silver content that they contain.  A good website to help determine a basic value of your old coins is , which has a calculator that includes current gold and silver values.

Like any collectible, the better the condition the coins are in, the more valuable they tend to be. Numismatics (those who collect and study coins and currency) utilize a scale to assign grades to coins, which ranges from poor (PO01) to mint state (MS65). The U.S. Mint also produced higher-grade proof coins, which are usually distinguished by their mirror-like finish and extremely crisp detail.

Aside from their gold or silver content, scarcity can also be a driver of prices. Even something as common as a Lincoln penny can be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, IF you’re lucky enough to come across a rare find in good condition. If you think you may have something that’s rare or valuable, set it aside from other coins in a plastic baggie to minimize additional wear, until you get a chance to research it or have it evaluated. And whatever you do, don’t trade in those old coins for crispy new dollar bills, as you may be getting a lot less that they’re worth!

The original article can be found in the October 2013 issue of Southern Neighbor available here:

What’s It Worth? – Selling Jewelry Online

Written by traderchris on . Posted in Uncategorized

Unworn jewelry is one of the most common types of collectibles to wind-up in the back of a drawer or bottom of a jewelry box. Fashion change with the times, rings may become tighter with age, or sometimes there’s an unwanted memory associated with a particular piece. So, how about selling it to someone else that will appreciate it more?

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 11.01.04 PM copy

If the jewelry is made with precious metals (gold, silver, or platinum), it is always at least worth the value of the metal. You can get a basic idea of the value using a kitchen scale that measures in grams and searching for a scrap metal calculator online or in your smartphone’s app store. Most jewelry made with precious metal will be stamped somewhere to indicate the type and/or purity of the metal (such as the inside of the band of a ring or the clasp of a necklace).

Designer jewelry is a particularly good candidate for resale, as it is one of the most popular categories on eBay. Luxury brands such as Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Gucci, Bulgari, and Chanel command some of the highest resale values online. Vintage jewelry is also quite popular, with unique brooches, ornate rings, and bangle bracelets being some of the most active categories.

If the jewelry has recently been appraised, the resale value is typically 20%-40% of the appraisal value. This percentage may seem low, until you remember that appraisals are typically done for insurance purposes and provide the retail value of the item, making it easier to replace should it be lost, stolen, or damaged. The resale value may be higher if the piece is particularly rare, unusual, or has significant provenance.

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 10.49.09 PM

While describing the jewelry accurately is very important, having multiple, high-quality pictures of the pieces is even of greater importance, since buyers cannot see and touch the pieces themselves. Also, your potential buyers may not be native English speakers from the United States, so all the more reason to provide the best pictures possible.

Jewelry on eBay can sell for less than a dollar to $100,000 or more. Often, you can find similar items that have sold recently to give you a good idea of the resale value of your piece.


The original article can be found in the September 2013 issue of Southern Neighbor available here:



Latest Blog Post

What’s Hot, What’s Not – Part II

This is the second article in a series that will highlight items that are selling well versus items that are selling poorly, based on personal observation. What’s Hot Vintage Bakelite Jewelry – Bakelite was developed by Leo Baekeland in Yonkers, New York, in 1907. As an early plastic, it was used primarily for electrical insulation […]

What’s Hot, What’s Not – Part I

I receive inquiries almost daily about selling stuff. All sorts of stuff. Inquiries from the last month alone have ranged from selling high-end estate jewelry to the liquidation of a vintage beer can collection. I even took some time to go out and view an antique radio collection stored in an old school bus. I […]