Collectibles as an Investment

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People collect all sorts of things. I’ve seen doll collections, Hummel collections, sewing machine collections, mahjong collections and porcelain Collie collections, just to name a few. People often spend thousands of dollars and years growing their collections, only to find out that the value for most items tends to decrease over time. So how do you put together a collection that is more likely to appreciate in value over time and get the most bang for your buck when it’s time to sell?

  1. Buy the best that you can afford. In the beginning, quantity may take priority over quality, just to fill up your shelves. However, the best collections are carefully cultivated, with top specimens often taking years to acquire either due to cost or scarcity. As your budget permits, buy the best examples that you can afford, as you might not get another chance for a long time.
  1. Trade up. After a while, many serious collectors may find themselves with duplicates or less than ideal examples in their collections. When the opportunity is available, try trading-up some of the less desirable specimens for better quality ones. In fields such a coin or sports card collecting, sometimes a minor improvement in a single item can increase the value of your collection by thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
  1. Keep an eye on the collectibles market. Just like the stock market, the market for collectibles can experience ups and downs. What may have been valuable years ago may only be worth a fraction of the value now (and vice versa if you’re fortunate…) Published identification guides often include price sheets, but they tend to become out-of-date very quickly unless the publication is only 1-2 years old. It’s best to use recent prices realized on eBay and auction house websites as a reference for the value of you collection, as they will more accurately reflect current pricing trends.
  1. Follow the golden rule of collecting. Collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect. If you find that this mantra is no longer true, it’s either time to downsize or sell your collection.
  1. Don’t burden friends or family with your collection. Unless they share the same passion for the items that you collected, most people are not terribly excited at the prospect of inheriting a collection, even if it’s valuable. Storing and insuring it can involve a great deal of time and money and selling it can be even more of a hassle, especially if they are in a time crunch to clear out an estate or storage unit.

If your intended recipient(s) would find the sales proceeds more beneficial than the owning the collection, take some time to find a reputable dealer or seller that can get you the best prices for your items. To make things easier, be sure to maintain an inventory of your collection with notes such as value and provenance, which can be very helpful when it’s time to sell.

 

The Catch of a Lifetime

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I was recently fortunate enough to travel to Alaska for the fishing trip of a lifetime. Amongst all of houses and small cabins that dotted the small fishing town that we stayed in, I wondered what sort of fishing treasures of yesteryear existed.

Antique fishing lures and equipment can be highly collectible, with certain items bringing hundreds or even thousands of dollars each. For quick reference, most of the “good stuff” is from the mid 20th century and earlier, so if it were handed down from your father or grandfather, there’s a good chance it’s of the right time period.

Lures tend to be the most attractive items left behind in old tackle boxes, especially if the original box was saved, too. The earliest lures are typically carved from wood, although there are some highly desirably metal spoons and even a few glass lures, too. Some of more collectible manufacturers include Heddon, Shakespeare, and Pflueger (all are still in business today), although some of lures produced by regional manufacturers or individuals can command strong prices as well.

Old fishing reels can sometimes produce eye-popping prices, too. The most sought-after reels tend to be either early fly fishing or baitcasting reels and typically need to be in very good to excellent condition to command top dollar. Unlike lures, most reels have their original manufacturer and model number stamped on their sides, so it may be possible for you to look-up their values online if you are interested.

The most popular types of fishing rods to collectors tend to be old bamboo fly rods. You’ll typically find these rods in 2-3 sections kept in their original cloth rod sleeve or metal travel tube. Collectors enjoy them due to their craftsmanship as well as the additional action they can provide while fighting a fish. These rods frequently sell for hundreds of dollars each, with the most coveted examples capable of selling for several thousand dollars.

So next time that you’re poking around the garage or attic, take a few minutes to look at those old poles or the rusted tackle box that’s been sitting in the corner for ages. Who knows what fishing gems you may have laying around, collecting dust?

 

Fine Jewelry for Fine Prices

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As a young officer in the Navy, I followed engagement ring tradition and scrimped and saved three months’ worth of Ensign pay to buy a brand new ring for my future bride. Had I known then what I know now about estate jewelry, I could have either saved quite a bit on the ring I was after or would have been able to get a lot more bang for my buck with my full budget.

Estate jewelry is simply another term for “pre-owned” jewelry. It may be antique (crafted over 100 years ago) or as recent as a few months old, if the piece happens to be from a broken engagement or divorce. And depending where and how you shop, you can save a significant amount over the retail price of what you seek.

Two favorite buying venues of jewelry deal seekers are estate sales and auctions. Estate sales are typically held at the home of the owner may include the sale of fine jewelry amongst home décor, art, clothing, and other household objects. Jewelry sold at estate sales should be listed at a fixed price that is competitive to similar pieces in the market or online. The greatest selection of pieces is available during the first day of the sale, when everything is listed at full price. You may be fortunate to get a discount on pieces if they are still available on the second or third day of the sale.

Auctions are another great way to get super deals on estate jewelry. Whether you buy locally or online, be sure to set a budget for yourself and factor in any additional fees and taxes beforehand so that you don’t end-up overpaying for pieces that can be found elsewhere. Some of the most expensive and desirable estate jewelry is sold via auction, so it’s a great way to find a variety of high quality and designer pieces at wholesale prices.

Last but not least, do your homework before and after you buy estate jewelry. Be sure to inspect anything you plan to purchase beforehand, looking for signs of damage, repair, or missing stones, which should be factored into the price. A jeweler’s loupe with a 30x to 60x magnification can be purchased for a mere $10-$15 online and is a great tool to have for examining jewelry.

You’ll want to ensure that you’re purchasing from a reputable seller with a fair return policy, should you encounter unexpected problems with the authenticity or quality of the piece after purchase. Additionally, any valuable jewelry should have an appraisal performed by a certified independent appraiser, who can provide a more rigorous evaluation of a piece than what is oftentimes provided by a staff appraiser.

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Selling Furniture Online

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At some point of time or another, we all have furniture that we need to sell. Decorating styles change over time, we outgrow things, or sometimes we simply run out of space for everything that we’ve acquired. For the do-it-yourself type, here’s a guide to selling furniture yourself online.

 

Photos count. Most online buyers don’t expect pictures of used furniture to look as though they came from a Pottery Barn catalogue. However, furniture should appear clean and free of clutter and photos should be well-lit and as clear as possible. Taking pictures from multiple angles will give potential buyers a better idea of how the piece may appear in their own home. Don’t forget to show pictures of drawers opened and closed, in addition to any special details or damage.

 

State the facts. Be sure to include the name of the designer / manufacturer and the type of wood or fabric used, if available. Another obvious but frequently overlooked detail would be the dimensions and weight of the piece. If you’re not sure of the weight, a best guess will suffice.

 

Make the sales terms clear. Can you accept a local check or will only cash suffice? Should the buyer bring assistance to load the furniture? Are you willing to deliver it locally or ship it? More flexible terms require more effort from the seller, but typically result in faster sales and/or higher prices.

 

Be prepared to negotiate. No matter how great the deal is on the furniture you’ve just listed, everyone always wants a better deal. Try pricing your furniture a bit higher than what you’d expect to get for it, then be prepared to field lower offers and negotiate back to your preferred price. If you absolutely can’t go any lower on a price, be sure to state that the price is “firm” in your description.

 

Sell local, unless valuable. The market for secondhand furniture tends to be local, as furniture is large, heavy, and very expensive to ship. Unless you have a highly desirable piece of antique or mid-century modern furniture that’s worth thousands of dollars, than most pieces should be sold locally, with Craigslist being the preferred sale medium. If you do have something more valuable, considering offering it on a nationally advertised venue such as eBay, with local pick-up available. You can also offer to help make arrangements for freight transportation or through a website such as uShip if your buyer isn’t local and is willing to pay extra for shipping.

The Art of the Deal – Part II

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The Art of the Deal – Part II

Last issue, I provided several tips for sellers to improve their negotiating skills. This time, we’ll focus on suggestions for buyers.

 

Tips for Buyers

  1. Do your homework, too. Not every seller is always aware of the condition, value, or authenticity of an item they may have for sale. And occasionally, the seller may not be completely truthful about an item, either. This is why it’s important for buyers to take the time to educate themselves on an item before making a decision to purchase it, especially if it is expensive.

Be sure to purchase authentic items from a reputable source and ask if there is a return policy incase you have an issue with your item later. If the item is used, you should research comparable quality items that are for sale or that have sold recently to have a better idea of what you should be paying. This information can be used as leverage for the next step.

 

  1. Start low, then work your way high. As the buyer, one of your main objectives is to get the lowest purchase price for your item. If you’ve done your homework and have a sense of the market for a particular item, you can better negotiate to get an item at or below the market price. It is always easier for a buyer to negotiate an acceptable price by making a lower offer and gradually negotiating upward, versus the other way around (just don’t start too low, or else you risk insulting the seller.) When in doubt of what is considered reasonable, simply ask the seller what they’re best price is for a particular item.

 

  1. Buy in bulk for the greatest value. If you’re buying for re-sale, then purchasing items in large quantities or as a lot typically results in the best price per piece. Additionally, you may find the occasional valuable item in a mixed lot, which may pay for the entire lot (such as finding a piece of fine jewelry mixed in with a bunch of cheap costume jewelry.)

 

  1. Stick to your budget. It’s hard to walk away from things we really like or want, but sometimes its necessary when an item is priced too high or doesn’t meet our expectations. Unless an item is one-of-a-kind or extremely rare, then the buyer will typically have the upper hand when negotiating a price. Sometimes, however, sellers are unwilling to budge on their asking price and you may need to walk away if you don’t consider it a good value for the money.

 

  1. Build a network. If you frequently collect or purchase for resale, it’s a good idea to build relationships with the people that you purchase from the most. Showing an interest and appreciation for your sellers may result in first choice of new merchandise, preferred buyer’s rates, and introductions to other sellers.

The Art of the Deal – Part I

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You don’t have to be a blustery real estate mogul to be good at making a deal. Being a good negotiator is part science and part art, so anything you learn from a book or article needs to be practiced frequently in the real world before you can expect to become good at it. This article is the first of a two-part series intended to offer some tips to improve your negotiating skills when selling and buying.

Tips for Sellers

Do your homework. You can’t sell anything very well if you don’t know much about your item. Some basic questions you should answer first include:

  • What is demand for this item?
  • Is it authentic?
  • What’s it worth?

Before I sell anything, I always verify that there is a good demand for an item. You can browse the current listings on Craigslist for large, common items such as furniture or household goods, while the sold listings on eBay provide a good overview of market prices for smaller items.

If your item has significant value in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, be sure to have it authenticated before your attempt to sell it. If you didn’t purchase it directly from the manufacturer, artist, or a reputable re-seller, then consider seeking out an expert in the field or appraiser to verify your item is authentic.

Once you’ve verified it’s authentic, determine a range of value based upon comparing the condition of your item to similar or identical examples that have recently sold. Again, you can use Craigslist or the sold section on eBay to find this type of information.

 

Start high, then work your way low. As a seller, your objective is to try to sell your item for as much as possible, while the buyers try to to buy it for as cheaply as possible. If you have a certain price in mind that you want an item to sell for, try marking-up the price, then gradually reducing the price over time until it sells. For example, price an item worth $75-$100 at $125, then lower the price by $15 – $25 every other week until it sells. You may even get lucky and have someone that really wants the item pay your initial $125 asking price.

For a quicker sale, advertise that you’re willing to consider a “Best Offer” and negotiate with potential buyers until someone offers a price in the “sweet spot” that you’re willing to accept.

 

Know when to hold, and when to fold. If you happen to have something that’s rare, valuable, and in-demand, then you can almost name your price when it comes to negotiating with a serious buyer. For example, a 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle baseball card in poor condition is worth enough to send you (and your family) on a nice vacation. Better examples could pay for a car… or house! That’s because this particular card is considered a cornerstone of any serious baseball card collection and is difficult to find in any condition, let alone excellent condition.

On the other hand, having large collection of common items (such as newer baseball cards, rocks, and travel mementos) is typically much more difficult to sell. This is due to the time involved to sort through and identify more valuable individual examples and also because of low demand in general for those types of items. In those cases, sometimes it’s a good deal for you simply to be able to locate someone willing to pay you a reasonable amount to haul off the collection and do the work themselves.

A Beginner’s Guide to Selling at Auction

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This is the second part of a two-part series on buying and selling at auction for beginners. In this article, I’ll provide some guidelines for choosing an auction house.

Pros and Cons. Selling at auction can be a great way to sell an estate or collection quickly and efficiently. A well-organized auction can attract a lot of buyers and can turn the entire contents of a house or collection into cash with a day or two of sales. If the auction include items that are, rare, valuable, or have interesting provenance (history of use or ownership), then it’s possible to exceed the original estimates if a bidding war breaks out.

On the downside, most items sold at auction are sold “without reserve”, meaning there is no minimum sales price established for an item and it may sell for much less than you wanted. Larger auction houses may be willing to set a reserve if an item qualifies for one of their specialized quarterly or semi-annual sales, but that means that you may be waiting several months or longer for your item to be listed for sale (and even then, there are no guarantees that it will sell).

 

Understand the fees. Auctions are essentially a form of consignment, but the fees they charge may not always be fully understood by the consignor (seller). An auction house receives a sales commission (percentage) based on the final bidding price of an item. The consignor’s commission rates can vary widely, anywhere from 0% to 40%, and often depend on the value of the item(s) being sold. A second commission called a buyer’s premium is charged separately to the buyer. This fee may be anywhere from 10% to 25%, depending on the auction house and the bidding method utilized.

Additionally, fees may be charged for services such as pick-up, advertising, appraisals, or even if an item fails to sell. Generally, the more valuable an item or an estate may be, the better chance you may have in negotiating a better commission or reduction of certain fees.

 

Reputation. An important consideration when deciding on an auction house is their reputation. Is the staff friendly and knowledgeable? Do they specialize in a particular type of item, and if so, how have their past sales been? Are there any reviews / testimonials available from past consignors online or in person? It certainly never hurts to do your homework in this area to ensure that your expectations will be met.

 

Presentation. In sales, presentation is everything. Auctions are no different, and top auctioneers know that. Before the sale, what sort of preview does the auction house provide? Are there photos and descriptions of the items available online, and if so, are they of good quality? Does the auction house only sell locally, or do they accept phone and online bidding as well? How are items presented when they are being sold?

If at all possible, try to attend a live sale before choosing an auction house. You’ll get true sense of the staff, their clientele, as well as how things run. Ideally, a sale should run like a well-oiled machine, with knowledgeable, friendly employees available to address any questions or concerns. Choose anything less and you’re selling yourself short.

A Beginner’s Guide to Buying at Auction

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Live auctions can be a great way to scoop up bargains or add hard-to-find items to your home or business. To the novice, however, auctions can appear confusing or intimidating at first. Here are some good tips to get you started successfully at your local auction house.

  1. Caveat emptor (or “Let the buyer beware”). Most items sold at auction are sold “as is” in estate condition, which means they have previously been owned and/or used and don’t come with a guarantee. Items may also be described incorrectly and damage or defects may not necessarily be included in online descriptions or photos. Whenever possible, inspect the items in person for signs of wear, damage, or repair. If you can’t make it to the auction house, call or e-mail in advance of the sale to inquire about the condition of the item(s).
  1. Ask questions. Auction houses should be happy to educate new buyers on the auction process and the items being sold, and if they aren’t welcoming, take your business elsewhere! Bidders typically have to register in advance, which may include providing a copy of a driver’s license and/or form of payment to keep on file. You should also be aware of any buyer’s premium (a fee charged by the auction house to the buyer) and taxes after the sale, which may add another 15% to 25% to the final bid price.
  1. Make a list. Seasoned bidders will often make a list of items they wish to bid on with their maximum bid amount next to an item description or lot number. This keeps them focused and within their budget.
  1. Carry a measuring tape. If you’re planning on purchasing a larger item such as a piece of furniture or a rug, be sure to take the measurements of both the space that you intend to place it, as well the doorframes in your home and the cargo area of your vehicle. You’d be amazed at how many people buy things that don’t fit in their car or home!
  1. Bring some packing materials. Auction houses may have some extra boxes and recycled packing material available for buyers, but they’re usually limited and may be gone by the time you get a chance to pack. Bring some newspapers and boxes to pack smaller items and have some old blankets handy if you plan to buy furniture or other large items. If you purchase a chandelier, a wardrobe box from Lowes or Home Depot can be a good way to transport it home safely.
  1. Pack a snack. Auctions may have anywhere from several hundred to a thousand or more lots to sell at a time, so you may be waiting a while between lots that you want to bid on. Consider packing a snack and some caffeine if you’re going to be there for several hours or more.
  1. For resale, buy wholesale. Auctions can be a great way to purchase inventory at wholesale prices. Items sold as lots or in large sets can often be sold individually for a profit, providing you buy at a good price. Do your homework beforehand to determine a reasonable cost per item before bidding. The “sold” prices on eBay are usually a good indication of the resale value of more common items.
  1. Leave an absentee bid. Don’t have hours to spare sitting in a chair? Consider leaving an absentee bid, in which the auction house will bid on items for you up to a maximum amount that you set. Be sure to ask how the absentee bids are executed.

4 Easy Ways to Boost eBay Sales

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mini figs

When you’re experiencing sluggish eBay sales, here are four simple, yet effective ways to boost your sell through rate.

1. Browse the competition. A search of the recently sold items on eBay will provide an idea of what types of items your competition has been selling lately. Sellers of interest can be bookmarked by adding them to your favorite seller’s list for quick reference in the future. What types of items are they having the most success with and how often are they selling these items? What do their listings look like? What are their sales terms? You’d be amazed how much you can learn just by looking carefully at other seller’s listings.

2. Review your pricing strategy. If you’ve had an item listed for 3 months now with no offer, it’s probably time to make a change. Take a few minutes to re-assess the market and review similar items that have sold recently. Consider reducing your price to entice buyers, or using the “Make An Offer” feature if you want to get a better idea of what buyers are willing to pay. Items in high demand may even do better if listed at auction, especially if you have a group of similar items to sell at the same time. If you do auction them, be sure to stagger the start times and offer a combined shipping discount for multiple purchases.

3. Take better pictures. eBay is probably the most widespread marketplace online, connecting millions of buyers and sellers throughout the world. Not everyone may understand English, but they will understand great pictures. Look for ways to make your pictures stand out, especially the lead shot that’s used for the preview. Eliminate distracting backgrounds by using a pure white or a gradient background. Crop the lead photo closely to the item, so that the details are clearer to people that are casually browsing. Offer more pictures in the listing, which provides greater reassurance to buyers about the condition of the item.

4. Expand your offerings. Sometimes, a slowdown in sales can be attributed to seasonal shopping trends. Other times, it may be a matter of running out of popular inventory. In either case, expanding your inventory can help provide a more consistent baseline of sales, which will help ease the feast-to-famine mentality.

Not sure what to offer? Try looking for inventory that you have a personal interest in. You’ll be better positioned to purchase and re-sell inventory if you enjoy what you work with.

How to sell valuable items on eBay – Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 – How to Authenticate Your Item

If you have something that may be of great potential value, you’ll need to be sure to properly authenticate your item prior to attempting to sell it. This step is crucial to ensuring a smooth sale and maximizing the sale value of your item(s).

First, does the item have any provenance? Provenance is the history of ownership, which may include prior sale / auction receipts, photographs, or written documentation. Items with historically significant provenance or that have been owned by famous individuals can have their value increase greatly as a result.

If your item doesn’t have well documented provenance, then perhaps it’s possible to authenticate the item on your own using well-documented references (much like you did in your 8th grade term paper). Identical / similar items shown online and in print publications can be used to authenticate your items. I once did this with a rare piece of presidential china that I received from a client. After purchasing the reference book, I learned that the provenance the client had provided was incorrect and that the plate that she had provided me was actually older. It ended-up selling for $3189, which thrilled the client, the collector, and myself!

3189

If don’t have provenance or access to a good reference source, then professional authentication and/or appraisal may be necessary. This can be done for items such as jewelry, art, autographs, sports memorabilia, comics, coins, and even toys. Use your favorite online search engine to research different forms of authentication / appraisal for your item(s). If you’re still unsure as how you should proceed, look at which third-party companies major auction houses / dealers associate with as well as how they make available the authentication certificate prior to the sale.

Latest Blog Post

Collectibles as an Investment

People collect all sorts of things. I’ve seen doll collections, Hummel collections, sewing machine collections, mahjong collections and porcelain Collie collections, just to name a few. People often spend thousands of dollars and years growing their collections, only to find out that the value for most items tends to decrease over time. So how do […]

The Catch of a Lifetime

I was recently fortunate enough to travel to Alaska for the fishing trip of a lifetime. Amongst all of houses and small cabins that dotted the small fishing town that we stayed in, I wondered what sort of fishing treasures of yesteryear existed. Antique fishing lures and equipment can be highly collectible, with certain items […]

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