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What is this worth? And how can I sell it?

February 10, 2016

What is this Worth? And How Can I Sell It?

We are frequently asked “what is my item worth?” or “what is the best way for me to sell my item?” Despite what the boy’s on American Pickers would have you believe, the antique world is not cut-and-dried. Our response depends heavily on the item itself, and rarely comes without a lengthy process of research and thought. It is also important to note that “worth” is a relative term, and depends heavily on the motivation of the seller. We believe there is a direct correlation between the time and effort you are willing to invest and the price realized in the end. 

When we are faced with these inquiries, we find it helpful to consider a list of selling options, which we have outlined below.

  • Have a garage sale. A garage or yard-sale helps to eliminate years of clutter, and provides you with an outlet for quick sale. If this is the most viable option for you, it is important to remember the following: 

    • This type of sale requires a lot of work, including days of organizing, pricing and advertising.

    • Your “audience” is limited to the people in attendance. Depending on your advertising skills (and the quality of items you are offering) your reach will not go far beyond the city limits. 

    • People attending garage sales are looking for bargain prices. No matter the history your item carries, you won’t be getting top dollar (or eBay prices). 

    • There will always be leftovers, and no one to take care of them for you. The work continues, and you’re probably left wondering “was it worth it?”

What is it worth? And how do I sell it? - Garage Sale

  • Craigslist and local swap-shops. Most communities have an online classifieds, and/or “swap shop” pages on social media sites like Facebook. This is a good way to reach more people in your community, but it has its drawbacks. 

    • Your items must comply with the rules of the page or site. 

    • You need to be able to post pictures and provide a brief but accurate description of your item. 

    • This avenue provides a larger audience than a garage sale, but is still limited to those who are members of that page (and/or actively searching for items like yours). 

    • Like garage sales, people are still looking for bargain prices when they turn to classifieds and swap shops. 

    • There is always a risk involved when meeting to exchange goods and money with someone you have never met before. It is always recommended you meet in a safe and public location. 

    • In this sales avenue, you will often have people back out of a purchase or simply not show up for the exchange. 

  • Take your item(s) to a local auction house. Most communities have varying levels of professional auctioneers willing to offer their services for the sale of your items. Like other options, this path has its ups and downs. Auctions are a great sales channel for liquidation of a large number of items in a short period of time, though local auctions will rarely provide the highest possible payout.

    • The amount of work you are willing to put in will determine how much you earn in the end. If you have a large quantity of items, the auction house may offer to pick-up and transport them for you, but keep in mind that this service may eat away at a portion of your profit. If you are only selling a few items, you will need to find an auction house offering consignment services. When one is located, you will likely be required to transport the items (and possibly even set them up in the space provided).

    • “Consignment services” means you will leave your goods with the auction house to be included in a future sale along with the items of other sellers. 

    • The auction house will generally take 10-20% of the sale price of your item(s). In some cases (often depending on the final value of the item) the percentage could be larger. Some auctioneers also charge a buyer’s premium (typically 10%), and may even charge a seller’s premium for the same amount. There may also be a set fee to cover any advertisement and publicity costs. Be sure to find out any and all costs ahead of time. 

    • Auctions are usually attended by two types of people - those purchasing items for their own use, or dealers purchasing items for resale. If the people in attendance at the auction where your items are sold are primarily dealers, bidding will stop somewhere around 50% of the perceived retail value. If individuals are bidding for their own use, they will be willing to pay more. If a bidding war ensues between two individuals, prices can soar beyond the original perceived value. 

    • Room must also be left for human error - emotions, incorrect identification of items (by buyer or auctioneer) or even bidding errors can push profit in one direction or the other. Many factors can affect the sales price at an auction, making results slightly unpredictable. Unless a reserve price (the price specified before auction as the lowest acceptable by the seller) is set, anything can happen. 

What is it worth? And how do I sell it? - Local Auction House

  • Sell directly to a dealer or a “picker”. Whether you are approached by someone who is interested in your item(s) or you personally invite them into your world, this prospect can be challenging.

    • Unless you have a personal relationship with the buyer (or received a recommendation from a friend) it is difficult to know if their dealings are ethical and fair. In these situations, it is important to do some research into the possible value ahead of time.

    • That being said, even an honest buyer is still hoping to purchase your item(s) at the lowest possible price, in order to maximize their profit margin. Their long-term objective is to make money. As a seller, you should also consider the hidden costs the dealer will encounter, such as online fees, employee wages (if applicable), transportation and the inevitable cost of time. When agreeing on a price, these factors will weigh heavily on the dealer.

    • Many dealers will try to “cherry pick”, or take only the very best of your items, leaving you with the less-desirable leftovers to deal with on your own. If you find someone willing to take the good and the bad, don’t let them get away. 

What is it worth? And how do I sell it? - Picker or Dealer

  • Sell via eBay, Amazon, Etsy or other online eCommerce services. These sites have increased in popularity by leaps and bounds. Most people you come in contact with have either purchased or sold something using at least one of these services. If you have a rare or desirable item, this option is one of the best. A highly sought after item could create a bidding war, ensuring peak retail value. More common items can also be sold, but most likely for a predetermined set price. This option does increase the possibility receiving top dollar for your item, but it does require a fair amount of work. You will need to determine in advance if you are willing to do this work in order to increase your reward. Remember the following:

    • These sites are viewed by a worldwide audience, so your item(s) will reach many more people. 

    • To sell on these sites, you must have a membership. 

    • Starting to sell items on any site will not be a simple. You will have to invest time and energy into learning the process, and then put that process into action. Your item(s) will need to be cleaned, thoroughly and accurately described, and photographed in a way that makes them look desirable to buyers.

    • If you are a first time seller, buyers may be reluctant to purchase from you until you’ve established a good reputation. 

    • Most sites (especially those with high volume of traffic like eBay and Amazon) charge fees for listing items, as well as 10% of the final purchase price. PayPal, or other payment services, also take a small percentage of the price to process payments.

    • Once an item has sold, you will need the knowledge and ability to fulfill the shipping requirements. It is possible to offer local pickup, but this is rarely taken advantage of anywhere other than a metropolitan area. 

What is it worth? And how do I sell it? - eBay, Amazon

  • Sell your items through national auction houses. Working with a national auction house requires highly valuable, desirable and/or rare items that would appeal to serious collectors and wealthy buyers. This would not be an option for more common objects.

    • Breaking into this market requires significant effort (or strong connections in very high places). 

    • Items will need to be transported to the auction house location, usually in a large, metropolitan area.

    • These auction houses reach far outside of their communities. Bidders usually include those in attendance at the auction house, online bidders, phone bidders, and absentee bidders who left bids with the auctioneer in advance.

    • The percentage of fees may be higher at a national level auction house, and will likely include a seller’s premium. If the final value of your item is higher than it would have been if sold anywhere else, the higher percentage may not be a concern. 

    • An auction at this level has the potential to place your items at arms reach to exactly the right people. Looking to sell an original Batman comic book? High-level auction houses usually know where to find just the right bidders (and potential buyers). 

    • The possibilities at this level are great, but you do have to remember, it is still an auction and anything can happen. 

Answering the following questions may help you decide which of these options is best for you and your items:

  1. Do I have the time and ability to research the potential value of my items?

  2. Are my items rare and desirable, or more commonplace?

  3. Is my primary objective to quickly liquidate a large number of items, or to sell each one for top dollar?

  4. Am I willing to sacrifice a portion of the value in order to avoid the time and effort it may require to achieve a greater price?

  5. Am I willing and able to put in the significant time and effort that may be required to achieve top dollar for my items? 

Mid Century Modern Red Vinyl and Chrome Chairs






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