Photo courtesy of EJ’s Auction & Appraisal.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned after a decade in this business, people love their stuff. Sports memorabilia, motorcycles, gems and minerals, comic books, coins, fine art…whatever they are collecting, it’s hard to part ways with it. Selling something you’ve cherished can be emotional, especially if you built your collection over a lifetime.
When it comes time to selling collectibles at auction, don’t make these common mistakes:
- Waiting too long. While it’s true that the values of some items are cyclical, certain items will only be of value to a generation of buyers who are nostalgic for their childhood. Examples include toy trains, which did much better at auction years ago, or celebrity and sports figure items that are not recognized by a younger generation of bidders. Currently, 1980s items are in demand, but that will likely change with time.
- Not providing provenance. A record of ownership, receipts and other documentation will help bidders verify authenticity and quality. Keep a detailed catalog of your collectibles and share any interesting facts relating to your collection or previous owners.
- Cleaning or polishing items. This is a common mistake, especially with antique furniture and coins. In your attempt to clean an antique, you could be scrubbing off value. Often, bidders will pay more for antiques and vintage items in their original condition, even if they seem grimy, tattered, and worn-out.
- Selling individual items from a collection. Many times, consignors want to sell just one or two items to see how they do. Depending on the size and type of collection, we often advise to auction either the full collection or to split up the collection into larger groups of collectibles that can be sold over several weeks.
- Neglecting to do research. Just because you spent a lifetime collecting something, doesn’t mean it holds value to bidders today. Do your due diligence and research past auction values, market demand, and current trends so you have a realistic idea of what your collectibles are worth. Take advantage of free appraisal fairs or schedule an appointment with a certified appraiser who can examine your collectibles in person.
Remember that in the end – it’s all just stuff. Take pride in the fact that you enjoyed finding, collecting and owning such special items, but if you can’t find a family member or friend who wants it, try to detach from it and don’t set high expectations. Rarely does the sale of items help fund retirement.