Well, here we are, most of us homebound as we follow government guidelines to “Stay at Home” in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Many of you are taking advantage of this time to tackle spring cleaning projects. Some of you may find it therapeutic to declutter, while others may be overwhelmed at where to start. Either way, as you start sorting through items, you’ll ask yourself whether to keep, donate or toss them.
Sadly, most of you will decide to throw away or donate hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and you’ll never know it. Now, more than ever, you should take your time and either research the items yourself or keep them until a professional appraiser can examine them.
Some of the items people mistakenly throw out or donate include:
- Vintage Furniture – It might look old or outdated in the living room, but some vintage furniture can be worth a bundle at auction, especially quality designs from the 50s or 60s that are not simply reproductions.
- Costume Jewelry – Just because it’s not gold, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. We have sold single pieces of vintage costume jewelry with no gold content for hundreds of dollars. Some of the makers in demand include Marion Haskell, Trifari and Eisenburg.
- Old Looking Art – It might look dingy, but that painting that’s been collecting dust in the garage or attic could be a lost treasure. Check the painting for marks or signatures and check the back for sales receipts or exhibition stamps. These can help an appraiser determine the provenance and value of the painting.
- Old Toys – Demand continues to be high for old toys in good condition, especially those that are more than 40 years old. Some of the vintage toys that have been doing well at auction recently include Masters of The Universe, Star Wars, Transformers, Atari video games and consoles, Micronaughts, and a 1976 Kenner Stretch Armstrong can fetch up to $700.
- Black & White Photographs – Antique and vintage black and white photographs can be of high value. Scarcity, condition and the identity of the photographer all affect the worth of the photo.
- Military Items – Some military items, such as military patches, ribbons, uniforms and weapons, are in high demand and may sell for a high price at auction.
It might be tempting to clean items, especially since we’re trained to disinfect everything right now, but please don’t clean antiques, coins, and art. The chemicals could damage the pieces and decrease value. Serious collectors prefer to see how items aged, and they won’t take your items seriously if they look shiny and new.
If you decide to donate items, there are many worthy nonprofits that have drop-off locations. We work with Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona and can’t say enough great things about their staff. But it might be worth waiting to have a professional assess your valuables. Most appraisers, like ours, offer these services for free.
Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale.