• Mid-20th-century modern furniture and decorative items are hugely popular, says Atlanta appraiser Valerie Hale. Funky art, costume jewelry and purses from the 1950s through the 1970s also are in vogue, as are regional
pottery and glass. The rarer the item, the more pristine its condition (original packaging is a plus) and the better your documentation (the item’s history, including your proof of ownership), the more money it will bring.
• Get a ballpark price. Look for comparable items that have sold recently on eBay or LiveAuctioneers.com
(see the “auction results database”). Or subscribe to a database of auction-house sales, such as Artfact.com
($45 per month) or Prices 4Antiques.com ($32 for 15 days; $52 for 30 days). Both offer free previews. Use them, too, to identify auction houses that specialize in your type of item.
• Barbie dolls from the ’60s will sell if they’re undamaged and in their original boxes, says Josh Tane, of estate seller Adams Unlimited in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Collectors are also buying very fine, old German and French dolls in porcelain and bisque. The ultimate baseball-card collection? Cousins Karl Kissner and Karla Hench of Defiance, Ohio, found a cache of nearly
mint-condition baseball cards dating from 1910 while cleaning out their aunt’s attic. Heritage Auctions in Dallas estimated their value at $2 million.
• Hire an appraiser. An appraiser who specializes in personal property and your type of collection can give you an expert written opinion and help you identify other objects of potential value. Look for one accredited by
the Appraisers Association of America (appraisersassoc.org), the American Society of
Appraisers (appraisers.org) or the International Society of
Appraisers (isa-appraisers.org). Appraisers typically charge $75 to $150 an hour.
• Let a pro sell it for you. A local antiques dealer or
estate-sale company will buy most of your stuff for about 30 percent to 50 percent of what the company estimates it will go for. An auction house will advertise to interested buyers and take a fee equal to 20 percent to 30 percent of the final sale price. Note: Such middlemen can be selective.
• Or sell your items yourself. You can conduct an online auction at eBay (list your first 50 items per month free; eBay takes 10 percent of the total sale amount, up to a maximum of $250 per item). Start the bidding low, and
don’t hold out for a reserve, or minimum, price that buyers must meet, advises Tane. You’ll make out best if items are sold individually or in small lots.
Patricia Mertz Esswein is an associate editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And for more on this and similar money topics, visit www.Kiplinger.com.