Although intricacies the "selling" of are not often examined on television programs and antique related columns like this one, it is nevertheless, an action of equal importance. No purchase is ever made with out a sale being enacted on the other end.  Obviously, the primary goal of selling is to fetch highest prices with minimum effort and worry.  For important heirlooms, we'd also like to see them end up in the right home.  Let me start off by stating what is more my personal opinion than provable fact: The 'noble" act of giving your priceless antiques to a museum so that everyone can share in their pleasure, doesn't always pan out like we intend.  Many museum inventories are stored, not in the public domain, but down in vast cellars.  Often precious heirlooms are "deaccessioned" or sold off by the benefactors to raise money for endeavors deemed more important to the curators and museums board members. Happens frequently.

Bottom line is, unless you can voice some control over how your antiques are to be displayed and maintained in the museum you wish to donate them to, consider not "be questing" them.  Sell your stuff.  Then, give the money to your kids or your favorite charity. Your heirlooms will likely find an even more deserving home in the end.  In a way, our "human nature" could likewise be defined as our shared "common sense."  Understand the first and employ the 2nd. Items that have been paid for are usually better accounted-for, right?

The following options are available to sellers of antiques:

  • SELL TO A DEALER OUTRIGHT: Thing to keep in mind here is that you want to work with someone who as earned your trust.  You should likewise solicit several bids.  Be careful, because some unscrupulous dealers throw money around like drunken sailors until it comes time to pay the tab.  They talk a big game and make big offers with no intention of backing up their words.  Just want to knock off the competition.  Make sure you work with reputable sorts.
  • SELL ON CONSIGNMENT: Usually a consignment shop or antique shop soliciting consignments will work on a percentage basis.  Generally, they are professional business people who earn their fare. More they get for your items, the more they make in kind.  Everybody wins.  The thing to look for in this kind of relationship is what I call, "seeing how deep the water is, in that first week or two."  It seems logical to me that you can be better assured of having received a fair price if your consignment does not sell on that first day.  To me, it is reassuring to see my favorite painting hang around for a bit with that big tag on it.  Understand that you have some obligation to understand your own items.  That concluded; persuade your friendly consignment shop owner to go for the gusto, working their way down in price after a short while.
  • SELLING AT AUCTION:  Similar to consignment shop selling, auctions work on a percentage basis.  First thing to know is that auctioneers (I am one) make their money on both ends of the coin.  Sellers get charged a commission, and so do buyers.  My business charges about 15% seller, and about 12% buyer's commission for top quality antiques.  That's 27% total, not just 15%.  There are lots of auction houses all over America to choose from.  Here are some pitfalls: some go out of business seemingly overnight and consigners never get paid for their merchandise.  Sometimes auctions are "flat," and prices achieved are not very high.  I jokingly wrote in a column several years back, "The only way to find bargain prices at auction is to consign your antiques there." Toward finding the right auction gallery: look for one you feel confident about and look for one that seems to do a good job on your level of merchandise.  While Sotheby's and Christies certainly can perform well on masterpieces, they are not always the best venue for just plain good quality antiques.  I recommended a very small auction house the other day to friend.  Reason being, it is better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond.  Once again, do your homework.  Employ common sense and insist on professionalism.
  • SELL ITEMS YOURSELF:  A great way to go because you don't have to pay commissions or go door-to-door soliciting to dealers.  For just plain regular antiques, a garage or tag sale is a super money making enterprise.  If parking or space is a problem, consider renting a booth out at one of the well know flea markets in your area.  The secret to be successful here is get some professional help with pricing so you don't "give" things away.  And, so you don't overprice your stuff and have to handle it twice.  That costs money too!
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Wayne Mattox Antiques | 82 Main Street North | Woodbury, CT 06798 | 203-263-2899 |
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