How to sell this stuff?
July 24, 2011 8:37 AM   Subscribe

My mom has a lot of stuff to sell, and she doesn't want the hassle of a do-it-yourself approach. What kind of people should we involve? We're thinking maybe an ebay broker for the small stuff and an estate person for the big stuff. (Or else maybe a place like Sotheby's?) Know any good ones who serve Westchester, NY? How would we find good people?

Here are photos of some of the stuff. There's:
--China and glass, including some antique, Limoges, Copenhagen, etc. A sample is in the photo, but there's more. Oh, and a Judith Leiber purse is in there somewhere, too.
--Antique furniture. A few are in photos, but there's more.
--Non-antique furniture. A few are in photos, but there's lots more.
--A large Balinese hand-carved figure.

For the smaller stuff, I was thinking maybe they could hire an ebay broker. They would want to get the right value out of using such a service, i.e., a seller who:
--has a great seller rating.
--takes the time to put together great listings, with nice, detailed photos, and keywords and descriptions that are based on research and/or knowledge about what the pieces are.
--is expert at maximizing ebay returns with the use of the right features, categories, titles, etc.

For the furniture and Balinese sculpture, I thought they might need some kind of estate seller. Again, we'd want someone worth their fee, but here I know nothing about what to ask or expect of the service.

We're not sure if involving an e-bay person and an estate person is the right approach. If it is, we're not sure how to find an ebay seller who meets the criteria above, and a great estate person.

They're also wondering whether a better approach would be to contact someone from a place like Sotheby's or Christie's.

Any help very appreciated!
posted by daisyace to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A big auction house like Sotheby's is going to laugh at you, unless your mother's estate is worth tens of millions. Unless that is how valuable your mother's estate is, I wouldn't even consider them.

There are people who will come in to a house and organize estate sales of old stuff that needs to be liquidated. I don't have any particular recommendations.
posted by dfriedman at 8:58 AM on July 24, 2011

Dfriedman is right. Call a local estate sale person and have them take a look. And be prepared for the fact it may be worth much less than you think.
posted by tomswift at 9:56 AM on July 24, 2011

This is my answer to another recent question about estate sales.

I would not go the eBay route.

NY State Auctioneers Association. See my advice in the prior answer as to how to sift through the many Auctioneers listed here and find one that is right for you.
posted by anastasiav at 10:15 AM on July 24, 2011

The way my family did it for my grandmother's estate (not super-valuable, but she had a lot of early American antiques):

- Find an estate sale person
- Have them price everything
- They get an n% cut of each sale
- Family gets to buy items (not take) from the estate before anyone else
- Estate sale happens, all the pros and friends of the estate sale person show up at the beginning and take the choice items
- the remainder sells throughout the day

I think this system gives the estate person the right incentive to price things to sell, but not so low that they're giving the estate away to their friends.
posted by zippy at 10:24 AM on July 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

My mother once used an estate sale company in small-town Ontario to sell the furniture from her 4-bedroom home when she was downsizing and moving to Toronto. She also had a mix of antique and non-antiques. After charging her for pricing and moving the furniture, she got less than $60 net from the estate company for everything in her fully furnished house after their sale - she would have been better off giving it all to Goodwill for a tax credit. YMMV.
posted by soft and hardcore taters at 10:49 AM on July 24, 2011

I can only speak to the Sotheby's part, having worked there (as an assistant) in Monaco for a year.

If you have anything genuinely valuable, as in exceedingly rare, belonged to royalty, recognizable, and/or done by a dead artist (I'm not being flip, that was how it was phrased), they may appraise it. We had a jewelry expert in Monaco who would look into smaller estates ("small" meaning they might only have a few extremely valuable pieces) just in case anything came up. They will in fact laugh at you, however, if any of it is "merely" upper-middle-class. (I'm not saying I agree with their policies, FWIW. Just that it's how it is.)

From the photos you link to, the porcelain pieces don't look especially rare. (I know they have good reputations in the US, but I hate to break it to y'all, I have antique Limoges porcelain dishes that I picked up at prices ranging from 50 cents to 5 euros in secondhand shops here in France.) The furniture looks beautiful, but not exceptional enough for Sotheby's either. The recommendations to look into estate salespeople sound best.
posted by fraula at 10:57 AM on July 24, 2011

If your mom is selling her house or moving, she should consider asking the local real estate broker. I know the one who sold me my house in Westchester had recommendations for everything from handy man to decorator. If it is an upscale broker, they have run into this before and will have an opinion.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:01 PM on July 24, 2011

You might try Brasswell Gallery in Stamford. Besides the auctions (and from the pictures your stuff looks like what I;'ve seen there), they have a warehouse of also ran material.

Lot of antique places in that genera area of Stamford, so other leads to follow.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:21 PM on July 24, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all very much for these very helpful answers! I've passed them along to my mom, and we both appreciate it a lot.
posted by daisyace at 5:40 PM on July 27, 2011

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