Estate Sale, Auction
November 8, 2014 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Best, most profitable way to get rid of stuff?

My sister and I are in the position of having to dispose of our mother's property. Kilns, jewelry making equipment, Venetian glass rods, antique furniture, a rare Patek Phillipe, lots of tools, lots of small machines that we can't identify, Nazi stuff brought home from WWII, lots of historical stuff from a man who was both the first USian in and last out of Vietnam, a Ukelin, etcetera.

Have you done this? Any insights appreciated.
posted by Mr. Yuck to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:37 AM on November 8, 2014

Response by poster: Mountain Home, NC. My sister lives in NYC and could take things up there if it makes a difference.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:41 AM on November 8, 2014

Small, easily shipped items will do much better on eBay than at a local estate sale, but at the cost of your own added time and effort. How much time and effort are you willing to put into this? Regardless, the Nazi stuff won't be allowed on eBay.

I'd probably have your sister shop the Patek Phillipe around to a few high-end vintage jewelers in NYC.
posted by jon1270 at 6:46 AM on November 8, 2014

My father in law is an antiques dealer who specialises in WWII memorabilia. He's honest and kind, and could possibly look at it and provide estimates/advice and/or offer to buy it. Deals with it politely but matter of fact - he's Latvian and I believe lost family to Nazi's / Russians / misc. so yeah... Not a skinhead or anything. Memail me if you want their email.
posted by jrobin276 at 7:26 AM on November 8, 2014

Sorry - yes, he specifically deals in German / Nazi militaria. I mention this because it can be difficult and awkward to move this kind of thing on.
posted by jrobin276 at 7:28 AM on November 8, 2014

Dealers will never pay as much as collectors. Auctions are best. You can do a search right now on ebay and find the global market price for your Patek; no dealer or jeweler will pay that price, because they want to sell it for that price.

You have to decide what items are worth doing the work on your own. I go to a lot of estate sales, and most of the stuff is yard sale merch, you know? The kids have already moved Grandpas expensive watch and Mont Blanc pen on their own. Not to say I haven't made a few good deals at Estate sales, but I'm a picker, and I do better at straight yard sales or on Craigslist. I then turn around and sell on ebay directly to collectors and make a profit.

I don't have any experience with Nazi stuff, but a lot of military collectibles go for a good price on ebay. As do antique/rare tools.

Put anything that looks collectible on ebay, or search ebay first and see what an item is going for. Ignore ebay auction pricing that have no bids. Anything that's not collectible, hire an estate agent, let them take their cut so you can liquidate all the yard sale stuff quickly and easily.
posted by valkane at 8:42 AM on November 8, 2014

If she had glass rods and kilns, she was possibly lampworking and some of the unidentified tools might be torches. Could you post pictures of the tools?
Also are the glass rods tagged or coded in any way, I might be able to tell you what you have. Again pictures would help if it's not too much trouble.
The kilns you can probably sell locally through Craigslist as they would be a nuisance to ship. Kilns are expensive when new so if you can figure out what you have it will help with pricing. Are they front loading or top loading?
posted by antiquated at 8:58 AM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recently joined my local email list on and have been surprised at the wide variety of homes that are featured - some very typically old-lady, garage-sale fare but some very upscale. Here is the current listing for Asheville; you might get a sense of which dealers would be best for your mom's estate based on the sales they're currently running. Some of the dealers can arrange an online auction instead or or in addition to the in-person sale.

With a strong arts community in Asheville, I'm wondering if you might get a better return on the art-making equipment through Craigslist or outreach to local artists' groups?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 9:02 AM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just cleared my Dad's house in 2013.

I second the 'auctions' motion, but I'd also say to investigate the auction houses before you give them the stuff: all have different clientele, some higher-end than others. Make sure you place the valuable/collectibles in a house that will draw the people you want there. I've bought stuff at absurdly cheap prices at my local auction house: it's loads of fun, but it can't be much fun for the people who watch Mom's set of Royal Albert (18 place settings, complete with serving pieces and tea set) get knocked down for 45 bucks. It's always a good idea to go and observe at a couple of auctions before you sell things: I did this, and determined that it was worth it to keep my parents' good furniture, rather than selling it for very little.

Antique furniture -- that is, 19th Century and Early 20th century stuff -- is currently STUPIDLY cheap: 200 bucks for beautiful Victorian sideboards. 150.00 for dining tables and chairs. I have a house filled with hundred dollar bits of quartersawn oak furniture, and 200 dollar persian carpets -- the 8x 12 ones that are 3 grand in stores. It's tragic. Mid-century modern stuff fetches much more.

Also: storage units hold a massive amount, and are comparatively cheap, even if 200 bucks a month feels crazy, it's probably worth it to pack everything away and think for a bit. Put the Patek in a safe deposit box. I disposed of things I wish I'd kept and vice-versa. I don't know if waiting for a year or so would have helped make better decisions, but I wish I had.
posted by jrochest at 12:37 AM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the Patek, first make sure it is insured. There are a couple of ways to sell it: directly to a collector if you know any, consigning with an auction house like Christies (who have a direct sales watch shop now, or consigning with an independent vintage watch seller like analog shift. Keep in mind that traditional auctions have a seller's premium, so if your watch sells for 25k you take home less than that. Tourneau also buys vintage watches, but I don't know if you would get a good price there. I would not recommend selling a watch like that on eBay. Have your sister shop it around to a few auction houses and dealers in NYC and get quotes. (Full disclosure: I am a watch collector, I am friendly with the director of Christie's watch sales, and I am friends with the owner of analog shift. I recommend analog shift because I and many of my friends have bought and sold watches through them before.)

For the Nazi items and other historical military items, definitely go through a specialty military memorabilia dealer - you will not be able to sell that stuff on eBay, but there is a market for it.

Keep in mind that if she is deceased, the executor of her estate will need to get estimated value for all of these personal items to include in the total value of the estate. (Source: I'm the executor for my father's estate.)
posted by bedhead at 2:58 PM on November 10, 2014

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