What should we do about valuable(?) items at our yard sale?
August 1, 2016 4:49 AM   Subscribe

We’re having a yard sale soon, and most items are normal, household things that I’m not worried about pricing reasonably. A few could be valuable -- even after checking eBay’s Sold listings and googling, I don’t know. I want to avoid making a $10 sale that goes on to be featured on Antiques Roadshow. I’m not sure how to price them, and also how to handle the possibility of breakage. The kinds of items I mean are…

... decorative items and art from various eras, as seen here. I got most of these from grandparents, without specific provenance info.

It’s fine with me if these items don’t sell at the yard sale. We’re having the yard sale anyway, and I figure I might as well put these items out, in case they find their buyer at a strong price. If not, I’d rather keep them than sell them for less. If I still don’t know how to price them after this thread, I’m not going to sell them. How would you price these?

Also, what about the risk of breakage? If any of this stuff does have value, and someone is handling it and it breaks, do I just chalk that up as the cost of having a yard sale? Would it change anything if I put valuable and breakable items in an area marked “Please don’t touch; ask for assistance”? Or do items I’m worried about just not belong in a yard sale at all?
posted by daisyace to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Or do items I'm worried about just not belong in a yard sale at all?
This. Yard sales are for unloading and light haggling.
posted by pintapicasso at 5:11 AM on August 1, 2016 [19 favorites]

Best answer: You could have a sign with clear photographs that says something like, "If interested, these may also be available," and just fetch them from the house if needed. Definitely have a worth in mind in that case though!
posted by teremala at 5:21 AM on August 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I would set up a separate table, maybe behind where you sit with the cash box, so people can't just grab at the items without you paying attention. Maybe with a nicely-lettered sign that says "Ask me about these items" instead of prices. When people ask, say you're going to be putting them up on eBay and you have an idea of what you want to get for them, but you thought you'd give the yardsale punters a chance first. If they want to make an offer, they're welcome to, and if it's less than you're comfortable with, just say you did a bit of research and you think you can probably do better online. If they seem really interested, and it's not too much trouble, you can take their number and offer to contact them if you don't meet the reserve price on eBay.

I love that dolphin, If I saw that at a yardsale I'd be delighted to see something that isn't complete garbage and I'd probably offer more than it's worth.
posted by cilantro at 5:24 AM on August 1, 2016 [8 favorites]

Best answer: The wool uniform jacket is a ladies' battledress blouse from the Civil Defence Corps. I'd eBay that - it's the sort of thing that ships well, and the UK WWII history folks would be interested.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:40 AM on August 1, 2016 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Lenox swan vases: I'd yard sale those. They're not a rare enough item that a Lenox collector would overlook the chips in the bases, so the value on those is purely decorative.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:44 AM on August 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Keep your house locked. When my trusting parents had a yard sale, people sneaked in and stole stuff.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:10 AM on August 1, 2016 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Bronze mounted vase: this is a tricky one, as there are roughly a bazillion modern reproductions of French Sèvres vases. If it is hand-painted thin porcelain and the mount is finely cast, it has a one kind of value... if the designs are transfer-printed and the porcelain is not so thin, it has a lesser value. Many of them were made as lamp bases. This might be an item where you'd want to take it to somebody who knows something about pottery - perhaps a local antique shop might take it on consignment. If you can get the metal base off, there might be a mark on the bottom of the vase.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:16 AM on August 1, 2016

Best answer: I agree with Mary Ellen that there's a possibility the vase/urn may be Sevres ormolu. Do a little research before committing it yard sale.
posted by X4ster at 6:25 AM on August 1, 2016

Response by poster: Awesome info so far - thank you! Guessing it's a bad sign that the vase's base comes off with an ordinary screw? I removed it and took a photo of the marks hidden on the bottom. I also took another photo of an image detail that, in close-up, I realized looks like a signature. Will add them to the link in a moment.
posted by daisyace at 6:33 AM on August 1, 2016

Best answer: Your pottery fragment: I'm afraid you're going to have to do some research before unloading this item - you don't want to run afoul of the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Antiquities are definitely not my area (I'm 19th century art pottery) but I do know that Mesoamerican archaeological sites were widely looted in the '60s for items to sell to USA tourists travelling in Mexico and Central America. So you're going to want to determine (firstly) if it was collected prior to 1970, and secondly if it's pre-Columbian Mesoamerican (I'm only guessing here, might be African for all I know), and thirdly if it's real or not - you might get lucky and determine that it's one of the bazillions of fakes that were produced for gullible tourists, in which case you're off the hook entirely!
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:37 AM on August 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you have paper vintage paper items, stuff that some antiques dealers call ephemera? I've been astounded by how much collectors will pay for a single postcard on eBay. If you have an old album or even loose cards it might be worth your time to research them before putting them out for yard sale.
posted by X4ster at 6:43 AM on August 1, 2016

Best answer: Back to your bronze-mounted vase: yep, that's transfer printed - good eye on catching the backwards signature! Some of the border and details might be hand-painted. I don't think those marks on the bottom are maker or decorator marks - they look identical in size, shape, and colour to the fleurs de lis on the border of the vase. I think we're looking at a modern repro here - "modern" as in probably less than 100 years old, might still be something that was made in the early 1900's, I don't know enough about this particular style of pottery to tell. It's cool and funky and no doubt somebody would find it utterly charming, and if it's undamaged I personally wouldn't take less than $50 for it.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 7:08 AM on August 1, 2016

Best answer: This. Yard sales are for unloading and light haggling.

Anecdata: I like vintage Pyrex, enough to recognize it and know what's out there, but I'm not a serious collector or anything. I just pounce when I see it sold cheaply at a yard sale. Anyway, I saw a set of Pyrex bowls at a yard sale in my neighborhood once, for maybe $25. I offered less. They refused, rather snootily, saying, "These are worth a lot, you know." Well, no. They're "worth" what someone will pay for them in a given context. $25 is a lot for old bowls at a yard sale. While I might happily pay that on eBay (were I that sort of collector), a yard sale is not an antiques market. Yard sales are for exchanging pocket change for serendipitous finds. And emptying the attic. And making friends with the neighbors.

So, I think you're best off selling on eBay (etc) if you hope to make any real money. Or at least go the "ask me about" route. It's just more neighborly.
posted by the_blizz at 7:20 AM on August 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Another option would be to see if there are estate liquidation companies near you that would accept those items and fold them into one of their upcoming auctions. There are several near me that do just that.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:02 AM on August 1, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you everybody! If you look at my question history, you'll see I'm not usually a "best answers for everybody!" type, but while Mary Ellen Carter's responses really set the bar high, just about every comment taught me something this time around, so I couldn't help it. Based on your input, I'm going to be holding back a few of these items, I know more specifics about some of the others, and I'm going to keep the breakables out of the general sale area. I appreciate it!

In other news, the forecast seems to be settling in for scattered showers and thunderstorms on Saturday. We don't have anywhere to hold it other than out in the open. I live near Boston, not a heavily church-centric area, so I could consider Sunday, but I don't know if Sundays are worse for sales even around here. Otherwise, it's another week of living with a ton of sale-destined stuff heaped in our living room, and uncertainty whether the neighbors in this multi-family sale are even available to do it the following weekend instead. Any advice is welcome. Thanks again!
posted by daisyace at 8:54 AM on August 2, 2016

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