Collections of any kind – comic books, records, coins, china, dolls, jewelry – can take on a life of their own. Over time these surmounting collectibles provide joy to the collector, who often doesn't consider that he or she will be selling them one day. Typically, collectors sell when they downsize their homes or are in need of money, or the collection may fall into the hands of heirs. Even items in the home that aren't part of an organized collection can bring in extra money to the owner. These might include Great Grandma's vintage Singer sewing machine, pink Depression glassware, or an autographed pro sports jersey.
Whatever the situation may be, determining the right price and finding an avenue for selling the collection are the two big factors in a successful transaction. Seniors should be especially cautious when selling their collectibles. People who are in the business of buying and selling collectibles are of course trying to make the most money. Associations that revolve around a specific type of collectible can help seniors find a reliable source. An Internet search will provide a good starting point for this approach.
Because collections and family heirlooms hold emotional value for the collector and/or family members involved in the sale, Consumer Reports' Shop Smart magazine recommends a thorough information-gathering approach to selling:
Get some free advice.
Many antiques and collectibles dealers are willing to authenticate pieces free of charge. Call a shop in your area to see if it offers this service. Resist the temptation to sell your valuables to the dealer without verifying the price they quote, or you may not get the best deal.
Consult price lists.
To ascertain the real value of your item, Consumer Reports recommends visiting your local library and consulting collectible price guides, such as the ‘Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide' and ‘Warman's Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide.' (both are available from the links below).
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Determine the going rate.
Don't assume that the price listed in the guides is the maximum you can expect for your collectible. The antiques and collectibles market is subject to fads and items frequently go up and down in value based on demand. To determine the going rate for your collectible, find out what it's selling for on eBay, Kovels.com, and other online dealers.
Pay for an appraisal.
If you find that you have an item worth hundreds of dollars, Consumer Reports says it may be worth paying an expert to appraise it. To determine a reasonable asking price, try to find an appraiser who is an expert in your area of collectibles.
Choose your method of sale.
Selling your collectibles through a dealer will likely cause you the least amount of hassle, but dealers generally offer 20to 50less than so-called ‘book value.' Auctions typically pay better, particularly if you have a large collection that contains some high-value items, but you'll have to pay a 10 to 15commission on the selling price. Other options include advertising online or in collector's publications and selling your item at a collector's show.
Additionally, Gary E. Lewis, a Certified Senior Advisor and past president of the American Numismatic Association, advises that collections should be part of a senior's estate planning. He states, ‘[Collections] outlive collectors, so i's important to provide guidance to your heirs. Describe what you own and where to find it and identify those items with substantial value. Suggestions for selling also will be helpful along with a name of a [professional] who could help out if the estate is liquidated.'
Lewis has noted over the last year that the trend in the coin collection industry is for sellers to fall into two categories: estate and needy. The estate sellers are people who acquire or inherit the collections from a relative and have no interest in keeping them. The needy sellers are the people in need of money who own collectibles and at the point they decide to sell, it is for the sole purpose of making money. In either case, and with any type of collectible, sellers should be aware of buyers who may be trying to take advantage.
The best way to make a good transaction is to know the true value of what you have and find a reputable dealer who will not pressure you. Be patient when making decisions about cashing in on your collections and valuables. Getting accurate information about your collection from professional sources can help alleviate the stress of knowing if you are getting the best price.
About the Author
SCSA educates professionals to work more effectively with their senior clients. They believe that the right kind of planning, recommendations and referrals can make aging a state to be savored instead of a fate to be feared.