published Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Tips for finding buried treasures at estate sales

  • photo
    A plethora of antique oil lamps will be available to purchase at the 717 Godsey Lane estate sale. The sale will be held the weekend of February 4th.
    Staff Photo by Allison Carter

Jo Welch has learned a thing or two about estate sales in the nearly three decades she's been in business. As owner of Welch's Antiques & Estates, she's also seen a few changes.

Interest has increased recently in whole-house, end-of-life liquidations, she said as people stung by the down economy look for bargains.

"Ten years ago, for example, I couldn't give away canning jars at our estate sales. In the last several years, everybody wants them because people are canning again. They're making their own food to save money. The same goes with clothes. People know they can get a good bargain by buying used clothing instead of new."

Household goods of all kinds can be found at estate sales, ranging from dishes, pots and pans to toys, furniture and antiques.

"Men tend to head right for the tools," Welch said. "It doesn't matter if they have four shovels at home, they'll want another one if it's priced right."

Other popular items, according to Welch and her staff, are costume jewelry, bird statues, guns, coins, crockery, glassware and anything made of cast iron. Vintage items, which include holdovers from the 1970s, are also big sellers.

"I know it's hard to think of 1970s as vintage, but it is," Welch said. "We get a lot of the younger generation wanting 1970s-style furniture for their home."

She predicted that a Thomasville dining set will go quickly at a sale she's holding in Red Bank this weekend. She'll sell it together or piece by piece.

"Our goal is to make as much money as we can for the owner, so if we limited it to buying the complete set, it might not sell," she said.

The trick to moving the merchandise is to set prices that sell on the first day, Welch said, because her second-day prices are half off.


* What: Welch's estate sale.

* When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. today, 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

* Where: 717 Godsey Lane, Red Bank.

* Phone: 304-6032 (Jo Welch).

* Website:

"I've seen a lot of estate-sale companies price themselves right out of business," she said. "If you don't make most of your money on the first day, you've overpriced everything."

Welch said shoppers try to bargain, but she doesn't compromise on her prices, which she believes are reasonable. Her objective is to make as much money as she can for her clients.

"I always tell [shoppers] if they don't like the price to come back tomorrow when prices are cut in half," she said. "They know they're taking a chance on whether or not the item will be there the next day."

Technology also has boosted the popularity of estate sales, Welch said. On her website,, she can include photos of items that are available in future sales.

While television series such as "Antiques Roadshow" have helped generate interest in collecting and selling antiques, they're also created an atmosphere of disappointment for many people, said Welch, a licensed appraiser.

"What it has done is to make people think their items are worth more than they are, and I have to break the news — most are not," she said.

"A lot of people think that their 100-year-old items, many of which are in horrible condition, are valuable simply because they're old."

Welch said she does not shop at her estate sales, even beforehand when she's pricing the items.

"If I went in and picked out stuff I like, I wouldn't have a successful business," she said.

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These are some of the items available at the Welch's estate sale in Red Bank this weekend.

* Handmade lamp with wagon-wheel-hub base, $45

* Made-in-Chattanooga antique cast-iron Black Hawk corn sheller, $45

* 1930s-era solid-brass light fixture, $65

* Old copper fire extinguisher, $32

* Old electric kiln, $100

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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