Phillips: Make most of holdings in your attic, garage

Phillips: Make most of holdings in your attic, garage


March 26th, 2011 by Ellen Phillips in Business Diary

Q: I've got a lot of "stuff" in my attic and would like to make some money from selling it. Do you have any pointers? -Sarah Salvage

Dear Sally: You're a smart cookie to think of making profits from "salvaged" items. Hopefully, other readers will take note and do the same with areas for hidden cash.

One suggestion from SmartMoney magazine is to hold an estate sale (and, no, you don't have to be dead for this type of sale) rather than a yard or garage sale. Just don't think you'll get rich, unless your attic or basement holds fine art or rare books, in which case you should contact collectors and auction houses.

• Collectibles: Everyone has some of these. When in my 20s, I held a yard sale and sold several sets of colored Depression Glass from my first marriage for a pittance.

Several customers later, a dealer came along and, when told what I'd done, clapped his hand to forehead and proclaimed my stupidity.

The moral of the story is: Know your collectibles. For instance, tin toys, porcelain dolls, and toys made during the childhood of us Baby Boomers can be most valuable. Vintage movie posters or cameras also take a nod from many buyers.

• Books and records: Aside from rare books, those signed by the authors can be worth some bucks, so get these appraised, along with first or limited edition books. But even a collection, such as Shakespeare's plays or the works of Tennessee Williams, for example, can fetch a good price.

And speaking of profits, if you own an obscure LP that's unscratched and in its original sleeve by, say, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, and the right person comes along, he could pay several hundred dollars in return. Alternately, leather-bound classics or jazz '60s LPs in good condition can also bring you a pretty penny. Even paperbacks for 50 cents to $1 and hardbacks for a dollar or two sell quickly.

• Furniture: According to SmartMoney, mid-century modern furniture from the '50s and '60s is especially popular. The article goes on to tell us a piece that sold for $100 during the early part of this past decade now may bring as much as $400. Furniture less than 5 years old is also a good seller, particularly if it's made of light wood and isn't hefty. (Clunky dark pieces aren't fashionable so these pieces don't normally move.)

• Clothing: Most anything vintage and in good shape will sell (though you may do better at a vintage clothing store). Expect couture clothing to be snapped up, too, such as St. John, Chanel and Gucci. "Sex and the City"-style designer clothes are good sellers, as well. Forget run-of-the-mill articles at an estate sale unless priced cheaply.

• Tools: These can really be pricey so they sell especially well at estate sales. If they're antique tools, so much the better. One of my Virginia friends buys antique tools and mounts the pieces in his den - an unusual display and one even his wife doesn't mind.

Tax Tip: Section 125 of the U.S. tax code permits a benefits deduction from an employer. These could include life insurance, medical insurance or child care payments. The idea is that, in lieu of wages, the employee receives a certain amount of compensation whereby he can "shop" cafeteria style. Just remember this is actually a form of earned income and the taxpayer must claim it as such.