Consumer Watch: How to protect or get the best value for your collectibles and treasures

Consumer Watch: How to protect or get the best value for your collectibles and treasures

February 24th, 2019 by Ellen Phillips in Business Around the Region

I've mentioned previously that Baby Boomers' children and grandkids aren't asking for family heirlooms to be handed over. Unfortunately, that leaves me and worlds of others of this generation stuck with our grandparents' china cabinet or secretary, among other, beautiful, sentimental treasures. Even before Marie Kondo burst upon the scene, Generation X and Millennials became declutterers by deciding on less versus more. For those of us who have tried to then sell our antiques and collectibles, we've discovered our legacies are worth much less than what we thought and, in fact, sources believe this market is unlikely to rebound in the foreseeable future. So what can sellers do when a loved one dies with a houseful of valuables (we thought) or we need to downsize? According to Bottom Line Personal, we do have some recourse to obtain the best — though not necessarily hoped for — prices.

Ellen Phillips

Ellen Phillips

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

What's the true current value of an item? First, understand the original cost doesn't matter nor does its age or sentiment; furthermore, lots of folks place steep prices on similar items but rarely if ever does a sucker ... uh, I mean buyer ... take the bait. In order to glimpse pretty much what customers will pay in today's market, check online prices. Of course, eBay comes immediately to mind, but also take a look at, among others, to see and compare actual sale prices.

Pay an appraiser who specializes in the types of antiques and collectibles you own. Expect to pay somewhere in the area of $125 upwards per hour and be certain this smartie is certified by the American Society of Appraisers and/or the International Society of Appraisers. When we moved to Chattanooga almost 12 years ago, the movers broke a gorgeous, antique, butter churn that had belonged to my husband's grandmother. Even more precious, his grandparents lost almost every possession in a house fire and the little they were left, they bequeathed to Hubby. When the churn was repaired, I thought it a shrewd idea to hire an appraiser for the furnishings that were owned by both his and my parents and grandparents to be placed on our personal property insurance rider. I was amazed to see how much investment we had in these antiques but, on the other hand, I was appalled to discover just how much the selling prices dropped over the past decade. When we get ready to downsize, our granddaughter must decide she wants a bunch!

Multiple competitive bids on a comparable item is best viewed on eBay. Once assessed, we should list it at a starting price of 20 percent below the others. Meanwhile, look at local estate sale companies ( and decide on a minimum of two; find out how and why they charge, if a professional appraiser is on staff, and how your sale will be advertised.

Silver, crystal, and china — often our most expensive pieces - don't often fetch a decent amount these days. Even and set firm limits on what the companies will purchase, often at exceptionally paltry prices. Sellers can always donate to charitable groups; at least we can take a tax deduction if itemizing. (Just remember the new tax law regarding deductions set for this year.)

And, finally, a taste of guilt never really hurts! Remind granddaughter, for instance, of the many occasions when you played the baby grand piano and how the two of you whiled away many a day singing songs together. The punchline, of course, would be the beautiful memories you share and how much you've always wanted to pass the piece on to her – both "lessons" delivered with a quivering smile and a teardrop or two.

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