Learn to buy and sell antiques and collectibles

Sorting Antiques - The Three Piles

I have a stash of about 100 apple boxes from an estate clean out. During the clean out, everything is packed.

Because of time constraints, there is no sorting in the home. Everything that may have any value is packed out. Whatever is left is disposed of by a contractor who cleans the home for the owners.

This means the boxes are just everything in a desk drawer, closet, or cabinet. At best the only information written on the boxes is where the contents were in the home.

Lots of good stuff like Lenox china, Stangl birds, Fiestaware, vintage clothing including old furs, costume and real jewelry. Lots of general household items and cheap junk.

I spent Saturday afternoon going through the boxes one at a time. I looked at each piece as it came out of the box, then repacked it into marked boxes. There are three types of items -- actually five but I am ignoring garbage and items I keep as they are self explanatory.

When items go together like a cup and saucer, or a silver brush, mirror and comb set they are always put into the same box.

Everything that is inexpensive and/or not good for selling on eBay went into boxes marked YS for yard sale. Everything I put in the YS boxes was priced as I repacked it. This way in the future I can just unpack the boxes and have a yard sale or take them to a flea market.

Everything that I need advice on goes into boxes marked AM for antique mall. This is items like bisque statues, jewelry, and china items where I don't know the patterns. I'll get some advice on the stuff, and then place the items into local antique malls.

The third type of boxes are marked EB. These contain items I think will sell on eBay. This means they are small, easily packed, and will bring at least $30.

For eBay I look for items I can describe with keywords. Most of the bisque items have no makers names or marks on them. This means I cannot describe or research them on eBay. That's why they go to the antique mall.

When deciding if an item should be listed on eBay I also assess the condition. If honestly describing the item will cause it to sound worse than it is, I won't list it on eBay. It just won't bring the money. These lower grade items either go to the antique mall or yard sale.

Everything that's in the eBay boxes will be researched as I list it. Some will end up going into Yard Sale boxes, others will end up in the antique mall boxes. If I sorted well most of it will end up on eBay.

A few notes on the process. I have spent over 30 years buying and selling items and can smell good stuff. This is something you learn by doing. This allows me to make quick decisions.

Sure, there is a chance I will miss items, and sell them too cheaply, but I think that's as rare as paying too much.

It's a question of balance. I cannot spend a large amount of time researching items that have a high likelihood of being cheap. A large part of it is trusting my instincts.

stangl birds

I'll give you an example. I found 10 Stangl birds in the boxes. Stangl was a pottery maker in Trenton. These birds are highly collectible, but the smaller ones are worth very little if they are chipped. If they have the original tags and stickers and are in great condition, they bring a premium. The small and medium sized birds are very easy to pack and ship.

So all the Stangl birds I found went right into an eBay box. I also found a half dozen porcelain birds by other makers. I don't know if they are valuable or not, but they seem to be high quality. They went into the eBay boxes because I can research the makers on eBay.

Any good ones will be listed on eBay the same week I list the Stangl birds.

I also found a huge quantity of Lenox collectibles. These are limited edition items made each Christmas. My instincts tell me they are cheap. But, and this is a big BUT, I have a large set of holiday patterned Lenox that is quite desirable. A set sold recently on eBay for $1800 so I know mine will bring more than $30.

When I list the Lenox holiday pattern china - it's got holly on it for a Christmas motif and has been discontinued for quite a while - I will also list the cheaper Lenox Christmas collectibles. I think early November will be a good time to list it all.

When I do the yard sale, I'll also put some of the items from the antique mall boxes out. This way I can write a more effective classified ad.

I put all the vintage clothing aside and will take it to a local store. I know I'll get less than retail for it, but I know nothing about it, and there just isn't enough of it to be worth doing more.

One note. Watch the packing material. I ended up with a bunch of empty boxes and lots of newspaper. When I took it out to the garbage I found a bunch of Lenox soup bowls that hadn't been unwrapped.

I always open every piece of paper and lay it out flat as I unpack items. This makes it easier to repack items and assures nothing gets thrown out with the extra paper.

My helper kept getting excited by the items she unwrapped and just tossed the paper aside. Rather than bitching at her, I just let her enjoy the excitement and checked the paper later.

Next week I'll explain how I research the items.

Until then,


Curious about my methods of buying estates and finding antiques and collectibles? I have a book that shows you how I get into estate sales before an estate sales operator is hired, and a large package full of strategies for finding and buying antiques.

The package contains the estate sales report, and information on negotiating, garage sales, buying in antique malls, ads and scripts, 83 different ways to find and buy antiques and more.

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