Selling Antiques & Collectibles in your Garage Sale

Two of the most common mistakes people make when selling their antiques and collectibles in a garage sale is overpricing them and underpricing them.  I know it sounds contradictory but since garage sale season is upon us, I thought it was an important subject to address. Before I go into more detail, let me just say that pricing antiques and collectibles is also a significant challenge for the professional dealer.  The mistakes I go into are universal challenges whether you are selling at your garage sale or whether a dealer is selling them at a show or business.  The big difference is that a dealer has invested money into an item hoping to sell it for more that he or she paid for it.  While you as a consumer, has likely either inherited the item or enjoyed it for years and has now decided to part with it. Overpricing: First, let’s address over pricing.  I hear it all the time “somebody has one listed on eBay for _____”.    The first thing I say is “That is excellent that you’ve done some research. Now can you tell me what it SOLD for?”  But there are plenty of other questions that follow this one simple question.  This explains why you may see prices all over the board on your item.  Is it the same size, color, condition as what you have? - Years ago, I purchased a turquoise/blue canister made by Indiana Glass from a customer.  I had quickly researched it and was excited that her asking price seemed reasonable and I could sell it on eBay for a profit, if it did not sell in the store first.  Unfortunately, my research was done in a rush and I missed one key factor.  This is actually a common mistake.   The canister I saw that was selling for the most money was actually the smallest one of the four canister set.  I had not taken the time to check which size I had vs. the one I was looking at.  It turned out, that the canister I had was the most common size.  The smallest one of the four was not made in the same quantities as the first three.  So the supply was smaller on this particular canister and the demand was higher than for the other three sizes.  So do your research, but know your limitations.  Unless you are a specialist in selling what you are selling then you likely do not understand the market you are selling in and who the top buyers of what you have are vs those just buying it because they ‘like it’.  In some instances, it can mean you should be talking to somebody who specializes in what you have who knows it.   Another reason people often over-price their Antiques and collectibles in a garage sale is that they mistakenly believe ‘Old means valuable”.  “Old” does not always mean valuable.  Ultimately its value depends not on age, but does somebody want what you have.  This point can also go both ways - Just because it’s “Old” doesn’t mean you should throw it away either.    My husband inherited some dishes that date to late 1800’s from his Aunt.  They have sentimental value to the family tree since they were owned my husband’s grandparents.  But they were chipped and crazed and had no monetary value outside of that.  This does not mean we should throw them away. Some of your old items may be great to put out as ‘free to good home’ at your garage sale.  Or even donate them to a local dealer or charity.   In our market today, I would include things like old clear glass items.   These items are in an abundance and there is little or no demand for them.  But crafters like to make things with them so don’t throw them away.  You may want to confirm with the charity you donate to confirm they will accept what you have. Underpricing Antiques: The other common mistake made by people is underpricing their antiques.  But before I go into depth on this mistake, that ‘underpricing’ is relative and sometimes it should be done intentionally to move items quickly.  And to clarify, I am talking about higher priced Antiques and collectibles.  Not a $10 item that could sell for $20.  Time= Money so the lower your prices, the faster some items will sell which IS the goal of a garage sale since it’s not something most do every weekend.   One way to find some balance is price wisely but fairly based on your market, condition, etc.  But also make sure you are negotiable and that people know you’ll entertain offers.   People love to negotiate and when you can sweeten a deal with a better price or throw in something to sweeten the deal it can be a win-win.   The other thing to consider is who is buying it and why.  There are essentially three types of buyers at garage sales.  An end user, a picker or a dealer. The end user intends to use the item and is more likely to buy an item closer to retail value.  A picker buys an item hoping to flip the item to a professional dealer for more.  They often focus on small margins and more quantity.   A dealer will buy and offer less because they are willing to buy the risk that they can sell the item at a profit by taking it to a different market.   This means they will invest more time and money to do that.  Pickers and dealers NEVER sell 100% of what they buy. Remember, people don’t go to garage sales to pay retail.  And ‘retail’ is subject to a supply and demand market which is essentially buyers trends.  So trying to get ‘retail’ should be reserved for the most unique and sought after items.  For instance, you’re selling your dad’s antique metal Gas sign, it’s large and original and you know one recently sold for $500.  You know it’s rare and there isn’t another one out there.   You can assume you should be able to sell yours for that or close to it.  Maybe even more if it’s in better condition.   But Taking $400-500 on this to a guy who wants it bad enough is fair. Taking $200 means you’re probably underpriced because you can probably consign that $500 item for for 30-50% of what it sells for and there is no need to risk taking less. There is nothing wrong with staying high on a price and are willing to bring the item back into your home and try to sell it another way.  This just means you are accepting you will have more time, $ and risk into selling it.  Social Media has provided lots of new opportunities to sell things but let’s face it, it can be a real hassle when you have to deal with no shows.  But selling on social media is still easier than taking all you have and will likely reach more people than your garage sale.  And it is also easier than taking everything to an Antique show or flea market.  But maybe you have enough to consider having a booth to manage it all at a retail location or having them sell it by consignment.   To summarize how to best avoid either of these mistakes, do the research.  When possible, find somebody that specializes in what you buy or sell, don’t assume old=valuable and consider what alternative ways you are willing to do to sell what you have.  Either as an end buyer or a dealer who specializes in what you have. Understand the correlation in your situation between time and money.  Cleaning, researching, pricing, moving, displaying, photographing all take time and often patience for the “right buyer.”   Good Luck & Happy Selling!   For more information about what you are selling, feel free to contact Tonia at North Star Antiques at 616-897-0898.Blog-4-pic-1Blog-4-pic-2