It’s well-known that the economy is bad. These days, you don’t need to be a brainiac to know that people’s wallets are well protected. However, it is surprising when I receive calls in my office from people intending to sell their estate items, heirlooms, and the likes and expect a very high price in the middle of this recession. You can only get a very high price when what you have to offer is top quality. When these prestigious items appear, genuine collectors will pay for this “creme de la creme.”
The beginning of the problem is when everybody considers what they have is something rare. This is simply not the case. “Rare” means not common or frequent. Think about a flawless diamond and the difficulty in finding one. They are real, but most are safe-guarded in confined places as investment by the industry and are hardly ever seen by the public.
Having worked in the real estate industry for 20 years, I can promise that most of us don’t have “top of the line” assets. The majority of us have beautiful, high-quality, well-used furniture; some have antiques/vintage items. We do not understand that a lot of people also have something similar in their homes. People often think that for something to be old it must be valuable, which isn’t exactly true. Sometimes, it’s just old garbage.
For example, many have spent a lot of money on collector plates and figurines from Franklin Mint, only to find out that they have lost value rather than gain value. They were convinced that the value of these items would increase because the quantity is limited. The look on my client’s face when I have to deliver the message signifies to me they’ve spent far too much and expected a lot when they decide to sell these items.
In general, now isn’t the best time to sell (although many do so for the money), and no one can predict what would happen in the future for us/this market.
There are two crucial things to consider:
- There is a season for everything
This is true for everything in life, as well as collectibles and antiques. We’ve seen the market grow and shrink over the years, and more recently we have seen what I call a “flat line.” Not a lot of things are selling, and whenever it does sell, the buyer wants it almost for free. This is not only a sign of the times but also other factors that contribute to it.
- We have got to keep our expectancies in check
That is to say, we must be realistic. Don’t expect to be paid the amount your mother paid for the sofa, and don’t believe the entirety of what you hear. For years, Grandma boasted about her china, saying how valuable it was, only to find out that the set is worth only $300. How is that possible? Grandma said it was worth $2,500.
Let’s examine some of these causative factors and put everything into perspective.
What is it doing currently? Nothing much. The general public is too scared to spend money because they have no idea of what will happen to their jobs, finances, etc.—in the nearest/distant future. Therefore, several antique stores, markets, and dealers have closed their stores. This isn’t the same for people in the vintage industry. On the contrary, some higher value auctions and dealers/brokers are doing great, due to the quality of their goods and the contacts they have to buy such items. It’s a buyers’ market for the people with money to invest.
Demand and Supply
Let’s visit Grandma’s china again. As the generation of grandma dies, more china sets will come on the market. Why? Because their granddaughters don’t want it, and their daughters have a set they aren’t making use of. Ultimately, nobody really wants it and they don’t want their grandmother’s crystal or the silver. Do you have any idea how many china sets from grandma’s generation are on the market? The price is falling as the market becomes flooded. The younger women don’t want the old set, so it just stays on the shelf – the price continues to drop. Younger women want Pottery Barn and IKEA, not the old china sets from grandma.
What’s in the current fashion? Today, the trend is toward simplicity. Clean, smooth lines on furniture, very little frills, and modernistic. The present younger generations don’t want any of the heavy-looking, dark-wood antiques. We see a huge amount of dark mahogany furniture pop up that was produced in large quantities in the 1940s to 1960s. Practically it could be found in every home then and they’re still in pristine condition, but they aren’t in vogue anymore. The good news there is that a lot of this younger generation likes vintage things. Thus, most of what we see in estates can be recycled by recovering or repainting them and the likes.
Will we have any of these fundamental factors in the future? Some people believe that this antique thing will be in vogue once again, but no one tells when it will be, maybe 5 or 50 years. I believe everything is recurrent and just like our platform shoes and bell-bottom jeans from the past, virtually everything will come back sometime. But is it worth taking the cost and time to pack, store, and save for a generation that hardly needs these things today? My gut feeling tells me that the younger generations will put nearly everything they inherit for sale like personal possessions, except for a few small items they like that won’t occupy much space.
These are 3 essential factors I would like to bring to your attention to help you make a more informed decision about selling or keeping your items. Remember also that it’s important to always seek the help of a professional appraiser who will help you understand what is and what is not of significant value, mainly if you wish to sell them or give them away to your heirs.
With Gratitude and Love