One of the biggest issues estate sellers and consignment shops have to deal with is the customer who has unrealistic expectations of the value of their stuff and by stuff I mean everything. From their grandma's Limoges dishes to their ginormous wall units. What people forget is that as soon as their furniture leaves the showroom floor the value of their item drops by as much as 50%. With each passing year and with the normal wear and tear an item will take the value drops again and again.
Homeowners also tend to forget that the item they purchased many years ago just may not be in style any longer. The good news is if you can wait 50 years styles tend to reemerge and become hot again. And some items become are MORE valuable than the original price paid (dolls, artwork, clocks, vintage furniture, etc...), but remember that is not the norm. Most items depreciate with time. Most consignors and estate sellers start the pricing of an item at 50% of retail. From there if the item does not sell at that price, the price will go down in 10% increments, if it's an estate sale it will normally be dropped to half off the original selling price. Consignee's and folks hiring estate sale companies need to remember that estate sellers and consignor stores would LOVE to sell your items for TOP dollar, but if no one is buying you have to drop the price to a number the market will bear. I"ve seen a dining set sit and then boom once we drop the price to a certain price level its purchased right away with usually two or three customers in line waiting to buy it if the original purchaser falls thru. So when going to sell your preowned items just know that yoru estate seller or consignor is always going to go for the top price, but that in most cases your original price will need to be reduced! Remember to buy pre-owned-- you not only save the planet by ryou get high quality furniture at a fraction of the original price.
What is it about mid-century furniture that makes folks go gaga? Is it the lines, the deep seated daybed couches, the small pegged legs, the tartan fabric, the sculptured brass handles - what is it? When I run my sales, I know right away that whenever I have mid-century pieces - - I'll have customers coming out of every corner of the universe to buy something mid-century. I even once sold a fairly simple wall shelving unit that took the buyer over an hour to get it off the wall. (He really wanted those shelves!)
One idea for the madness around mid-century is that folks that bought their homes in the 1950's and 1960's are retiring and moving into smaller homes. These folks would now be in their 70s and 80s. They are parting ways with entire households of mid-century furniture. They want to go in a different direction than what they had in their home all these year's. Interestingly, lot's of these folks have gotten into the modern furniture movement. This life transition for these folks has caused the mid-century floodgates to open up and to allow all those in their 20's, 30's and 40's to experience the beauty and simpleness of mid-century furniture.
Many folks go back to mid-century for nostalgic reasons. Lot's of us grew up with the Brady Brunch and their house was a perfect example of mid-century style. Who didn't love their living room set or their round groovy kitchen table and their den with the low, daybed couches where all their family meetings took place.
At this point I don't see a slow down in the mid-century market, at least let's hope so, because I don't think I can bare dealing with the 1980's and all that formica. Yikes!
So what is it with these American Girl Dolls that has adults salivating at the mere mention of them going on sale? At a recent sale of ours in Montclair we had about 6 American Girl Dolls for sale and about 50 customers waiting in line to buy them. Sadly, for the other 48 customers the first two customers snatched up everything including the extra clothing so there was nothing left for them to buy.
I had no idea there was such a hot market for the AG dolls. So I started thinking what makes these dolls, as opposed to other dolls, so popular? Is it because these dolls have great play value? Is it because they are tall enough to be the size of a real baby? Is it because the doll accessories for these dolls are amazing? Yes, yes and yes to all of the above. The accessories for these dolls are too die for -- here is just a brief list of a few of the available accessories: Tea Tin Lunchbox for Samantha, an entire set of Nature Paraphernalia including a mini flower press and magnifying glass, for the Addy doll there is a puppet show or a gardening set, a pioneer school lunch, or a fishing set with mini bait for Kirsten, plus doll furniture is available for each doll, and let's not mention the great wardrobe each doll gets.
Moms and daughters alike discuss in detail about the different costumes they will make for their "babies". Many patterns are available to make outfits for the 18" play dolls and there are also many web sites who offer additional, handmade clothing for the American Girls and other 18" dolls (including Magic Attic, Heidi Ott, Gotz, and others).
To accentuate the cultish following of this doll the American Girl company produces a monthly magazine title "American Girl Magazine" with articles on the dolls and their owners.
So where do these dolls come from?
These 18" dolls went on sale in 1986 by the Pleasant Company. The dolls were created to emulate 9-11 year old girls of a variety of ethnicities. The dolls are sold with books that are from the viewpoint of the girls.
Originally the stories focused on various periods of American history, but were expanded in 1995 to include characters and stories from present day life. A variety of related clothing and accessories also became available. In 1998, the Pleasant Company became a subsidiary of Mattel.
Finally, another reason to love the AG dolls is that they are educational. There are six books about each doll full of historical information. Everything about the dolls, from their wardrobe to their furniture, is historically accurate.
The dolls are also sturdy, and, although not cheap, the dolls are less expensive than many high-end dolls from manufacturers such as Madame Alexander. For instance, Josefina with her basic outfit and paperback book costs $82. Additional books, outfits, costumes and furniture can then be slowly added. Or, for the big splurge, "collections" of dolls plus various outfits, accessories and furniture organized around the historical stories can be purchased for several hundred dollars.
These dolls are here to stay and I can only believe that they will continue to rise in value, especially the first generation of them.
Jill (aka Big Mama)
Buying at an estate sale is not very hard, but I suggest you go to a few just to get the feel and vibe of how sales are run. You need to learn about pricing and about style. What is your personal taste? Do you like modern, mid-century modern, antique, french country, shabby chic, Italian, Swedish, Moroccan - you name it all these different styles of furniture can be found right in your own neck of the woods.
I always tell my customers not to judge a book by it's cover - look inside. Some of my customers with the tiniest of homes have the most glorious collections of dolls or of rare books. Some of my customers are sitting on hot, pricey furniture pieces and artwork of which they had just piled up in a spare bedroom. So just go in no matter what the house looks on the outside
Some of the less expensive items you can buy at an estate sale are games, kitchenware, toy's, clothes and low end furniture. Items like designer furniture, chandeliers, sterling silver are the more pricier items to buy at an estate sale. Even with the higher price you will still get a HUGE discount off retail prices. You can buy a designer couch for less than half of what the stores are selling the exact same couch for. You can also buy a dining table for as low as $400 and it's all wood, has style and comes with chairs. At a retail store this same table would go for double or triple or worse be made of cheap materials and you end up having to replace in anyway in less than 5 years.
The best way to shop at a sale is come prepared. Have your cash with you and have an idea of what you are looking for and how much you want to spend. Bargaining is fun and once you do it a few times you'll get good at it. Be fair though, remember the estate sellers job is too get the best price for the item for their client.
Another recommendation for shopping at estate sales is to get on the mailing list of any estate sale company of whom you enjoy their sales. I know we give our "fans' a special hour of shopping before we open the doors to the public.
You never know what you'll find at an estate sale - just go - don't be shy - look around and ask questions of the staff if you need something answered.
Owner of Bargain Hunter Mama Estate Sales
Happy Holiday's to all of you. It's been an incredible year and we want to thank you for being such devoted Bargain Hunter Mama fans. We've had an incredible year -- we not only quadrupled our number of estate sales we run from the prior year, but we launched a newsletter and now have an online shop.
Our goal is for our company to be the go to place where you can find the unique and the special - items you can't find anywhere else. If there is something you'd like to purchase or are on the hunt for let us know and we'll find it for you.
Don't forget we are having a 25% OFF ALL items on the website from 12/15/12-12/31/12. ....