“How do auctions work?” “What is my furniture worth?” “How do I sell an estate?”

M G Neely Auction answers these questions on a daily basis. Many people have never been to an auction, and even those who frequent auctions may not have experience selling at auction. My name is Dara, and i’m the office manager, apprentice auctioneer, and second generation here at M G Neely Auction. Today, i’ll address these questions. The first step in selling an estate or single piece is to establish it’s value on the resale market. Next, you’ll need to decide how to sell the piece(s). Finally, you will have to find the right art buyer near you. With this information, you will be prepared to make an informed decision on how to sell your antiques, modern furniture, sculpture, fine art and more!

What is my estate worth? Is my antique valuable?

We tend to use ‘antique’ as a very broad term when discussing items of considerable age, however an antique is classified as an item at least 100 years old and less than 50% restored. But wait! Does that mean something has to be 100 years old before it has value? Of course not! While age is definitely a factor in an items’ value, you must also consider designer, aesthetic value, cultural importance, and current trends when assessing an item’s worth. Mid Century Modern is a great example of today’s current design trends. George Nelson, Milo Baughman, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Charles and Ray Eames are just a few examples of popular designers from this era, spanning from the 1930’s to the 1960’s.

With so many factors at play, where do you begin? I recommend you start by joining several free websites. Live Auctioneers, Invaluable, and eBay are popular, reliable sources for researching your antiques and collectibles. Once you are a member, you have access to the auction results of thousands of items like yours. Be wary of retail-based antique websites, as the prices advertised are typically negotiable and do not reflect true market value. These sold prices are a good guideline for appraising an items’ value, but are not all-inclusive.

Where do I sell my antiques?

Now that you’ve established your item as having resale value, you can take the next step. For the purposes of this article, I’ll assume you’re liquidating an estate. (However, the same logic applies to selling one or two pieces.) There are several ways to sell an estate. You can sell privately, with an estate sale or tag sale. This is essentially a yard sale, and is the most labor intensive option. You will need to advertise, organize, price, and inventory the items, in addition to recruiting friends or family to help you manage the sale. The risk involved with this method lies in the ability to mistakenly price items, either to high or low, and you are left with money on the table and the remnants to pack, donate or store.

Do you want to consign your estate?

In this scenario, you can find an auction house or consignment shop who will house, market, and sell your items for a commission. A consignment shop is the best destination for gently used modern furniture and household goods. Before you consign, you should find out how long your item will be consigned, what the commission is, and how your items are priced. This avenue is great for items that are too modern or mass produced for an auction, but still have resale value.

Consigning with an auction is the best way to sell antiques, fine art, vintage decor, sculpture, art glass and unique items. Before you consign with an auction, you want to ask several questions. Does the auction take place online? When is the next auction? What is your commission? Auction houses who market online have the benefit of millions of potential buyers to view, bid on, and purchase your items for the highest market value. The fastest and easiest way to liquidate personal property is with an auction house who is willing to purchase the full estate for a cash value. This is usually the method of choice for families who are out of state and have only a few days to settle their loved one’s estate. This is also great if you need cash fast, and can’t wait for your items to sell to get paid.

Who will buy my antiques?

The final step in downsizing or liquidating your assets is to find an auction house or consignment shop to take your piece. There are several ways to do this. Word of mouth is a great way to find a reputable business. Talk to your friends and neighbors, and you might be surprised at how many of them have bought or sold at auction or consignment. Take to the internet. Research, research, research! Try googling phrases like ‘local auctioneer’ ‘palm beach county auctions’ ‘consignment shops Boynton Beach’ or ‘antique estate buyer’. Do they offer a free appraisal? You want to make sure you have the same expectations as the auction or consignment shop. How long have they been in business? This helps ensure both trustworthiness and customer base. Auctions are a great way to liquidate personal property and estates. Though they’ve been around since 500 B.C., the 21st century has probably been the most monumental for auctions. Customers can find exactly what they’re looking for, and bid live against people worldwide.

I’ve given you a lot to think about, but I hope I’ve been helpful in clarifying some options for selling antiques, uniques and estates. We’re always happy to answer any questions, and can be reached at sales@neelyauction.com

Stay tuned for our next blog post where we will discuss how current trends are effecting the secondary market.

Dara Neely
M G Neely Auction