"A tsunami of stuff" is how a colleague of mine aptly describes what is currently washing into the marketplace for vintage and antique goods. As baby boomers such as myself age and downsize, more and more collections are coming to market. The unfortunate reality, however, is that there are fewer and fewer buyers who want these things. The Millennial and I-Gen cohorts in particular want little to do with traditional things such as silver, china, crystal, and period furniture. For many of them, it is merely clutter. Anything that will not go into the dishwasher or needs polishing is particularly anathema.
This in turn has caused significant drops in price for most categories. It has also caused a great deal of angst for people who were either counting on their children to inherit and cherish heirloom items or else had thoughts of garnering a tidy nest egg at sale time. Both are increasingly uncommon scenarios, however. And, it is something that I frequently encounter when helping clients downsize or bring their treasures to market.
My advice to everyone in such a situation is to first be pragmatic. What someone paid for an item in 1985 has no bearing on what you will receive for it in 2017. The digital era has upended literally centuries of tradition in passing down items and it is important to understand this. Where markets will ultimately settle is hard to predict but for now, the trend is still downward or flat.
A second piece of advice is to look closely at donation vs. selling. Depending on one's tax situation, the depressed prices for many things such as early furniture may make it more financially advantageous for someone to donate a piece as opposed to putting it at auction, where a commission will be taken out. So, be sure to do your financial homework before deciding on a course of action.
If selling does make sense, consider your financial needs and time frame. If time is short and/or money is needed, it may make sense to just send everything to auction and be done with it. If you have the luxury of time and are so inclined, piecing things out via online platforms or through consignment stores may be a better route to go. As always, each situation is going to be different but the key takeaway is to carefully consider your situation before moving forward.
In my next post, I'll share some insights into ways of getting the most money for your items if you do decide to bring them to market.
Bryan H. Roberts is a professional appraiser in Sarasota, FL. He is a member of the Florida State Guardianship Association, the Sarasota County Aging Network (board member), and is certified in the latest Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice (USPAP).