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The Challenges of Selling Antiques and Collectibles on Consignment

What you need to know about the pros and cons of selling on consignment

by Christopher Lancette
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A Swarovski crystal figurine featuring a red fish twisting upward stands in front of its original blue box.Many sellers consider the question of selling antiques and collectibles on consignment versus selling outright. There are pros and cons to each approach. Here are key notions for you to consider when debating whether to consign clothing, collectibles, furniture and more. (Thinking of selling the stuff on your own? Countless TV commercials and news stories make it look easy. It’s not.)

How does selling antiques and collectibles on consignment typically work?

It varies by company/shop/dealer but here are some general operating principles:

  • Consignment arrangements involve the consigning company agreeing to accept certain items in exchange for a commission that may range anywhere from 20 to 50 percent.
  • The company has exclusive control of pricing. Most companies start lowering the price each month.
  • Most companies put a time limit on how long they will attempt to sell your items. At that deadline, the companies may require you to take the items back, which can cause a nightmare for you if you suddenly have to pick up 2,000 pounds of furniture. They may also charge you a fee for every day your expired items sit before you reclaim them. Other companies may take ownership of your items themselves, or donate or trash your items. Make sure you receive a written consignment agreement any time you go the consignment route.

Why consign versus selling outright?

You could in theory make more money if the items sell quickly, but it may also take a very long time for the items to sell. You end up getting monthly checks for ages, or one check after a great deal of time has passed. So it can sometimes take forever to get paid.

Why sell outright versus consigning?

If you want to get paid whatever you can now and be done with your sales effort, selling outright to buyer/dealer/reseller is the way to go. The math may come out the same if you have a small number of items worth good money. If you are trying to sell in bulk to a dealer, you’re going to have to sell at a big discount for the dealer to take on all the work required to sell all of your stuff.

Does Orion’s Attic provide consignment services?A bright red vintage lunch box depicts Zorro on his black horse Tornado, who is rising up on his back legs. Zorro raises a sword, his cape flowing in the wind behind him.

On rare occasions in which months and sometimes years of paperwork and hassle is worth it– yes. We use several different models for selling antiques and collectibles on consignment depending on what the items are. Sometimes we charge a flat commission on each object sold.  Other times, we charge different commissions based on the sold price of an item. Our third method is charging a commission that drops as the total sales value increases.

We typically only offer consignment on: high-dollar items; humongous collections or smaller but rare collections that would require massive hours of study to even make a cash offer; items/collections we think may sell well but in which we’re not confident enough to make a cash offer.

We absolutely do NOT consign furniture – too heavy, too costly to move, too hard to sell. (If you’ve got something like a desk you can prove Abraham Lincoln owned, we’re all ears.

We have consigned stupendous collections of vintage toys (loved it),  Etruscan pottery (loved it), fountain pens (grueling), Hummels (once and only once, never to do again as long as we live), Swarovski large glass animals (count us in every time), vintage IBM computer keyboards (hugely successful project, surprising everybody involved), historical objects (we live for history) and all kinds of other fun things.

Learn more about how we can help you sell items on consignment or liquidate your entire estate

Contact Us

Contact us today if you’ve got great collectibles to sell, including vintage toys, jewelry, coins and more.

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