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The Challenges Of Selling Antiques And Collectibles In Bulk

What you need to know when you want to sell your treasures en masse

by Christopher Lancette
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You own, inherit, or become an executor of a large collection of antiques and collectibles that you need to sell – and you want to sell them in bulk to one person because you don’t have the years it would take to sell them one at a time. You’re thinking that the collection must be worth a small fortune – and there’s a chance you’re right – but there’s a lot you need to know about the challenges of selling antiques and collectibles in bulk. Selling large numbers of items isn’t easy. Check out our overview below.

The first four things you need to know about selling in bulk

  1. You may actually have too much of a good thing in terms of re-selling value. It’s pretty easy to flood the market with many antiques and collectibles.
  2. The average veteran collector is only looking for a few top-shelf pieces. That collector rarely wants to buy in bulk.
  3. There aren’t many dealers willing to lay out the cash for an entire collection, let alone do all the work of selling it. This is triply true if you’re talking about most furniture, even fine antiques. (We rarely ever buy furniture anymore; it costs more to move than it’s worth, and the herniated discs in our lower backs certainly aren’t worth the furniture’s weight.) On the other hand, we have had bulk buying successes — including one of our favorites, when we bought a vintage sign collection.
  4. You need to recognize that you may well have to accept a lot less than you paid, or a lot less than current retail value, for your treasured collection if you’re trying to sell the whole group in one shot.

The host of reasons why prices are down for many antiques and collectibles include but aren’t limited to:

  1. Most antiques and collectibles aren’t in much demand today, so values have dropped. Still-hot collections that we’re always looking for include antique toys, advertising pieces, certain sports memorabilia, certain comic books and more. (They must be in excellent condition, of course.) See our What’s Hot and What’s Not list to gauge the demand for many antiques and collectibles.
  2. Dealers like us who buy huge collections have to spend big dollars and time packing, transporting, storing and selling the items. This means we can usually only afford to pay quarters, dimes, or nickels on the dollar. Our work is hard, and we know the value of our time. We have to spend our time and money on the deals that generate the greatest return on our investment of both. And remember, we’re solving your problem by making it ours. You’re getting paid immediately and parting with the items; we’re taking them all away and hoping we profit in the long run.

The better your stuff, the more we can pay

When it comes to selling antiques and collectibles in bulk, the more in-demand and the higher value the individual items are, the more we can afford to pay. If you’ve got a dreamy vintage toy collection with the original boxes, we’re willing to invest more money in that kind of purchase. The same goes for a storage unit full of old advertising pieces (old beer signs, vintage Coca-Cola items, etc.). Conversely, we recently spent two long, sweaty days, with extreme reservation, putting in 30 hours of work with three crew members moving a humongous collection of DVDs and other items from Virginia to our headquarters (and some straight to auction). We knew our labor costs and expenses would exceed $4,000 – so that’s four grand we were going to have to spend before we could even think about what to offer the seller.

This meant that we could only afford to pay pennies on the dollar because we knew we were going to be working on selling the low-value, low-demand collection for probably two years – hoping to find at least enough truly rare movies to recoup at least a fraction of our expenses early on. We may end up doing very well if we’re willing to play the long game selling the DVDs one at a time in our eBay store – but that’s a staggering amount of work over a heck of a long time. But as with most collectibles we buy in bulk, we know a large percentage won’t even sell and that we’ll end up dumping them at auction for next to nothing, or donating them.

Learn more about selling your antiques, collectibles, coins, jewelry and more

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