July 19, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 19, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The ‘Antiques Roadshow’ Myth

Do you believe that there is a hidden fortune in your attic, basement, garage, or closet? Maybe, like one of my clients, you want to sell your grandmother’s china, or maybe, like my neighbor, you are considering selling your father’s old tools. Do you think there is a market for your mother’s opal and sapphire jewelry from the 1960s?

These are some of the issues that have arisen in the past few weeks for me. I am cautious and a bit jaded, based on my years of experience working with clients and speaking with jewelry buyers and collectibles dealers. Please stop believing in the myths fed to us by “Antiques Roadshow” groupies. We are not going to find great fortunes in our walls.

One of my clients wanted to sell her grandmother’s beautiful china, with most of a service for 12. Together we reached out to all the dealers who advertise in The Jewish Link, as well as dealers who do business in towns that concentrate on selling vintage and antique goods. Although we found no interested buyers, one coin and stamp dealer kindly returned my call to recommend a dealer from New York who buys china, glassware, jewelry and watches, and conveniently meets prospective sellers at their homes. This brilliant marketing strategy offers a prospective seller peace of mind for at least two reasons: It requires no heavy lifting and removes the fear of traveling to New York with valuables. After viewing the china, this dealer validated that it has no monetary value and no ready collectors. Sadly, my client will be donating the china for a tax write-off.

Meanwhile, a close friend who is a social worker asked me to assist one of her clients, Mr. C., to move out of an overly cluttered apartment into a safe and clean senior housing unit. As we worked through his second bedroom, filled from floor to ceiling without even a narrow walkway, we uncovered two boxes of junky-looking jewelry. I weeded out items with potential value.

I filled three oversized garbage bags with unopened model kits including planes, spaceships and figures. The man had purchased these collectibles over the years and planned to slowly sell them via eBay. These kits spanned the decades of the sixties through the early 2000s and were purchased solely for resale. When Mr. C. became agitated to hear that these kits may wind up in a dumpster, I offered to locate a dealer to buy his models, along with bringing his jewelry to be sold. What did I know about selling model kits? Nothing! I do know that sometimes I welcome the challenge of going out of my comfort zone to learn something new.

A dealer I trust was willing to buy the models sight unseen, but offered me a low price. He asked me to drop the bags the following week. Although this seemed like an easy solution, I decided to search more. I called the “dealer on wheels” and found that he buys and sells model kits, along with the other items I mentioned. That afternoon, we were standing by my car in my driveway and he made me a higher offer on the three bags. Since he is also interested in costume jewelry, I showed him what was left over from when I had sold Mr. C’s gold jewelry.

The “dealer on wheels” offered me $10 for the bag of leftovers. That additional cash made an important difference because without it, I would not have been able to give him exact change. I believe there is no such thing as a coincidence, especially when doing a mitzvah. I was thrilled for Mr. C. and I was excited that I once again had room in my hatchback.

It feels gratifying to sell off your clutter. For instance, a couple downsizing from a grand home asked me to sell some silver, an old watch, a silver candelabra and other items. I made an appointment at an upscale estate buying service. They welcomed me into a comfortable office, offered me a beverage and left me to wait until the owner came in and apologized for the delay. It was clear that he was extremely knowledgeable and extremely overworked. Every few minutes, his assistant asked him to step out to deal with something, and he answered his cell phone each time it rang. Despite the frequent interruptions, he was friendly, kind and responsive. He offered a very fair price for my client’s valuables and paid immediately. This process took about an hour and 45 minutes. I asked myself: Where did the morning go?

A couple of weeks later I had only jewelry to sell, so I went to a local jeweler I know and trust. His store is a one-man operation, so he assessed my client’s jewelry, tested it for gold content and weighed the gold pieces while waiting on clients and answering phones. I did not demand his full attention because that could have led to the other customers walking out, possibly never to return. Despite becoming a bit frazzled, this jeweler remained respectful, friendly and kind.

At the end of an hour and a quarter the jeweler offered me, on behalf of my client, a fair price. Walking out, I asked myself if it had to take so long. In comparison, the “dealer on wheels” works quite differently. In place of an office where several people are having things appraised concurrently or a store where multiple customers could be needing attention, he has a large SUV and drives to one customer at a time. He also has no assistant to interrupt him, although he did answer his phone once, but immediately told the caller he would get back to him. We transacted our business, with a little bit of small talk, in 30 minutes. He drove away and I felt I had time in my day to accomplish more.

All three of these people were pleasant to deal with, trustworthy and knowledgeable. Only one of the three has found a way to factor in the importance of their customer’s time.

Not even a collection of unopened vintage items from several different decades will make us wealthy, and most of us do not have attics filled with items that will buy us a mansion. Instead of hoping to be like a contestant on “Antiques Roadshow,” let’s take on the mindset that selling our unwanted collectibles and jewelry could offer us something extra to pay off bills or to buy ourselves something special.

If you would like me to help you find things of value in your home, please contact me.


Ellen Smith is Central Jersey’s kosher organizer and tzniut wardrobe stylist. For over 14 years, Ellen has helped people restore order and create calm in their homes and souls. See Ellen’s work on Instagram @ideclutterbyEllen. Contact Ellen for a complimentary phone consultation at [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles