“Mom has a friend…Maybe we’ll use her.”

Margaret called me from a Chicago suburb with a frantic tone in her voice.  “We have all this stuff, and we don’t have a clue how to get rid of it!  It looks like it might be junk, but there are some antiques in here too.  What do we do?  My mom has a friend who is sort of in the business.  She’s dabbled in buying and selling for years.  Maybe I should just hire her.”

Her words hit a nerve!  It’s sort of like saying, “My brother got an A in dissecting, so why not let him do your brain surgery?”

I strongly urged her to hire a professional, and warned her about letting an untrained friend handle something as important as this.  But she decided to go to her friend anyway, a decision that cost her dearly.

A month later, Margaret called me again, in tears. “I’ve made a horrible mistake, and I don’t know how to undo it.  My mom’s friend didn’t know the true value of many of the items in the house and sold them for pennies.  One local dealer contacted me to tell me the estate person charged $75 for a fine antique English Windsor chair that was worth about $800.  An antique needlepoint sampler dated 1854 sold for $10, but should have sold for several hundred.  I am eaten up with misery wondering how many other things got sold for next to nothing.”

Please get the right kind of help!  Unscrupulous professionals come out of the woodwork at a time of crisis.  Amateurs, even though they are friends or golf buddies or play bridge with you, are still amateurs!  It may be costly to hire the right professional, but an amateur is much more “costly” in the end.

© 2010 Julie Hall

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