Surely, You Jest!

As you can imagine, I receive all kinds of emails searching for answers, needing guidance, and some which also center around “How much is my stuff worth?”  But every once in a while, I get an email that just about knocks me off my chair.  Here’s a sample:

“Everything I own is very expensive and worth a fortune.  I know this because I pay a fortune for quality.  I have unique and very expensive collections, including a large assortment of cut glass pieces.  All of these currently sell on E-bay for high amounts and a lot of them could sell in the $1,000s.  I also have a collection of collector plates that are worth several thousand dollars.  I have a Hummel collection worth at least one thousand dollars.  I have a shoe collection worth thousands of dollars.  I have several other smaller collections that are worth thousands.  Even my older furniture is worth thousands.  Can you sell them for me?”

Surely, you jest!  While I always do my best to assist and even educate my clients so they can empower themselves to make the right decisions, there are some people I just can’t help.  They won’t or can’t accept the whole picture.  This person is one of them.

Despite my best intentions, you just can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.  The market will bear only what it will bear, and their cut glass or shoes or Hummels are really not that much different from the rest of ours.  It is unfair to apply this kind of unreasonable thinking and pressure to a professional in the industry, who can only do their best in a very soft market.  Often the blame and complaint lands on the estate professional, when in reality we have done our best, and our best just wasn’t good enough for the client.  Some of this will fall back on how well we discussed “expectations” of what things will sell for.

Other reasons for the motivations behind selling are numerous.  Perhaps this person needs immediate financial relief from the sale of those items.  Perhaps the person is not well.  Maybe they really do believe their things are worth a fortune because they paid so much for them.  As you’ve heard me say before, what you paid for something means nothing now.  If I invest several hundred dollars in designer shoes, in the end, they are USED SHOES, designer or not.

Perhaps she doesn’t want to see it, but I wouldn’t be The Estate Lady® if I didn’t reply with my usual flair.  So, I gathered my senses, did some sales comparables online which I could share in the form of “SOLD” prices, in easy links they could click on.  I wanted to show them ever so politely, that their things were not worth what they originally thought.  They are not selling for thousands.  They are selling for $25, maybe a little higher or lower.  I get the feeling they didn’t like that.

It took me a lot of time to find and send that information to them; I never heard back from them.  I guess they just weren’t ready to hear what I had to say.  I silently lifted up a quick prayer that no matter what challenges they were experiencing, someone out there could be more help to them than myself.

Unfortunately, someone like that will never change their thinking no matter how much proof is offered.  Many years and ample experience have taught me they would only be upset with me, even if I did my very best.

I wish them well.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at

2 thoughts on “Surely, You Jest!

  1. I could not agree with you more because I owned/operated a women’s consignment shop for 7 years. The number of women who would come in, dump their “expensive” clothes that they threw in garbage bags and expect me to get TOP TOP dollar for them was unbelievable. It was a struggle, to say the least. The ones who were of my same age range were easier but it was the elderly who I felt bad for when they would come in with their Fox Fur Stole (which hadn’t been kept or maintained in the proper fashion) and expect to be well compensated for it.

    On the flip side, A friend of mine hired an Estate Sale company in our area to handle her Grandparents estate sale. While many of the items were normal run of the mill things there were some really nice mid-century modern, good label, furniture pieces. Either they didn’t do their research correctly or felt that the local market wouldn’t support the higher sticker tags. I did less than an hour of research on a few of the pieces and found that they were selling for 75% less than what the online market would have demanded. You can guess that all of those pieces were marked “Sold” within minutes of the door opening because others knew what they were getting. I, myself, purchased a Davis Cabinet Co. Solid Walnut bedroom set for less than $250. I am confident that I could turn around and sell just 1 of the pieces for more than double that in the right market. I won’t though, it goes perfectly in our 1959 Mid century ranch home and we love it.

    1. Of course the items sold for less than similar items sold for on eBay! This is partly because a lot of estate sale stuff is sold to people selling on eBay, and if they can’t make money on it, they won’t buy it (this also means that people shopping on eBay should first shop at estate sales to cut out that middle man). However, if I were to price my items at eBay prices, I would have all of those items still at the end of my estate sale. It is true, though, that prices 75% less than eBay seems too big a gap. I try to price in a reasonable range so that my client gets a good deal, but the item still sells. The prices also depend on the location of the sale. I do estate sales in both Southern California and Arizona, and the way I price in each location is completely different since Arizonans won’t pay even close to what I can get in SoCal.

      But about those Hummels and collector’s plates: I just did a sale of that sort. The owner was so insistent that I note the value of the Hummel collection, however, when I should her the comps, she was forced to reassess the collection and finally allowed me to price them reasonably. I sold only about half of them, but they did sell at least, which is more than I can say for another sale I had where I priced in line with the client’s request.

      Julie, thanks again for your sage advice.

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