Don’t Let Your Dentist Operate On Your Knee

Our house is starting to need some work.  There is exterior trim that needs to be painted, the siding needs power washing, and the gutters need to be cleaned out.  I would love to have some new landscaping in the front island and three light fixtures I would like replaced because they are old; the house needs an overall facelift.

Then there’s me.  I could use a little sprucing up too.  My lower back feels like it was thrown in a wood chipper and spit out, probably from all my years of estate work.  I have arthritis in my neck and hands, and a little bone in my foot that is protruding slightly (arthritis from pointy high-heeled shoes I just had to have way back when).  My hair needs the gray roots covered over and a few more highlights added, but I haven’t had the time yet.

I’m not complaining.  I’m making a point.

For each of these endeavors mentioned, I will call in a professional who knows exactly how to do them, because I do not.  I will not attempt these tasks because somewhere along the line, I will botch the work and then it will cost more money and time to fix it.  I know my limitations.  Life has shown me my strengths, and it has also shown me when I should walk away and let a pro do it.

There are many who are do-it-yourself people, and for the most part, I admire people who can get so much done on their own.  But I have also seen those who should have quit while they were ahead, for their work was not good.  I go to a back specialist for my back, a foot specialist for my foot, a dentist for anything to do with my teeth, and a hairdresser I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!  I would not attempt to fix any of these on my own, for they are not in my repertoire of skills.

You wouldn’t go to a dentist for a knee replacement, would you?

The same is true for handling an estate.  Families think they can navigate some pretty treacherous waters on their own.  In my experience, many of them have capsized the boat along the way and hurt others in the process.  All because they think they can do it or want to save the money that would have been spent on a professional.

“An estate professional knows these troubled waters and knows every aspect of handling the twists and turns.  We know the market; we can predict human nature.  We can maximize proceeds and preserve the good for you.  Even with our commission, we bring in more money than a non-professional.  We know the right contacts (local and national), resources and options, plus we guide you through the process.  It’s like having an estate expert in your pocket.  An excellent estate sale pro is worth their weight in solid gold.”  — Julie Hall

Then there are those who know and understand the worth of hiring professionals.  They want to pay to get the job done right the first time, so they don’t have it drag on, only to have to deal with it a year or so in the future.  They simply want it done, and done correctly the first time.

There is an old saying, “Penny wise and pound foolish.”  This applies to much of what I see when families deal with loved ones’ estates.  They don’t want to pay a professional, but the mistakes they make are so costly: throwing away valuables, making hasty decisions, giving away things quickly, assuming mom just had junk, etc.  They could have hired 4 professionals by the time they are done!

TIP FOR THE WEEK:  There are some things you just shouldn’t attempt.  Research and find the best estate professional; the right person is very worth the effort to find!  Moving forward through a challenging estate situation is paramount to your continued well-being.

©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

The Downside of Online Auction Sites

Aside from the ever-increasing fees that have hurt the “little guy” trying to make a decent living or extra income, there is nothing wrong with online auction sites.  In fact, they have opened our eyes to a whole new world we never knew existed just a few short years ago.  We can easily shop globally from the confines of our desk to find comparable items, best prices, and unique finds.  Our online reach can take us anywhere.  That’s the good news.

Anyone can post anything online, often without knowing what the gismo is, what it’s called, with little accountability for errors or condition issues, and certainly without understanding the values.  That’s the bad news.

From the perspective of an appraiser, online auctions bring income to millions who ordinarily would not have that income, but there are pros and cons to consider.

Back in the day before these sites, an item could legitimately be called “rare and unusual” and might sell for $1,000.  Today when you search for the same item online, suddenly there are 2,193 of them across the world, ranging in price from $5.99 to $5,000.

You are witnessing the flooding of the market.  In addition, prices that are either too low or too high are hurting the market.

Because we are all connected online now, there is very little rarity, not many surprise “finds,” and no uniformity, as prices are all over the board.  It is up to the buyer to beware and purchase carefully.

With so many of the same or similar gismos being listed, we must:

  1. Give thought to what that has done to values (and it isn’t good).
  2. Recognize that as elderly collectors pass away and someone attempts to sell the entire collection online (or even at a local auction house), they will inadvertently be flooding the market.  When selling a large collection, a handful of hard-to-find pieces will sell well, but the remainder will sell far lower than expected.

Too much of the same/similar items being dumped on the market and listed online (supply), and not enough people to buy them (demand), drives prices and values downward.

Are we shooting ourselves in the foot?  Yes, but we’re in too deep to make any serious changes now.  We’ve become accustomed to the lure of sales and discounts.

With online auction fees climbing, one has to ask if it is actually worth it, between the soft economy and the fees that eat your profit.  Yet, to many people, it is a source of income they need, to make ends meet.  A Catch-22 situation, indeed.

Other challenges with online auctions are:

  • It takes the fun out of being at a physical auction where buyers get caught up in bidding wars, and items may actually sell for more in person than an online auction.
  • Online auctions take the “social” out of attending local auctions.  When you stop and think about it, online auctions are “anti-social.”
  • Tangible experience.  With an online auction, you can’t personally examine the item(s) you would like to bid on.  You just look at photos and bid accordingly.  With a local auction, you can preview, handle, examine, test, etc. to be sure your bid is where it should be.

As a result, many items from online auctions end up being returned because:

  1. The seller did not properly describe the item, or,
  2. The pictures did not represent the item accurately, or,
  3. The buyer is fickle.

Online auctions are neither positive or negative.  They certainly do boost viewers and more people are shopping from their homes.  But as an appraiser, I wanted to offer some unique thoughts into the world of online auctions.

©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


Know When to Hold ’em BEFORE You’ve Sold ’em

It is not unusual to meet with families sorting through an estate on their own and making serious mistakes.  Through no fault of their own, they are following their logic.  Since they don’t have the benefit of knowing the correct process and sequence of things, knowing the industry, collectibles, antiques, and the overall market, they soon find themselves “guessing” and that is a very bad thing to do.

Families, executors, and attorneys hire estate professionals so we can guide the family in knowing what has value, what doesn’t, what is sellable, what is not, options for selling, resources for selling, what to throw away, and what to keep.  This is what we Estate Consultants do to maximize proceeds and offer peace of mind to our clients, knowing they are making the right decisions.

Let me tell you a story about what just happened.

I love sterling silver rings.  Besides wearing them, they are a good investment as a precious metal.  I had been watching a large lot of rings on eBay and won it at a very fair price.  When the rings arrived, I looked at them and found a huge surprise.  One ring stood out; I knew instantly it was Imperial jade, and one of the largest pieces of Imperial jade I had ever seen.  Even a small slab of this jade is very expensive and sought after.  The setting was platinum and not sterling.  It was, at the very least, a $1,500 ring thrown in with $5 sterling rings.

Someone did not do their homework or did not take the time to do enough homework.

I attempted to contact the seller on eBay, but they never replied.

Moral to the story:

Haste makes waste.  It is worth hiring an expert to avoid hasty, and costly, mistakes.  No one can possibly know everything.  Bringing in professional help is an inexpensive insurance policy that you are making the right decisions for the distribution and dissolution of a loved one’s personal property.

©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

Mr. Lee and Mr. McGee

When I close my eyes and remember the times with Mr. Lee and Mr. McGee, it doesn’t seem so long ago.  In reality, it was over half a lifetime ago when these two older gentlemen helped sculpt me into The Estate Lady® I would eventually become.  Way back in my mid-20s, I discovered quite by accident that I had a knack for buying and selling antiques.  While it was a risk at such a young age, newly out of college and on a strict budget, I decided to commit to renting a booth in an upscale antique mall for six months.  It just so happened it was their upscale antique mall.

As each week passed, I noticed more and more of the items I was selling were gone from the glass case, so naturally I was thrilled they were selling.  Little did I know that two of the owners of this vast and expensive mall were watching me.  One day, as I finished putting more new items into my glass case, Mr. Lee and Mr. McGee approached me and asked if we could talk.

As an extrovert, I rarely meet a stranger, yet I was intimidated by these two who had accomplished so much in life.  Both had been in the business over 40 years.  Both were successful; both knew so much.  Here I was, knowing very little, being steered by gut instinct only, and feeling like a little mouse wondering what they could possibly want from young, inexperienced me.

They took me to their finely furnished office, offered me a beverage, and watched me squirm in the big leather chair.  You can imagine the thoughts racing through my head!  Mr. Lee was a kind older man, born in Hong Kong, but raised here in the United States.  Mr. McGee was an older southern gentleman.  They began the conversation by complimenting me on my booth and wondering where I found my treasures.  After a nice and comfortable time together, they sincerely took me under their wings and shared some invaluable insight I will never forget, that I would like to share with you.

Here’s what they said to me:

“Kid, you were born with the eye.  Very few people are born with this gift.  So when you go out into the world and use it, you need to use it well and earn it.  Much will be asked of you through the years and you will be tested at every turn.  But always remember to walk a straight line.  If you can walk this straight line, people will talk about you.  They will refer others to you.  They will love you for what you can do for them, because they are completely overwhelmed.  Remember this conversation because it will make your or break you.”

Now in my 50s, I think back to that time and realize that little meeting with them was a tremendous gift to me.  A gift of guidance and affirmation.  A gift of direction and how I can serve my clients.  Hindsight is an incredible thing when all the pieces click together.  They were right on all accounts.  Much has been asked of me in the last 25 years, and I did my best to always deliver.  Temptation is everywhere, but I steered far away from it.  Honesty and ethics are always at the forefront.  Because so few possess it, I stood out among them.  Old fashioned and 19th century thinking?  Perhaps, but it’s the secret to my success.

From that moment to this, I never forgot what they told me.  Both of them are gone now, but they left an impressionable young lady with something she could never pay for, because it was priceless.

From the beginning of time, there has always been good and evil.  In today’s society, we need to be extra careful of the professionals we select to help us, whether it’s handling an estate or remodeling a bathroom.  Always look for someone who walks a straight line.  Always listen for the good people say about them.  Research these business owners who mean to serve you.  Make sure they are credible, professional, and the cream of the crop.

Why would you settle for anything less?

©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

The Awakening

Just this week, I have received numerous emails from people who are very concerned about the falling values of their tangible assets and the soft market that we are currently experiencing.  These emails have asked me on a personal level how I feel about this and how I explain this to my clients.

This topic has touched a lot of nerves, which is why I have written about it recently, discussing what I am seeing at antiques shows and fairs, auctions, etc.  It appears that people are beginning to awaken to the message I have been hollering for years; my message is a simple one.  Don’t shoot the messenger because I am being upfront and honest with you, so that you can make solid, knowledgeable decisions regarding the items you want to sell (or not).

Whether I am conducting a formal appraisal report for heirs, consulting on an estate and working with the children or their elderly parents, my comments are pretty much the same. “Let’s sit for a moment and talk about your options, which options would be best for your estate situation, and the expectations you may have about your possessions.”

  1. The market is soft for several reasons, and the economy is just one of several problematic challenges we are all facing.
  2. Remember that as we lose our older loved ones, their possessions are, quite literally, flooding the market with traditional household furnishings.
  3. The problem is that there are not enough buyers for what’s coming on the market.  The boomers have too much stuff and are trying to downsize.  Their children have no interest in these items either.
  4. It all comes down to the Law of Supply & Demand.  Too much supply and no demand drive prices south.  Have something extraordinary?  Demand will be high since supply is low, and the price will be driven up.

The problem with this near-perfect synopsis of the current marketplace is what is extraordinary to you, and what is extraordinary to those of us in the industry, are two totally different things.  The average person out there thinks what they have is extraordinary just because it may be labeled “antique.”  This couldn’t be further from the truth and I need your help in spreading the message.

“Extraordinary” exists only rarely like a flawless diamond.  The earth provides them, but very seldom.  This type of item will always attract buyers with deep pockets.  A 150 year old Victorian marble-top dresser will not, because they are common, dreadfully heavy, and imposing.  This style has fallen out of favor and very few are buying these kinds of items.  When they do, the prices are low, far lower than the owner feels it should be.  Will they ever come back in fashion, or will they ever go up in value?  I’m not really sure.  I think it is going to be a long while before values start heading north.

Another example of extraordinary would be owning Joe DiMaggio’s uniform, with pictures of him wearing it while standing next to his wife, Marilyn Monroe, and a letter from Joe giving you this uniform.  THAT’S extraordinary!  You have a group of rare items along with provenance of where it came from; serious baseball collectors would be vying for it.

I have taken much time to communicate extensively with my colleagues across the U.S. to discuss the economy and its effect on our clients.  When times are bad, people turn to selling hard assets, and when they can’t sell them or they sell for very little, people have a tendency to get very upset.  Who could blame them?  We are all in agreement that exceptional items will always sell for exceptional prices, but these are few and far between.

Is there a solution to this terrible situation that has befallen us?  Sometimes I wish I had that crystal ball, but since I don’t, I would encourage all of you.  When you consider selling your possessions or heirlooms, first have them professionally looked at by someone who knows exactly what they are doing, not your Aunt Betty’s neighbor or friend who dabbles in stuff.  You need someone who understands not only the market, but the trends we are currently seeing from region to region.

Most of all, the best advice I can offer is to go into it with neutral expectations.  I know mom always thought it was worth a fortune, but chances are it was worth a fortune to her.  If mom paid $5,000 for a designer piece, look at the time period when she purchased it or had it appraised.  Those days are long gone!  Something is worth what someone will give you for it.  It has become a buyer’s market and buyers are more frugal because they know this.

No one person, especially an estate professional, is to blame for the many reasons our market is soft, but it is up to us to educate our clients and each other.  Looking forward to better days …

©2013 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

Simple Yard Sale Becomes Eye-Opener

All of us can relate to the ever-growing piles of stuff in our homes and I am no exception.  One day, you’re forced to do a double-take as you scan a room and realize, “Oh my, when did this happen?”  It hit me a couple of months ago and I decided to gather it all up – all the stuff I’m not using or haven’t used in the last couple of years – and have a yard sale with a good friend of mine.  Why not sell it at very reasonable prices to those who want it or need it, and make a little extra money while thinning out my home?  It sounded like a win-win to me.

Most of you know I got my start as an estate liquidator and have been in this business well over 20 years, so this would be a slam dunk for a pro, right?  My friend and I got together all kinds of goodies ranging from antiques and collectibles, to vintage items and some nice household items too.  None of it was junk.  Since both of us wanted to sell these items, we made sure these items were priced very reasonably.  So reasonably, in fact, that you couldn’t even buy them new at Wal-Mart for the prices we set on clothes with tags still on them, kitchen ware, etc.

Since both of us know the industry well, we put on a great spread.  The tables were perfectly lined up and the items were displayed nicely.  So many unusual items that dealers would have loved to buy and resell on Ebay.  The advertising went out flawlessly to 1,500 of my personal client emails, as well as the local newspaper and Craig’s List.  Everything was set to go, or so we thought ….

Much to my surprise and chagrin, when we opened at exactly 7 am, only 9 people were in line.  Only 9!  I remember thinking how weird that was, justifying in my mind that attendees must be at other nearby sites and would come in flocks later on.  As is the personality of a sale, people first come in droves, then a quiet and steady flow, then a little slower, then another wave.  I could predict by looking at my watch when each phase would occur, just by observing the flow of people.  It’s been this way my entire career … until today.

A few here, a few there.  No major groupings of buyers.  People trickled in all morning, but very few bought much; certainly not the frenzied energy of sales in the past.  Something was very wrong and I tried to figure it out while sitting next to my friend.  It was a drawn out, painful process, since we knew we had great items at great prices, did our due diligence with advertising, the location was desirable in my city.  From running down the mental check list, everything was done correctly.

Suddenly my friend turned to me and said, “What’s going on, Julie?  Something doesn’t feel right.  Where is everyone?  Why are they struggling to part with a dollar?”  (A woman just bought a new shirt with the original price tag of $39.99; we sold it for $4 but she wouldn’t pay more than a dollar.)  My friend and I just sat there, scratching our heads.  It wasn’t our sale or the things we had.  We did everything right, but what wasn’t right was the energy people brought into the sale.  It was sad and low, and not the usual jovial energy these treasure hunters normally exuded.

You could tell the dealers were not there in large groups as usual, and the dealers who did come did not buy much because “we aren’t selling much.”  I had seen it with my own eyes.  After all these years, the economy, while appearing to hold on, was in deeper trouble than most realized.

You could see the worry and anxiety on everyone’s face and the struggle to part with just a little bit of money, even though they were getting great deals.  There were a handful of buyers that were serious and clearly had the money to buy large quantities of items, but most could not.

People will always buy, and things will always sell, but just not for the prices they used to … at least not at the moment.  As an intuitive individual, I am sensitive to others’ energy and I know that what I felt and experienced from them was real.

People are in real trouble out there.

Life always amazes me.  You can go into something with a certain mindset, like having a simple yard sale for things you no longer need.  You come out of it a kinder, more understanding person, because you had firsthand exposure to those less fortunate than yourself.  I don’t know what will happen, but my prayer is for everyone, and for things to improve rapidly.

©2013 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

More Lessons for Fellow Entrepreneurs

In the last blog post, I began talking about becoming an entrepreneur, and I promised to share the most important lessons I have learned in building a successful business.

  1. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.  You can and will find a way.  People who say things like that are often a bit envious of the entrepreneurial spirit, or perhaps live with regrets of their own.  It’s also possible they just don’t understand.
  2. If you don’t try, you will always wonder about what “could have been.”  Avoid living with regret and guilt by trying your best.  Regret will catch up with you when you are elderly, as I often hear from my clients.  Nothing bad can ever come from trying your best.  The human spirit needs to put forth effort to have some sense of satisfaction.
  3. When you come to crossroads in your life as an entrepreneur, always go with your gut instinct.  It’s interesting that we often let our heads get in the way of what our gut already knows.  My gut has never lied to me.  Tune into it, listen attentively, and keep moving.  Do not get stuck in the decision-making process.  If the first decision didn’t work, try another approach.
  4. Stay the course.  So you’ve stumbled and what you had planned isn’t working.  Take polls from business leaders you trust.  Ask questions and figure out what is needed to move on to the next level.  Perhaps you need a different company image, or you are not marketing to the right audience.  Ask, ask, and ask again until the answers come.
  5. Figure out what it is specifically that makes you different and better than your competitors.  Capitalize on those differences, and you now have a new marketing campaign — a fresh approach to hammer away at those you want to reach, whether by email, flyers, marketing packets, etc.
  6. The best advertising in the world is a happy customer.  No amount of high dollar advertising is nearly as good as the people you please with your work.  The step that most entrepreneurs forget is to ASK your clients to tell others about you.  You must become a shameless self-promoter, but do so graciously and always with a smile.  Find a way to get in with large groups of people at one time.  Think smart!
  7. Identify what it is you are selling.  Sounds crazy, but most people haven’t figured out they are not selling gizmos or a service.  I am an estate professional who specializes in personal property.  Do I just sell people’s stuff?  No, I sell a solution — multiple solutions.  Really think about this one.
  8. Follow through with passion and tenacity.  My business adviser told me many years ago that the real reason entrepreneurs fail isn’t for lack of great ideas.  There are many bright, ambitious, and creative entrepreneurs-to-be out there.  They simply fail for one of two reasons: financial reasons, or they never go for it with everything they’ve got.  Their follow-through is weak and the business never has a fair chance at taking off.
  9. Be the best at what you do.  Don’t allow yourself, your ideas, or your company to get swallowed up by others who do the same thing.  You must do it better, as the cream always rises to the top.
  10. Always look forward and never look back.  Ever notice how some people live in the past and seem to get stuck there?  It’s ok to visit the past and learn from what went wrong, but then, turn it into a positive so it works to your benefit.
  11. For every problem you encounter, there is a solution.
  12. Always be kind, courteous, and compassionate. Kindness gets noticed because so few people actually practice it.

May this guidance bring as much happiness and success to your life as it has for mine.

©2013 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.

Voice of an Angel

Sometimes life surprises you with a pleasant experience you never saw coming.  If you’re a deep thinker like me, you might wonder why it happened to you and what possible purpose this experience could have on your life.

I was coming home from an estate clean out.  These are fast-paced, energy zapping days that involve selling items which can be sold, packing up the rest of the entire estate for donation, and leaving the home empty for the heirs so the house can be sold — and it all takes place within a few short days.  I was very tired and ready to return home to a hot shower.

On the way home in the car, I grumbled to myself having noticed the gas tank was on “E” and had to stop for gas.  Upon getting out of my car at the pump, every muscle let me know they were most displeased.  It seemed like it took forever to accomplish such a mundane task.  There I was, going through the motions of swiping the credit card, unscrewing the gas cap, squeezing the trigger.  If anyone could fall asleep standing up, it would be me at that moment.  Unaware of much, I just wanted to get back into the car and go home.

Then I heard something that pulled my attention away from the pain.  Over the loud music the gas station was blasting above my head, I heard a very faint, melodic sound.  I had to strain to hear it at first; it was so soft.  High pitched and perfectly in tune, I blocked out the loud music above to hone in on what apparently only I had heard.  No one else seemed to notice.  If anyone had a video camera on me, they would have thought I was nuts.  Moving my body to the left and right, going around in circles to identify where this gorgeous sound was coming from, I abandoned my car and the pumping gas to find out.

Walking a few steps to my left, there he was … a character few would ever really notice.  A young man no older than his mid-20s stood pumping gas not far from me.  He was definitely from the country, based on his clothing, but his beard was shaped rather gothic and he had earrings.  There he was just pumping gas into his car and he was singing to himself.  Never would you think this sound could come out of him.  It was an unnaturally high voice to be coming from a man, and it was other-worldly.  That’s the only way I can describe it.  having studied music for 15 years, I had never heard this sound before.

I listened for several minutes, and whatever he was singing (because it was not English), sounded like what I envisioned angels to sound like.

Sometimes I think life, in its infinite wisdom, knows when we are weary and offers us snippets of unexpected grandeur.  Was he just a young man with a special gift, or was he sent to instill a moment of joy to this tired lady and anyone else who might be listening?

I’m afraid we’ll never know.  Just one of life’s many mysteries!

©2013 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.

“Limited Edition” Often Seems UN-limited

The world is full of numbered prints.  People bought them at high prices a decade, or two or three, ago, because they were led to believe the prints would go up in value over time since they are “limited editions.”  What happened, as you will soon see, is the artists or their marketing directors got greedy.  In theory, it all sounds so great, so what happened?  Read on …

If I had just $1 for every numbered print I have seen in my career, I could probably retire tomorrow.  A well-known artist decides to mass produce their work and make more money by using prints (or strikes) of one original work.  More money, less work.  All they have to do is pencil sign and number each print.  Typically, you see what looks like a fraction in pencil, for example 12/500, found in one of the bottom corners of the print.  This means the print you have is the 12th strike out of an edition of 500.  It is believed that the lower the number, the sharper the strike, so it is more desirable to collectors.  If you had 452/500, it is thought that the strike is getting worn and the image will not be as good.


But there are only 500 of them.  Aren’t they worth something?  Of course.  They are worth what someone is willing to give you for them.  Print media has certainly experienced a serious downturn in value over the last several years.  Artists shot themselves in the foot by producing too many of them.  Let’s not forget that the same image also has matching non-numbered prints, stationery, place-mats, mouse pads, cocktail napkins, key chains, plaques, etc.  You get the point … it always comes down to the law of supply and demand.  They mass produce until they meet the demand.  Then the demand bottoms out and the marketplace is still saturated with these items.  Then the price heads south just like so many other collectibles: Beanie Babies, collector plates, Hummels, etc.

This is the trend we’ve been seeing for years and will probably continue to see.  The economy, the older generation passing away, the younger kids not wanting them, collectors dying and their collections saturating the market further … all of this comes together and lowers values of these pieces.  They just aren’t selling well on the secondary market.

There are several famous artists out there whose numbered prints once sold for tens of thousands of dollars.  When we search for them on the internet, one can plainly see that some misinformed seller actually still thinks they can get $10K for it.  I know the latest hammer price is $250, if that.  Could a print still sell for a lot of money?  Yes, if a collector is searching for that one piece; but that collector is savvy and knows what the current prices are and will not pay wildly for it, as they once did.

It’s no one’s fault.  It made sense to invest in these things at the time and it sounded like a sure thing.  But as with all things that sound too good to be true … it usually is.

The Estate Lady Tip of the Day: Always buy what you like and what brings you pleasure.  You might be stuck with it for a while.  Before I buy something, I ask myself if I’m absolutely crazy about the piece.  If not, I walk away.  My daughter won’t want it someday, because she doesn’t want it now, and most children do not change their minds with the passage of time.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

The Antique Show

I am known to frequent antique and collectibles shows.  Curiosity always gets the best of me and I just have to go and visit with dealers from different markets to get their take on how the market and economy are doing.

Yesterday, I went to a large show in my area.  In 2010, it had shrunken with fewer big tents and dealers than usual, and 2011 was no different.  This year, it appeared a bit larger, but what the producers of the show had done was allowed flea marketers in with items of lesser quality.  So you had very high-end antiques mixed in with yard sale items.  Some people enjoyed the varied selection, but most of the dealers did not.

There was a quiet murmur among the dealers of the show, and with my ability to bounce from dealer to dealer, I got to hear most of the “scoop” that was going around.  They blamed the producer of the show who allowed the “cheap” goods in.  Attendees were buying the cheap goods but not the high-end antiques.  Some of the dealers who knew me shared that while they had sold some items. the public in general has become more difficult to deal with.

“They want to negotiate from the get-go, knowing the economic situation.  They don’t care what something is worth.  If we have $100 on something, they want it for less than half of that.  They also behave as if we (dealers) are taking advantage of them, and we’re not … we’re all struggling.”

This was the basis of what I was seeing and hearing.  Some dealers who refused to negotiate will be left with a truckload of stuff to bring back home and not much to show for it in their pockets.  Others who are willing to negotiate will at least make something.  Still there were others that shocked me a bit when I picked up one of their items; it was an immediate “I can do better on the price.”  One lady pretty much dragged me into her booth and kept showing me things I had absolutely no interest in, and I thought that was pretty strange behavior … like she was desperate.  No one likes to be pushed, but I remained polite and said, “No, thank you.”

As I soaked in the local color and all the buzz around me, a thought occurred to me that probably wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else.  If all this stuff is left behind and the piles only get bigger with time, because they are not selling, what will become of all these items and who will purchase them as we continue to age and pass away?

If I were a dealer, I would think the art of negotiation and letting things go for a modest profit would be the key to being more successful in this challenging economy.

© 2012 Julie Hall