Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Pros And Cons Of Selling Antiques And Collectibles.... Part One

I first stumbled into this business when we had inherited so many things that we ran out of room here at home and were forced to rent a large storage unit. That would be in addition to the guest house, the storage unit here, and the old playhouse (which still has things stored in it, in spite of the fact that Felicia The Fox claimed the ground underneath as her Summer Home). Also, all of the inside storage is full... in every room in the house. Oh wait. It's still like that. Hmmm...

I had a couple of friends in *the business* who told me about eBay so I checked it out and I began buying a few things on eBay just to become familiar with it. Within 3 months (which was 1997) I felt confident enough to become a seller as well. I made a fair number of mistakes in the beginning but quickly learned about where and how to research items and get them identified or appraised. I learned that you should never ship any package you are afraid of dropping or drop-kicking. In other words, knowing how to properly pack for shipping. I received many broken items as a buyer, which always annoyed me. I didn't want the insurance reimbursement. I wanted the item.

It was during this time that the mother of a friend had passed away and after the family members had taken everything they wanted from her belongings, there was an entire houseful left. Our friend asked if I wanted to give it a go, otherwise they were having it all hauled to the dump. For me, this woman's lifelong collections turned out to be the education of a lifetime and one that could never have been acquired through schooling of any kind. It has been a journey through time for me, really. Each piece eventually revealing yet another layer of this interesting woman and the treasure trove of things she deemed worthy of collecting.

Everything I'm showing you here, belonged to this fascinating woman.

Let's just call her Trixie, shall we? Trixie came from an old Virginia family but was raised in California. A little pixie of a woman, she was a botanist as well as an herbalist. Back in the day, her gardens were legendary. Unfortunately, by the time I was able to see them, life had gotten in the way for too long and they were gone. However, the remnants were still there if you looked closely enough. She also loved to travel with her husband and once they even sailed on the Queen Elizabeth, which has since retired.

When I first began going through the house, I was shocked at the amount of wonderful things still there. I knew what many of the things were and stuck to only the things I could sell online and ship easily. I sold all of her marvelous hats, opera gloves, purses, cat's eye glasses, and costume jewelry with ease.

She still had things like authentic Indian moccasins, a 1950's Indian dress with rick rack, an old broken necklace that turned out to be an authentic Art Deco Egyptian Revival Slag Glass necklace, a hand tooled 50's purse from Mexico, a divine Audrey Hepburn style hat (which I'm still kicking myself for not keeping as my own), numerous little smart cocktail hats, vintage collectible luggage and some fabulous scarves. This was just the closet in her bedroom.

Eventually, eBay began raising their fees and it was hardly worth the trouble for smaller, less expensive items unless you were a Power Seller and sold things by the lot. I don't like most Power Sellers because they are careless with packing items and seldom see to it that anything is clean before shipping. That's just lazy and disgusting.

Since that never appealed to me, I started my search for a new venue in December of 2000 and by January 2001 I was happily divorced from fleaBay, and the sole owner and operator of my own shop within an internet antiques mall. I started out small, selling only the things I was sure about. It was the best move I could have ever made. I've been there almost 10 years and have been mostly happy with it. It beats selling on eBay, hands down.

I now own something like 82 to 85 ID books for various kinds of antiques and collectibles. These books are the key tools in selling antique pieces that will bring the right price. And still, some pieces need to have more than one appraisal or source of ID. There are a lot of fakes out there today and they are really good (especially the ones from China), even to the trained eye.

On eBay, even on a great day, most things sold for 30% less than in the real world, and often for much less. That doesn't often happen there these days, although eBay is is getting increasingly skilled at separating the inexperienced seller from their hard earned treasures and/or dollars. Thanks, but no thanks!

Once I was established in my new cyber home, I worked even harder and sold a great many items that we needed to sell, clearing much needed space. I'll show you some of those in another post. Unfortunately, I found that *stuff* tends to breed like rabbits at night. You wake up the next day only to discover more good (but unwanted) stuff which makes you want to pull out all your hair. It's a strange phenomenon.

However, for a few more posts I'm going to show and tell you about the Collections of Trixie. I can't begin to express the amount of knowledge and expertise I accumulated while learning about and selling the things she collected. Now that I'm done with her closet, we can move to another room and more of her lovely treasures.

To Be Continued....


Clippy Mat said...

this is fascinating. Looking forward to the next installment.

Heather said...

That is really cool. What a wonderful glimpse into another life and another time.

I ditched ebay too. Just not worth all the effort. Many don't understand how time consuming it is to DO IT RIGHT!

Mental P Mama said... wanna come to CT and look at my stuff?!

Sjn said...

Lovely things, I adore the hats!

Snooty Primadona said...

Clippy: Hope you enjoy it.

Heather: People really don't understand about doing it right & ebay was making me insane. Seriously.

MPM: You see, now that's how I keep accumulating more stuff, lol. I can't ever seem to say no.

Sjn: She had some of the most wonderful hats & alligator bags & gloves.

Staci said...

I have a number of hats (and they are in fact, "numbers"!) that belonged to my grandma. I swear, one of them looks like a pink boob. No joke.

I did the ebay thing about 10 years ago. It has really just become another cheapo shopping site now, I think.

I love the old suitcases...

The Incredible Woody said...

Wow - Trixie looks like she was an incredible woman!!

LMAO - my word verification is "resell"!!

Treasia Stepp said...

What beautiful treasures she had. Love those old hats, gloves and purses. I've never had any luck with Ebay. I always end up still having the item and then having to pay the fees. Ugh, I gave it up quickly.

My Metabolic Rate is Stuck said...

I would have been "in Heaven"!
You are so lucky and I am so envious! Just handling the treasures would have been wonderful!

Suburban Princess said...

I used to have a tidy little ebay business too - but with their fees and power sellers and fee avoidance etc etc etc it was too hard to make any money at it for all the work it took.

I decided recently to put everything on another blog and just keep listing it all until it is all sold! I have lots of stock left so hopefully I can move it all!

J'Ollie Primitives said...

Years ago, eBay was fun to sell on. Not any more. I rarely bother to buy there these days ~ the good sellers have pretty much migrated elsewhere.

L-O-V-E the stuff. Would you post a link to your online store?

Daryl said...

Oh I was drooling over those gloves and that pair of cats eye sunglasses!

These Nine Acres said...

I did not know this about you! Fascinating. Can't wait to see and read about Trixie again!

noble pig said...

Wow. I'm fascinated. I can't believe her family left all that stuff. Unreal. What an amazing story & I can't wait to see the next room. That last hat looks like it would be perfect for the Kentucky Derby.

Anonymous said...

I also sold on ebay. That was a nightmare. I now sell in a antique store here in town and it is a lot less stress. Love the treasures you put up for us to look at today.

Snooty Primadona said...

Staci: Amen. It made me insane.

Treasia: Amen. It made me insane.

MMRS: It is totally cool just having them live with me like foster children until they find a good home, lol.

SB: Amen! eBay made me insane. Have I said that before?

JOP: Scroll to the bottom. Hubby talked me into posting a link.

Daryl: I know! Her Retro stuff was *tres chic*, huh?

TNA: Oh Yeah. I'm deep. Not. hehee

Cathy: I was really shocked at the amount of stuff they didn't want, but you should have seen how much they DID take. Mind boggling, really.

TSannie said...

This is fascinating! I have so much crap it's silly. And now I'll put thoughts of ebay under investigation.

Tammy said...

Really interesting stuff Snooty! My grandma had a lot of very cool things. I like to think we got all of the good stuff, but I'm guessing we let some treasures go! Can't wait to hear the next installment.

Patricia Hannigan said...

I LOVE vintage/retro styles. Strange how todays clothing and accessories look so boring by comparison.


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