Are you planning on holding a yard sale this summer? If so, I’d like to share a cautionary tale with you. One of the first yard sales that I ever organized on my own turned out to be an unexpected disaster. Here’s what happened to me and how you can avoid the same fate:
My Yard Sale Disaster Story
At the time of my first major yard sale, I was 21 years old. My parents put me in charge of selling off items that were stored in my grandparents’ basement and attic after their passing. It took me two weeks to clean all the items, price them and handle the advertising. It also took me exactly 5 minutes to lose out on one of the biggest sales of my life.
One of the items up for sale was a set of amber, glass dishes that provided service for eight diners. I had it priced at $10. Two older women approached me earlier in the day and questioned me about the price. They kept asking me if I was sure that I wanted to sell those dishes at that price. I thought that they were just trying to haggle for a better deal and remained stalwart. They eventually left and I ended up selling the dishes to someone else.
Later in the day, the same two women returned with a book in their hands and a worried look on their faces. They asked about the dishes and I told them that they had already been sold. The ladies then asked me how much I sold them for. Once I announced the $10 price I thought that the two were going to faint. Then they handed me the book that they had in their possession and told me to read the page that had been dog-eared. The page contained a photo of the dishes that I had just sold for $10. It turned out that the dishes were Depression Era glass and worth a whole lot more than $10. At that point, I almost fainted with them.
Yard Sale Lessons Learned
The whole situation taught me several valuable lessons. First, I learned that it is important to pay attention to your elders because there is a good chance that there is some wisdom under that mass of gray hair. If I had taken the time to really listen to the two women when they first asked about the dishes, I would have learned that they were trying to warn me that the dishes might be more valuable than I had thought. Second, I learned never to hold a yard sale without carefully researching the value of every item.
How to Prevent a Yard Sale Disaster
Since that time, I have found that one of the best and least expensive ways to research an item’s value is to head to the library. There are many books that discuss how to appraise items. There are also books that list the approximate values for certain items like Depression Era glass. Based on my experience, Kovels Antiques, Incorporated published an excellent guide that includes information on a wide variety of items.
Another superlative option is to conduct a bit of internet research. Many items, but not all, have a trademark listed on them. I’d suggest that you run a search on the trademark name. In most instances, the search results will give you a good idea as to whether or not the item in question has any serious value. If the item in question doesn’t have a trademark on it, I’d suggest that you consider taking it to an appraiser.
Many auction houses offer free appraisals on a regular basis. There are also “Antiques Roadshow” types of events that may be able to provide you with much needed information. Just make sure that the person that is giving you the appraisal is reputable. Not all of them are. As such, I’d suggest researching the appraiser and the auction house before you trust them with your precious items.
Killeen Gonzalez enjoys summer sports and recreation with her family. She has also traveled extensively.
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