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Part 2: Downsizing: Contents that Sell and Contents that Don’t

China...hit and miss, but generally not worth a lot these days for average vintage pieces, it needs to be a wonderful old pattern, high quality brand, full sets, no chips, no cracks.


This is a very small sample of used things that sell well and used things that don’t. Note that I’m using the phrase “sell well”. This means that typically any decent item can sell, as long as the price is right and you can find a buyer, sometimes for a very unique item. This post is really about my take on what to expect. There are estate sales experts and auction houses out there who have education, experience and knowledge in antiques, collectibles, art and the list goes on. However, in my past ten years of experience in helping people downsize, organize and move their homes, I have come up with my own set of criteria in determining saleability of the usual suspects. Have a look at the following examples with brief explanations - and keep in mind, tastes and trends change. Mid-century may be popular now, but in 10 years it could be something different. Also keep in mind that if the price is right, most things will sell, maybe just not for the price you thought. And you can always donate, which is a whole other series of postings for me down the road!

YES: Mid-century modern teak furniture. It’s a hot market for this kind of furniture. Best case scenario is that it’s designed by a well-known European designer or it has a stamp indicating its provenance like “Made in Denmark”. You can try selling online yourself. I use a few dealers in town.

NO: Overly stylized late 19th century, early 20th century brown furniture antiques. You probably know it when you see it - it’s just a bit too fussy for most people these days. One consignment store owner told me there was no demand for Eastlake style furniture and any furniture that was overtly ornate. Georgian style - more simple and clean-lined is still popular.

NO: Americana or Canadiana country furniture with no traceable provenance or reproductions of it. It will still sell, but it may be not as valuable as you imagined. Big awkward pieces even harder to move/sell.

NO: Antique lighting. Consignement stores will take it  if it’s of good provenance and well-made but it may take a while to sell. I’ve been to antique stores in Toronto packed with antique lighting. Demand seems to be shrinking.

YES: Very specific collectibles/vinyl records. This is a record of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. You need time to find the right buyer for this online. Condition is always a massive factor especially with vinyl. If you’re in a hurry to get rid of contents, you may have difficulty with specific items. The resurgence of the vinyl record market though continues to grow. As of January 2017 record sales had hit a 25 year high. Lots of options in Toronto to consign vinyl.

NO: Old, mass produced upright pianos. This is a shock to some, who see pianos generally as valued items. They may also have memories of members of their family who played the piano at gatherings etc. There is a big emotional factor here. Pianos in the western world have gone out of fashion compared to the boom in the early 20th century where it was a status symbol to have one in your home and you demonstrated a certain social advantage if you could play it. Old mass produced pianos are a money pit though. They are expensive to refurbish, tune and move as well. I literally have had a difficult time in giving some away. I have always though found a home for them. I work with one guy who takes them apart and ships them to Mexico. He does this for free as long as they meet a certain set of criteria.

YES: Other mid-century furniture. If it’s in excellent condition - fantastic. Even if it has some defects, it will still hold some value if it’s in demand. In this case these 4 original Hans Wegner Wishbone chairs were quickly purchased by a dealer in Toronto.

YES: Designer clothing. As long as: its got a really great reputable label; was purchased in the last two years; it is clean and has zero defects. Selling online is tricky - they have to try it on, look at it, meet you somewhere, hopefully in public. I recommend using consignment stores. I have a good one I always go to. Be prepared to have some thick skin as they say yay or nay to your fashion choices! Ensure you are giving them clothing that is in season. Don’t take winter coats in the spring.

NO/YES: You can consign your teacups and china or sell it online, but it’s probably not worth as much as you thought. No chips, stains, cracks, mismatched pieces, uneven numbers of settings. Pattern, where it was made and age are all big factors. Run of the mill Lenox isn’t going to cut it.  It’s rare that I see pieces that meet all this criteria. You’ll see quite a bit of it these days in consignemnt stores. Given my own anglophile leanings, I like to think that some millenials out there see value in a lovely tablesetting or having girlfriends over for tea a la Downton Abbey!

NO/YES: Misc. collectibles. This is a tough one. If it’s something I’m not familiar with I speak to an expert because this area is so vast. Other things that can be googled on the spot like on Ebay you can get a general idea of what the market is like. Generally with this sort of collection shown I would speak to my auction contact or take it to a consignment store to see what they take. For a lot of collectibles it would require a lot patience to sell online. If it looks extraordinary and you know the history but it has no markings, again, speak to an expert. Any information on it you can provide is helpful.

YES: I’ve had good experiences with selling vintage typewriters. There are collectors in Toronto who will want to see them if you simply post ads on kijiji. I just read that Tom Hanks has over 300 vintage typewriters in his office. Seems like a good endorsement. The mass produced ones aren’t worth a lot, but you can do a bit of research online to find out more about yours.

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