When it’s time to let go. How to part with a collection.

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  • Posted by kindle

People collect all manner of items. From the small to large, from the inane to the sublime, people’s passions for things run deep.

I have run into people who collect playing cards, zippo lighters, Pez dispensers, fire fighting gear, thimbles, Beany Babies, snowmen, comic books, advertising, magazines, salt & pepper shakers, tractors, porcelain signs, cars & motorcycles, gas pumps and more! I knew a retired engineer who had a model railroad that filled several rooms of his basement and another person who had over 300,000 records!

If you can name it, I guarantee you, someone collects it. One thing is certain though, I have never seen a u-haul behind a hearse!

People spend years amassing their collections. They do the research, and they become experts in their chosen subject. They search in local antique stores and search while travelling. They scour internet auction sites, want ads, flea markets, auctions, garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores; in fact, there are almost as many ways to put together a collection as there are items to collect!

Putting together an amazing collection takes true dedication and effort and depending on the subject of the collection, a great deal of money. Thus, some can be worth much, while others, little in comparison.

There comes a time in every collector’s life where they need to think about the disposition of their collection. Some want to enjoy the items they have spent a lifetime acquiring for as long as possible. There are others who just don’t want to think about it, assuming their heirs will automatically share the love they feel towards their collection and want to keep it forever. Let me give you a hint: they rarely do, they just don’t want to hurt your feelings.

One of the problems in selling a collection is markets and values constantly change. Items go in and out of favor and things don’t retain the value they once had. Furniture which was once worth thousands, is now worth hundreds. Collectible stock certificates which were once purchased for hundreds of dollars for their historical signatures are now worth one third or even less. Many glass items which once sold for hundreds of dollars each, are now often purchased for under $50. The possibility of the windfall that people were once counting on to see them through their twilight years when they sold off their collection is dwindling fast.

If you have a large collection, talk to your family and think about what you want to have happen to your items. They may want you to sell them now and enjoy the income. It is possible your family members or friends may want some of them, and some people are letting their children and grandchildren take items now, so they can watch them enjoy their treasures.

The selling of, or disposition of a collection can be a time-consuming prospect. Some people may not be able to invest the time to maximize the return by selling items individually, and some may be unable due to distance or unwilling due to resentment.

A valuable collection may be donated to a museum, but make sure you work out the details first. Many museums have so many items, they may not be able to incorporate your entire collection into their collection and may end up selling many items. If this is not what you want, look elsewhere.

If you decide to sell your collection yourself, there are many ways to go about it.

Online you have auction sites like eBay. You register for an account and take photos, write a description and list the item as an auction or as a fixed price. You also need to have a Paypal account, to receive payment, and be familiar with things like buying shipping online. Once it sells you are responsible for shipping it to the new owner. Remember, eBay and Paypal take a commission on your sale. There are also businesses who will sell on eBay for you.

Craigslist is an online classified ad section. You can post a description and photos, then you meet the person to trade your item for cash. You can even barter for other items if you like. It gives you the ability to list in many locations and it’s free. Also many social media sites have marketplaces to buy and sell. Just remember that there can be downsides to this and to always meet people in a public place if you can.

If you are smart phone savvy, you can use services such as “Let Go” or “Offer Up”. They are similar to the previous concept, except they are apps on your smartphone. Again, always be safety conscious when meeting or letting people in your home that you don’t know.

You can hire an estate sale planner to organize your sale. They will do all the work necessary and most likely have the sale in your home. It is a service you pay for, so check their rates and policies. Also, in this vein are auction houses and auctioneers. Again, they are fee or commission based, so get the details up front.

One often overlooked option is to contact a collector club of like interested people who collect what you collect and who may want to buy some or all of your collection. You can usually find these online and there may even be more than one, both here in the states as well as other countries.

Antique and collectible stores can also be an option for you. Some may handle the sale of your items on consignment for a percentage or fee and others may buy some or all of your items outright. Remember, when you sell to an antique store or reseller, they need to purchase your items wholesale, so they can earn a profit when they sell them. This may bring less but may be a faster option.

It can be difficult to part with a collection that you are attached to, but it can be done. Formulate a plan, let everyone help, or at least share the plan with them and enjoy your collection until the time is right to let someone else experience the same joy your felt when you found each item. You might even make some new friends.


Published in March/April 2019 issue of Vintage Finds Magazine / Florida Today online edition 3/13/19

The Florida Register July/Aug 2020 Issue