Online Estate Sales – Pros & Cons
The World Wide Web is a beneficial tool if one knows how to use it correctly. In the world of estate liquidation, the internet enables estate sales companies to sell unique and collectible items online, instead of at one on-site location or in tandem with an estate sale. An estate sale professional might remove some items from an upcoming estate sale to place on the internet in hopes of maximizing proceeds for their client. If it is an exceptionally high-end item, they may send it to an appropriate auction house, which will also offer online bidding. Placing items on the internet does not guarantee a higher realized price, but it certainly improves your marketing reach from a local area to international.
A 1930’s tin litho Mickey Mouse was found in an estate. If it has been sold at a local estate sale, it might have brought $50 to an interested collector. Online, however, it brought an astounding $400 from a collector in Japan. This item was not worth $400, but to this particular collector, it was and he was willing to pay it. While this was a happy ending for the seller of the Mickey Mouse toy, this situation is not always the norm. With the massive surge of people using online sites to sell their “rare items,” we may have inadvertently shot ourselves in the foot, so to speak. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it works like a charm with a global reach. On the other hand, values are not what they used to be because so many of these antique and vintage items have surfaced.
Once upon a time, we didn’t have online sources like eBay, Live Auctioneers, etc. When they didn’t exist, it was much harder to find items, and as a result, they were considered “rare” and the values, for the most part, were quite good. The economy was also stronger back then also. While online estate sales/auction sites are definitely positive, as they started to emerge and more people started selling as a source of additional income, suddenly we all became globally connected and those rare items became common. So common that what used to be the rage in collecting is now flat line. Instead of there being 9 antique Weller vases back then, there were now 1,157 on just one site!
The laws of supply and demand apply. Too much supply + not enough demand = lower price. If you are fortunate enough to have what collectors want and it is truly a rare and unusual item, this law still applies: high demand + small supply = higher price.
We’ve seen the positive side of online estate sales, and it is good for many things such as sterling silver, jewelry, military items, antique and vintage toys, trains, etc. But what are some of the downsides?
It takes time to photograph, describe, pack up, and mail these items once they have sold. A time-consuming endeavor is worthwhile only if the sales price is very good.
Most online auctions have fees attached to listing, selling, and even for mailing. One must think ahead if it is even worth the time and effort for some items.
The item(s) are not examined in person. What if the buyer doesn’t like it?
What if you have a buyer who never pays?
What if you believe it will sell well, you pay the fees and percentages, and it doesn’t sell?
Sometimes the starting price is too high, or the “buy it now” is too high, and the item just sits there until the price comes down, IF it comes down.
What if the item is described incorrectly or has condition issues that were not clearly identified to the prospective buyer?
These are all things that a professional will take into account when selling estate items.
What homework can you do ahead of time to see if certain items will be a good fit for an online estate sale? First, know what the item(s) are called. Second, research the items on different sites you are thinking about selling and observe what the selling prices are. What did they sell for? Do not look at asking prices, as anyone can ask any price they wish and this is not an indicator of value.
If the prices are low, you will know that it is not worth the trouble to place them online. If the prices are healthy for what you have, you should consider an online estate auction which would be a good source to sell that particular item. Remember that online sales can be cyclical; sales begin to increase as you approach the holidays because buyers are looking for gifts for the holidays. Immediately after the New Year, it slows down; the summer is also slow.
Use your best discretion for the items you are looking to sell. If you have a rare item that has a unique origin, consider selling that item in the region of origin; send it to a higher-end auctioneer in that region. This would be the most relevant market for that item and chances are good that it will sell well.