“When you’re selling personal property, you’re biting a lot off,” says Tom Giroux, CAI, AARE, ATS, BAS, CES, MPPA, who, with his wife, Sandra, also an Auctioneer, runs Barrett Street Auction Center, Virginia Beach, Va.
Personal property can range from pots and pans to fine jewelry to anything you might find in or around a house, including furniture, appliances or even cars.
Giroux, whose company conducts up to 650 estate sales a year, is a certified appraiser who evaluates every item at a sale to determine whether it should go to charity, be disposed of, sold at a live auction or put online for nationwide sale.
Giroux once found three Civil War ambrotypes in a drawer, one of which brought in $800, and he sold a stein collection for more than $90,000.
The value of an estate is determined by its cumulative value, he emphasizes, not the worth of individual items.
Although Auctioneers conduct auctions onsite at an auction gallery, Steve Brodi, owner of Bridge Street Auction Service, Plattsburgh, N.Y., says appliances sell best at the location where they are used. He says potential bidders can see that they’re in working condition.
But sometimes onsite estate sales aren’t practical for logistical reasons, such as lack of parking.
Bridge Street conducts about 100 consignment or estate auctions a year, Brodi says.
While contemporary furniture is especially popular, you can find a buyer for just about anything.
Brodi once sold a pair of coffin handles for $25. The buyer needed them for a Halloween prop.
Many of today’s buyers at estate auctions are in the 40- to 50-year-old range — people seeking to buy back memories — says Tim McCulloch, GPPA, of Scheerer McCulloch Auctioneers Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind.
He conducts an average of two auctions a week that include personal property.
“Jewelry is hot,” he says, along with gold, silver, precious metals, firearms and old toys.
He once sold a Sevres vase for $15,000 and a sterling silver pitcher for $10,000.
Business is good thanks to increased awareness of auctions and because there’s no stigma associated with attending auctions or estate sales, Giroux says.
To ensure a lucrative auction, you must draw a large crowd and have a variety of items for sale, he adds.
He advertises online, in the phone book, through e-mails and on fence signs, and he mails postcards to about 5,000 regular buyers. On auction day, he provides coffee and donuts or a complimentary buffet.
Brodi spreads the word about his company and upcoming auctions by advertising in local newspapers as well as on his website, which receives about 3,500 hits per week.
McCulloch uses a variety of methods to market his auctions, including TV, radio, specialty publications and websites.
Much of his business results from referrals. Reputation plays a big role in attracting business, he says.
Buyers will come “if they know and trust you, if they like you, and if you have good business practices.”