Don’t Put Grandma’s Matisse In A Garage Sale

By B.C. MANION The Tampa Tribune, Published: Sep 16, 2006

Source: certified appraiser Frances Redell-White, Appraisal & Consultant Services, Brandon

Keep sentimental items in the family.

Maybe a relative has died and left you a house full of furniture, knickknacks, china and clothing.

Or you’ve just ended a decades-long marriage.

The kids have moved out; you’re sick of your decor; or, just possibly, you need the money more than you need all your stuff.

Whatever the reason, it’s time to unload. If you’re like most people, you probably need some guidance to maximize your profits.

You have three options, says Frances Redell-White, a certified appraiser: Pass along the item to another family member, sell it or donate it to charity.

Passing It On

The best option for items with historical or sentimental value is to keep it in the family. If you sell it, you often can’t get it back.

Another downside: Family rifts can occur when you’re divvying up an estate and the brother gets the grandfather clock while the sister gets a chipped teapot.

It’s wise to have an appraiser value the items so each family member gets a fair share.

Selling It

Private selling: It’s usually the fastest way to divest. Another advantage: You get to keep the full payment; you don’t have to give a cut to a middleman. Options include selling to an individual, to a private dealer, through a classified advertisement or through a garage sale.

Consignment: Whoever you work with will typically take 30 percent to 50 percent of the sale price, but that is negotiable. You can consign with a dealer who specializes in the type of item you are selling, which will typically bring you a better price, or you can sell through a general consignment shop.

Estate tag sale: This is a good way to sell a house full of items. The inventory must be worth several thousand dollars or it’s unlikely you’ll find someone to hold a sale for you.

This option is not a good idea if you’re living in the deceased’s home because people coming to the sale may be there to case your house for a future break-in.

Auction: You will typically get 70 percent to 90 percent of the proceeds. Each item sells to the highest bidder, which can be good or bad, depending on how the bidding goes.

It doesn’t take long to sell the items, but you may have to wait months for the auction to be held. Because you can’t control how much people will bid, your best protection is setting minimum bids on items of the most value.

Auction houses can be local, national or international. Typically, very valuable items do better in national or international venues. Your best bet is to find an auction house that sells locally and over the Internet. Where you sell your items makes a difference. An antique card table sold in Central Florida went for $1,400, Redell-White says. The same table sold for more than $1 million a short time later in New England.

Internet: When items are worth $100 or less and are widely known, such as Barbie dolls and Gucci handbags, selling on eBay or another Internet site probably is your best bet.


Giving to charity may be the best option if you’re looking for a tax break, have an item of value that would be difficult to sell or simply want to give back to your community. An appraisal establishes a value for tax purposes.