Figuring It Out: Selling Antiques

Been there. Done that. Many times. Just not with antiques for sale.

No strangers to hosting yard sales, my husband Mike and I thought we’d just, well, have a yard sale and sell the oak antiques we no longer wanted. But. What if it rained? What if we damaged an antique as we carried it out of the house and onto the driveway? What if we didn’t sell all of them? What if we had to carry furniture back into the house. Our backs ached just thinking about the possibilities. So we discarded the idea of having an antiques yard sale.

We briefly discussed listing the items “for sale” in print publications, but a little research quickly proved that the cost of running the ads could be expensive and with no guarantee we’d even sell anything. And I was nervous about having strangers walk through our home; I have an active imagination and it kicks into overdrive any time I think about “strangers.” It likely originated from the fear, no terror, my mother instilled in me about “strangers taking me” from the time I was little; it’s one reason why I always held onto her leg. Tightly. Anyway, we kicked that possibility to the curb.

Mike and I talked about visiting local antiques stores, showing photos of the pieces we wanted to sell and seeing if any dealer was interested in buying them. Off I went one day last fall, armed with photos and a smile; selling is not my strong suit is all I can say. At the first antiques center I visited, the woman who runs the establishment wasn’t there. And as one dealer told me, “She gets first dibs on anything so we can’t do anything until she sees what you have for sale and decides if she wants to make you an offer first.” Almost offhandedly this dealer then mentioned, “Oak isn’t selling well right now either.”

Hmmm. Way to negotiate a lower sale price or fact?” As Mike and I sat watching “American Pickers” and “Pawn Stars” it struck us that no dealer would offer us anywhere near the value of the furniture; as we watched TV we saw dealers buying antiques for the price of an iTunes song and reselling them for the price of a Lady GaGa concert ticket. So we gave up on that approach.

Been there. Done that. Wasn't successful.

Almost off handedly I mentioned Craigslist. I’d heard a couple friends talk about how they’d found nice furniture and goods on the site. I figured I’d give it a go, even though it didn’t look like many quality oak antiques were listed for sale on the site; since it wasn’t going to cost me anything but my time to list an item for sale I figured it couldn’t hurt. Right? I took photos of the barrister’s bookcase, wrote up a description, signed up and on to Craigslist and listed the item for sale.

It wasn’t long before my in-box was bursting with responses to the ad. Excited, I eagerly opened each one. Most were from people who wanted to sell me something: a painter explaining he’d been unable to find work for a while and wouldn’t I hire him; a car salesman who would give me a great deal on a used car if I’d only call him.

Didn’t these people read the rules of Craigslist? The rules clearly state: “It’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests.” I can only figure that all the people who emailed really think that rules don’t apply to them. Or else they can’t read very well.

As the days rolled into weeks, one guy in particular kept emailing me, “encouraging” me to sell the bookcase to him:

“Is the bookcase sold?”

“Not yet,” I’d reply.

“Will you sell it for less?” he asked.

“How much less?”

And he’d email me back a low offer, which I’d politely refuse.

Each time he emailed me he’d offer me a lower price than the previous time. Is this a successful sales tactic? Or was he just a jerk?

His last email asked, “How about I give you $100 for it?”

“No. Thanks.”

I didn’t hear from him again. Maybe he has something against dropping his offers below $100.

Based on my experience I wouldn’t recommend advertising on Craigslist. Do you feel differently?

Been there. Done that. Found some success.

Months passed. Based on my Craigslist experience I didn’t want to go the eBay route, figuring I’d be in for more of the same craziness. But Mike kept bringing it up as a viable possibility if we “kept it local” as far as deliveries. (In Mike’s world I could see myself driving an oak princess desk to Oregon for a low $50 delivery fee!) Finally, I agreed to try it. Mike is Mr. eBay in our home; he buys and sometimes sells so I took photos and wrote descriptions that he uploaded. And Mike loves tracking eBay sales as much as my Dad’s old Beagle loved hunting. So far we’ve sold a file cabinet, the Princess desk, a small library table, and an antiques sewing box. It’s been pretty painless. And my storage spaces are slowly opening up! I’m thrilled.

So, are you looking for a rolltop desk? Or an oak rocking chair? How about a . . .

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One Response to Figuring It Out: Selling Antiques

  1. Sorry no room for oak furniture – it sounds lovely though.
    Your post reminded me of the last time I used Craig’s List a few years ago. We sold my breast milk pump. Bizarrely no weirdos or haggling. A Hassidic Jewish couple picked it up from my husbands NY office. Cash. Asking price. Result! One slightly embarrassed husband taking it to his super-trendy office.

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