Tuesday, November 30, 2010

French Provincial Dining Room Set

Looks great! China cabinet, table with two leaves, 6 immaculately preserved chairs, scratch free, odor free and in perfect condition. Who wouldn't want this for their home? Apparently very few.
This falls into the category of it should be, but isn't. This style of dining room set seems to be plentiful in the Youngstown, Ohio area. They were staples of 1960's through 1980's home furnishings. Today, they just don't seem to fit in.
Changing styles, families going away from formal dining and a lack of disposable income are all influencing factors on why these are worth so little in todays market place. It seems such a shame but typically in our area these sets sell for as little as $50.00. How do you explain to the elderly women that her pride and joy is worth $50.00? You can't. This is probably a case where you should just tell her that you don't buy this type of antique. But, if you are feeling really adventorous and you think you could get $7-800 for it, give it a shot. Just remember that I'll say "I told you so".

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The television shows

Yep, they are all out there now. Antiques Roadshow, American Pickers, Pawn Stars, Auction Hunters...and many more, although, there should be less. What do I think about them? For the most part not much. One or two of them have some entertainment merit, but for the most part they do not accurately reflect what the antiques (money making) business is really about.

Lets start with the latest of the group, Auction Hunters. As all of you who have been reading my posts ( Stephanie, Gus & my kids) I go to storage unit sales. As I have stated it is a high risk / high return method of buying and selling. These two men Ton Jones and Allen Haff, have the most incredible luck that has ever been seen in the modern world. A bad purchase for them results in making 2 or 3 thousand dollars on a storage unit. The good ones just keep falling out of the sky for them. $3,000 bikes, $2,000 cash registers, cars, guns the list just goes on and on.

But what about the other stuff? You know the clothes, broken dinner sets, trashed electronics, rats, bugs and just plain junk. They just seem to forget about that part of it. Here is the reality. Yes, you can find some tremendous bargains. I have found guitars, gold jewelry and good furnishings. I have also found Ton's of clothes, worthless household items and a 22" nicely colored, perfectly preserved rat. That's right a rat. At first I thought it was a well made toy. Nope immediately upon picking it up (of course I didn't have gloves on that day) I realized its true identity. So if your squeamish...stay away from storage lockers.

So now that the rat story has been told, on with the everything else. First, you are required to remove all items within 24 hours. This problem is easily solved by owning either a box truck, large van or trailer. Second, you need to be able to put it somewhere, so that you can go through it to see what you have purchased. I would suggest renting a large barn. This will give you the space that you will need to sort all of your treasures out. Third, you need a network to get rid of the stuff. This is real easy with the good stuff. Gold, easy to sell. Tiffany lamps, anyone will buy them. Stinky underwear, or a dead rat, a little more difficult.

You will need several cooperative auctioneers, a local Goodwill store that is willing to take your clothing and close proximity to a free dump (these don't exist unless you can find an abandoned house). Real simple. No problem. EEEEASY!

Practically speaking, the show is somewhat entertaining. The truth is you can get great buys, unfortunately you can also get bombs. I would also suggest that calling your competitors whales on national television just might incite some of them to being slightly more competitive and in some special cases more murderous. Don't be stupid, calling someone a whale publicly can be dangerous. Also, save the screaming about your great finds for the privacy of your own home. You will look stupid and ridicules even when you do it in a metal storage building. Bottom line: A BIG THUMBS DOWN TO THIS SHOW!

Next lets talk about the Pawn Stars. In my opinion this is one of the more entertaining shows in the antique world. I have had a employees who could have been Chumlee's mental twin work for me. I won't mention any names in order to protect the guilty, but the Chumlee's are probably the most important people in the business. Why? Because we all need to be entertained, and the Chumlee's are great entertainers. They break up the monotony, they make us laugh and their unique perspective keeps on our toes.

Typical episodes involve Rick Harrison viewing items brought into the pawn shop, then stating that he needs his expert to look at it, and finally offering (or not offering ) to buy or pawn the item. The items are varied and typically expensive. Besides entertainment the shows good sides are its educational value, its realistic price negotiating and it shows how naive most people are when it comes to business. Rick states over and over that he needs to make money one every piece that he buys. This is true, he won't (and neither will you) be in business very long if he doesn't. His customers consistently want the full value of the items that they are offering for sale, he simply says "that's not going to happen". Smart man, we should all follow his lead.

The unrealistic portion of the show is fact that they sell everything at retail. Unfortunately getting "retail" prices is virtually impossible for the majority of us out here in the antiquing world. Las Vegas is the capital of stupid spending. Over the years I have performed many appraisals for large carat rings that were purchased in Vegas. Vegas price on a typical ring $32,000, Podunk Ohio price for the same ring $9,000. Do they really get the high prices? For their sake I hope so, for the rest of us hill folk out here, "ya purdy much takes wats ya cun git".

American Pickers! Wow, what a great idea, go up to someones junky looking house or farm, tell them your here to give them money for their antiques and then buy, buy, buy! So simple. First, the typical goofball who has shit piled up all over his property is, well not quite right in the head. Yeah, we all have the old doghouse that's tipping over, the blue bike along the garage and an occasional junk car, but we aren't talking about typical here. The type of person who hoards piles of mostly useless junk also hoards:


For the typical antiques dealer without a television crew, $75,000 truck and invitations received from someone craving television attention to show off their collections, going up to these types of homes can be, well suicidal.

For those of you feeling that you need to do this I have a suggestion, take a few precautions first. Number one bullet proof vests, second rabies vaccinations finally a completed will. I would also suggest wearing a very strong cologne. This will facilitate the search dogs finding the remains of your body after is been buried in the back yard due to the "accidental" shooting.

Do I like this show? Not really.

Then there is the granddaddy of them all Antiques Roadshow. Good information, great stuff, fun format and entertaining. In 35 years of buying and selling antiques I have never seen anything like the stuff they get on each show. Enough said.

Overall the shows should be viewed with a grain of salt. Just like my blog these shows can be full of crap. I will tell all of you the educational value is fantastic. You will see items that just don't show up everyday. So watch, learn and be aware that with some luck finding these great antiques could happen to you.

Antiques Roadshow- PBS
Pawn Stars- History Channel
Auction Hunters- Spike
American Pickers- History Channel

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Oak "C" Roll Top Desk

Yesterday, I attempted to begin the discussion on how much pricing has changed in the last few years. Today, I am going to give a prime example of just how much the value has changed. Oak roll top desks were a top value item in antique shops and auctions up until the last few years.

At one time a desk like this would easily fetch $600 to 700! But not anymore. I purchased this desk at a public auction on Monday for a whopping $33.00. I would gladly sell it for $100.00. Why such a great change in value?

#1. It is too damn big. Most people don't have the room in their homes.

#2. Computers and printers don't fit on them.

#3. Antique oak furnishings are down in general.

So why did I buy it? First of all I can be a little compulsive. I just cannot resist torturing myself with over sized items that are difficult to move, store and sell. Second, the auctioneer looked at me! Yes, that's right, he looked at me. It is amazing how the simple suggestion of a "look", you know the one, "Gee willikers this sure seems cheap" from an auctioneer can suddenly make you throw caution to the wind and raise your hand up. Third, I was bored. This is another great reason to make yourself work too hard for your money.

So if anyone out there has a hankering for an oak "C" roll top desk at a bargain price, all you have to do is look on http://www.craigslist.com/ in Youngstown, Ohio, in the antiques column. I can tell you that the dealer (idiot) selling it is considering all offers.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What has happened to the value of my stuff?

I have recently been doing quite a few appraisals. Some are court ordered, some are auction estimates and others are just for curiosity. Everyone is always happy to see me when I first arrive at their homes, unfortunately this happiness is often short lived. Why? Prices on most items have declined significantly. The "oh my goodness I can't wait to see whats its worth" changes to "you have got to be kidding".

What has happened to the antiques and collectibles market? Have the changes occurred due to the economy, is it because of changes in styles or are collectors just plain tired? Just what are they looking for?

All of these questions and no real answers. The changes in buying habits seem to be drastic and have occurred in a very short period of time. I have been at this now for over 30 years. During those 30 years I have witnessed the seemingly constant increases in the value of antiques and collectibles. Sure there were some crazy short term blasts like beanie babies and collectible plates. But for the most part these were aberrations. Most collectors witnessed an almost continuous increase in the value of their collections. Now those increases seem to be in a full reverse. Prices are down. Dealers are leaving the business at a pace faster than I have ever seen before. So if you are a dealer / investor what is the answer?

The real answer is simple BUY, BUY, BUY, BUY!!!! No, I haven't been smoking exotic tropical plants that Ohio just happens to have a growing season just long enough for. The answer is buy because for the collector, the low prices available on a wide variety of "rare" items gives unprecedented ability to purchase items that you could only dream of before.

Some examples:

Reverse painted Handel lamps are down 20-30%
Pedal cars down 50%
Cut glass absolutely bargain prices down 70%

Name your favorite collectible and it is most likely 1/2 the price that it used to be. Now is not the time to moan about the fact that your Hummel Chimney Sweep figurine is only worth $15.00 when you paid over $50.00 for it 5 years ago. Instead of worrying about that, why not go out and buy the Hummel Century pieces that used to cost $1500.00 and are now bringing only $500.00. Use this era of low prices to your advantage, it will not last forever.

On the other end of the scale some items are doing exceptionally well. These items are very easy to pick out because they are mostly shiny items. Gold, silver and platinum are reaching all time highs. Keep an eye out on jewelry boxes at auctions and garage sales. Stephanie (my wife) bought a 14k gold bracelet for 50 cents at a garage sale. She sold it for almost $800.

Other things that are hot right now:

Clean usable household furnishings, stay away from anything that smells, is scratched or is from a home with animals or smokers.

Usable appliances.

Automobiles that look decent and can be priced under $3000.

For everyone out there, it isn't really the best time to sell off your collections that you started 10 years ago. Prices are down. The truer reality is that it is a great time to buy. Don't be depressed. Take advantage of the current buying climate and add those rare items that you could not previously afford.