This was my first estate sale of 2022. It was a gorgeous spring day and I was excited. Too excited. I bounced in two hours after this three-day sale had opened and parked half my brain outside the front door.
Here’s the story:
The house, in a posh city about six miles away, belonged to a medical doctor who had done a bit of traveling and the family had acquired an interesting collection of things. It was a delight looking at all of them but it quickly became apparent that the prices were full retail. There was a box full of bakelite mahjong tiles for $240. A kid’s toy gun from the 1950s for $75. An interesting brass box for $85. Everything, but everything was priced up.
Frankly, I saw people leaving empty handed, but I was determined to buy a few things. That’s the stupid part. So I brought up a few unpriced items and watched as one of the estate ladies looked them up online, choose the highest online listing price and slapped a sticker on the item. A wood block from India used to hand print fabric was priced at $65. Honestly I was shocked. I thought it would be $15 at the most as it wasn’t intricate and likely not antique. (I passed on that.) A 1951 sorority gavel was $20. Passed on that too.
In the end I came up with a small collection of items but I knew I was paying too much as a reseller and I should have walked away. I should have walked away. And to rub salt in the wound, one of the estate people tallied up my items incorrectly. When I said I didn’t think the total was right, she said tauntingly, “It should be $5 more. I’m trying to save you money. BUT if you don’t want to SAVE money….” So I went over the item prices out loud in front of her and it came out to a different total. She wasn’t trying to save me $5, but overcharge me $5! She conceded I was right with a shrug. No apology.
So instead of driving home ebullient, I was anxious…and frustrated…and mad at myself. I can’t even bring myself to tell you what I paid for these few measly items because you would just shake your head. Even I’m shaking my head.
Here’s what I bought…
Two of the medical books the doctor owned. One has some of his notes on the end papers. These would make great movie props. (I balked at the price and the same estate sale lady said pointing to an eBay listing on her phone, “Look I’m giving you a great deal.” Well, it wasn’t a great deal. Turns out that eBay listing had a dream price.)
A brass bracelet with inlaid bits including mother of pearl. Just a neat, exotic bangle.
I really liked what I think is a Mexican/South American pottery Colima dog rattle. I’m guessing vintage rather than ancient, but it’s an unknown and unusual. This was my most expensive item but I think it “could be something.” I definitely need to do more research. So far I haven’t found anything similar.
This antique hand-tinted London print was the only piece I found that had a somewhat reasonable price and I knew there was meat on the bone. Drawn by Thomas Shepherd and engraved by H.W. Bond it depicts “The New Opening of St. Martin’s Church” and comes in a gold leaf frame.
So there is a moral to the story. Several morals:
- Don’t go out sourcing when you’re itching to buy. Or at least put a limit on what you’ll spend.
- Don’t believe what sellers tell you about their items. (I am too trusting. Too naive at times. You’d have thought all my years on this planet would have cured me of that!)
- When prices are high, stick with what you know. Don’t gamble.
In the end I should make a small profit, so it’s not all doom and gloom. But in the future I’ll likely avoid this estate company’s sales. Overall it was an unpleasant experience.
Wishing you happier hunting,