Consignment options for downsizing and estates...

As a consignment store owner, I often get calls to handle estates and to help people downsize a lifetime of treasures. Just the other day, I went on a house-call over in Silver Spring and met an eighty year old woman who was moving to a retirement home.  She had lived in the same home for about 50 years and had a large number of collectibles; figurines, art, decorations, china, statues, old toys, and you name it. All of it had to go as she was moving to a two room apartment in just a couple weeks. After spending about two hours looking around, I explained to her that while there were many nice old things there, most of them were worth less than our $50 minimum for consignment terms. I went on to say that the amount of work to document and keep track of a thousand items was just too much for low value 'smalls' and it would be overwhelming to deal with while under the pressure of holding someone else's items in my possession. While we do have a conveyor belt process for selling things on eBay and the Internet, some things that lack sufficient identifiable characteristics (such as folk art, metal ware, and artwork done by no-one-famous) take time to sell. Sure, if I waited six months till the perfect buyer came along, maybe I could sell some random painting or wood carving for $500 - but as of this minute - I can only compare it to what I see at the thrift-store for $15. I actually found myself feeling bad for this woman dealing with all this stress and made an offer to just outright buy everything. While I am not in the business of buying things for resale, I felt that doing so in this case would help her out and then she wouldn't have to worry about the status of her items and I wouldn't be pressured to sell them as quickly as possible.

I'm actually writing this post mainly to show the mechanics of the offer which looked something like this: In my professional opinion, there was somewhere between four and five thousand dollars worth of inventory. While I know that all these things are her personal treasures that she has loved for years - I really just have to look at things for what they are: inventory - with a fair market value. I explained that if everything sold in whatever period of time, the gross dollar amount would be about $5000 on the high side. Her share of that after paying commissions and fees would be somewhere between $2500 and $3000. I offered her $2000 to buy everything. My offer was really quite generous considering that I am now taking all the risk and still doing all the work to get these items sold. It would take two people two full days just to pack all this stuff up! I know it sounds like a raw deal when someone tells you something is worth 5k and then offers you 2k. Believe me, I would never take advantage of an elderly woman, but the numbers don't lie and I have to make a living. So after three and a half hours, I wound up taking about a dozen items for consignment and left my offer standing. We will see how this particular situation works out, but what you can take away from this post is this: If you have a thousand different items for sale - I have to find an equal number of buyers! No consignment broker wants to keep track of $20 trinkets for months on end as it just isn't fiscally reasonable. If you have a lot of things to get rid of all at once, you have to take a hit and let someone else make some money in the process or face the challenge of selling a thousand items and dealing with a thousand people on your own. If someone like myself offers you a fair price - just take it and be done with it because in the end, it's all just junk. Don't get me wrong, I personally loved many of the things she had and would enjoy finding them a good home, but you have to let go of the emotional attachment or the things you own will own you!

One of my favorite Bible verses: Matthew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


Submitted by Mike on March 10, 2013

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