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To become a successful collector, you need to not only be a savvy buyer, but also an excellent researcher. Here are tips on how to successfully maneuver an Estate Sale. An estate sale or estate liquidation is a sale or auction to sell a major portion of the materials owned by a person who is recently deceased or who must sell personal property due to a move. At LAWSON & CO. we have been involved in estate sales and auctions for decades and we have learned a lot! You can get an idea of the kinds of collectibles you can find at our auctions by going back through past auctions.

Here are some top items to look for in an estate sale and how to see if they are worth your purchase:

Furniture – If you want to furnish your home in a more budget-friendly matter, it is good to look at furniture at an estate sale. For example, if you find a beautiful mahogany dresser you can get it at the fraction of the cost. Make sure the dresser isn’t wobbly and the drawers all work probably and there aren’t any missing parts. If you are buying upholstery, make sure it is cleaned properly and doesn’t have lingering smoke odor or pet dander.

Tools – Tools are popular items at estate sales. If you are looking for tools that are functional, look at how they move. Make sure there isn’t too much rust on them, and they are usable. If you are looking at more vintage tools, look for a Miller Falls eggbeater hand drill from the early 1900’s or a Sears Craftsman table saw from the 1970’s A successful collector knows brands and changes in designs to determine age.

Designer Clothes – You may find some great designer clothes at estate sales and they could be at least as much as 50% off. When looking at designer clothes, make sure you check their authenticity. As a successful collector of vintage clothing you want to make sure they are the brand name you want and not knock-offs. Also, check on the clothes’ quality. Make sure all buttons are in place and there are no tears or stains.

Jewelry – Estate Sales usually have unique costume jewelry and fine jewelry that is priced to sell. If you are interested in a particular engraving or logo on the clasp of the necklace you will have to take your time. However, once you start collecting jewelry, you will come to recognize brands of jewelry and certain logos and markings. When you do purchase jewelry at an Estate Sale it will most likely not have an appraisal.

China Sets – Look at the china sets at estate sales and check their quality. Check for cracks and chips and the age of the dishes. Choose china sets that you like and will use in your home. Don’t buy multiple china sets to sell later, they don’t always sell easily. Adult children these days don’t want your antique china, so buy it to use it.

Vintage Home Goods – Look for unique pieces that will add character and charm to your home. It may be a unique global map from the 1800s, an old-fashion typewriter, or 1950s tea kettle. This adds charm, and becomes special conversation pieces for guests and family.

Fine Art – Depending if your seller was a fine art connoisseur, you could find very valuable original art and reprints. Depending on the seller’s taste, there may be a variety of different types of art. But again, a successful collector will know what they are looking for and how to identify the gems.

First Edition Books – if you are lucky, the seller may be an avid reader. You may even be able to find some first editions! Finding a first edition is like finding a four-leaf clover in a field of three-leaved clovers. Often, the publisher will print “first edition” on the copyright page of the book. Alternatively, check the sequence of numbers printed at the bottom of the copyright page. If the sequence includes the numeral “1” that’s an indication it is a first edition. Stumbling across a first-edition book that has the author’s signature will make the book even more valuable.

Small Appliances – Small appliances are good essential buys at estate sales because they tend to sell at low prices. Look for brand names you can trust and are known for their durability such as KitchenAid for a mixer or Bernina for a sewing machine.

When becoming a successful collector, you really need detective senses – and knowledge. Here are some tips to becoming a successful collector:

  1. Study Your Subject
    Be well-educated on what you are collecting. There are many websites, resources, and books that cater to particular collections such as glassware, stamps, coins, tools, etc.


  1. Get to Know Dealers and Insiders
    The best way into the world of collectors is to get close to the sources. Talk to store owners to find out where they get their different items. If you have a particular collection, find out if they have specific sources for what you are collecting. When you get to know these insiders and build a relationship with them, you could negotiate better prices – and be the first to know when something special comes in!


  1. Be Patient
    Bidding wars can occur at auctions. Sometimes emotions run high. Be sure to purchase items you love even if you are thinking an investment. That way you will always have no regrets about a purchase.


  1. Be Objective
    Many collectibles including art, coins, stamps, books, cards, and countless other items are graded for quality by certified professionals. Knowing how items are graded is an important aspect of collecting. Be objective or take someone who can be more discerning about items.


  1. Go for Quality, Not Quantity
    Quality alwaysrises above quantity. It’s usually worth it to pay more for quality. Look very carefully at purchasing collective pieces. A common mistake for some new collectors to make are to buy in quantity. You should look for and buy the best items you find.


  1. Take Care of Your Collectibles
    A successful collector maintains the quality of their collection. Use proper cases, shields, covers, and other protective equipment to guard your investment. The more valuable the collection, the more precautions you will need to take to protect it. Perhaps a safe is necessary to house your treasures, or maybe you need to buy insurance. Many a successful collector has additional insurance for their collection.


One final tip is to expand where you look for collectibles. You might find that next best treasure at estate sales, garage sales, flea markets, live auctions, thrift stores, antique shops and malls, antique shows, online antique and thrift stores, and online auctions.

Know the differences between old stock and new stock. Sometimes you’ll hear an antiques dealer refer to an item as “new old stock” or “dead stock,” or you might run across the terms in an online auction description. But what does it really mean? Learn the lingo and use the collector’s language.

Lots of things can qualify as new old stock or dead stock, but what the term boils down to is stock produced many years ago that was never sold on the market. It could have been stored in a retail shop or store long out of business, warehoused in a factory boarded up decades ago, or housed in the garage of a distributor who’s been retired.

To qualify as new old stock, the items are usually in the original packaging or boxes and sometimes have the original price tags in place. Most of all, they’re “new” in terms of never having been sold in a retail environment as they were intended (or made into a finished product), but “old”, because they are antiques or collectibles, produced many years ago.

New old stock items are usually in like-new condition if not mint, so that’s a definite plus for both the seller and buyer. Most antiques and collectibles fall short of mint condition so they’re more valuable, in general, if they’re genuinely old yet kept in new condition.

Now that you have read up on being a more discerning buyer and collector, let LAWSON & CO. help you plan your next auction or estate sale or find events on our website at https://www.lawsonandco.com/ or call us at 317-745-6404. After a few visits and some conversations, we can help you become a true detective and a successful collector.

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