Not too long ago, a friend of mine inherited a collection of thimbles from his grandmother. Aside from one that he wished to save for nostalgia, he had no reason to keep the collection and wanted to liquidate it (that’s actually what she wanted him to do – keep any with sentimental value and get some money for the rest).
The only problem was that he was at a loss as to how exactly to liquidate such a collection without getting plainly ripped off.
This is a difficult question, one that I’ve faced with a few collections of my own. There are a lot of routes you can follow with this, some better than others, but I will say that the obvious answer – eBay – is often not the best one.
Let’s examine a few options that I’ve tried and that others have tried as well and see how they work.
Dealers Interacting directly with a dealer, unless your item is extremely esoteric, is probably the worst option, but it is the easiest. If you’re just in there to dump your collection, they will not see you as a customer – instead, you’re merely an avenue to profit.
eBay EBay is probably the strongest solution if you want to put in minimal legwork to get the items sold. Just write up a description of the whole collection and dump it out there as one auction, collect payment, and ship. Obviously, you can break up the collection into multiple auctions, but then the time factor begins to seriously escalate and you start seeing diminishing returns for your effort.
Research Another path is to meticulously research your collection by visiting library and online resources for pricing of such collectibles, if you can find it. This works very well for collectibles that are popular but completely unknown to you, like comic books, trading cards, political buttons, and so on. This usually takes significant work, but can really pay off because you can then use eBay to auction off the “best” stuff individually with reasonable minimums, then auction off everything else as a block.
Contact an expert This is actually where I’ve found the most success, particularly in selling comic books: I dove into the blogosphere. I wrote to several bloggers who blogged on the comic book industry and asked them how to start. I coupled this with some research, so I was able to name some of my top ones. Interestingly, I had very, very nice offers for some of the items and I ended up selling all of it directly to bloggers and their contacts at a very decent price. This won’t always happen, of course, but they can often point you in a very healthy direction.
So here’s my conclusion in a nutshell.
If you just want as little hassle as possible, take it to a dealer. This is the easiest way to go, but will have the lowest returns.
Otherwise, I suggest first doing some research into your items so that you know what you have, then follow that up by contacting bloggers who might be interested in or know about the items. Just inquire about how to sell the items and tell the real story; most bloggers are straight-up people who will guide you well. If this doesn’t work out, utilize that research to make appropriate eBay auctions, selling off the higher-priced stuff individually and the rest as a bundle. With this route, your time investment can really pay off, especially when it can be done mostly online.
Now, what am I going to do with that Russian doll collection that I’m likely to inherit someday?