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What to do When Preparing to Clean Out an Estate

What to do When Preparing to Clean Out an Estate

Whether it’s you, your mother, or brother, everybody has some degree of stuff, fluff, or clutter. When it comes to dealing with an estate there are many steps to take before simply calling a clean out company. Why pay to have your items removed when there is a possibility people might pay you for them. In today’s world, almost anything can be collectible to a certain point. Obviously, if you did nothing but save used Kit Kat wrappers then odds are you are not sitting on a hidden treasure, but you’d be surprised what your grandfather’s collection of wrappers would be worth.

Dealing with an estate whether it’s a family member or friend can be a difficult and emotional process. For most, it starts out as a tedious and slow one eventually leading to the mentality of get all this stuff out, I don’t care, and the list goes on. This mindset is what brings everyone to the clean out phase, but it is paramount to get a trusted expert and auction house involved first. The auction world in most circumstances is consignment based, so involving an auction house first is solely to your benefit. It is the house’s job to dig through and find that needle in the haystack because they only make money by making you money. The second factor is that a professional will be able to make an assessment much faster than the average home owner. Specialists are specialists for a reason, through years of experience they are able to give real time assessments of your articles without the deterrent of emotional attachment or stress. Clearing a house can appear to be exhaustively overwhelming, but what appears as multiple months’ worth of work can typically be executed in an orderly and expeditious way.

Now, another assumption most people make is that an auction house will leave you with the junk…that is not true. A professional auctioneer will have all his ducks in a row and will be willing to help and guide you from start to finish. It is much easier to walk down a hill then climb up one, so when beginning the estate process, it is always best to seek out an auction house that has experience in selling quality antiques, fine arts, and collectibles. They’ll be the one to identify your grandfather’s 1940’s Topps candy wrapper worth $200, or that coverless, torn, and stained Detective Comics No. 27 still worth $5,000. So, take a breath, relax, and let the professionals do their job. Just think, all that clutter you were going to pay to have taken away might instead become useful for some fun in the sun.

Style On A Budget

Style On A Budget

Regardless of what your taste in décor is, used quality furniture can be purchased today at auction for pennies on the dollar. This is in part caused by the ever-growing popularity of build it yourself and high end branded furniture stores. While these stores are catchy with their marketing and designs, the furniture lacks the quality and ability to stand the test of time. Besides, what do you think their furniture is based on?

Every auction offers furniture in a sale, and that is simply because every estate has furniture they need to liquidate. So be patient, enjoy the hunt and regardless of what you are looking for it is bound to pop up. If you are more traditional in style and prefer dark stained woods such as cherry, mahogany, oak, or walnut, the American furniture market is primed for you. In today’s market period eighteenth and nineteenth century furniture can be purchased at ten percent of what it cost twenty years ago. Aside from the unbelievable savings, it is a cool topic of conversation to say your bureau is as old as the United States. For example, a circa 1800 Federal flame mahogany bureau can be purchased between $300.00 and $500.00 for a nice example, and that is for a solid mahogany constructed chest, not something made of particle board with an Allen wrench. If you are also in need of a dining room table don’t fret, those are even cheaper. Full dining room suites including a table, six chairs, leaves, hutch, and server if need be can be acquired for under $500.00. Obviously, an Important 18th Century dining room set which belonged to John Hancock will always be a treasure, but the supply of quality and clean sets today is staggering leaving the market softer than ever before.

If dark wood furniture isn’t your style that is ok too, there is plenty of modern furniture to be had today. While authentic pieces designed by artists such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) or Eero Saarinen (1910-1961) will always command a premium, the majority of pieces have become very affordable over time. Whether it be a coffee table or night stand, most smaller pieces can be purchased for under $500.00. Even though a good Danish designed dining room set consisting of a table, chairs, and hutch will cost $1,000 or more, that is nothing compared to the average $5,000 spent on a contemporary designer set, worth a fraction once it leaves the store.

So remember, when it comes to home décor and design think outside of the box and head to an auction. While big box stores are appealing and convenient, their severe lack of quality in their general lines is appalling. Don’t spend money on particle board, invest in quality furniture because it’s not just furniture, it is history. Going forward when it is your turn to sell, you will typically get a great percentage on your money back. If all goes right and the market turns around who knows, maybe you’ll make a few bucks

Art Collecting 101: What You Need To Know

Art Collecting 101: What You Need To Know

In the antique and auction world, one of the broadest categories if not the most is fine art. Fine Art is not just limited to paintings. Engravings, etchings, lithographs, sculpture, furniture, and architecture can all fall under the umbrella. Realistically what it comes down to is anything created or taken by an artist is then deemed fine art as long as the artist states it so. For example, modernist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) had created Readymades, an artistic creation which utilized normal, all ready manufactured objects, a Found Object, which was repositioned and signed, becoming art. One of his most famous works Fountain, utilized a porcelain urinal turned upside down and signed with a pseudonym “R. Mutt” and dated “1917”. The point is that prior to 1870, visual arts had been limited with a set structure.

The “Hierarchy of Genres” was established gradually throughout the fifteenth century as art institutions were established in continental Europe. History painting was of the upmost prominence followed by portraiture, genre (scenes of every day life) painting, landscape, and lastly still life. It was in the second half of the seventeenth century when the hierarchy became a foundational formality. In 1667, Andre Felibien (1619-1695), the chronicler of the arts and court historian of France under Louis XIV, (1643-1715) formalized the hierarchy instituting a ranking system that affected exhibitions and academies for the next two hundred years in France. After centuries of artistic restriction, artists began to rebel against the formal institutions bringing us back to 1870 with the creation of Impressionism, the spark to Modernism. 1870 was the tipping point that sent the art world on a radical growth spurt with so many unique styles and artists coming to fruition. It is impossible to cram one hundred and forty-seven years of modern art history in a column, let alone the over five hundred years of history since the inception of the “Hierarchy of Genres”. What this entire synopsis boils down to is that just how the artist themselves rebelled, so is the art collector today.

In today’s auction world, we are finding it harder and harder as time goes on to sell the works of traditional academic taste. It Is not that they are worthless, just paintings that were once $5,000 can now be worth $1,000, and that is because of simple supply and demand. As time goes on more works become available as the people who collected over the past fifty years sell their collection, with a smaller crowd waiting to buy versus when they collected. Most collectors today no longer relate to that form of art, and I couldn’t have a more perfect example for you. In our most recent auction over Thanksgiving weekend we had two phenomenal landscape paintings. One by Massachusetts artist George Frank Higgins (1850-1891), the other by English modernist William Gear (1915-1997). The Higgins, an exemplary American landscape sold for $1,875, which twenty years ago would have easily brought $7,000 or more. The Gear on the other hand sold for $11,875 with four phone bidders and interest from New York to England and France. To some reading this article you might stare at the Gear cross-eyed, others observed it this weekend as one of the most beautiful works they’ve seen in person. With art the beauty, and more importantly the value is in the eye of the beholder. If there is no one there to collect, there is no value, no matter who the artist is.

So You Think You Can Sell

So You Think You Can Sell

So, You Think You Can Sell? It sounds like a title to a popular week night television competition show, sadly it’s not. But it should be!  The reason why is because in the present day antique and auction world, hobbyists build up a false sense of confidence that they are seasoned veterans in the business. This is in part for two reasons – the graces of technology and access of information at the reach of a fingertip, and the over sensationalization of the trade on television. This article is to serve as a warning for people to take a second thought about who they’re contacting and letting handle their personal tangible property.

In today’s day and age, the newspaper, internet (with the most notorious being Craigslist), and radio are filled with advertising for doing cleanouts, paying CASH for gold, silver, and coins, paying CASH for your antiques, dusty collectibles, old toys, and comics. You name it, it is out there. The reason why I emphasize cash is because that’s the tag line that brings the unsuspecting customer to pick up the phone or write an email. This puts you in a situation of not knowing what you have, potentially short selling yourself gravely. It is not just these fly-by-night professionals that people fall victim too. Unknowingly people do it to themselves just as frequently. It is great to sell something yourself, but the “I can do it myself” for less attitude doesn’t make sense for the want-to-be smart seller in today’s world. On average, with internet transaction fees, it costs thirteen percent of your sale to sell something yourself. So automatically even though you are doing it, you still give a cut exactly like an auction consignment. Now, is the average person going to properly research, describe, and photograph the item? On top of that you need to take on the responsibility of the shipping and handling of the item. But that is only the mere basic barebone essentials of the operation. If you want to capitalize on your objects of virtue then you need to think of the grander picture.

When it comes to the sale of antiques, fine art, and collectibles, finding a trusted auction house is the most savvy and productive way possible. But the key is finding the right one. Even if you can describe and catalog your collection, auction houses bring a following, customer base, and marketing ability far beyond the realm of your average Craigslist or newspaper add. The best part about an auction house is they only make money by making money for you, and most unknowing and sometime stubborn people say percentages are high. But the average auction house consignment premium for one both catalogued and online is typically twenty-five to thirty percent. I don’t know about you but giving up an extra ten percent is worth being able to use modern technology and expertise to advertise your collection to the world, and that can mean the difference of hundreds and thousands.

Not Hot…Just Not…

Not Hot…Just Not…

Not Hot…Just Not…

Every week I typically visit a topic to make the reader aware of what is valuable in the world of antiques and fine art. But this week, I’m going to strive to make my job back at the gallery a whole lot easier. Every time the phone rings, I’d say there is a fifty percent chance someone is calling with one of these items. This week’s topic is the top most absolutely worthless items that people think are opulently expensive. Before we start, as with everything there can always be the rare exception, but generally speaking this stuff is equal to dirt. Use it as skeet, shoot it, or light it on fire and burn it in your fireplace. These are the items you’d be happy to see sell at a yard sale for a dollar.

Beanie Babies, oh yes, Beanie Babies. The Beanie Baby craze of the 1990’s seemed like an unstoppable train with no market ceiling to be had. Then the realization sets in that you just spent $500 on a mass produced stuffed animal you were convinced was an investment. While Ty Inc. was genius in their marketing by retiring and restricting releases, the product was simply too mass produced to sustain the secondary market it had. Beanie Babies suffered two fold, because they also fell victim to the rule “If it’s made to be a collectible, then it is not collectible”. How can something become rare if it is never given the opportunity? With Beanie Babies, everyone saved them from new, it’s not like 1978 Star Wars that every kid played with. This rule takes us to our second dreadful category.

When the first line out of anybody’s mouth is “I ordered these directly from the Danbury Mint”, it’s the antique equivalent of being a doctor and telling someone they have six months to live. Danbury, Franklin, or any television advertised collectible “Mint” is the upmost worst investment you could make. Unless you are buying something for the pure joy of collecting, with no want for a return on investment, do not buy these articles. They sell it all, plates, coins, stamps, statues, chess sets, jewelry, train sets, and die cast cars. You name it, they make it, and it’s “Collectible”. All of these articles are considered a first market collectible. The value (I guess) is in watching an infomercial, placing the order, receiving the package, and then repeating after waiting for next month’s addition. Once you purchase it, there is nobody waiting in the wings to buy it from you.

The message here is that if you want to collect something, collect quality. While you may not get the joy of buying stuff frequently, your money would be so much better spent in even just one item a year then twelve from a subscription service. Learn from you parents and grandparents’ mistakes. If you have two hundred Norman Rockwell collector plates in front, it will be ok. Just remember you will need to go to work tomorrow.

Investing in comics, how and what to buy when the market is right

Investing in comics, how and what to buy when the market is right

Nine years ago, in April of 2008 the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born with the release of Iron Man. Since then there have been fifteen films in total with nine more scheduled to be released by 2019. Due to their popularity, these films have created an ever-growing demand for the Silver (1956-1969) and Bronze (1970-1985) age comic books they are based on. Following the ways of Marvel, D.C Comics has been building their own Extended Universe since 2013 comprised of four films soon to include theatrical adaptions of Justice League and Aquaman. While the Marvel market is strong and flourishing, Silver and Bronze Age D.C comics have not reached their full market potential. So, whether you are simply a super hero fan or economic opportunist, buying comics can be more rewarding than the stock market, and these are the tips and tricks on what to look for.

A “key”, and not what you use to open a door, is a comic book in which something important happens during the story that effects the greater picture of comic book history. The most important key issues of any line are typically debut issues and character introductions.  For example, Tales of Suspense issue thirty-nine was the first appearance of Iron Man, a critically important book in comic book history which in recent times has sold for as high as a quarter million dollars. Now, if you are reading this and have a Tales of Suspense thirty-nine at home don’t think just yet you have a six-figure comic.

When it comes to determining the value of a comic the most crucial factor is condition. Condition is everything, and what most might find insignificant can make a difference of thousands. Creases, scratches, pen marks, corner tears, and other minute defects are what separate most books from the superb examples. So, when it comes to starting a collection be selective and think quality over quantity. It is much better to have a collection of key books in nice condition versus a hoard of beat up readers.

So what book(s) do you buy? Not every first issue or first appearance is a sure money maker, so when it comes time to make an investment you need to be able to look at the grander picture to make an educated conjecture. Aquaman issue thirty-five was the first appearance of Black Manta, and it is already known that he will be a character in the upcoming 2018 Aquaman film. Depending on how the film is received the book may either sky rocket or be stuck like a stick in the mud, but the odds of it depreciating are slim to none.

Now on the flip side, you don’t want to collect comics, but you have a box or two or ten at home. What do you do? You call a professional, because there is the right way of doing things and the wrong. There are many books beyond first appearances and issues that are worth money, and until you’ve sorted over one hundred thousand comics, even finding just one key can feel like a needle in a haystack for people. For example, at Bruneau & Co. we recently finished sorting a collection of over ten thousands books for a client of which three hundred were deemed important.

Those books since have undergone cleaning, pressing, grading, and for some even restoration. Yes, just like a car they restore comic books. Those books will now be sold at our next Comic and Comic Art Auction with Rhode Island Comic Con. So, before you sell your comics at a yard sale or on craigslist, you might want to stop and think and call a professional.