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Are You A Disgruntled Estate Liquidator?

Antique Alphabet Blocks Illustarting a Letter To Estate Liquidators

Dear Disgruntled Estate Liquidator,

As I wrote in chapter 11 of my book Liquidating an Estate, “If you don’t care about people’s problems you’ll never get a chance to solve them.”

As estate liquidators, and estate sales professionals, when we cease to care for the trials and tribulations of our clients, we prove ourselves to be nothing more than common merchants.

In our business it’s go, go, go all the time. We work hard, extremely hard; most of our clients really don’t know how hard and most of them don’t care either. They want to be relieved of one of their many burdens, and when that happens, they move on. It’s true also that some of our estate sales customers think we’re rich, that we get to skim the best of the best off the top; that we get the best deals.

Our customers harass us and our clients suspect us, but instead of viewing any of this benignly we take it personally. Very personally. But it is not personal unless we make it personal. Our clients and customers are just humans being humans – people will show up as humans most of the time. Some of them are going to be easy going while some of them are going to come up to you with king sized chips on their shoulders and dare you to knock them off. Resist the temptation…

Antique Alphabet Blocks Illustarting a Letter To Estate Liquidators

At your estate sales you’re being pushed or pulled at, argued with, and continuously browbeat for lower prices from your customers – and on the other hand your clients are demanding that you generate as much income as is possible from their belongings. You are totally caught between two diametrically opposed extremes. Don’t try to win at this! This isn’t a game. You’re not supposed to be the winner, your client is. You’re first task is to serve, and your second task is to make sure that you receive just compensation for your services.

I know it’s difficult when you feel you have been disrespected, marginalized, or under compensated. I do this for a living too. I get your anger and frustration. It can get so difficult sometimes we wonder, maybe late at night with a glass of wine or on the way to our third appointment of the day, if it’s worth all the complicated efforts and sacrifices we have to make.

And then when we are at our least resourceful because we are so tired, we ask the ultimate crazy question “How come nobody seems to care about me? What I want. We as estate liquidators are surrounded at every turn by the wants of others, it’s almost as if those we serve don’t give a damn. The truth is, some of them don’t. And of those who do care, only a handful of them will ever express anything like gratitude.

Antique Alphabet Blocks Illustarting a Letter To Estate Liquidators

4 Signs you are becoming a disgruntled Estate Liquidator

  1. You let people’s greed crawl under your skin and get the best of you.
  2. You think you have to watch your back all the time.
  3. You can’t stop complaining about your customers and clients.
  4. You start calling your clients personal property – junk, stuff, and worse yet, crap.

And then you get busy. You hire an attorney to draft up an even more stringent contract to use with your clients. You layer it with all sorts of contingencies, and conditions. By God your not going to let your clients keep anything, once the contract is signed. You’ll charge them if they do. You have started to feel like their stuff is your stuff, but it’s not. You know this, but you’ve begun to harden your heart.

If the above is true for you, and you are not willing to change; it’s time to get out of the business – time to hang up your cleats – time to hit the showers – time to call it quits. You’re Through…

Martin Codina

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Fitch Estate Sales Eclectic Super Sale

Fitch Estate Sales Eclectic Super Sale

Martin Codina and Rachel Fitch on Kerrville Texas Radio

Martin Codina and Rachel Fitch on Kerrville Texas Radio

Last weekend I had the distinct pleasure of attending an estate sale conducted by Fitch Estate Sales in of all places, Kerrville Texas. I do not often travel from the comfort of my Bay Area home to go to another estate sales company estate sale. But this sale was different. This sale was special. This sale was being conducted by Rachel Fitch, a woman of immense integrity, expertise, and intelligence. And as important as all of the above is, this sale also promised to be a lot of fun.

Asian Antiques, and Textiles

Wu Li (1632-1718), Quin Dynasty Scroll at Fitch Estate Sales

Wu Li (1632-1718), Quin Dynasty Scroll at Fitch Estate Sales

There were so many Asian antiquities forming the nucleus of this estate sale that once the word got out via Estate Sales.Net, and Worthpoint, buyers from Dallas and even from as far away as New Jersey made instant travel plans, renting cars and boarding planes -intending to arrive first, in order to secure a strategic place in line. Rachel, doesn’t do pre-sales though, so you have to get there early on the first day of her estate sales to get the chance to buy the best of the best.

Eclectic, this is such an overused clichéd description, but for this estate sale, it barely describes just how special of a sale that Rachel Fitch researched, organized, and properly, indeed profitably staged on behalf of her elderly client. Even from my lofty heights as an author, and estate liquidator I can see just how special her talents and gifts are.

If I were not already in the estate sales business and I needed the services of an estate liquidator in the Kerrville Texas area I would not hesitate, but to retain her services.

Antique Rifles, Pistols and Daggers!

IMG_9120

Antique Yemeni Rifle

Maybe they were of Yemeni or Afghan origin, not sure, but these antique rifles with their metal appliqué designs and devices were spectacular in their own right. Not sure how accurate they would be at target practice but they were fine specimens, or nice wall hangers as they say in the business. It’s no exaggeration to say that there were 40 or 50 incredible Indonesian and Yemeni daggers, with their fanciful metal overlay designs. Dagger belts, knives, various cartridge cases and more, Mantiques at their best.

Red Coral, Butterscotch Amber and Patek Philippe

Antique Chinese Red Coral 2

Red Coral and Antique Chinese Butterscotch Amber

This is what I’m talking about, the kind of estate sale that becomes legendary – deep red coral, and antique butterscotch amber displayed with an 18K Gold Patek Philippe Pocket Watch. That’s breadth. That’s variety. That’s crazy. It’s not often at an estate sale anywhere in America that you see this stunning array of divergent goods. But in little old Kerrville Texas,  there it was, in all of its glory.

Take heed folks, get some professional help. You are going to need it. The elderly man for whom this estate sale was conducted actually approached two brick and mortar auction houses, both of these auction houses, I’m guessing because they did not understand the value of what was in this house declined to help this man. Astounding how much of an opportunity they passed up on.

But Rachel Fitch because she is such a pro, instantly recognized that this was a very special collection of antiques and objet d’ Art. It is a very good thing that this man found an estate liquidator with Rachel Fitch’s competence.

African Masks and A Few Bronzes

Vintage African Bronze 1

Pair of Metal African Fertility Figures

The man whose living estate this sale represents was a geologist. He and his wife traveled extensively, wherever his business might take him – mostly to Africa, the Mid-East and to Indonesia

They were gone from Kerriville about 11 months of the year, all the while he was involved in his geological surveying it is said, his wife would visit the local markets and antiques stores looking for treasures – my kind of gal. Then they would return back to Texas and arrange all of their finds on the walls and into the cabinets of their home. Their place looked like a shrine, museum or a store take your pick, it could of been any of those three. But to this husband and wife it was home.

Contact Us With News About Awesome Estate Sales

Do you have an estate sale coming up that is of magnificent proportions? The sale of the decade? Something you’re absolutely certain that Martin Codina should attend? Give me a call: 415-235-7238

Who Knows, Maybe I’ll Get On The Next Plane…And Come See You…

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You Can’t Use these Old Phones to Call Your iPhone

But still, for some reason, you wish they could.

Antique A. G. Bell Wall Telephone

Antique A. G. Bell Wall Telephone sold by Auction Team Brecker for €22,000

Sold by Auction Team Brecker for €22,000

Imagine that a wise voice from the past, a family’s wisdom, could be heard coming straight and direct from your kindly Grandmother or a Great Grandfather; without the whispering interruptions of time to distort it. These old phones, though they can’t function like an iPhone or any other smart phone for that matter, are in every way as interesting as a modern phone, though when you examine either as a metaphor, you find that both represent something dramatically different about our assumptions about the beauty of mass communications.

Because I am still a romantic at heart, I imagine that the voices of the past, that might have spoken through a wall phone like the one above, still have something to teach me, beyond the cautions and preaching of severe or pinched nosed ancestors.

Antique Ericsson Wall Telephone

Antique Ericsson Wall Telephone sold by Auction Team Brecker for €1,500

Sold by Auction Team Brecker for €1,500

There is nothing portable about most of these old phones. They will not fit into your pocket or purse, they cannot store your photos, contacts, or play a movie.

And yet, and oh no, just maybe … we have drifted too far away from wired technology, or just a bit too far away from the idea that a voice can actually travel a strand of wire from one city to another. That’s a different concept of connection, one with far fewer intermediaries. Sign me up for that data plan!

Antique Ericsson Wall Telephone

Antique Ericsson Wall Telephone sold by Auction Team Brecker for €4,000

Sold by Auction Team Brecker for €4,000

Even in their day, these phones were not common. You could go into a hundred different peoples homes and never see one - these beauties were rare. You might have to hitch up the families wagons and get on down to town to find one, and then wait in line to get a chance to use it – or perhaps there was a neighbor who lived a few streets over from you who had a phone, but before asking them,  you would have to think about it, was the call important enough to bother a neighbor with … perhaps a letter would suffice.

Antique Ericsson Wall Telephone

Antique Ericsson Wall Telephone Sold by Auction Team Brecker for €990

Sold by Auction Team Brecker for €990

Wall art? A statement of status? Proof of savvy, and a symbol that the person who owned one of these phones was sophisticated? In these regards times haven’t changed much, the person buying one of these incredible phones way back when, was all that, just like any early adopter of technology is.

Antique Ericsson Wall Telephone

Antique Ericsson Wall Telephone Sold by Morphy Auctions for $425

Sold by Morphy Auctions for $425

Buy an antique wall telephone, and then what?

Remember, that’s what you’re going to do. Remember. And if a phone like this was made long before your time, then imagine, you’re going to imagine the lives of the people who had to interact with them for the very first time.

I am guessing that anyone who used one of these phones for the first time way back when, was in for a clumsy experience.

We are children of technology, we encounter it everyday, we are not so terrorized by it, at least most of the time. But in the early 1900′s many people must have been shy or humble while stiffly speaking into a telephone.  And then to hear someone speak back to them from across the country, that must have seemed miraculous in the extreme.

Antique Siemens & Halske Telefone Telephone

Antique Siemens & Halske Telefone Telephone sold by Auction Team Brecker for €700

Sold by Auction Team Brecker for €700

These old phones, like any of the other relics we antiques dealers dust off from time to time and offer for sale, are complex story containers.  It is not just a phone people, it’s the very real advancement of the telegraph, and it’s not just that either. It’s reach. It’s expansion. It’s the tempering of the land. It’s the call into and out of the wild…the listening to, the echos of time.

To speak into a phone on one side of the country in 1920, way across to the other side of the country, was almost, but not quite like time travel; magical.

Antique Swedish Field Telephone

Antique Swedish Field Telephone sold by Auction Team Brecker for €1,600

Sold by Auction Team Brecker for €1,600

Mass communications has many benefits and a few drawbacks. The biggest drawback seems to be a shortening of time. Better and faster forms of communications have left us less time to communicate, which is strange, because we are interacting with each other more and more, and at greater and greater speeds, but retaining less and less of the whole interaction.

Phone conversations, take more time than emailing or text messaging does; people are speaking on the phone less, which is a shame when you think about it. The voice of your friend or colleague carries so much more information about their mood and temper than a text or an email will ever accomplish.

Antique Wall Telephone

Antique Wall Telephone sold by Auction Team Brecker for €5,200

 Sold by Auction Team Brecker for €5,200

I appreciate these old phones for the way they present a society long since past – how people saw the world, how they interacted with each other, and how these phones set up a chain of events that eventually lead to better and faster forms of communications – the computer for instance.

We have far more potential than ever before to communicate with each other, so let us do so, but just a bit more carefully, taking time to listen, after all listening is more than 50% of communication.

Antique Wico Wall Telephone

Antique Wico Wall Telephone Sold by Rich Penn Auctions for $450

 Sold by Rich Penn Auctions for $450

The antique wall telephones above are from the late 1899′s to the early 1900′s.

 

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Are your Antiques Grotesque, Gothic, or Unusual Enough to Sell?

Are your Antiques Grotesque, Gothic, or Unusual Enough to Sell?

I certainly hope so!

Martin Brothers Grotesque bird stoneware jar sold by Rago Auctions for $30,000

Martin Brothers Grotesque Stoneware Bird Sold By Rago’s for, $30,000 

It doesn’t matter if you are a buyer or a seller, this maxim is always true, Unusual Trumps “Normal” in the antiques and collectibles marketplace. “Crazy”especially “Olden Days Crazy”sells quicker than whatever is sane and boringly predictable.

The pottery on this page, circa late 1800′s, is proof of this, judging by the prices these pieces sold for.

Here is a link to the history of Martin Brothers Pottery.

Get out of whatever antique box you’ve been in

Martin Brothers Large double stoneware face jug Sold By Ragos Auctions for $10,000

Martin Brothers Double Stoneware Face Sold by Rago’s for $10,000

When I started in this business, I read several books about the industry and there was one book in particular that offered up a piece of advice that I have always remembered. Curious enough, I don’t remember the title of the book, but this sterling piece of advice I have turned into a skill – “In order to succeed in this business, you have to find ways to distinguish your stock from the stock of other antiques dealers, and that the best way to do that is to only buy things that you can say this of – “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Estate sales are the same way, in order to have a successful estate sale, you have to include some of the more unusual items from your estate into the sale. If you are an antiques dealer, try your best to find the most unusual items you can, and include them in with your general stock or inventory.

Even after almost 20 years in the business, this is still my principal buying strategy – if I see something for sale at a flea market, estate sale or even at an antiques store that I have not seen before, I take notice, ask questions , then I generally take the leap, and buy it.  I have been very successful employing this technique.

Find Crazy, and Sell Crazy Antiques

Martin Brothers Stoneware Wally Bird  Tobacco Jar sold by Skinners Estimate $12,000 - $18,000

Martin Brothers Wally Bird Tobacco Jar Sold by Skinner’s for $59,250

Anyone can source, find and offer for sale a bin table, or a mahogany sideboard, or stock their antiques store full up with Victorian furnishings, but the dealer who can find something like the Martin Brothers pieces pictured in this post, that dealer gets invited to the best parties. Don’t you want to go to the best parties? Of course you do!

Today’s Marketplace Demands “The Extraordinary”

Martin Brothers Stoneware Grotesque spoon warmer Sold By Ragos Auctions for $5,500

Martin Brothers Stoneware Spoon Warmer Sold By Rago’s for $5,500

Don’t make yourself too nuts about sourcing out items that you will be able to sell for more than $25,000 though, there aren’t too many of those around. Instead concentrate on what is more easily achievable – there are hundreds of categories of items waiting to be found by you at flea markets, local auctions or estate sales; those that could be purchased for a few hundred dollars and then sold for as much as $500-$1,000. Look for items that have a bit of an edge, that are strange or crazy – that have that certain “Unusual Cool” factor going for them.

It’s not how much the items you buy are worth that is so important, the trick to having a store crowded with shoppers is to find items that buyers want, and today, many shoppers are demanding stuff that is “Quirky.”

Find and offer that type of merchandise for sale, and you’ll never go hungry.

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