Estate Sales Surprises!

They do happen after all, even for the Estate Sales Professional.

Eduard Gaertner 1801- 1877

I would like to tell you a story…

About a year ago I got a call from a “little old lady” living in a small modest home in Antioch California. She had saved one of my mailings for several years, and was now ready to act with regards to her estate sales items.

She and her husband were getting on in years; they couldn’t take care of themselves as well as they had in the past, so they were “downsizing”. This accomplished, they were then going to move across the country to live near their daughter in North Carolina.

Let me back up a bit…

I have been in the estate liquidation business for 13 years. I have two central themes for how I interact with a client and their “stuff”.

  1. From the time a client first calls me, to the conclusion of our business, I am there as an advocate for my client. I never let my desire for profits cloud my advice to them, even if that advice directs them away from my business.
  2. I visit almost everyone who calls me because I am certain that a wonderful surprise awaits me. I know that I am in the surprise business. It is because of this philosophy that I have had many “Antique Road Show” style moments.

I arrived at her house mid-afternoon…

She, and her husband lived in a single story house surrounded by a proverbial picket fence. Nothing about the house or the neighborhood suggested wealth. I met this elderly couple at their front door, and they showed me into their dining room, where they had carefully laid out their “Treasures”, silver, china, some figurines, collectibles and a few small paintings.

I wish that I could tell you that I was excited by what I saw. I wish that I could say that I immediately saw a treasure. But I didn’t. What I thought I was looking at were some higher end items – things of value to be sure, but not treasures.

I looked at each item they had…

I didn’t see anything remarkable and I told them so. I advised them that they did not have enough for me to conduct an estate sale. My suggestion was that they either choose to have me do an estate Buy-Out, or to have me place their items in an auction, using my Auction Placement Service.

They chose to have my company Fine Estate Liquidation, Inc. place their items in an auction.

So after signing a consignment agreement…

I went to work researching their personal property. The silver and other collectibles turned out to have values that I expected, and they did nicely at auction.

It was one of the small paintings that was the big surprise.

It was by Eduard Gaertner.  After I did the research on the painting I realized that this couples’ painting had some value. The auction house where I placed the painting agreed, they attached a pre-auction estimate of $5,000 to $7,000 on it.

So imagine my surprise…

Several months later, I got a call from a representative of the auction house. He wanted to let me know how the painting had fared at the auction. Auction house’s usually send you a written statement. In all of my years in the estate liquidation business, I have never had an auction house call me with the results of an auction.

He informed me that this little painting (16 1/4″ x 11 1/4″) had sold the day before, for $240,000.00.


When the auctioneer hammered this painting at the above price, he also set a record for a work by this artist, in its size range.

So here are some morals to the story:

  1. Never assume that your “stuff” is just a bunch of “junk”
  2. Hire Estate Sales professionals – they offer ways to make better informed decisions.
  3. Treat everything like it could be a treasure until the marketplace proves otherwise.

My name is Martin Codina and I am an estate liquidator who loves his job.

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