Estate Sales The Billion Dollar Business You Need To Know About


Well, Estate Sales as a Business, is Even Bigger Than That…

I am not writing about the Gingerbread Houses of Real Estate. I am not driving you to, or away from yet another tiny Garage Sale – Or waving a fruitless blade of grass about the virtues of Yard Sales – Or even teaching you how to swarm like one of so many flies hovering over a table of deals at a Flea Market.

I want to share with you the most powerful way to handle the sale of inherited personal property since the invention of the Turkish Bazaar. It’s called…an estate sale

Estate Sales


…what are they and why are they so incredible…?

But First: Here are some simple but hard truths – People pass on, and when they do, they leave behind a lot of “Stuff.” Some of that “Stuff” is valuable – sometimes Very Valuable!

If you are in the extremely unfortunate position to be the family member who has to manage this inherited personal property, the left behind effects of a loved one, you are in a difficult situation. It’s not easy dealing with loss, and it’s a big job to empty out a house.

So Wait! Don’t throw anything away…not yet…

Chippendale Sells For $51,750.00

Chippendale Chair Sells For $51,750.00

…because it’s almost every day that I hear…

“I wish I had known, I wish someone had told me – that a friend or an attorney had informed me about Estate Sales. I just didn’t know what to do. I was faced with a mountain of “Junk.” I didn’t know that some of it had value. I thought an Estate Sale was for rich people. I thought you had to have a pile of sterling silver, and faux finished walls hanging with paintings to have an estate sale.

When I thought about Estates, I thought England or France, or those big houses in the wealthier parts of town. And because I thought that, I think I might have made some big mistakes.”

“…you see I threw most of it away.”


(Don’t feel too bad, even museums sometimes do this: Torontoist Article)

Here’s a True Story: I know a Junk Dealer, who used to do Estate Sale clean outs for me. One day he was at a dump somewhere in Northern California dropping off a load of debris. He noticed a couple of guys throwing away an entire truck full of average looking household items. All of the items were usable, and they all likely came from some house where someone didn’t have the time to pick through it, or maybe they didn’t have someone like me to go through it, and let them know what had value and what didn’t.

Amongst the things they were throwing away, was a small oil painting that caught the eye of the Junk Dealer, and as these two guys were about to toss the painting onto the debris pile, this Junk Dealer asked if he could have the painting. They said sure…

That painting was by an artist named Maynard Dixon, and even though it was small, it was worth $10,000.00.

…This begs the Question…

Classic Refuse

…were these two guys dumb, or were they only ignorant…?

Let’s be charitable and say they were ignorant; that they just didn’t know, because they had never been taught how to know about stuff – especially how to sell or liquidate stuff at an Estate Sale.

Schools don’t teach you how to understand the secondary market for used furniture, and the culture is driven by what’s new. It’s not profitable to make the mistake of throwing a Maynard Dixon painting away, but it is forgivable…well at least almost forgivable…

…you see the Estate Sales Business is under the radar, and it’s like a strange sort of secret…


But it’s not a secret to Auction Houses. They understand that Estates have interesting things in them, and the big auction house routinely consign the best of the best to their upcoming Estate Auctions. Think Bonhams and Butterfield, think Skinner’s, Christies, and Sotheby’s. These large Auction Houses collectively must account for over a billion dollars in sales each year all by themselves. Most of their auctions are filled with household contents, and collections culled from the estates of large and small homes across the country.

And it’s no secret to the smaller regional auction houses either. Every week in small and medium sized cities across America the auction hammer can be heard to strike on podiums, as audiences of savvy buyers bid on countless lots of personal property.

The people at those auctions, the dealers and the thrift conscious know that auctions are the place to find the deals, to pay less than at an estate sale…

…So Professional In-House Estate Sales people Question “The Send it to Auction Wisdom…”

Palm Ave San Francisco-1

…they prefer to recommend selling most items separately, not in box lots, as the way to bring an estate the most amount of income...

True Story: Last night I spoke with a Fine Art dealer and I asked him how he was acquiring paintings these days. He said that he was currently only buying paintings from the smaller regional auction houses, the kind that aren’t connected to the internet; further stating that it was the auction houses that were not connected to the internet where he could get the best deals.

…If you are going to use an Auction House, make sure they are connected…

…Here’s a Painting Sold by Us Through Our Estate Sales Process…

Eduard Gaertner 1801- 1877 ($240,000.00)

While seldom is selling your best antiques and collectibles to a dealer your best option, sometime, auctions really are your best way to go. Here is an article I wrote on the subject: Estate Sales or Auctions?

Who are the people under the Umbrella of Estate Sales and Estate Liquidation?


(Sold By Heritage Auctions for $597.00)

…Antiques Dealers, Auction Houses, and In-House Estate Sales Professionals…

Each of these types of professionals has their various strengths and weaknesses. Each in their own way can help you make higher quality decisions about what to do, how to proceed, and how to avoid costly mistakes.

Personally I like the advocate. The Estate Sales Professional, the kind that conducts in-house estate sales. At least the best of them can function more like and advocate then either Auction Houses or Antiques Dealers.

Here’s why: Antiques dealers don’t want all of your stuff. They only want the best, and after they purchase those items, you’ll be left with the rest. Big Auction Houses are a lot like Antiques Dealers, they also only want the best, and consigning your best items to them will still leave you with a house full of personal property.

And the worst thing about that is, after either the Antiques Dealer or Auction House is through removing the best of the best, often times you won’t have enough left to interest the in-house Estate Liquidator.

…How Come Estate Sales Professionals are so Darn Good at what they do…

pairpoint lamp reverse painted glass IMG_8618

(Because they understand how even this cracked Pairpoint Lamp is still worth more than $2,000.00)

An Estate Sales Company such as mine, Fine Estate Sales and Estate Liquidation sees the big picture; understands what items should be sold and  where – knows when to sell an item to an Antique Dealer, send an item to an Auction House, and how to fold all of the remaining household contents into a large and profitable on-site, in-house Estate Sale.

Estate Sales Professionals have one main goal: To maximize the financial value of the personal property portion of an estate in such a way that it virtually guarantees – Top Prices, Easy Transitions, and Broom Clean Houses…large auction house won’t do this, and neither will many dealers, or small auction houses.

Martin Codina


Fine Estate Sales and Estate Liquidation, Inc.

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6 thoughts on “Estate Sales The Billion Dollar Business You Need To Know About

  1. Wayne –

    Thank You Sir…Estate Sales are absolutely Huge as a business, and strangely so under the radar…


  2. Wow, that “Eduard Gaertner” came through your hands? Very nice. It’s amazing what you see, but to find a treasure like this is like hitting the jackpot. We did a week long sale in a packed Chicago estate where the owner had rooms with hundreds of originals he’d collected. Nothing quite as nice as your find though. Good job Martin!

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