Best Way to Make Money on Vintage and Antique Collectibles in Down Market
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Best Way to Make Money on Vintage and Antique Collectibles in Down Market

A veteran antique and collectibles dealer offers 5 best ways to sell your collectible treasures in a down economy.

Values for many antique and vintage collectibles have fallen in recent days. This is not only due to the dismal economy, but also because some widely-used internet sites recently raised their fees.For example, eBay now includes shipping charges in its total final value fee, which decreases the profit you expect to make from selling your old Betsy Wetsy doll or your Star Wars figurines.

As I look for better ways to get the best value for my vintage and antique goods, I have come across several alternatives to eBay and other sites like it. I specialize in paper Ephemera (post cards, greeting cards, magazines, autographs, etc) but I still collect and sell rare books, vintage clothing and old sterling silver jewelry. Here's a breakdown of the best way to currently sell certain valuables:

1. Sterling silver. Many people are both buying and selling sterling at legitimate businesses that melt the metals or sell them to other collectors. In my area, I found a wonderful Gold & Silver shop, which pays me a high price for my broken or extra sterling - whether it be jewelry I don't or can't wear or random sterling silver teaspoons from Grandma's attic. Before you go this route, and because metal prices vary from day to day, check out the price of sterling. Also check out the business that advertises that it buys old jewelry and gold and silver. You can do this on the internet at YELP or from local reviews in your city. I have found, in some cases, melting the old silver teaspoon gives me more money than I could make from selling it - either on the internet or at a yard sale.

2. Vintage and antique "rare" books.  I have been a book collector for more than 30 years. There are several internet sites where you can sell your books - including Amazon, ABE, and, of course, eBay. Books will bring more on the internet than they will at a garage sale or a swap meet. Prices for rare books have also fallen recently. A rare 1946 Stork Club bar book, with its original jacket, can bring $500-$600, as listed on ABE. But I could only manage to sell my copy for less than $100 at eBay. Still, eBay remains a fairly good way to sell premium books (there can't be too many printed) and I will limit my sales on eBay to this category.

3. Vintage clothing & accessories.  I have removed my listings in this category from eBay due to the excessive charges and the large quantities of clothing, purses, costume jewelry, etc. on that site. Again, prices are falling. Here, there's a chance you might do better at a garage sale or a higher-end swap meet. If you have a large collection of vintage clothing in good condition, there are vintage shows in large cities where you might be able to make more money than on the internet - and definitely more money than from re-sale or consignment shops.

4. Etsy is a wonderful internet site that sells both hand-made items and vintage items (must be older than 20 years). There current pricing and final value fees are quite reasonable - much more so than eBay. I am moving my vintage items to this site, and I recommend it to those who have quality items to sell that are from the 1930s-1970s. It takes a while to search to see what similar items are selling for, but this is not an auction site. This is a fixed price listing which runs for 3 months.

5. TV reality collectors' shows. If you have an unusual antique or vintage item that is truly astounding and eye-catching, some of the current TV shows like Pawn Stars invite you to send them an email about your item. If the producers find that you have a one-of-a-kind item (Frank Sinatra's classic fedora, signed, or an autograph from all the Apollo 11 astronauts on a moon rock) you might have a chance to sell your item on TV. According to Kovels, there are now 20 reality TV shows about finding and selling collectibles, but to find your way onto TV, you must have that one-of-a-kind item no one else has. This is a long shot, but one worth shooting for if you have the item every one wants that you hate to part with.

Reality TV shows like Pawn Stars, American Pickers, Treasure Hunt (Keno Brothers) and others (including storage shows) have shined the light on the value of our family's heirlooms and "stuff" we have picked up along life's journey. This is both good and bad, because it has saturated an already saturated market with more "stuff" while the economy continues to drive the collectibles market down. Still, you should always try your best, through any number of ways, to make money from items you no longer want or use or that might have value to a die-hard collector.

I receive many questions from readers about the value of their items. I am unable to respond personally, in most cases, and always recommend surfing the internet to find an approximate value for your treasures.

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Comments (2)

Very interesting

thank you, Michael - coming from you that means a lot.