Have you ever thrown a collectible out?
inSeptember 12, 2012 - 2:01pm
Buying is easy. Selling is hard. Throwing anything out is anathema to a collector. Yet, there comes a time when the landfill needs to be the ultimate destination.
As my readers are aware, I am facing the formidable task of disposing of approximately 30,000 items still stored at The School (the former Vera Cruz [PA] Elementary School). I sold The School in late December 2010. I rented space from the new owner for the things that I could not fit into my Kentwood, Michigan home. It was my hope to resolve the “what’s going to happen to the rest” issue by December 2012. The next deadline was September 1, 2012. I am returning to Pennsylvania at the end of September to talk with the building owner and interview several auctioneers. I have to get this done. I need the mental relief.
I have worked with the building owner over the past several months to condense what I left behind into one space – the auditorium. This will allow the owner to rent out the cleared out areas.
When Linda’s mother moved into a retirement community in 2005, Linda sold her home and stored those items that were not sold, given away, or taken to her mother’s retirement apartment in the basement of The School. The basement coal room, furnace room, and downstairs Library/Classroom held the remains of several “if no one else wants it, I will take it” auction and attic purchases. I moved the better things up to the auditorium months earlier.
Linda and I visited The School in June and went through her mother’s things. She took what she wanted and issued a “get rid of the rest” order. The owner of the building had organized my things so that I could do a quick inspection upon arrival. He did a great job. I meet with an auctioneer during the visit. The auctioneer agreed to go through the balance of Linda’s and my items and take what he could sell.
The auctioneer did go through the material. He took less than 10 percent of the items. I was hoping for over 60 percent. Since I already had taken what I wanted, I told the owner of the building to dispose of the rest.
I rationalized my disposal order by: (1) assuming if the auctioneer could not see a market, there probably was not one,:(2) I had not looked at the material in almost 10 years—out of sight, out of mind; and (3) the mental relief of not having to deal with it far outweighed the anguish of having to deal with it. I stiffened my back and walked away, resolving not to miss what I no longer owned.
As Paul Harvey said: “Now, for the rest of the story!” A week ago, I received an e-mail from the building owner informing me that he had donated a number of items scheduled for disposal to the local high school. I assumed the material was long gone and the empty space renovated and rented.
I called the owner of The School to ask what was going on. He confessed he simply could not bring himself to put the remaining material in the dumpster. When I left it behind, I told him the items were his to do what he wanted. It never occurred to me for a moment that he would keep them.
His inability to rid himself of what is essentially a pile of unsellable items is disturbing. He had not emotional attachment to them when I gave them to him. What mysterious thing happened that imbued him with such a strong sense of ownership?
Thinking about disposing of what remains at The School is depressing. Yet, I have no choice. It has to be done. I also realize that there are hundreds of decisions that will be made based on one very painful fact. It is easier to throw it out than it is trying to sell it.
In the past, the answer to this question would have been no, with the exception of collectibles that were in such bad condition that keeping them was not warranted. In the future, the answer will be yes. Not because I want it to be but because it has to be.
What your impression of the overall health of the collecting marketplace so far in 2012?
When I call Harry Jr. and ask him how things are going, his stock answer is “some old, same old.” It explains why my calls to him are limited.
At the moment, the antiques and collectibles marketplace has a “same old, same old” aspect about it. If there has been change over the past six months, it is not perceptible.
Hard though it is to believe, this is positive news. It indicates that the antiques and collectibles marketplace has reached a point of stability. It is not going forward or backward. It is standing still.
The steep decline experienced following the 2008-2009 Great Recession has leveled off. While it always is possible that prices will drop lower, the general feeling is that they will not. Record prices still occur in some collecting categories, although their frequency has declined.
The antiques and collectibles marketplace is holding its collective breath. Stability is fickle. The antiques and collectibles marketplace is subject to the changing winds of global economics. An economic collapse in Europe will be felt worldwide. Discretionary income dries up in hard times. People save more and spend less when monetary concerns dominate their lives.
There is universal agreement among the participants in the antiques and collectibles marketplace that the prospects for recovery are long-term. I know no one who believes a short-term recovery is possible. Much of the doom and gloom of 2010 and 2011 has disappeared. Everyone is believes there will be a recovery. It is just a matter of time.
Sales continue to occur, but on a hit and miss basis. What sells one week does not sell the next. While attendance at show is up, buying is not. Dealers continue to experience a drop in the per unit purchase average. Survival is based on quantity not quality sales.
The number of failed auctions, malls, shows, and shops has declined. Failures still occur. New start ups are not happening fast enough to replace those whose doors shut for good.
The marketplace still is trying to decide how to interact with the internet. eBay’s desertion of the small seller created an opportunity for an entrepreneur to fill the gap. I remain surprised no one has succeeded. Effective use of the internet remains a challenge. Growth is at a prod-along stage. There is little sense of excitement about new projects and opportunities.
In summary, the antiques and collectibles marketplace is in a “wait and see”/holding pattern.
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