Alex: I met with Adam Zimmerman, art appraiser and co-owner of Syl-Lee Antiques, servicing the down state tri-state area from their Showplace Antique Center gallery on 25th Street in NYC. He does on-site appraisals, consulting, purchasing, and auction facilitation. His work is centered around estate liquidations. Many families, my own included, had changing family statuses over the last year. Adam provided some insight into how to gain value from family possessions that are no longer needed.
Adam: If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that the unfolding of life events can be utterly unpredictable. The best plans for our personal well-being, for that of our families, and for our finances can abruptly, and dramatically, be altered almost overnight. In the most stable of times, the management of our personal estates, or those of our family, can appear intimidating, and overwhelming. In times of greater uncertainty, all of those feelings can be even more intense. This is especially true when — as is often the case — estate issues arise because of unexpected life transitions or illness.
The good news is
that understanding the process of dealing with potentially valuable estate items can reduce the pressure of managing the estate. Understanding puts the estate executor in a position to see the financial benefits that can come with the successful liquidation of physical items in an estate; such as furniture, jewelry, and art.
Alex: Where does someone start when they are moving or suddenly become responsible for family possessions they suspect have value?
Adam: The key to doing this is understanding:
(1) exactly what has re-sale value on the antique market
(2) the process for taking you or your families’ heirlooms from your home to the market.
Alex: What has re-sale value?
Adam: If your family has old furniture, jewelry, art, or other heirlooms, the first question you should ask is whether the items can be sold on the antiques market in the first place. An antique dealer/appraiser has their fingers on the pulse of the market. The appraiser has a good idea of what can be sold on the market to collectors or through auctions. Antiques dealers act as a broker between you and the re-sale marketplace. The dealer helps you assign a fair market value for sale.
The types of articles that can be successfully sold as antiques can be surprising. In general, the item should be over 100 years old (in particular, from the 19th Century or earlier). The following items, if they are that old, are often successful candidates for re-sale as an antique:
· Chinese porcelain, vases, and precious or coral stone statuettes. All 19th Century or earlier dynasties have re-sale potential, and 100+-year-old copies in good condition at least potentially have value.
· Sterling silver flatware
· Coins (especially gold & silver)
· Gold and silver jewelry
· Costume jewelry
· Silver Judaica icons, flatware, and religious items
· Russian silver items, and other curios, particularly if made by a listed artist such as Faberge
· Watches, especially if made by famous names like Rolex, Patek, Omega
In addition, the following items from the 20th Century can have value on the antiques market:
· Mid-Century Modern furniture manufactured in the 1950s and 60s
· Fine art paintings or limited-edition prints by listed artists
It is also important to know what items typically do not have significant antique market value. These items include:
· Heavy wood furniture, chests, and other, similar items irrespective of age.
· Japanese antiques including porcelain and bronze.
· Overly intricate statuettes, curios, or art pieces (they are difficult to maintain and the design is no longer in favor)
· Furs, unless they have been preserved in very specific storage conditions
· Chinaware and crystal
· Silver-plated items
Alex: It’s great that you help identify the sellable items so they can be sold. What happens to the items that do not have enough non-sentimental value?
Adam: As you mentioned, families do keep items for sentimental reasons, not just for investment value. Disposal of unwanted items may best be handled via a professional organizer or another estate moving company. Often, they have connections to family oriented second hand stores that take donations, so usable items can be recycled and help families facing financial challenges.
What Is the Process?
Adam: If you feel that you or a loved one’s estate has items with potential antique re-sale value, your first step should be to call or email a reputable (licensed and bonded) antiques specialist, such as Syl-Lee Antiques. Even if you’re not sure whether the items in question have re-sale value, a phone call, or email exchange may be able to resolve the issue quickly and at no cost. Everyone has an opinion, it is said, but not every opinion has the same value.
In addition to the dealer being insured and bonded, your appraiser should be a member of associations such as The Appraisers Association of America and certifications within the industry such as Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.
Such a specialist will be able to research and assess the value of your heirlooms, understand how to treat the items with care and respect, and ensure that you get the best value for your marketable items. The latter point is particularly important, because online information can sometimes be inaccurate, misleading, or not take into account the specific conditions or qualities associated with your own particular antique.
Before reaching out to a dealer, you should check their reputation and their qualifications to help you. Personal referrals can be a strong indicator a particular dealer is a good candidate for you.
Once you reach out to the dealer, they should:
· Make an appointment at a time convenient to you, to go to your home and assess the items you’d like to sell. This is no-cost, ever.
· If necessary, contact specialists in particular antique sub-groups (e.g., Russian or Chinese items) to accurately assess the value of specialty items. This also costs you nothing.
· Provide you with an evaluation, as well as, importantly, as many options as possible for the handling of the items within the estate. These choices allow you the opportunity to make the financial and sentimental decision that is truly best for your individual circumstances.
· Offer you cash on the spot for your items, enabling you to move on to other matters as quickly as possible
· Purchase the items immediately, then make arrangements to move them out of the house at a time that is convenient for you.
· Sell them on the antique marketplace, to auction houses, retailers, other interested buyers, or elsewhere as is appropriate for the particular items. None of that work or effort falls on you.
Alex: You and other dealers have to go to people’s homes to examine items to determine their value or to purchase them. Are there concerns you hear about?
Adam: Sometimes people may be reluctant to call a dealer due to the physical condition of the house, overcrowding or hoarding, or other concerns. Please note that a quality antiques dealer does not place value judgments on the clients or the estates. We are here to help make your estate liquidation as seamless and financially meaningful as possible, nothing more or less!
Alex: Adam, how would our readers reach out to you to learn more?
Adam: For an individual piece evaluation, sending a photo and description to us at Syl-lee Antiques
is a great starting point, but for estate liquidations it is best to call us at 212-366-9466 sometimes email and text are just not effective.
We have a lot of great and helpful information on our website.
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