6 Reasons Your Stuff is Worth Less Than You Think

by Marie on September 30, 2013 · 1 comment

My Aunt and Uncle, now in their nineties, loved their things. At one time, they owned a 40 acre farm with a barn, a shed, a house with 2 garages and a basement. They loved to go to sales and rescue items, refinishing them and using them in their home.

In their late seventies, their daughter convinced them it was time to move across the country to join her in another state, so she could help care for them. They held a sale – meaning an auction. The date was set for early October, usually a dry and beautiful time of year here in the Midwest. They hired an auction company to conduct the sale. It rained. It was cold. Very few people came. That auctioneer sold everything, but to do so, things sold dirt cheap. The brand new living room sofa went for $15, for instance. On top of the low prices, the auctioneer took his cut right off the top.

Last month, these two moved to a new property which offers graduated care options – starting with independent living and ending up with full care. To do so, they again had to downsize. This time they chose to have an estate sale. Record heat kept everyone at home. They ended up giving away most of the things they had for sale. Again, the estate sale company took their percentage off the top.

Its a shame that the objects we work so hard to gather and hold so dear will not usually bring even half the value we thought they had when we (or our heirs) sell them.

Here is why I think your stuff is worth less than you think.

No one else has your emotional attachment to the object.

Maybe that dining table was one you saved up to buy. It took years to gather the money together, but once you had it, your kids grew up around it. You had many happy Christmas dinners with friends and relatives using it. It fits perfectly into the ambiance of your home.

No buyer has those memories attached to your table. To them, it is an object, slightly out of style, with a few scratches, that may or may not look right in their home.

It’s used, after all!

Most people enjoy having something new. They know (or at least believe) it is clean. No one else has used it. It is bright, shiny and working perfectly. Your stuff isn’t. It is old, pre-owned, used, used up, worn, scratched, dented, and maybe just plain doesn’t work right any more.

Your collectibles aren’t really special.

Remember those Beanie Babies? How about those limited edition collectible plates your great-aunt collected. Heck, even Uncle Andy’s coin collection might not be worth much more than the value of the coins.

Limited editions of new stuff are usually not that limited and very often will not rise in value. Even actual collectibles may never gain back what you spent.

Another Aunt of mine was an avid collector. She collected Hummels, dolls, souvenir patches from her travels…. and coins. At one point in her life, she needed money and more room, so she took her coin collection to a dealer to sell. She was expecting to hear how valuable they were – as she had owned the collection a number of years and was sure it had increased in value. She didn’t hear that. Although I don’t know what return she got, I do know that she complained about it for years afterwards!

Collectibles and antiques are usually purchased by dealers.

I used to rent a booth in an antique mall. In order to even just break even, I couldn’t buy an object for  more than half of what I sold for it for. If I wanted to sell an antique plate for $10, I couldn’t spend more than $5 to get it.  Expenses included rent, my time in working one day a week in the mall (a requirement at most antique malls to help the owner meet expenses), my gas money to go treasure seeking, my time to go treasure seeking, time spent looking up and determining potential market value, the actual cost of the item, the cost of fixing the item up to sell and etc.

When you buy an antique, you typically pay full retail. When you sell, it will usually be to a dealer, who can’t afford to pay you more than half the current market value.

You lose.

The seller will take 30% off the top.

No matter what market place you use to sell your stuff, there is a cost. If you have a garage sale, the cost is the price you are able to charge. Folks just won’t pay a lot for garage sale goods. Ebay and Amazon and Etsy all have fees. An auction house or an estate sale agent will take a percentage off the top. A flea market will charge rental for the space plus maybe a percent of sales.

The market has changed.

The ‘used stuff’ market changes. Right now stuff from the 1950′s is hot. Baby Boomers are on a nostalgia trip and are snapping it up. Once that generation moves on, the next will not have the memories they had associated with those (ugly) chrome kitchen tables and cutsey home décor. The market will change.

If you watch Antiques Roadshow, you know that occasionally they will re-run segments and then show what the appraisal was when the show first aired and at what they now appraise that object – it goes down as often as it goes up!

So, Buyer ……. Beware.

That thing you want so badly now, will never be worth as much as you are paying for it!

But, everything has an exception. Tell me yours, but readers, understand that these are exceptions.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 dojo October 2, 2013 at 3:20 am

Coins DO NOT usually drop value. My husband is a numismatist and, if you know what you’re buying, you can get some pretty decent pieces and sell them at some serious prices. He didn’t own very big pieces (he doesn’t afford paying too much), but he did sell some coins with up to 2-3K dollars/piece. But you need to be VERY experienced, since some of the coins you get are worthless and you need to know which are worth buying. Having a collection for the sake of filling your house with coins is not the way to go ;)

I do agree though that otherwise a lot of the things we have invested and find very valuable are actually not. it’s true that, after you have paid through the nose for something, it’s difficult to understand it’s almost worthless after a while, the reason why I don’t think we should surround ourselves with too much stuff anyway.


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