A large majority of those who wish to simplify fall into the senior category. It’s easier to maintain a smaller home, and gives them time to travel and pursue other interests. I also get many questions from realtors and families about helping to sort through a seniors items to prepare for a change in living arrangements.
Unfortunately, it’s sometimes difficult for families to discern what might be valuable as opposed to what needs to be donated. Here’s a handy guide for some of the most common items found in a mature household:
- Antique China: As beautiful as it may be, unfortunately, china is rarely worth much. The younger generations are rarely interested in it. It can’t be thrown in the dishwasher and the metal that’s many times found on it makes it unfit for microwave use. I’ve been told by antique dealers that they get daily calls from people wanting to get rid of theirs, and it’s hard for them to move out of their stores.
What to do with it: If you have a nice and relatively complete set, try taking some good pictures and try putting it on Craigslist for $50-100. Be prepared to keep renewing the listing over several weeks before you snag any interest. If it doesn’t sell, you may try selling it piece by piece on eBay for those looking to complete a set. However, unless you have some rarer pieces such as vegetable dishes, the time spent listing so many pieces added to the eBay fees may not be worth it.
Bottom Line: As beautiful as it looks, people rarely want old china. If you can’t sell it on Craigslist and don’t have a family member that wants it, the best bet is to donate it.
- Antique Glassware: Similar to the china above, antique glassware is sometimes a little hard to unload. The exception would be some colored glass such as Vaseline glass (sort of a yellowy green color) or unique bar ware which is sometimes in more demand.
What to do with it: Check your piece on eBay to see if anything similar has sold and for how much. Then you can decide if it’s worth your time to list it.
***Please check out my note on this below
Bottom Line: You should probably donate these items unless you have a particularly exceptional piece.
- Coin Collection: Coins may be worth having a look into, and many seniors have them.
What to do with it: If you come across some old coins, take them directly to a dealer if you can find one in your area. However, don’t be too quick to sell them to said dealer. If there’s one that they seem especially interested in, pay attention. They have to make a living, and may try to offer you a low number so they can flip it to an end buyer. Make a note of that coin and do a little research on eBay using my tip below.
Bottom Line: Don’t toss coins until you do a little investigating.
- Silverware and other silver items: Many people are excited to see silver, but it may not be what you think. Much old silver is only plated, and solid silver cutlery has fallen out of favor due to the extensive care it needs.
What to do with it: If you find silver pieces, take them to a reputable gold buyer in your area. They can tell you if the pieces are plated or solid silver, and possibly offer you a scrap metal price if you have the latter and just don’t have the time to deal with it. Another option is to offer it on Craigslist to see if there’s someone in your area who makes spoon jewelry and similar items. (Or learn how to make it yourself! These items are becoming quite popular on Etsy!)
Bottom line: If no one in the family is interested in using it, take it to have it evaluated. Most likely it should be donated. I’ve seen even beautiful plated tea serving sets go for $12 on eBay. Unless you have solid silver that can be scrapped or repurposed, it’s probably not worth your time.
- Antique Dolls: Dolls should always be checked into. Some are worth thousands, even in what looks like poor condition. The market has been a bit down lately, but it’s still worth a little investigating.
What to do with it: Check the back of the head and doll for markings. Then do a little Googling and sleuthing on eBay (again look below). You might even want to find a local dealer who can tell you about your doll. Again, don’t sell to a dealer unless you’ve first done a little investigation yourself.
Bottom line: Never get rid of a doll until you check it out.
- Quilt: People get excited when they see an antique quilt. (Much of this could be due to the mind-blowing appraisals that some have received on Antiques Roadshow!) However, unfortunately many quilts sell for next to nothing on eBay, so prices for these can be all over the board.
What to do with it: If you’re so inclined, you can check on eBay for similar sales, or you may be fortunate enough to have a member of the American Quilter’s Society nearby. They can likely appraise your quilt, but it might cost you.
Bottom Line: You might want to do a little investigating, especially if you think you may have something exceptional. Just be aware that most quilts will not be enough to send your firstborn to college.
***And now a little note about checking on eBay: When you look at the current listings on eBay, please remember that sellers can list items for any price they want, even if they chose it at random. For instance, maybe I love my Granny’s old teapot and I think it’s so beautiful that I decide to list it for $1000. That does not mean that it’s worth that much, nor does it mean that it will sell for that much. Too many times, I talk to people on a high because they saw their same whatchamacalit on a listing for $100,000, but that’s not a realistic number.
To try to get an idea of how much people might actually pay for your item, check out the listings that have actually resulted in a sale. To do this, type the name of your item into the search bar. Once the listings come up, scroll down the page until you see the “Show Only” list along the left-hand side. Choose “Sold Listings”. This will give you a much more realistic idea of what someone might be willing to pay.
Hopefully this list will help you to get sorting through your family history. Please note that these are just some general rules and there can always be exceptions. If you’re not sure, take your item to a local dealer to have it checked out.
Senior downsizing can be an emotional experience– if you find yourself needing more help, and you’re in the Denver area, feel free to give me a call. I’d be happy to help you with your project.