What's the best way to turn collectibles into cash?

Should You Sell to American Pickers?

by Paige Estigarribia


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Imagine that you just got a call from Mike and Frank at American Pickers, and they're headed your way. They want to check out your stash of collectibles. You hang up the phone, look out towards your garage, and make your way outside to meet them at the garage door. They pull in and hop out of the van, and after introductions, you all head inside. It's a bit dusty and disorganized, but the fruits of years of your own picking adventures are all there.

Ever watched the show and wondered, even for a minute, if American Pickers would buy any of your prized possessions? Ever wondered if that cookie jar from your grandma's grandma stuck in storage or that rusty tractor out back could be worth something?

If your prized possessions are a picker's paradise, and you've been thinking of turning some of them into cash, here are five things to consider before you close the deal with Mike or Frank of American Pickers:

1. Can You Sell it Easily?

Give some thought to whether you could easily sell the items online or locally on consignment, or whether you would rather someone come and just buy them from you. There are plenty of options online for selling specialty items and antiques, including eBay and Craigslist. If the item is small and easy to ship, and you are comfortable transacting online and shipping the item yourself, this could be a great way to sell your goods. You could also put a classified ad in the paper, or even research local antique consignment merchants and see what their terms are for selling your goods on consignment. If none of these options will work for you, maybe contacting American Pickers is the way to go.

2. What's It Worth to You?

Another consideration is whether you are sentimentally attached to the item, as this affects the item's value to you. It doesn't do anything for fair market value, but if you won't be able to sleep at night because you sold your grandfather's favorite coffee cup for $50, we're talking some serious sentiments at stake. When considering the possible sale of meaningful collectibles, think about how you would feel if you didn't own that collectible anymore. Use that as one of your baselines for determining which offer you'd consider in a transaction.

3. What's It Worth to the Rest of the World?

Another baseline to think about when deciding to sell your collectibles is their general fair market value. Try to do a little research and determine what your item might be worth. When checking eBay prices, be sure to look at auctions that have already ended to get a good idea of items and prices. If you can't determine anything about your item, you may need specialized expertise. Calling in an expert or having an estate buyer come and look at your items could be a good way to determine fair market value and decide if you want to sell.

4. What About the Reseller's Profit Margin?

If you choose to have American Pickers, or another reseller come and buy your items from you, realize that they may offer a lower bid to you and then ask a different price for it when they resell it. The reseller will resell the item in an attempt to make a profit, because the reseller needs money too. Gas, bills, shop expenses, and employee salaries are all things that the reseller pays, and picking your collectibles means that they need to be resold for more that the reseller paid.

In fact, on several recent shows, Mike and Frank picked up a few treasures and gave out the details on what they planned to resell them for. Take a look below:

Item Bought Price Planned Reselling Price
Sign $75.00 $150.00
Gas Lamp $300.00 $600.00
Fishing Lures $175.00 $300.00
Sign $1000.00 $1500.00
Clocks $175.00 $300.00
TV $300.00 $600.00
average $337.50 $575.00

As you can see, sometimes the items can even possibly be resold for 100% more than what they were bought for!

5. Would It Be More Valuable to Just Donate for a Tax Credit?

After it's all said and done, and your research and attempts to sell and or get valuation have taken up significant time, you can always look into donating your items. If you truly need to slim down your stash, and you are tired of spending time trying to sell your items, think about donating your items instead.

So the next time you're thinking of calling in American Pickers or any estate buyer to look over your goods, consider these tips. And remember that a pile of treasures picked could be a penny earned!

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