Estate sales can offer bargain deals for the savvy shopper
July 20, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Estate sales aren't always what they sound like.
"The person who owns these things did not die!" Annie Tisch announced Friday morning at an estate sale at a nice townhome near the base of Steamboat Ski Area.
Tisch, owner of Annie's Home Consignment in Central Park Plaza, does double duty, handling estate sales for households that might be downsizing from two homes to one, going through a foreclosure or splitting up. Or it might be that the owners are deceased and the survivors, or the executor of the estate, are seeking to convert household possessions into cash.
"It's kind of an Eastern thing," Tisch said. "Traditionally it meant someone died, but it can be a lot of things. My estate sales are more expensive than garage sales because there are always quality items."
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The goods up for grabs at Friday's consignment sale ranged from antique bedroom dressers and fishing reels to collectible glassware and hand-painted Italian espresso cups. But there also were typical garage sale items. The fastest sellers were practical kitchen utensils, but an early arrival escaped with a good buy on a piece of Waterford crystal.
Missy Beirne, who was working the sale for Tisch, said one of the first buyers to arrive Friday snagged one of two patio furniture sets.
Amy Nutzman, of Steamboat Springs, said she justifies her garage and estate sale habit by picking up gifts for her friends.
"I'm a garage sale addict," Nutzman said. "I go every week. I'm bad about buying things I don't really need for gifts for friends."
On Friday, she picked up three black lacquered trays inlaid with wood, stone and bronze. One depicted Santa Claus, a second bore an image of cowboys and the third showed a pair of quail.
"I have a friend who is an avid birder," Nutzman said. "She'll love this. I'll probably show it to her but give it to her later."
Just as she was about to check out, Nutzman splurged and purchased a wicker moose head for herself for $55.
"I'm going to put it over the garage," she said.
Most of the people at the estate sale were women, but Ben Gonzalez picked up some valuable door hardware for a couple of bucks.
Sharon Paulus said it's easier for women to indulge their estate sale habit if they can interest their husbands in collecting something like old tools.
"I have a corner of the garage where I keep junk that I'm getting rid of, so I can fit new junk in there," she said.
Tisch and her clients sign a contract that grants a percentage of the sales to her. She also reserves the right to keep items that don't sell for an additional two months to offer for sale at her consignment store.
This week's sale was a great deal of work because she just took it on Monday. The result is a higher commission.
"I want to try to sell this during the estate sale, but there are items I want to get a fair price for because I know what it is worth and I know what it will sell for in the store," she explained.
Those items — like a taxidermied hawk and a front dresser priced at $325 — bear real-world prices, but still lower than what she typically would put on the same item as the opening price at her store.
She stopped in mid-sentence to tell a browser that a classic living room chair in need of new upholstery and priced at $65 would sell for $150 in her store.
"I'd give someone a deal today if they really want it," she said.
However, most of the items in the sale were priced with a colored sticker; Yellow stickers indicated the price was $20, green signified $10, blue $5 and red $1. The stickers keep things simple.
Estate sales can represent the entire accumulation of a lifetime, and often there is a story behind each knick-knack and art piece. But not always.
"People tend to think that because grandma had it forever, it must have been special," Tisch said. "But sometimes, she received it as a gift and grandma really hated it."
In a way, estate sales are one of the oldest forms of recycling perfectly usable household goods.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
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