If there is one service we offer that deserves special explanation on our website, that service is helping families to figure out what to do with a large collection of inherited railroad collectibles.
lifetime of collecting
If you've ever seen that look on a collector's face when he was in the zone then you know that in the zone represented a time when he was totally blissful about a new purchase or a rail adventure that he just returned from. When people collect things they also remember exactly where they got them, precisely how much they paid for them, and how important each individual item was to their overall collection of treasures. They alone knew the difference between the gems and the junk in their collection. Seeking out these things, finding them, and then acquiring them is an activity that collectors absolutely love to do. It is their life style. It's far more than just a hobby or passion. While non-collectors scratch their heads wondering why Grand Dad needed anymore of anything, to him, each item found represented another leg of a continuing life-long journey of learning and acquisition. That's the plain and simple joy of being a collector. For many of us collector types, it's almost all that we ever wanted to do. The adventure of searching for things and the reward in finding them is absolutely why collectors love collecting.
Sorting it all out
Times change and sadly, people leave our lives, often unexpectedly. When that happens to a collector, families can be overwhelmed by the reality of what their special collector amassed during his lifetime. In our experience, when the time comes to open up all of the boxes and plastic tubs, families generally see that pile of stuff one of three ways. Some want it out of the house in its entirety as soon as possible. Others realize that by self-appraising, then selling the collection, they could realize a decent profit from that activity. The third option is usually to donate things to clubs, charities and family friends. Everyone deals with these issues differently. But if you find yourself in a similar position, then we encourage you to consider these questions before embarking on anything:
A) Where, or how do I even start to evaluate all the things that I see before me?
B) What are these items really worth in today's marketplace?
C) Everything looks so similar to me—so how do I know which items are really valuable?
D) How long will it take to sort, organize, and market these items?
E) How much will I lose out on by selling everything to just one person in one transaction?
F) If I donate these things to a charity or organization, what really happens to these items?
G) Is there someone available who can provide real advice on every one of these issues?
The answer to the last question (G) is, yes. You can review my professional profile on LinkedIn.
there's a better way to sell
The real problem with selling a collection of anything is three-fold. First—if you don't know what things are actually worth in the current marketplace then you'll be lucky to get 10% of their value—even when strangers make offers that seem reasonable. Second—if you don't know how to sort out the collection gems from the every-day kinds of things (that every collector already has) then you'll waste huge amounts of your valuable time (and money) trying to sell things that virtually nobody will buy. Third—many collectibles have lost their value because the market has literally become flooded with many of the exact same items coming from many collections simultaneously.
The important take-away here is that underestimating the actual cost of selling and the incredible amount of time and dedication that it takes to perform this activity is why most families start to sell, then gradually stop selling, because losing valuable time and money to an activity that nets increasingly little, is just plain darn frustrating. That's when most people dump everything that remains for just a song. "Enough already", becomes the family's survival tactic.
Successful selling in any field of endeavor is always about knowing the difference between your selling price and your true cost of sales. When the sales margin isn't managed, sellers can lose substantial amounts of money to auction listing fees, recurring re-listing fees when things don't sell right away, final value fees, shipping, postage, and insurance fees, packing material fees, box and tape fees, credit card processing fees, and taxes too. Then, when sellers ship things on-the-cheap to try and reduce losses, those treasures get damaged or destroyed in transit. The buyers file claims for damages and the seller ends up losing the item to sell, the profit margin, and all of the time to deal with the mess.
Here's what most sellers completely underestimate: If it took the collector his entire life-time to amass everything in the first place, then selling that same collection could easily take an entire team of skilled sellers many years to accomplish. If your collector had a focused collection (same topic, subject, or railroad) then that number doubles or triples because there are only so many collectors of that topic, subject or railroad. People have only so much money to spend. Just because you're selling, does not mean they are buying. Frankly, I've seen too many families taken advantage of by buyers and even historical groups that really only ever had one goal in mind—i.e. getting your stuff cheap.
We provide our clients with real-world pointers about how not to lose money when selling your things—and how not to be taken advantage of. If that's important to you, then please consider our services that typically solve these problems. Whether you choose to sell everything in one transaction, or sell individual items over a period of months, we can light the light for you permanently on what's required to sell things profitably and how to donate the right-kinds-of-items to groups that will actually make use of them in the community. Sadly, many do not, and lots of donated items end up in the basements of group members—not in their museum—never to be seen again. There's more at stake than just finding a new home for old items. Finding the best home and making a profit at the same time is what we advocate.
We have a number of free resources available. They're all designed to help you learn about better ways of selling large collections of railroadiana, photographs, slides, negatives, plans, drawings, blueprints and paper items. Feel free to request any or all of the following and we'll send you these helpful PDFs by email. There's never any obligation.
- 1-How Our Railroad Collection Began
- 2-Selling Your Railroad Collectibles
- 3-Photographs, Negatives and Slides
- 4-Blueprints, Drawings and Plans
- 5-Protecting Your Images On-Line
- 6-Things We Buy