Author Topic: A house full of antique toys  (Read 5169 times)

Le Poisson

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A house full of antique toys
« on: October 07, 2015, 06:42:01 AM »
Don't say Ebay...

I have a relative, we'll call him an uncle to make it simple, who has spent his life "investing" in old toys. Nothing he bought was based on anything more than "Oooh - that looks cool, I should get it." I only met this uncle recently, and don't know him especially well, but since he has no kids, and since he lives 5 minutes away from me, I'm trying to nurture a relationship with him. He is an unusual character. No internet, doesn't know how to run a computer, disabled and without income, but proud of who he is, and interesting to sit and talk to. He recently asked me how to go about liquidating his toy collection in order to free up some cash. I went over for a visit expecting there to be a shelf of toys in his house. I was wrong.

Their house is a tiny bungalow. Probably 1000sf max - but the whole house including the attic, basement, and garage is full to the gills with old stuff. Mostly toys, but some other stuff as well. Its like a scene from hoarders, except that it is all old toys.

Some of the stuff he thought would be worth hundreds is worthless (Star Wars Episode 1 Podracer alarm clock??? - $25 on Ebay) and some of the stuff I though would be worth a lot is worthless (Hollowcast lead Mountie - $4.50 on Ebay, Occupied Japan teaset - +/- $15.00 on Ebay, Zippo Lighters - $10.00 on Ebay) but I am sure there are some nuggets in his collection somewhere, I just have no idea how to value this stuff.

He won't open a stall at a flea market or in an antique shop since he fears breakage. He won't bring in an auctioneer since he is concerned that he'll get ripped off at auction (An auctioneer offered him $2,000 for everything in the house - flat price take it or leave when invited in to evaluate the collection). He will let me take on list his stuff on Ebay, answering questions, fulfilling orders, etc. But I have zero interest in running an online business for him. Zero interest. Unless maybe I take a cut - but his expectations of what this stuff is worth are so unrealistic, I can't see that happening.

Anyways, two questions - 1. How would you go about valuating this collection, and 2. How would you sell it off?

I'm guessing the advice is going to be run away, run very far away, which I suppose is a third option. On the upside, we got a tag-along bike trailer for our kids out of him for $50.00, which is pretty good.

Noahjoe

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2015, 06:52:50 AM »
It sounds like he's resisting all the realistic options for liquidating a collection like this. Even after an auctioneer's cut, it might come out to a greater sum that flea markets/etc because they'll advertise and draw a crowd. You'll need more than one person interested to get a decent price out of any of that stuff.

People that are so against the good options for selling their stuff aren't truly ready to sell it.

hunniebun

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2015, 08:34:21 AM »
Having dealt with a hoarder for the better part of 16 years (and it sounds like that is what this is...disguised as a 'collection') I have learned that most hoarders are willing to part with their items if they know it is going to someone who will value it/use it/appreciate it as much as they do.  Having someone come in and offer some money to 'take it all away' doesn't fill the need of the person to have their 'work' (aka collecting) valued.  I bet if you brought purchasers/interested collectors to his house and they were excited about the items and offered to buy (for their own collections) he would be more open.   Maybe you could plan a collectors open house where you advertise some of the items and make times for interested people to come in and look maybe he would let some things go. 

If not, the best thing you can do is to respect that he is not really ready to part with his collection yet and focus on getting know him and don't worry about the stuff. You can't force a grown man to do something he doesn't want to do...no matter how logical it seems to you.  Good luck!!

frugaliknowit

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2015, 09:09:37 AM »
First, I would see if I could get him to grasp the concept of supply and demand and how goods move on ebay.  If he doesn't seem to catch on and accept the fact that some of his items are worth less than he thinks, I would stop dead in my tracks and forget it.

Assuming he is receptive, I would start with a couple of very marketable items he has, go to completed listings on ebay, then show him what they sold for.  Then see if you can teach him how to use ebay (he "drives", then you help him when he has trouble).  As he catches on, have him sell his most marketable items first, which will build his skill and confidence.  Somewhere in all of this, he needs to get a computer and internet...

Le Poisson

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2015, 09:51:10 AM »
Thanks all for the answers so far.

I don't think he fits the "Hoarder" profile. He and his wife were a driving team, doing big-rig runs across the continent for years, and making a good living at it. He consciously bought up this stuff thinking it would be a better investment than stocks/funds/etc. In other words, he bought it with the intent to make cash off it. On empty trips, he would stop at antique fairs and yard sales, etc. and buy boxloads of stuff to add to his investment.

Fast forward 20 years, and what was valuable/vogue in the 80's - 90's is forgotten. But some of it still holds value - case in point, one room in his basement is nothing but unopened die-cast cars ($15 each??). Another is filled wall to wall with crates of comic books (you can't get in the room). Individually the items are worth very little, but add up all those $1 - $5 items and he likely does have a small fortune in collectibles (as long as the books aren't moldy and no water is leaking in that room etc.)

Since his injury, he is living very poor. He wants to liquidate, but won't go cheap. He is also very suspicious about anyone who actually offers a price - and when the prices don't match his expectations... well he gets upset. Seems like a tough position but its mostly in his head.

Anyways, I think the consensus of fugettaboutit is likely the best. Its hard to leave the problem alone though.

Shinplaster

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2015, 10:01:29 AM »
I'd try kijiji before ebay.  No packing stuff up to mail, which is a hassle.   Our son is in the process of selling off his childhood toys that have been boxed in our garage for decades.  He was also surprised to see that most of his star wars stuff is not as valuable as he had hoped.   What he is doing is selling them in lots, not as individual items.   Buy 20 figures, get a darth vader bubble gum container thrown in for free, etc.   It seems to be working well for him - he's not making a fortune, but better cash in his pocket than having it molder in the garage.  The Toronto area (where he is too) has a lot of 30 year olds looking to regain the toys their parents threw away.

Axecleaver

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2015, 11:11:02 AM »
Although he may not fit the hoarder profiles you're familiar with, you indicate that he's emotionally invested in the collection in that he expects it to be worth a lot more than it is. It's no different than the rural people around here who expect to sell their falling down 100k houses for a million dollars because there once was a real estate bubble in the 80s that they remember.

One way to crack this is to ask him to give you a box of stuff that he is ready for you to liquidate. Take it away, price it and let him know about the transaction costs (take a cut if you want, but be up front about it). Ask him if you should sell it or bring it back. This gives him a choice in the liquidation, and he can decide whether he is ready to part with these things or not. That choice seems to be a key element of overcoming hoarder behavior. You might need to do this for a dozen boxes of stuff before you make progress.

MissStache

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2015, 11:23:42 AM »
Tough situation, and you're very generous for being will to assist.  He obviously needs a reality check about what the value of this stuff is.  I'd ask him to identify 15-20 items that he thinks are valuable and then price them out online.  Check ebay for sales records and also see if you can track down some other reputable antique toy sellers/auction houses online.  If you can come back with solid data that they aren't worth what he thinks, it may help him to reevaluate. 




Syonyk

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2015, 01:07:22 PM »
eBay it for 20% of the profits (after eBay/PayPal fees, shipping, etc is taken out).  That's what I typically do for people.  :)

jba302

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2015, 01:37:18 PM »
Although he may not fit the hoarder profiles you're familiar with, you indicate that he's emotionally invested in the collection in that he expects it to be worth a lot more than it is. It's no different than the rural people around here who expect to sell their falling down 100k houses for a million dollars because there once was a real estate bubble in the 80s that they remember.

Holy shit have I seen this. We have been checking into hobby farm opportunities (which is a buzzword now, bummer) and apparently hobby farm now means "any property over 2 acres, regardless of land quality, with a building that may have been livable in the 30's, plus a building that may qualify as a barn once it's burned down and rebuilt." Generally asking around $300k and up if they are within an hour of Minneapolis.

Sorry, anyway, I got nothing for you. Maybe ask him to document everything and see if he's willing to call around shops for valuation. Getting him into the process might help him disconnect his emotional prices to realistic ones?

Easye418

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2015, 02:16:42 PM »
eBay it for 20% of the profits (after eBay/PayPal fees, shipping, etc is taken out).  That's what I typically do for people.  :)

If I am doing it myself:  I would take more than that honestly.  Low value products = time waster, do you know how much time it could take you to liquidate via eBay?  It seems like in this case, YEARS.

If I am consigning to someone: I would be comfortable paying them 20%.

My time is WAAAY more valuable than making 20% on a bunch of junk. $2,000 dollars total?  so 20% would be $400 bucks.  You are crazy.  That is a time pit, run far away.  He should of taken the cash deal.   

I inherited say 2000 eBay items, 10% of them made up 75% of the value, I liquidated those myself, I then took the other 1800 items and consigned them to someone who is taking a 10% cut, I can live with that.  Only difference, my stuff (precious coins) was actually worth something.

So here are your options:

1.  Do the right thing, help out your disabled uncle cleanse the nightmare from his life.  Do it out of the kindness in your heart, take a laughable cut of 20%, lose thousands of hours researching,taking photos, uploading, writing description, listing, dealing with moron buyers, horrible return policies, SHIPPING, and worst yet, THE POST OFFICE aka Hell on Earth, and when you are finished, you will realize that you are nearing the end of your life, but you will have just enough time to crack open a Molson Canadian Lager and then you will be gone.

2.  Save what precious time you have on this planet, help him find someone to do it for him, and never look back.

Humor aside or TL:DR, 1-100 items, sell em for him. 101+, find someone to sell them for him.  Huge time commitment if you are selling slow moving or worthless items.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2015, 02:28:14 PM by Easye418 »

Syonyk

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2015, 02:47:55 PM »
It's not that bad. Though if it is nothing but cheap items it does make sense to ask more.

dess1313

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2015, 12:21:36 AM »
is there any collections you could get a value book for?  I know there's usually some out for coins and other collectables
Could you find websites that list market values for products?  Something he could read and prepare and get some realistic estimates from?  That way he starts off closer to realistic values?

Villanelle

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2015, 12:38:49 AM »
Get a book like thishttp://www.amazon.com/Toys-Prices-Worlds-Price-Guide/dp/1440235015/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1444286097&sr=8-3&keywords=antique+toy+value+book and have him look up everything.  I can't specifically recommend that book.  It's just what came up fairly high in an Amazon search.  There was also a specific book for Hot Wheels, and probably for other sub-categories of toys, so do some search and see what fits his collection.  Contact a local library and see if they have any similar books so you don't have to purchase, in case they don't have his specific items.


I'd have him start making a detailed list of every item of one category.  So all those cars on one list.  All the comic books (nothing condition and other relevant info) on another.  For now, this doesn't have to be include every item.  Start with those of which he has a lot, rather than the one-offs.  The goal would be eventually to have everything listed, but starting by category will help you try to sell them as collections, and maybe make it a bit less overwhelming.

Google to find some reputable antique toy buyers and collectors, even if they aren't in your area.  Send them the lists (which I guess you'll have to type since Uncle will likely hand write them).  Ask them to make you an offer.  Negotiate.  Bring back to Uncle to see what he says.

That's about as far as I'd be willing to go, other than to google any specific items I thought might be especially valuable. But even for that, I'd want his lists. 

gooki

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2015, 12:41:11 AM »
Let the market decide the value.

Take good photos, accurate description, auction each item on eBay with a $1 reserve, promote the auction.

Repeate a thousand times.

But if you don't want to run a eBay business then your best bet is to walk away.

BigBangWeary

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2015, 03:30:57 AM »
Sounds like a job for American Pickers!

But seriously, best of luck. I wish I could rummage around.

jengod

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2015, 03:44:19 AM »
To be honest, I would wait for him to die and then hire an estate sale company to liquidate the house. Some people do that while still alive but he is likely not amenable to that plan or those prices. Still maybe invite some estate sale company owners to come by and give you their estimates for the whole thing. If he thinks he has $100,000 of stuff and three different parties tell him he has $10,000 that will yield $7,000 after their fees, maybe he will come down to earth?


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The_path_less_taken

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2015, 06:04:10 AM »
I agree that some of his self worth is defined by his 'collection'.

So that means if others tell him it is practically worthless....he 'hears' that as meaning he is practically worthless, and/or that his idea to collect these items was silly, etc.

If you're not wanting to do all the heavy lifting, you might see if you could find someone at your local senior center who is ok on a computer....get him a 'buddy' his age who could show him stuff at his own pace. Have them research what you think might be some higher ticket items, and try and sell a few.

Even with a friend helping, it won't be easy.

Or, you could see if you could get him on that show where they appraise your stuff for free....and again, have him bring what he thinks is his most valuable item.

It should be an eye opener.

If you think it is really mainly a low ticket collection (comic books can surprise you though, if they are vintage) then to avoid ebay fees you might list on craigslist with a link to ebay: "this Star Wars action figure just sold for $50 but it can be yours for $30 today: cash, no checks or scammers, or money orders". I will meet you at the police station (many municipalities now even let you meet inside, after the craigslist killer thing happened)

Barring that, I'd probably coach him to say, "My son's a cop and he's driving me to an appointment later, so meet in front of the police station at 3pm" and try not to  let strangers know his address.

Good luck. My biggest fear for him, being disabled, is that I wouldn't want sketchy people coming to his house. He'd be an easy mark for a home invasion/robbery/scam artist.

Le Poisson

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #18 on: October 08, 2015, 06:16:42 AM »
Sounds like a job for American Pickers!

But seriously, best of luck. I wish I could rummage around.

Rummaging is fun. Just his living room is enough for me, but after that it gets a little overwhelming.

Thanks everyone for your ideas/advice. The_Path_Less_Taken - your security concerns are noted - that is where things get weird. Uncle X was heavily involved in biker gangs in the 60's and 70's, and is of intimidating size. He still carries the trucker persona, voice and vocabulary from his straight job as a trucker after he got cleaned up.

I think that is probably why booths at flea markets and antique fairs didn't work out for him... "Hey bitch, you want a fucking My Pretty Pony for your goddamned kid?" would be his introductory line... Which may not lead to many sales. The fact that he now has 2 prosthetic legs and can barely hobble out of his chair kills any illusion that he will in fact beat the crap out of you, but in his mind, he's still a badass biker/trucker, and speaks and acts like it.

Its a strange mashup - badass biker/toy collector. Once you get past the language and image, he's a decent guy who just never learned any manners.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2015, 06:18:56 AM by Prospector »

MsPeacock

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #19 on: October 08, 2015, 06:58:18 AM »
If the items can be inventoried (e.g. spreadsheet, by type of item (comic book) and the information organized in a fairly reasonable way - then I would suggest sending it off to some dealers and seeing if they are interested in individual items or in the whole collection. Although making an inventory would be a lot of work, it would not require a computer other than putting the items on a spreadsheet. He could handwrite the inventory and you, if you are willing, could put it into a spreadsheet as he gets it done. You could also post the inventory on a collectors website or on craigslist and see what interest turns up. I would do this over trying to list and sell individual items. Bundles can be made of low value items like the comics in packages of 10 or 100 or whatever and sold off that way.

I would not proceed until uncle has made an inventory. It is simply too much work to do otherwise, whether you go via ebay or a dealer or craigslist or whatever. If it isn't worth making an inventory of then (to him) then it isn't likely that he actually wants to sell the items.

VAMORALE

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #20 on: October 08, 2015, 09:46:44 AM »
My husband collects hot wheels, they're never worth as much as some people think they are. Usually sell $2-$3 each unless they're special or rare cars. Just had a yard sale and he sold a box of 45 for $15.

mozar

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Re: A house full of antique toys
« Reply #21 on: October 08, 2015, 09:51:54 AM »
It may be impossible to inventory...you cant even get into the room with the comic books. Are you really going to inventory thousands of items? If the uncle inventories it himself you can help him list it. If he couldn't be bothered to keep track of it all after all these years, and he's not willing to do it now, or pay for it to be inventoried, that's his problem.

This hits close to home for me. About 10 years ago my dad asked me to help sell antique tiles that he had preserved when he was renovating his house. I found a tile dealer and he was only really interested in paying about $5 a piece for the hand full of fancy tile. I decided that selling the tile wasn't worth the time and the car rental to get over there. When my dad's house foreclosed a year ago, most of it was thrown away. I kept a box of it, and I literally can't think of a use for it (there are plenty of ideas but none that I'm interested in, as a minimalist). I don't help my dad with jack anymore.
Also, my actual uncle also has a lifetime of crap and no children. I have no idea how that will end up. I imagine there will be some sort of grab for stuff among my cousins. They can have the stuff, but what to do with his ridiculous mcmansion will be a bigger issue.