Need Advice About Selling A Large Unique/Rare Collection

Discussion in 'Antique Discussion' started by Bluebutterfly55, Feb 26, 2019.

  1. I inherited a very large and extremely rare/unique collection of items and I want to sell the collection. I have approached several museums (non-profits) who have expressed immediate interest in acquiring what I have for display. However, every one of them has said they have no budget for acquisitions and never or rarely ever purchase anything.

    I understand their position on this, but on the other hand, I have NO interest in simply "donating" my collection so a museum can display it and probably charge $$ for people to look at it while I get zero. They don't even offer to pay any of the shipping costs to get the items to their location. I have several items that are large/heavy and would require a lot of special packing. Do they honestly think I am going to do that for free? I am not a wealthy donor type of person. I wouldn't get a tax write off for "donating" my rare items to them, so there's nothing in it for me except a bit of satisfaction knowing the local community would get to see it displayed.

    I haven't had my collection appraised, and even if I did, it's so unusual and unique I don't think it CAN be evaluated in dollars and cents.. I feel that it's worth whatever a particular buyer would pay for it, or what the value to a particular person or entity would be. I'm totally frustrated with the entire situation.

    I have thought about contacting an auction house, but am afraid of being ripped off. I may just decide to sell it off piece by piece on ebay. That's not my first choice of what to do, because I hate the idea of breaking up a historically/socially significant collection. But I don't know what else to do at this point.

    So do any of you have advice on this? I realize I'm not revealing the type of collection I have in specifics. But be assured it's items that various museums want due to its extreme rarity and unusual tie to a particular local area in Southern California. It probably even has "notoriety" value due to the particular background of the items and their connections and history.

    Any advice would be welcomed. I'm contacting all sorts of people and groups about this, and so far, it's the same old story. "We don't buy, but would LOVE to have your stuff!" ARGH! I'm so fed up with the whole thing! My family and I have incurred all sorts of expenses taking care of these items for several DECADES now, and yet these "non profits" want to PROFIT by getting something for nothing and boost the value of their own collections by owning something of mine. Am I looking at this situation in the wrong way? Or what? Thanks for the feedback!
    KikoBlueEyes and Christmasjoy like this.
  2. judy

    judy Well-Known Member

    Hi Bluebutterfly!

    Welcome to Antiquers!

    We need to see what you're talking about. Photos should be posted Full Image.
  3. Ghopper1924

    Ghopper1924 Well-Known Member

    Yeah, how about some photos?
  4. At this time, I don't want to post photos of what I have, and even if I did, intrinsically you might not think they were of high value unless you knew where they came from and their "back story". . They are items from the 1950's so they aren't "antiques" in the sense that you are probably thinking. I already know, however, that they are high value in terms of their historical/unusual connections to Southern California. As indicated several museums have said they would literally build a display to show these items, yet they have no budget to acquire these items. That's the basis of my overall question to members here. Should I just bypass these museums and focus on private buyers on ebay or an auction house? Or are there museums that will pay for items?
  5. terry5732

    terry5732 Well-Known Member

    Yes, museums don't pay.

    Aside from a museum few would be interested in whether it stays together or not.

    No one can offer any other help without at least knowing genre.
  6. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    I already know, however, that they are high value in terms of their historical/unusual connections to Southern California

    find a good auction house and give em the whole kit & kaboodle !!!
  7. i need help

    i need help Moderator Moderator

    Welcome to the Forum, Bluebutterfly! :)
    It may depend on your states laws, but before you get rid of anything, you may need an appraisal as it is an estate. Maybe check into that before anything.
  8. i need help

    i need help Moderator Moderator

  9. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    Hello, Blues. Without at least a general idea of the sort of thing you are talking about, we are extremely limited in any guidance we might be able to give. From the hints you threw out, I'm starting to envision the furnishings of a well-known bordello.

    Are large items requiring special packing/shipping furniture, artwork, Egyptian mummies, what? Is the historical interest international, national, local only? Would any of the items be highly valuable without provenance, e.g., a Tiffany diamond necklace, or is a lot of the value in who has owned them/what they have been used for?

    It is in fact the case that museums out & out buy very little. If you read the signage anywhere you will see this piece was the bequest of A; this one given in memory of B; another donated in honor of C. Occasionally, in an institution large enough to have such things, you will see that something was the special purchase of an affiliated society or committee formed - typically by wealthy patrons - to encourage acquisitions in a specific area of interest & they ante up the money themselves.

    I understand that most of us are not in need of the sort of tax breaks that give wealthy collectors an incentive to make major donations to museums, but your notion that somehow a museum is going to be a whole lot richer if they acquire your collection is strange. Unless it is something so fabulous that it is going to significantly increase their revenue through increased numbers of visitors, now & in perpetuity, it will largely represent an expense for them, just as it has been for your family: they have to create display space; do whatever is required to conserve it; pay more in insurance; etc. If you stipulate that recipient is not allowed to deaccession any of it, ownership makes them no richer than it makes you.

    And I very much understand reluctance to get mixed up with an auction house; they certainly get a hefty share of the proceeds. However, from the vague idea you're giving us of what you want to sell, doubt eBay is where you will realize the greatest profit; I have seen in my collecting area, engraved gems, that provenance does not impress eBay buyers the way it seems to do with auction house bidders.

    If this collection is so highly coveted, maybe one or more of the interested institutions can rustle up a wealthy patron who is willing to bid on their behalf on selected items in an auction, if you let them know when & where. See what you can find in past auction results for items that are somewhat comparable to yours just to get starting points on market value.
  10. pearlsnblume

    pearlsnblume Well-Known Member

    I can't help but I wish you the best of luck.
    Fid, judy, Ghopper1924 and 5 others like this.
  11. Joe2007

    Joe2007 Collector

    I agree with the above. Most museums don't purchase collections directly offered to them. I think you need to start searching large reputable auction houses and find one that specializes in the items you are selling. Perhaps a large west coast firm. Expect a hefty commission to advertise and sell the items.
    kyratango, judy, Ghopper1924 and 6 others like this.
  12. Thanks so much for your informative response. You make some good points. No, it's not from a bordello fact, quite the opposite. Let's just say it's from a "church", and that's as specific as I want to get here. (and no, not church of satan lol).

    The large items that would require special shipping include a large heavy wooden trunk, an antique chair, a decorative heavy wooden podium, and several other heavy wooden items. The interest in this collection would probably be mostly of a local So. California nature however, since there are national overtones involved, it's highly possible that it could have national interest. International interest would be less, but not zero, depending on the person or circumstances.

    These items would primarily be coveted for WHO owned them (a particular person), where they came from, and what they were used for, however, some would be valuable without provenance. But overall, it's primarily coveted because of who owned them and also some "notoriety" factor involved (newsworthy factors).

    Yes, I've seen the signage in museums and most of the time, a family will donate a few items out of memory of a loved one or just for the satisfaction of honoring someone that way, with no thought of compensation. I have done that once myself (donated a very rare yearbook of my grandfather's to a museum collection, with no thought of compensation.) But thanks for clarifying how museums function and their overall approach. And I will read the other links in the forum re: museums.

    As you say, unless they have a special group of wealthy donors, they won't purchase. One museum I contacted hinted that they will look around and see what turns up among their Board of Directors and let me know if anyone is interested in buying what I have or portions of what I have, but I doubt that will come to fruition..It's a little early in the game to know for sure.

    I don't think the museum would be a "whole lot richer" with my collection. BUT...I DO think it would bring in more people to view it and boost their bottom line in some way. I just get a bad taste in my mouth when I think of giving up all these things for nothing, after putting expense into it for decades. I realize they have costs in maintaining a display, but I also feel they will publicize that they have this unique collection and generate buzz for their institution at some level. Among some of the items I have is a rare film strip that was deteriorating that I had professionally restored and put on DVD which cost me over $300. And that's just one tiny thing. So, I probably won't pursue the "donate to a museum" concept much longer because I need to recoup the expenses I've already had with this collection. I feel that it's only fair to me and to my family.

    And Yes, I probably would stipulate that the owner is not to deaccession my collection, because if I were to place it somewhere, I would want it to stay there, once and for all. I would also be concerned about them selling it off to unknown parties down the line in the future.

    You make an excellent point about provenance with auction buyers vs. ebay buyers. I tend to agree with what you say. In this collection, provenance is everything or just about everything. It is a very "niche" collection, BUT, the person or persons who want it, will throw money at it. Whereas the majority of people who have no emotional connection to it, won't want it at all, at any price. Yes, the local museums would chomp at the bit to get it, because they do have local emotional ties to it of a deep nature. But ebayers who would need to be "educated" about what it is would not be as willing to pay top dollar.

    So, my next step probably will be to talk to some auction houses in Los Angeles and surrounding area and get a feel for what I am really dealing with here and what is possible. I will say, however, that Ebay isn't off my radar as a potential. I have sold things on Ebay for prices I doubt I would get anywhere else for particular items, so I don't necessarily look down on Ebay as a way to make this happen. Again, it's all about finding the RIGHT buyer for the item. The right buyer will literally throw money at something if they want it bad enough. It doesn't happen that often, but when it does, it's GREAT!

    If I do go the Ebay route, absolutely I will notify every entity I have contacted so far and tell them about an Ebay auction and see what happens! I'm pretty nervous about handling the shipping on the large items, but I'd figure it out somehow. It would be great if a wealthy donor or patron of one of these institutions would fall in my lap, and who knows, maybe that will happen! I feel that I do have some bargaining power here, because the curators of several museums have indicated an instant desire to have the collection, with one of them calling it "very compelling ". I know what I have, it's just a matter of getting it from Point A to Point B, in a way that's a win/win for all parties. Soooooooo, wish me luck!
  13. Joe2007

    Joe2007 Collector

    Unless you have a specialized dealer with a long standing eBay account selling similar items list the collection I very much doubt if you will get "good" prices on eBay. A high end auction house adds a lot of credibility with expert opinions on condition and authenticity especially with items where their main claim to significance is who they were owned by. The auction house can also bring a lot of prospective buyers in through their advertising and connections.
    Jeff Drum, kyratango, judy and 5 others like this.
  14. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    Exactly. This is the main thing the right auction house can do for you: publicize your items targeting them to known buyers for such items. If a respected house agrees to handle your collection, it does give sort of an imprimatur in the minds of prospective bidders. Do any of your things need deconsecrating?
    Jeff Drum, judy, Ghopper1924 and 3 others like this.
  15. Yes, I'm sure the right auction house could provide those things and give my collection the imprimatur that I probably would not be able to do by myself on Ebay, at least not in the minds of people with serious money These items did not come out of a Catholic church or even a "mainstream" church in the usual sense of the word "church" so nothing needs deconsecrating.
    judy, Ghopper1924 and Bronwen like this.
  16. You make good and valid points. This is such a unique collection, I have to wonder how many buyers even an auction house could bring in for it - maybe a few though. And true, they would be able to fully authenticate for their buyers the prior ownership in ways that I am somewhat limited in doing on Ebay.
    judy, Ghopper1924 and Bronwen like this.
  17. moreotherstuff

    moreotherstuff Izorizent

    If the collection relates specifically to South Carolina, I would think a South Carolina auction house would be the way to go. An auction house might recommend that breaking up the collection would be the best way to maximize profit.

    If a museum really wants the stuff, they might encourage some wealthy donor to bid. But that's not information they are going to give you.

    A local historical society might have some suggestions.

    No matter where you present it, you can pretty much count on getting low-ball offers.
  18. terry5732

    terry5732 Well-Known Member

    South California

    Sorry, but there is little interest in religion, quack or otherwise
    judy, Ghopper1924 and Bronwen like this.
  19. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    Sounds as though there is more of a story here than ones from the Bible.
    kyratango, judy and Ghopper1924 like this.
  20. johnnycb09

    johnnycb09 Well-Known Member

    Im going to guess this "collection" is related to some gruesome event,liketheManson murders or the like. That being said,I find OP maddening ! Either tell us what it is or stop hinting ! :)
    popsycat, Pepperup, KSW and 8 others like this.
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