“Not for sale,” read the lime-green sticky notes slapped on furniture throughout the estate sale.
Not selling the furniture defeats my purpose, to clear out my parents' former home to get it ready to sell. But the task is defeating me.
I don't know how much the nightstand that came from France is worth, or the gold-leaf chairs in the entryway, or the antique clock that was my grandfather's or the cedar chest that was grandma's.
The experts would tell you to take your time. Have someone from an auction house or consignment shop, a dealer, or appraiser look at the items to determine their value before you sell.
But I had to get the job done in a week.
I did, however, have one ace up my sleeve. A contact at PBS's Antiques Roadshow offered to run photos of some of the antiques by one of the show's expert appraisers to help me determine value.
Meanwhile, my two-day sale was going on.
The morning after the estate sale ended, the Antiques Roadshow appraiser calls. Gary Sullivan specializes in high-end antiques. He'd looked at my pictures and was about to tell me how much the items were worth.
But first, Sullivan offered this general advice:
• It's just stuff. “The chances of anyone having something that has significantly great value is quite slim,” Sullivan says.
• Age does not confer value. Age — specifically being 100 years old or more — makes an item an antique. But to be a valuable antique, the item has to also be rare and desirable.
• Worth is a worthless term. The value the person states is always far greater than what the item would ever sell for.
• Sell wholesale. Don't expect to sell an item for what you'd buy it for in a store. Sullivan often uses what an item would sell for at auction as a base for how to price it at an estate sale.
• Condition matters. If something is broken and repaired, it's almost as bad as broken and not repaired. On furniture, the finish is important. However, dull and worn can be good.
• Never polish, clean or refinish antiques.
• Family history is usually wrong. “I hear owners say, my great, great grandmother brought this clock over from England on boat in 1640. But then I see the clock was made in America in 1820,” said Sullivan.
Next week join me as Antique Roadshow's Gary Sullivan looks at half a dozen of my parents' antiques.
Contact syndicated columnist Marni Jameson through www.marnijameson.com.