Every summer, I notice how much the scenery changes in most neighborhoods. In the suburbs, summer reintroduces all of us to lawn mowers, tomato plants, and barbeque grills.
While the typical American backyard is reserved for family get-togethers and picnics, the front yard is the site of lemonade stands and yard sales. From both marketing and distribution standpoints, this arrangement makes perfect sense as we reserve community events for the backyard and commerce for the front.
Rules of the Game
We are all thinking that there are big bargains to be had on local lawns. If you’ve watched my television programs or read this column, you know that people are making big mistakes selling off valuables at yard and estate sales. I regularly visit yard sales and find valuable objects. Then, I reveal their value to the yard sale host advising them to keep or re-price valuable items. For some reason, just because we don’t want something anymore, we foolishly resign ourselves to losing a lot of money by selling it at a yard sale.
I visited a yard and house sale where I met a nurse named Carl.
Carl was preparing to relocate to from the East Coast to California and he was selling everything at his yard sale.
I looked around the offerings on his lawn and front porch before venturing into his house where big items like sofas, TVs, and cedar chests were offered for sale. Carl accompanied me and a few other shoppers into his house as all smart yard sale hosts should. In the dining room, he pointed out a set of beautiful solid oak chairs selling for the bargain basement price of $45. I considered the chairs as they typically retail for $100 each and then, I asked Carl about some lovely artwork on display.
Two fine art serigraphic prints by artist Thomas McKnight hanging on Carl’s dining room wall immediately caught my eye. McKnight’s brightly colored serigraphs enjoyed great market popularity in the 1980s and 1990s and have retained their market interest and value very well over the decades. At the yard sale, Carl told me, “the art is not for sale. I bought those prints in New York City and they were really expensive.” He continued, “They have the certificates of authenticity, so I’m going to keep them.” I didn’t verbalize to Carl that I couldn’t care less about the certificates of authenticity because those can be produced by anyone at anytime. Without missing a beat, I told Carl: “I’ll give you $1,000 for both of the prints.”
He immediately changed his mind and Carl gleefully told me, “They’re yours. Sold!”
Staying true to my no buying policy, I explained to Carl my mission and revealed that he nearly sold me two very valuable works of art without any knowledge of their current value. As happy as Carl was to hear my original offer, he was even happier to hear that I wasn’t buying his prints for a song! Today, Thomas McKnight’s works sell in commercial galleries in Sanibel Island, FL, New York, NY, and Atlanta, GA at prices ranging from $3,500 to $7,500 each. I appraised Carl’s two characteristic fine art works on paper at $5,000 each or $10,000 for the pair. At Carl’s yard sale, I did just what some unscrupulous pickers or resellers would do - I offered the seller only 10-percent of the actual value for the items. In effect, I made Carl a lower than market purchase offer of $1,000 for items worth $10,000.
If Carl had taken that deal, Carl would had sold the two works of art and lost 90 percent on the deal. Luckily, I was there to educate him and he averted a yard sale loss of $9,000.
Remember, just because you don’t have use for an object or the desire to retain an object, that doesn’t make it worthless. Also, someone making an offer that sounds good may still be offering you too little. If you are hosting a yard sale this summer, make sure you know the value of your items before anything gets beyond the front door threshold.
Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s Auction Kings airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. Visit www.DrLoriV.com, www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori or call 888-431-1010.