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Selling a Collection

The aim of this article is to provide guidance to collectors wishing to sell all or part of their collections. It may also be useful to those who inherit collections. The information provided here is fairly generic and intended as a guide only. We cannot guarantee that you will achieve a particular price for your collection or always achieve a better price using one method over another. However, we hope the information below can be used to help you formulate the best approach in your unique circumstances.

What is the best way to sell my collection?

We hear this question a lot. Unfortunately, there is no single right answer. The best approach depends upon the following factors:
  • How quickly do you want/need to sell the collection?
  • How important is it to maximize your return?
  • How much effort are you prepared to invest in the selling process?
The ideal situation for most people is to sell as soon as possible for as much as possible, putting in as little effort as possible. However, this is not possible. There is a trade off to be made between speed of sale, effort invested and amount received.

Quick and Painless

If you care most about liquidating your collection fast with little effort, there are 2 main options that will achieve this:
  1. Sell to a dealer. Offering your collection to a dealer and accepting the offer is a fast and clean method of offloading your collection. The downside to this it that the dealer will offer you a price that allows for resale at a reasonable profit margin. The offer will almost definitely be less than you could get through other channels.
  2. Give to a drop-shipper. A drop-shipper will take your collection, list it on eBay (or possibly another short-term sales venue) and provide you with whatever funds are received from eBay (based on final bid) less their sales commission and fees. Again, your final return will likely be less than if you perform the selling yourself, but the effort is completely transferred.
Maximum Cash

If you have plenty of time and are willing to put in the effort to maximize your return, you need to first do a lot of research. You need to understand exactly what you have, who your target market is and what the current market valuations are. In effect, you need to become (if only temporarily) a Secondary Market dealer.

Some items will attract a higher price if sold individually, while some are better sold as a set or collection. Almost all items sell better with a complete and accurate description and pictures. Items are likely to attract the best price if they are listed somewhere where they are visible to the most potential customers for the longest period of time.

I am going to avoid giving specific advice on how to achieve the best price because it will vary based on location, your marketing understanding, your technical skills, your appetite for risk and your perception of free vs paid listing and advertising.

Middle Road

For most people, a compromise between maximizing the return and minimizing the effort is the preferred approach. A little research that is usually worth the effort would be to identify the following:
  • Which items are the gems of the collection?
  • Where are there publications, message boards and/or clubs dedicated to my collectible type?
  • What local resources are available to advertise my collection?
  • What are similar items selling for on eBay?
Posting at least the 'gems' of the collection in a combination of local and industry-specific venues is a great way to reach a large portion of your potential audience and get good prices for parts of your collection.

eBay is the largest online venue for selling collectibles and attracts many potential customers through both its own internal search feature and its placement with other search engines. Placing items individually or in small groups on eBay may be another good option.

Ultimately you may decide to continue selling everything directly or you may come to a point where you feel it is best to sell any remainder of your collection using one of the quicker options above.

False Economy

I would like to share a real-life example with you to illustrate why it is important to think about how you sell your collection.

We were offered a large collection of figurines and we provided a price that we believed to be fair. The seller said the offer was too low and listed the collection on eBay. We saw the listing, placed a bid and won the auction for less than our original offer. The seller obviously lost out on the price paid as well as having to pay eBay and PayPal fees.

This is not a usual situation but it came about because by listing the large collection as a whole, the seller was effectively limiting his target buyers to dealers. Who else would want to buy such a large collection at one time? The seller also made several mistakes in how the collection was listed, including omitting information that most dealers would want to know before bidding (we were lucky enough to know more about the collection than was listed).

The point of this anecdote is to emphasize that if you are going to sell your collection directly, you must consider who you are trying to reach with your sales listing and how it will be perceived. As a secondary point, you should note that although dealers will buy at a price point where they can make a profit, they will not usually try to cheat you - after all, spending the time to offer someone a price they will reject is not very productive.

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