Treasure hunters — auctioneers, consignors, estate liquidators, galleries — are on a serious virtual search to unearth and sell items — furniture, art, clothing, jewelry and even tchotchkes — that might be gathering dust in your home this very minute.
Back in the day, (like in December) many of them would suss out their precious inventories by making house calls, perusing estate and tag sales, or digging around thrift shops and storage units. But while everybody’s at home, there’s an enormous flurry of online activity — both for buyers and sellers, according to the experts.
And the good news is that right now the professionals are giving out appraisals free of charge online and might just arrange to sell your stuff, which could mean some cool cash in your pocket.
“Now is the best time to do it,” says Elyse Luray, of Port Washington, who is a certified auctioneer and the head of Trusts and Estates at Heritage Auctions in New York where business is, she says, extraordinarily brisk. “You can turn trash into treasure … Sometimes you don’t know what you’re sitting on.”
Business is also booming at LuxeSwap the Oyster Bay luxury consignment boutique, where owner Matthew Ruiz says his online views, “have quadrupled since pre-corona.” Each morning, the consignor is greeted with approximately 500 pounds of clothes at his store door and they’re selling out fast.
Thea Morales, who owns Rosie’s Vintage in Huntington and is running popular online nightly sales, says, “I know some people need money now, and we definitely need merchandise.”
Activity for today: Look around your home. “That old, signed baseball tucked into the back of a closet may end up being worth more than your stock portfolio,” says Luray. To underscore the point, a bat owned by slugger Lou Gehrig, sold for more than a million dollars at Heritage Auctions last month.
Here's a look at a few Long Islanders who can appraise and/or sell your stuff virtually:
Elyse Luray, the head of Trusts and Estates for Heritage Auction in New York, is currently working from her living room in Port Washington. She says, “When I’m not in the office, usually I’m in the field in people’s homes, closets and storage units.” But right now, she’s working off your photos and, apparently, the market for collectibles is going gangbusters. “From a buying perspective, there’s something for everybody (they sell in 40 different categories) and from a selling standpoint, unfortunately, a lot of people are looking for ways to find revenue.” It’s a win-win because even if Luray isn’t interested in your item, she will happily refer you to other sources. (212-486-3500; ha.com)
Luray says that Long Island is a particularly strong market for sports memorabilia. Pre-quarantine, she visited a man cave in Hewlett that was a gold mine of Dodgers and Yankees items. Other popular goods to sell now include these categories: urban art (brands like Supreme, Kaws); comic books; coins; autographs; prints and photography, manuscripts; books; Asian art; jewelry (Luray cautions, “You can’t expect to get the price a piece is insured for”); posters; decorative objects, and she says, “we do really well with silver.”
How to get an appraisal:
Send smartphone photos to elysel@HA.com. Include the following details: Object type; description, artist or maker, medium or material; signature (if applicable); if a set the number of items in the set or service; object provenance; any known history, including purchase history if you have; object dimensions and any condition issues.
In some cases, Heritage Auctions will buy an item outright. If it’s sold at auction, expect the company to take approximately a 20% commission or less. If your item is preapproved, Heritage Auctions will send sanitized packing materials, instructions and a prepaid Fed Ex shipping label and will arrange for a pickup.
The payment process can take anywhere from two months to four months. If they buy something outright it takes about 40 days to get paid.
LV Gallery Art and Antiques
LV Gallery Art and Antiques, a consignment shop in Locust Valley, opened just one week before the coronavirus hit. Despite the unfortunate timing, owner Wendy Norris and her associate Robert DuPont are still enthusiastically doing appraisals and helping consignees “put a little money in their pocket during these tough times," says Norris, who has sold much of her inventory despite the store’s closure.
The shop already offers a somewhat rarefied inventory of art, antiques, furniture, linens and bric-a-brac ranging in price for $50 for a pair of candlesticks to $15,000 for a coveted porcelain “Nymphenburg” owl statuette. There’s also sports paraphernalia from Norris’ storied family — her father, Bruce Norris, owned the Detroit Red Wings professional ice hockey team. (516-277-2519; Lvgallery.com)
Midcentury modern furniture, and lighting; French furniture, upholstered furniture, sets of china, Asian porcelain, botanical prints, contemporary art, fine linens (with a special interest in D Porthault linens).
How to get an appraisal:
Send an email with photos to email@example.com, along with description, size, condition, age, markings and provenance.
The split on items is 50/50. If your item is accepted, the store will make arrangements for curbside pickup, or drop off. Items are sold in-store, on Instagram @lvgallery, and on sites such as 1st Dibs, Cherish and eBay. Payment is immediate once an item sells.
In the consignment designer clothing market, it’s a rarity to find a place that focuses on men’s clothing, but Mathew Ruiz, of LuxeSwap in Oyster Bay, delights in it. “It’s not just what I do,” says Ruiz. “It’s my passion.” A smaller percentage of his business also goes to high-end women’s clothing and accessories. (516-226-1055; Luxeswap.com)
Knitwear (Brunello Cucinelli, Brioni, Loro Piana); suits, Kiton, Attolini and Brunello Cucinelli, ties; Hermes, Turnbull and Asser, Drakes; Ralph Lauren Purple Label accessories and exotic belts, wallets, shoes; streetwear; Chrome Hearts, Off-White and Dior including Dior vintage, which Ruiz says, “Does fantastically well.”
How to get an appraisal:
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with a list of pieces you want to sell. Include condition, although, Ruiz says that it isn’t always important. Photos are optional. Ruiz sells on Instagram @LuxeSwap and runs regular auctions on eBay that last 10 days. "As soon as accounting is complete, you will get a check,” he says. (The whole process might take about four weeks.) The split favors the consignee; it’s 60/40.
Ruiz is also currently offering what he’s calling a “stimulus package.” He’ll pay 100% of inbound shipping (50% for international) after your items have sold. Locals can deliver goods to the store door, or in some cases, he’ll arrange for a curbside pickup.
“I am busier than I’ve ever been in my life,” says Thea Morales, who owns antique store, Rosie’s Vintage in Huntington. “We have to work twice as hard to show people what we have in the store as opposed to opening our door and just having people come in." To get the word out and generate sales during this period, Morales has been running her own virtual vintage sales on Facebook and Instagram, on @rosiesvintagestore, that she says are popular. For each sale (and sometimes she does three a night) she lists crates of goods — albums, mugs, jewelry — each item with a number and price. The first folks who comment that they want something, get it paying via PayPal.
The eclectic shop offers smaller, nostalgic collectibles such as matchbooks, logo tins, vintage postcards and magazines that cost from $2-$4 a piece. At the high-end, she sells midcentury Danish modern furniture which can cost up to $800. She’s looking for everything from small items to larger collections. “Sometimes people need to do a clearing out, like their grandmother’s stuff that they’ve been storing in their garage and they’ve decided to get rid of it.” (631-549-9100; Rosiesvintagestore.com)
Vinyl records, midcentury barware and furniture; kitchenware (Pyrex, Jadeite); vintage holiday items; ephemera (vintage paper collectibles such as postcards, ticket stubs, seed packets, receipts, magazines); vintage clothing (including old band T-shirts) and linens (hankies, table cloths, aprons, bedding, kitchen towels).
How to sell:
“I don’t really do appraisals. We pay for items outright and we need stuff.” Payment is immediate through cash, check, PayPal or Venmo. “If they’re items we don’t normally sell, I’ll try to connect people with another antique dealer who might be interested.” You can email her a photo of an entire room (“I can ‘eye spy’ what I want,” she says) or a cabinet that has items in it. Individual items in small groups may be laid out on a table. Send to email@example.com. The store will pick up curbside or accept drop-offs.