Photograph in dollhouse furniture increases desirability

Beautiful but delicate, this dollhouse furniture was probably made in India.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I am wondering what you could tell me about this set of ivory miniature furniture. I think my grandmother might have received it from a San Francisco family she worked for as a nanny around World War I. The family may have given it away because it had the name of a German town on the little easel. A few of the pieces are broken because they have been through a few earthquakes. When I was a little girl, it was always kept in a case behind glass. Any information would be appreciated.

Thank you,

L. R.

Dear L. R.:

A few weeks ago we wrote about a lamp made with a bronze figure that had an ivory face and essentially said the presence of the ivory made the piece very difficult to sell in the United States, and it therefore had little or no monetary value.

This was probably bad news for the owner of the lamp, but we have some good news for L. R. Her pieces are not made from any kind of ivory — not elephant ivory, not walrus ivory, not whale ivory, not even vegetable ivory. Instead, these pieces were carved from bone — probably good old bovine bones of some nature.

How do we know this? We suspected they were bone just from a cursory look at the photographs, but closer inspection of one revealed tell-tale dark specks on the lid and inside divisions of the miniature sewing table. This is really all we needed to see to know the pieces of dollhouse furniture are bone, probably carved in India during the time of the British Raj (1858-1947). We believe this particular set is circa 1900.

The set appears to consist of the aforementioned easel and sewing table complete with tiny sewing implements inside, plus a bookcase/cabinet filled with books and whatnots, a sofa, two side chairs, a table and a piano with sheet music. To be sure, we do see damage and loses, but we also see the bookcase/cabinet contains several of the small lopped-off appendages and we hope this means that repair would not be all that difficult for a professional.

To us, one of the more interesting of the pieces is the easel with a photograph, which appears to be of the German spa town of Bad Neuenahr (now Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler). Specifically, we think the picture may be of the Thermal Badehaus und Kurhaus, a building in Bad Neuenahr that dates to 1900.

The picture we have of the easel is fuzzy, but we think we see the distinctive fountain out front of the Thermal Badehaus. But we could be mistaken. In any event, the photograph appears to be a small single panel from a stereo view of Bad Neuenahr and suggests the set might have been a souvenir from the famous spa town.

This type of Anglo/Indian bone furniture with its filigree components is not unique and pieces do turn up from time to time. But the added element of the photograph on the easel makes the set somewhat more interesting and desirable to collectors. L. R. should value her set for retail purposes in the range of $800 to $1,000.

Read the original article here.

How to Value and Sell Your Antique or Vintage Collectibles

Paul Costello

Rare antiques can bring in thousands—even millions—of dollars. Take, for instance, a 1909–1911 “Jumbo” T206 Honus Wagner baseball card, which sold for $3.2 million in 2016 or the 18th-century Florentine ebony chest that went for $36.7 million at a London auction house in 2004. Not everything that is old will net you a fortune, though, which is one reason why it’s important to be able to identify an antique when you see one. In most cases, a professional appraisal is your first step to knowing what might be valuable—especially if you have a roomful of antiques. “One of the benefits of a professional appraisal is that you avoid ‘Exactly Like That’ syndrome,” explains Helaine Fendelman, a fine arts dealer and appraiser based in New York City. “A table from the early 1900s might look exactly like one from the 1700s but won’t have the same value.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t research an item to find its potential value on your own. Certain distinctions require a trained eye, while other antiques may only need an Internet search on sites like eBay or Barnebys to find out what people are willing to pay for the item. How much do you want to get from your antiques? If your goal is to maximize your profits on an item, you want to be as thorough as possible in your research to find out its value before you decide to sell it.

Related: 10 Collectibles in Your Attic That You Didn’t Realize Were So Valuable

Research the item and its worth.

You have several options when researching the worth of your antiques. Nicolas Martin, flea market expert and founder of Flea Market Insiders, says that you can do online searches on sites that are dedicated to antiques (think Ruby Lane or 1stdibs) or even a quick search on a search engine like Google or Bing if you can identify the item. “Fortunately, Google reverse image search services like CamFind can help make the whole search process a breeze,” explains Martin. “On a personal note, out of 10 tests I personally conducted via the app, CamFind managed to accurately identify 60 percent of the items I searched (vintage cameras, desk fan, desk lamp, toy gun, watch, vintage glass bottle, Hohner harmonica, antique apothecary bottle), which is more than fine!”

You can also hire an antiques appraiser or use an online service like JustAnswer Appraisals to get the scoop on your items. “In addition to online services and search engines, it is possible to find out how much your antiques are worth by simply asking an antique dealer or an appraiser at an auction house, for instance,” Martin says. But you will want to research the appraiser before hiring them—check reviews, their experience level, and whether or not they’re certified as an appraiser. Additionally, some appraisers specialize in certain types of antiques, and you should look for an appraiser that is well-versed in your item.

Reconsider selling on consignment.

Consignment is a selling process in which the item is not purchased by the seller outright. Instead, it sits in their store and you only get paid once the item sells. The consignment shop also gets a hefty cut, sometimes as high as 50 percent. Fendelman says that you may want to avoid consignment altogether. “The chances of your antique being lost or damaged is much higher,” she says. “Then, it becomes a question of who’s liable when that happens.”

However, if you don’t think you have a rare find, you might be able to earn some money on your grandmother’s dresser if you put it up for consignment. Sometimes, it’s better than nothing, and you could get more for it than if you sold it at a yard sale.

Know the marketplace.

Before you sell, know the marketplace. Fendelman says that you want to not only know the market value of your antique but also the fees and other charges that the marketplace will take out of the sale of your item. “It’s usually a good idea to hire someone who can guide you and negotiate for you at the auction house,” she recommends. “If an antique is valued high enough, for example, you might not even have to pay a commission fee or for repairs to the item.” Auction houses may also specialize in different types of antiques, so choose wisely if you want to maximize profits.

The same thing is true if you decide to sell the antique online. “1stdibs, Ruby Lane, and Barnebys usually offer buyers the guarantee that they’re buying something genuine,” advises Martin, “while buyers need to do their due diligence on websites like eBay and Etsy.” Understand the terms of your chosen marketplace and all of its selling procedures, including whether antiques are vetted before being put up for sale. Sites may also take a listing fee for the item, holding you responsible for sales taxes. Accurate documentation of your sale, whether you do it through an auction house or online, also makes a difference for accounting purposes.

Know when to restore or preserve.

You might want to think twice about restoring an antique before you sell it. Why? Lofty aspirations could make the item lose its value. Fendelman recalls a colleague who stripped the ultramarine paint from an antique dresser years ago, only to learn that the value in the item had been in the paint itself. “Original condition is usually the best way to go,” explains Fendelman. “The buyer may want to decide if they want to restore it or they might want to keep it the way it is.”

But what if you want to upcycle your antique instead? Even if it doesn’t have marketplace value, if it’s attractive enough, it would appeal to buyers who like repurposed items. In that case, it might work in your favor to clean and restore the antique for sale. An old hutch that’s only worth fifty dollars as-is might increase in value as stylish upcycled décor if you give it a whole new look.

Treasures in Your Attic: Fig painting lovely, but likely has limited monetary value

This painting is by European artist Fritz Fig, but not much is known about him.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I have what I hope is an interesting mystery to solve.

About a year ago, I acquired this painting from a local consignment shop. It was painted by Fritz Fig, an English artist known for his paintings of Dutch children with wooden shoes mainly depicted in idyllic genre scenes revolving around youthful activities. Who was Fritz Fig and when did he live? What was his reputation back then? I think I have a very special painting that at some point I would like to donate to a suitable European museum that recognizes Fig’s obscure talent.

— D.C., Minneapolis

Dear D.C.: We could only print a small part of this letter, but overall, we came to appreciate D.C.’s enthusiasm concerning the painting and that D.C. really likes it.

Good for him! That is the essence of art appreciation. Nothing we have to say from this point forward should dampen D. C.’s admiration and genuine affection for the charming genre scene. We also want to state that we like this painting, too: The innocence of the children and their tranquil day at the beach brings back wonderful memories and connects with our fantasies about an idyllic summer day.

Not very much is known about the artist Fritz Fig. No one seems to know where or when he was born. His origins are generally stated as being generic “European” or, more specifically in a few cases, “British.” We know his work is Victorian in both style and taste. This tends to indicate he was working in the last half of the 19th century, probably after 1875.

Over the past few years, paintings by the artist have sold at auction in such places as Tennessee, Connecticut, Missouri, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. Prices have ranged from $225 to $1,400.

Much of the large swing in value can be explained by the size of the work and the complexity. Large examples (21 by 39 inches) with lots of children seem to do better than smaller specimens (10 by 12 inches) with just two children.

However, the Fig painting that sold for only $225 was 20 by 24 inches and featured a dog, a doll and three children, one holding a slate. The image may be intricate and interesting on some level, but that the children are in some sort of cellar makes the overall effect a little gloomy. The artistry also appears to be somewhat subpar for Fig: but that is our judgment call.

When all is said and done, the prices indicate a second-tier artist who paints charming scenes with limited artistic appeal, or an artist whose work is a bit too sentimental for current tastes. As far as giving it to a museum, most American and European museums have little interest in what they consider to be second- or third-tier artists.

We think this is a lovely and appealing painting, but it is one with limited monetary and artistic value, which D.C. should enjoy while it hangs on his walls.

Read the original article here. 

Can You Ever Add Value to Your Antiques?

Maybe you just pulled a gorgeous silver mirror out of your grandmother’s attic, or maybe you stumbled upon a rare sculpture during a weekend of antiquing. Either way, you’re the proud new owner of what seems to be a pretty valuable piece. But how do you know just how valuable your new memento is? First, it’s important to note that age doesn’t necessarily equate to value, says Eric Silver, an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow. While the term antique refers to something 100 years or older, an item from the early 1900s could very well be more valuable than a much earlier period piece. Even vintage items—objects from the 1930s through the 1960s—can be worth more, says Helaine Fendelman, a fine arts dealer in New York City. The inherent value of your item is largely determined by the current market—something that can change dramatically over the span of 10 to 20 years, says Silver.

In general, collectors tend to look for three specific things: quality, rarity, and provenance (a record of ownership that establishes authenticity), says Rebecca Rau of M.S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans. In order to have a high value, a piece needs to be in exceptionally good condition; it must be rare or even one-of-a-kind; and it must have a significant maker and provenance. It’s wise to have your antique appraised every five years or so, especially for insurance purposes, explains Silver. While this can help you establish a baseline for your piece, it is important to understand that an appraisal is not a certificate of authenticity, says Rau. An appraiser takes the information provided by their client in order to determine a fair market value—they do not do research; they take the client at their word and provide a valuation based on that information.

And, unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to increase the value of your item beyond what it appraises for. “It’s more about preserving value,” says Silver. How can you do that? Consider these expert tips.

Related: How to Shop for Antiques and Vintage Online

Keep the paperwork.

“If you are lucky, a piece will come with an original bill of sale or certificate of authenticity signed by the maker or an expert in the field,” says Rau. “However, this kind of paperwork is actually quite rare on the antique market.” For antiques, the signature or stamp of a maker is usually enough to confirm its authenticity, she explains. If it is not stamped or signed, be sure you’re purchasing the piece from a reputable dealer.

Consider professional restoration and conservation.

If a piece is damaged in a way that affects the aesthetic or functionality, it’s important to talk to a professional restorer, says Fendelman. This might include furniture that is falling apart, a small hole in a canvas, a scratch on a sculpture, a stain on fabric, or a layer of dust and debris on a painting. Never attempt this work yourself, cautions Fendelman. Instead, turn to a professional like an appraiser or a museum curator who can connect you with a specialist.

Rethink DIY projects.

Any alteration—painting furniture, for example—outside of common sense restoration will bring down the value of a work, says Rau. “A mint-condition piece that has zero alterations will always have the highest value.”

Take care of what you have.

If a piece is in good condition, it’s important to keep it that way. Be smart about where you’re displaying items of value, says Silver. Don’t put fragile antiques in high-traffic areas or in the path of rambunctious toddlers or pets. And consider less obvious factors that can affect placement, like climate. “Sun is the worst enemy of antiques, so always be sure to keep everything from furniture to fine art and tapestries out of direct sunlight,” says Rau. “A moderate environment is always the best for antiques, so try to control the humidity and temperature in your home.” And finally, be careful when cleaning. Harsh chemicals can destroy the finish on furniture, porcelain, silver, jewelry, and other antiques, says Rau.

Read the original article here on Yahoo.

Jar could be from Oneota culture

This jar is very old, and could be made by Native Americans.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

Do you have any insight into an item I found while hiking in Minnesota? It is a pot of some kind and everyone I have shown it to thinks it is very old. What do you think it might be, other than an old pot?

Thank you,

J. F.

Dear J. F.:

We want to begin by saying we have to invoke the Peter Principle, because with this question we have reached a level of incompetence. However, with that understood what J. F. really wants to know is what we think, and heaven knows we are not shy about offering an opinion.

First of all, we think the pot is Native American. In Minnesota this covers a great deal of territory. Archeologically speaking, indigenous people of the region first made pottery as early as 3,000 years ago. But of course, the pot is much younger than that.

Minnesota Native American pottery is divided into as many as 30 different categories, all associated with a specific culture or site. Different names include Blackduck, Malmo, Fox Lake and Oneota.

All were pit-fired, meaning that pots were typically placed in a pit with coals or burning wood and rocks to act as heat diffusers. This method of firing seldom produced temperatures over 1,500 degrees, which means the pots were rather fragile and easily broken.

To make the pots withstand the firing process, various kinds of “temper” were added to the ceramic body. The temper materials include crushed granite, sand or ground shells. The substances helped reduce expansion or contraction during firing and help the vessels withstand later use on an open fire.

It is thought that jars like this were used to cook wild rice or maize. Water and grain were put in the pot and then the piece was placed in an open cooking fire. The water would come to a boil and cook the grain.

Now here is where we climb out on a limb. We think the pot might have been made by the Oneota culture, which is associated with the American Midwest, including southern Minnesota. Their pottery tended to be globular in form, shell-tempered, purposefully smoothed but unburnished, decorated on the shoulder with trailing lines or tool impressions and have a rounded lip.

J. F.’s jar seems to fit the description closely, but we want to point out we are not expert enough to make this more than a suggestion. The Oneota culture was the last prehistory culture of the Upper Midwest and generally dates from approximately 1150-1700. The pot may date from the latter end of this period, but it may be a bit later as well.

We also want to point out that ceramic pots of this type were very fragile and are known mainly as fragments. This largely intact specimen should be something of a rarity.

Read the original article here.

Treasures in Your Attic: Pallme-Konig vase an impressive Jugendstil find

This vase is an example of Jugendstil, the Germanic interpretation of art nouveau.


Dear Helaine and Joe: Enclosed is a picture of a 17-inch-tall glass vase with metal frame. I want to insure and/or sell it. I believe it is Bohemian glass by Palma Koenig. What would be the estimated value of this blue/green vase, which is in excellent condition? Also, I have included photographs of two 10-inch-tall vases, blue on the outside and white on the inside. I cannot read the manufacturer’s mark. Thank you.

— D. W., Austin, Texas

Treasures in your Attic sig

Dear D. W.:The dates surrounding the Pallme-Konig glassworks are a little loose. But around 1888, Josef and Theodor Pallme-Konig named a new glass house after their mother, Elizabeth, creating “Elizabethhutte” or “Glassworks Elizabeth.” Research seems to indicate that within the next few years they merged with the glassworks owned by Wilhelm Habel, which was located at Teplitz (also known as Teplice), Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and became Pallme-Konig and Habel.

Wilhelm Habel was granted a patent in 1900 for decorating the surface of glass with encircling glass threads. This became one of the signature motifs at Pallme-Konig and Habel. Some pieces had threads on the surface, but some had the threads deeply embedded in the body to produce veining that could not be broken off.

Other Bohemian glass makers used similar decorating techniques, but the piece in today’s question does appear to be a product of Pallme-Konig from the early years of the 20th century. This example has at least two things going for it: One, it is held within a pewter frame in the Jugendstil style, and two, it is exceptionally large. Jugendstil is the German counterpart of art nouveau.

What it has going against it is the rather standard blue/green color scheme, which in the photographs looks somewhat lackluster. Still, it is an impressive piece. Pallme-Konig examples of this size in metal frames are somewhat uncommon. At auction, the vase should sell in the $600 to $750 range, while at retail, we would expect to see it priced in the $1,200-$1,500 range or a bit higher.

Now to the two vases with the hard-to-read marks. It says “PM Sevres,” enclosed in a dotted circle. It is understandable to jump to the conclusion that the piece was made at the famous Sevres factory, which was founded at Vincennes, France, in 1738, but moved to Sevres in the early 1750s. Unfortunately this is not the case.

Instead, the “PM” stands for Paul Jean Milet, a French ceramicist who trained in the laboratory at the Sevres factory. Milet’s father, Felix Milet, had founded an earthenware factory in the late 19th century. Paul Jean began making pieces here marked “PM Sevres” within a dotted circle in 1911.

The original Sevres factory threatened to sue, and Milet changed his marks to “MP Sevres” in 1930. The blue glaze and bronze fittings on D. W.’s pair of vases is typical of Milet’s work and would probably sell at auction in the $300-$400 range for the pair with retail in the $600-$750 range.

Read the original article here.

Host a Successful Estate Sale Using This In-Depth Checklist

How to Plan an Estate Sale

If you’re downsizing for a move or cleaning out a loved one’s home after their passing, an estate sale may be the best way to pare down belongings. While you may think you have it under control because you know how to have a garage sale, an estate sale is usually far more involved.

First, what is an estate sale? It’s a way to liquidate the items in a home all at once and it usually includes the entire property, as opposed to a garage sale which can be contained to the front yard. It’s a project that’s commonly taken on during major life changes like divorce, bankruptcy or the death of a family member.

Unfortunately, estate sales usually take place during stressful or upsetting times. Refer to our estate sale checklist as you work to help you make the process go as smoothly as possible with tips from Poof! Estate ServicesHelaine Fendelman & Associates and Marni Jameson, author of AARP-endorsed book Downsizing the Family Home.

5 Steps for Setting Up an Estate Sale Yourself

Exactly how do estate sales work? Decide what you want to sell, give everything a price and tally up your totals. It sounds simple enough, but the process can be tedious. Use the following steps to help you plan and get through the sale efficiently.

Shoppers Looking at Items at an Estate Sale

Downsizing the Family Home Book and Workbook.

“As hard as it is to clean out your own stuff, it’s even harder to clean out the life of someone you love. But you simply cannot save everything. You have to be very practical and prepare yourself for the difficult process. The nice thing is you end up with a pile of cash and get to move forward. If you’re an older person who’s downsizing, look at your new space with a critical eye and only take what’s necessary, then use the money from your estate sale to pay for your long-term care.”

Marni Jameson | Downsizing the Family Home

We’ve pulled together a list of commonly sold items followed by some things you definitely should not give to other people second-hand.

What to Sell

Like a garage sale, you can sell most things at an estate sale. Here are some other common items to sell:

Just because something is outdated or not traditionally seen at a sale doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a buyer. Here’s a list of items you might not have thought to sell:

  • Cars, trucks and campers: You can sell any vehicle if its title is clean. Check with your local authorities to see which documents you’ll need to sell it. Note: If a vehicle is sold on behalf of a deceased person, special rules and forms may apply.
  • Computers: Believe it or not, even if it’s a dinosaur, you might be able to find someone who wants your old desktop or other electronics. Just make sure the hard drive is wiped clean.
  • Firearms and weapons: Depending on the device and state laws, you may be able to sell weapons. Make sure to do some research before adding them to the sale.
  • License plates: Old license plates are great collectors’ items that can be worth a pretty penny. The older the pate, the more you can charge. Some go for as much as $500.

What Not to Sell

  • Liquor: You need a liquor license to sell or handle any form of consumable alcohol and could be fined if you do make a sale.
  • Used baby gear: While buying used baby clothes is a great way for families to save money, used baby gear may compromise the child’s safety. Infant care requirements for things like cribs and car seats change yearly and you don’t want to be liable if something breaks.

Pro-Tip: Aside from the things you shouldn’t sell, make sure to lock away anything that is not for sale. Buyers will think anything they can see is up for grabs.

Step 2: Organize Your Items

To increase the chance of selling belongings, make sure they’re organized and displayed neatly. Think of your home as a department store and create sections to sell different groups of items. For example, put kitchenware in the kitchen, use the living room to display furniture and hang clothes on garment racks in the bedroom.

Maximize display space by using furniture for sale to show off smaller items. If you’re using a surface that you don’t intend to sell, cover it with a sheet or clearly mark it with a tag that says, “Not For Sale.” You can also use boxes to hold items like books, records or non-breakable trinkets.

Poof Estate Services Logo

“We strategically stage the home so it is appealing to the customer’s eye by creating themes both with color and item types. We also utilize surfaces in the home like kitchen counters and furniture to further add to the ‘staged’ feel, rather than bringing in tables or shelves and simply lining items up.”

Allison Ruby, Founder | Poof! Estate Services 

Step 3: Price Your Items

This is arguably the hardest part of planning an estate sale. It takes professionals years of experience to know how much a piece of art or an antique vase is worth, so it may be worth consulting an expert on the more valuable pieces. Sometimes, you may not even know you have something valuable right under your kitchen sink.

Helaine Fendelman and Associates Logo

“Once I found a 19th century American painted tin box under the kitchen sink. It was holding the lady’s Brillo pads – and it was worth $800. People just don’t know. They grow up with their family treasures and they have no idea that this or that could be valuable.”

Helaine Fendelman, Professional Fine Arts Appraiser | Helaine Fendelman & Associates 

However, most items probably aren’t worth as much as you’d think. When it comes to putting a price tag on everyday items, make sure to mark them lower than the current retail value. Keep in mind: people attend estate sales to find a bargain. Even if you think you’ve marked a fair price, be ready to haggle. Regular estate sale-goers aren’t afraid to negotiate, but it’s up to you whether or not you want to accept the offer. You can always make a verbal agreement with a customer to sell the item at the agreed upon price if no one buys it at the original cost.

Remember the point of an estate sale is to sell everything. This means you’re putting a price tag on every last item in the home. Save yourself some time by bulk pricing. Instead of labeling every book, display them in a bookshelf and hang a sign that says, “All Books $2.” It’s also a good idea to keep some stickers or tags handy to mark large items as sold if they’re too big for people to carry around with them as they look.

A good way to make sure things sell is to reduce their price as the days of the sale go on. Try this pricing scale:

  • Day 1: Full price
  • Day 2: 25% off
  • Day 3: 50% off

Pro-Tip: Don’t advertise sale reductions ahead of time as this may deter customers from coming on the first day. Simply alert customers as they’re shopping or hang signs on discount days.

Now that you know some good pricing tactics, here’s a look at the real question: how much should you sell this or that for?

Antique Silver Utensils Surrounded By Antique Silver Boxes.

How to Price Household Items for an Estate Sale

This is not an easy task, but try to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. What would you pay for this second-hand item? When all else fails, consider hiring a professional.

Use this estate sale pricing guide to get the most out of your sale.

Check the Item’s Condition.

You probably would expect a discount if a tea set was missing a saucer or if a table had a few noticeable scratches, so assume a customer would, too. Consider not selling something if it’s broken, if there are several missing pieces or it’s not functioning properly.

Know What’s Desirable.

The more in-demand something is, the higher you can price it. Is it a popular brand, signed by a well-known artist, a collectible or highly unique? Keep these questions in mind when deciding how much it’s worth.

Consider the Time of Year.

If you’re trying to sell camping gear in the winter, you probably won’t be able to sell it for as much as you would in the summer when it’s in demand.

Do Some Research.

If you’re not sure what something is worth, the best way to figure it out is to see what other people are selling it for. Even appraisers and estate liquidators do similar research. Try these tools to figure out appropriate pricing:

  • Visit other estate sales if you have time.
  • Explore and
  • Search Google by description to find similar items.
  • Check online sites like CraigslisteBay and Facebook Marketplace.
  • See if vintage items are listed on or Antiques Roadshow’s appraisal archive.
Poof Estate Services Logo

“We have a very extensive list of appraisers that we work with. Because of this, it almost always makes sense to at least talk to a professional.”

Allison Ruby, Founder | Poof! Estate Services 

Step 4: Publicize the Sale

Possibly the most important part of the planning process is drawing people to your sale. Otherwise, all of your hard work will have been for nothing. Advertise in your local newspaper, on your local news sites, via social media and through sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. You can also list your sale on estate sale websites like and

On the days leading up to the sale and especially on the day of, place brightly-colored signs near the street to direct traffic to your property and attract passers-by. Make sure to include the dates, times and the address of your sale on your signs and in your ads. It’s also helpful to include pictures or highlight items you’ll be selling.

Wooden Chests and Mirrors Gathered in Small Space.

Step 5: Clean Up and Donate What’s Left

When your estate sale is finally over, divide whatever didn’t sell into donation and throw-away piles. You may not have much left in the toss category since you already decided what was in good enough condition to sell. If you have large items that you need to toss, rent a dumpster so you don’t have to take multiple trips to the landfill or wait for bulk pickup day.

Anything leftover can be donated to several organizations. Here are a few local charities that can be found nationwide:

Estate Sale Rules to Help Your Event Run Smoothly

Now that you’re prepared for your sale, think about the rules you want to enforce. Perhaps the most important rules are how many people will be allowed inside at once and how will you decide the order of people who enter. The general rule of thumb is to use a first come, first served policy. An alternative is using a number system, similar to a deli counter.

How the Number System Works

  • Give out numbers a few hours ahead of the sale so people don’t have to wait in a long line when you open.
  • Start calling numbers when the sale officially begins.
  • Customers must be somewhere in line (not necessarily in order) when their number is called, otherwise, they’ll have to wait at the end of the line.

Pro-Tip: Decide whether or not you’re going to use devices like Square to accept credit cards, if you’ll accept checks and if you’ll use apps like Venmo or PayPal as payment. Also decide if you’ll have someone available to help customers load large items into their cars. Whatever estate sale rules you decide on, make sure to post them along with your ads.

When Is the Best Time to Have an Estate Sale?

This can be irrelevant for many sellers because, often times, estate sales are time sensitive, whether you’re moving or closing out a loved one’s home. There’s no real answer to this question, but if you have the luxury of choosing when to hold the sale, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you’re going to utilize outdoor space, make sure to plan around weather conditions.
  • Weekends and mornings are usually the most popular times for estate sale shoppers.
  • There is more competition with other estate and garage sales in the spring and summer seasons.
  • If the items lend to the character of the house, it may be beneficial to hold the estate sale while you’re trying to sell the home.
  • Have the estate sale before listing the house if you’d rather have an empty home to sell.

Antique Jewelry and Brooches.

Reach Out for Help

Planning for an estate sale can be a grueling process, and it can be especially difficult if you’re not entirely ready to part with some belongings. In this case, consider hiring an estate sale liquidator.

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“If it’s your family’s estate, don’t run your own sale. It’s often too painful and there are times when you just have to let things go.”

Helaine Fendelman, Professional Fine Arts Appraiser | Helaine Fendelman & Associates 

Hiring a professional is also a good, hassle-free option if you’re having a hard time figuring out how to organize the sale, how to price items, if you have a tight deadline or if you’re looking to maximize your sale profits. Whether you decide to plan the estate sale yourself or seek help from a professional, take some time to do a little research before forging ahead.

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Treasure hunt: This handsome partial bedroom set is from early 19th century

Lovely exotic wood veneers enhance this bedroom grouping.

DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: I wonder if you can identify the period, style and approximate age of the bedroom furniture in the attached photos. The pieces were found in the attic of an old house in St. Paul, Minn. We “adopted” the furniture and always thought it was ornate, unique and heavy! But we don’t know anything about its history. What can you tell us?

— S.K., Minneapolis

DEAR S.K.: For the time period in which it was made, this is an attractive partial set of furniture. We say “partial” because the set is missing a nightstand, a bench for the vanity dresser and probably another chest or dresser.

This was an elegant set when it was made in the United States, probably somewhere in the Midwest. Places such as Grand Rapids, Mich., Zeeland, Mich., Evansville, Ind., Batesville, Ind., or a myriad other heartland places could have been the place of origin. But without a label or a branded-in signature, it is hard to say more than this about the manufacturer.

“Manufacturer” is the correct word in this case, not craftsman or cabinetmaker. The set was made in a factory using methods of mass production that can easily be seen in the pressed bellflower motifs on the vanity and bed headboard, as well as the pressed shield that forms the crest of the mirror and the aforementioned headboard.

This is not a bad thing, necessarily, but it is typical for American furniture made in the 1920s and early 1930s. If we were pinned down, we would say the set was built just before the stock market crash in 1929, say circa 1924-28.

As for the style, it is a standard 1920s mish-mosh. But at the time, it might have been referred to as “formal French” or something close to that. In truth, we think these are nice examples of 1920s French-influenced furniture with exceptional veneers of exotic wood that create a kind of kaleidoscopic fan across the top of the vanity table.

We also think the extensive elaborate string inlays — one large band of diamond shapes and another narrower band of square shapes — are eye-catching and add interest and value to this set. There may, however, be a problem. In the photograph, we think we see a large area of discoloration on the vanity dresser top that is distracting and could be hard to fix.

Veneers on 1920s furniture can be delicate and must be treated with a certain amount of care and caution. If this large area does in fact exist and S.K. wants to fix it, she should make sure the vanity is placed in the hands of a professional who understands the need for finesse and a light hand.

As for its insurance replacement value, with a large discolored area on the vanity, it is about $1,000 for the set. Without the stain, the price should rise to $1,500.

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Treasures in Your Attic: Lamp might have originally been part of stand-alone sculpture

Unanswered questions about this lamp make the value more difficult to pinpoint.

DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: My wife’s grandmother gave us this lamp, which has “Humplik” on the bottom. Do you have any information on this piece? Thank you.

— PVF, St Paul, Minn.

Treasures in your Attic sig

DEAR PVF: At first we thought t“Humplik” was a misread or a misprint, but then we found a clue that led us to Josef Humplik, who was born in Vienna on Aug. 17, 1888.

He studied art in both Germany and Austria, but World War I intervened, and he became one of those “daring young men in their flying machines.” Unfortunately, Humplik crashed his airplane and was wounded.

Humplik was reportedly a painter, sculptor, graphic artist and medalist, and after his crash, he became an “official war artist.” We aren’t sure what this means. But after the war, Humplik worked for the Vienna Burgtheater (where works by Mozart and Beethoven had premiered) and after 1923 for the Vienna Porcelain Factory Augarten.

Humplik’s sculptural work can be found in bronze, clay and plaster. He was known for his portrait busts — especially those of artists — but he also created public monuments. His statue “The Runners” received an honorable mention at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

This brings us to the lamp in today’s question, and we have several questions we might not be able to answer satisfactorily.

First, we wonder about the bust, which appears to have been carved from ivory. We did find another example of Humplik’s work that had a bronze body and a carved ivory bust. But we must conclude this is a technique Humplik seldom used. We wonder if the bust might not be made from white porcelain, since Humplik worked at Augarten. But that, too, would be rather unusual.

Our next question centers around whether the piece was always configured as a lamp or if a piece of sculpture was converted at a later date. The sculpture portion, which was influenced by the Vienna Secessionist movement, might be as early as 1910. But a lamp such as this would have been unusual for this pre-World War I date. If the piece is from the 1920s, it is a little more possible, but we believe the figure might have existed as a stand-alone sculpture before it became a lamp.

If this is the case, we think the lamp should be valued for insurance purposes in the $1,500-$2,000 range. If the figure is original to the lamp, the price would go up by as much as $500. If the bust is white porcelain and not ivory, the value would drop to around $1,000.

Unfortunately, ivory items cannot be sold in New York, California, New Jersey, Hawaii or Washington state. Interstate commerce is forbidden altogether, but sales within states that do not prohibit it are OK for antique ivory items made prior to 1990 for African elephant ivory pieces and prior to 1975 for objects made from Asian elephant ivory. So the monetary value of this item is questionable.

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Ornate chest likely made in India

No matter what you call it, this chest is beautiful.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I inherited this chest from my parents. It was shipped to them from Saudi Arabia in 1968, and they referred to it as the “Kuwaiti chest.” My father said it was dug up in the desert somewhere. It measures 52 inches wide by 22 inches tall. Any information would be appreciated, and should I be concerned about sun damage since I have it in a room under a window?

Thank you,


Dear L.

This and similar chests are called by a variety of names. “Kuwaiti chest” is one of them. They are also referred to as Shirazi chests (if they show any kind of Persian influence in the design) and Zanzibar chests. They are also known as Omani chests and more generically “Arab chests.”

A Kuwaiti chest is sometimes associated with storage in the captain’s quarters of a seagoing dhow, which is a lateen-rigged (slanted triangular sail) ship that is thought to have originated in India. We also found that at least some of the chests might have been decorated by seamen on dhows during long voyages.

Dhows are often associated with Middle Eastern and Indian vessels sailing in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean but can also be found on the Nile River. Depending on the size, a dhow can have a crew of between 12 and 30. But we think this particular chest was far too large to have been housed in the captain’s cabin of a dhow and was probably not decorated by a ship’s crew.

Instead, we think it is a dower chest — the chest a young woman brought to her new home containing both her material wealth and items she would need to set up housekeeping. We do not have a photograph to substantiate this, but we suspect the top on the piece raises up to reveal an interior that probably has a lidded till along the side at the top of the interior that was designed to hold valuables such as jewelry and/or money.

As for the piece having been dug up in the desert, we doubt if this is literally true. Such a circumstance would have damaged the piece terribly, but it may have some figurative or metaphoric meaning. We believe the piece was actually made in India (some sources suggest near the Pakistan border or even in Pakistan itself), and the wood is probably either teak or shisham (aka Dalbergia sissoo), also called Bombay blackwood or North Indian rosewood.

The beautifully decorated dower chest is probably late 19th or early 20th century and shows English influence in the batwing pulls on the bottom drawer fronts. We suggest keeping the beautiful piece out of direct sunlight because it will eventually fade the wood on the top. This would diminish aesthetic and monetary value.

We have seen similar Kuwaiti dower chests sell for very little at auction (less than $500), but at retail we have found them priced at more than $3,000. This leaves us in a bit of a quandary, but we feel the chest should be insured in the $2,500-$3,000 range.

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