Saturday, May 30, 2009

Barbies over Buffets

People, men especially, often assume when they are downsizing or dealing with an estate that the most valuable items are the pieces of furniture. They are wrong. In fact it’s just the opposite.

When I get calls from people and they tell me all about the furniture, like how much it cost originally, how well it’s been taken care of, that it’s solid wood and it’s “better than the stuff they make today” kind of furniture, none of this matters.

I ask “Can you see it in your daughter’s home?” or your grandsons, or in a current decorating magazine? Often times the phone goes silent; “Ah, I never thought of it that way” is the response. Unfortunately that’s the only question you should be asking yourself.

Most of the current consumers of furnishings, young to middle aged people who are setting up house or redecorating are seeking a ‘look’ which ranks much higher in the scheme of things than whether it’s solid wood or not. In fact, these people grew up with stores like IKEA, where everything comes in a flat box with an Allan key and you build it yourself. It costs a fraction of what our grandparent’s paid for their stuff and only lasts a fraction of the time it used to. Ah, but you see that’s ok because we want to change our ‘look’ or interior every few years anyways. It’s an extension of the ‘throw away’ generation started by the baby boomers that I discussed a few days back.

Another reason to consider is that the average person only has so much furniture, like one dining room set, a few bedroom suites, a couple of couches. However with smaller collectibles such art glass or silver or jewelry you can have shelves and drawers full, and so the demand can be almost limitless. And also keep in mind that with the advent of the World Wide Web and such marketplaces as eBay and craigslist we are able to offer these smaller things to people spanning the globe over and ship them with relative ease.

So when you are wondering about the value of your stuff or an estate, look in the dresser drawers, buffets and china cabinets, think of your daughters 1960s Barbies and your father’s 1930 fountain pen, not the solid pecan dining room suite you bought at the Art Shoppe 40 years ago. It’s given you years of service and happy times but unfortunately that’s about it!

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