This whole de-cluttering thing? WE’VE BEEN DOING IT WRONG.
As I was thinking about my mixed marriage (one pretty hoardish, one only a teeny bit hoard-y) I idly surfed around the ‘net and found a site about hoarding with a page for visitors to list why they hoard. Someone wrote:
“Fear that things will become more valuable in time, and if you throw them away, then you will miss out on their value. The Antiques Road Show is terrible for me. I hoard antiques, and fear selling them, because I might need the money some day.”
I think this may be true. A lot of people hoard for that reason, and Antiques Road Show is not the only siren singing on the rocks. Cash in the Attic, American Pickers, and Bargain Hunt all remind us in a delightful chorus that hoarding can be rewarding, and that last phrase rhymes which makes it more true.
BUT IF YOU SELL, you are no longer a packrat, you are a wealthy ART CONNOISSEUR.
Case in point: while the husband and I were going through our billions of books with an eye to thinning their ranks, I came across an old copy of Paleopathological Diagnosis and Interpretation, dust jacket and all. “That set me back plenty, back in the day,” I said. “Worthless now, I’m sure.” My husband darted to the computer and found that the least expensive used copy sells for $100. Then we went through the nicer books and discovered even more gold.
When I cleaned out my attic I came across tons of old anime cels, books, and tchatchkas that have more than doubled in value. I turned those over to a friend who sells at conventions and we split the proceeds. To make room for a new, (well, its a 1969 BSA, not really NEW) motorcycle, my husband sold two at a shocklingly handsome profit.
So if YOU cleaned up, you could REALLY CLEAN UP. You could bring to auction a rhinoceros-horn drinking cup that was worth a few hundred dollars in the 1980s and have it sell for $120,000. Or maybe you’ll find a May 1939 Batman comic. One recently brought $1.075 million at auction. You might even have a #1 Barbie on your hands (here’s how you can tell.) This one is up on ebay for $4,500.
[DIGRESSION] The internet is too, too diverting. While looking for True Stories of attic treasures, I surfed into Morpeth, Northumbia, UK, and learned that King John granted a market charter for the town in 1199, and market day is still every damned Wednesday of the world. Hardcore shoppers, those Morpethites. Perhaps there are some bargains to be had (and flipped to ebay for a profit!)[END DIGRESSION]
Anyway, here are some tips for identifying cool stuff around the house that you can trade for cash. I have determined these rules scientifically by watching the aforementioned television programs on the BBC and the History Channel.
1. If you love it and think it’s beautiful, its probably worthless.
2. If you find an item in the attic and your heart leaps, and you are CERTAIN you have just made the find of the century, it’s probably worthless.
3. If you paid a lot for it thirty years ago, it will be worth less now.
4. If you threatened your brother with shunning if he took that fascinating three-handled family credenza from great-aunt Mildred’s basement after she met her reward, it’s worth about $75.
5. If you tossed an old slipper into your brother’s pile while sorting through great-aunt Mildred’s basement, it was Marie Antoinette’s and is worth OVER $9000.
6. If it’s a piece of crap you were about to throw away but your spouse said “Hey, lets see if some fool on Craig’s List will give us five bucks for it,” it’s worth at least $300.
7. If you think it’s God-awful ugly and you kept it only while great-aunt Millie was alive because it was her wedding gift to you, it’s worth PLENTY.
8. If it’s a large piece of furniture at the top of a long flight of stairs, it’s worth $7,500, minimum. Add $1000 per additional flight, and good luck getting it downstairs without a scratch.
And finally, all kidding aside, Amazon and abebooks are excellent for determining the value of your books, and ebay for most other things. Also, google is my friend (and a thief of time.) Some auction houses will, with an emailed description and photo, provisionally value your item (in the hope that you’ll list it with them,) and many reputable houses offer appraisal events. Check your local auction houses (the Clars here also offer email appraisals, at that link.) There are art listings on the internet, too.
Tell me about your glorious treasures, your brave adventures and your grand successes in retail hoarding. If you research the value of something cluttering your life, come tell me what you found out. Then sell it.
[Also! Posting in Joss' s spot. We are all moving up a day, and if she feels well enough, she'll post on Friday. If she can barely haul her narrow butt out of bed to shower, we don't expect her to clear out a closet, no matter WHAT kind of treasures she'll find in there. Email her some smooches!]