How to Find Great Items at an Estate Sale in Santa Barbara


Estate Sales are a guilty pleasure. They provide a great way to rummage through the past and see how people lived, what they collected, and what they loved. It’s a history lesson and a small glimpse of the past. Estate Sales provide a dual purpose. It cleans out a house that desperately needs to be emptied and provides goods for resellers, antique dealers and Ebayers alike. There are items like photographs, postcards, old kitchen utensils, tableware and figurines. Household items like quilts, bedspreads, linens, china, glass and much more can be offered.

It often makes families sad to let things go after the passing of a family member. Once you take what’s important to you, the rest is just stuff, material things. You can’t take it with you and as a family member you can’t keep it all either. An estate sale is a great way to dispose of goods and offer them for sale. While one would like to think that “regular people” are customers of estate sales, the fact is, the majority of people at any given sale are dealers of some sort. As the person hosting the sale, that is an important factor in how items are priced. If you price so that a profit can be made, things will fly out the door. If not, there will be plenty of things left to haul out or put in storage. You may end up having to throw something away that you could have made a few bucks on. I hope you enjoy some of my fun secrets to finding great things at Estate Sales.

Where are the Sales? Estate sales are everywhere. Check all your local papers including the freebies. Some sales will be listed in one paper and not another. New websites are popping up all over the place to advertise sales. You can join our mailing list to receive updates anytime we host an estate sale. There is also a certain classified website started by a man named Craig, where you can find house sales and lots of items for sale. Do your research and you may come across a sale others haven’t seen.

Go Where Others Do Not: Estate Sale companies generally put all the “good stuff” in the front room by the cash out area where they can keep a good eye on it. I find that while everyone is rushing towards those items, be the first one into the basement or kitchen where lesser known or demand items wait for you.

Pick It Up Quick: If you like it and are interested in it, pick it up. If you don’t, believe me when I tell you someone else will. They will have no trouble snatching it out from under your nose.

Get There Early: In our area you have to be the early bird to catch the worm. Dealers wait for hours to get into sales first. While it isn’t always completely necessary in order to get a good deal, it can help.

Get there Late: Don’t think everything is gone the last day of a sale. Prices will become negotiable and what was once about making a profit becomes about clearing out a house. Many companies host bag sales and 50% to 75% off the last day.

Educate Yourself: You can’t know everything about everything, no one can. Pick an area of items you are interested in and learn all you can. For example, all estates have a kitchen. What type of old kitchen items are in demand? Surprisingly, coffee makers, small appliances and kitchen tools can command good prices and shouldn’t be overlooked. I guarantee this isn’t what the average antique dealer is looking for. Obscure areas are best and where you’ll find the least amount of competition. Garages are another great example. Who doesn’t have tools? Find out what tools bring cash and educate yourself on them.

Stay Away from the Obvious: Everyone knows McCoy and Roseville are popular collectibles and they are usually priced accordingly. While everyone else is fighting for the more common and obvious things, educate yourself on marks that aren’t so obvious. Work on learning about good pottery that is unmarked for instance or the maker name that is represented by a symbol. It gives you a foot up on your competition.

Keep it Clean and Honest: There is a lot of bickering, pushing and shoving at sales. Stay out of it and put yourself above it. Getting a reputation as a trouble maker with an estate company will get you banned by all the companies. They talk amongst themselves and spread the word. No item is worth being blackballed or even subjecting yourself to that sort of nastiness. Theft is a common occurrence in some areas. It just hurts the industry and wrecks a good time for everyone.

Be Respectful: Sometimes even though a company may host a sale, family members will come. Keep your opinions to yourself if you don’t like something. No family wants to hear what you think of their Precious Moments collection especially if you are saying it’s worthless junk. It’s just rude and cruel and don’t forget that you don’t know who is listening. You have been invited in to purchase what you are interested in. If you aren’t interested, walk away and thank them for the opportunity.

Good luck in your Estate Sale endeavors. We hope you can use some of our tips to come out on top!

Original article posted on Ebay

Continue Reading No Comments

Preserving and Restoring Antique Furniture Coatings

Antique Furniture Restoration Santa Barbara

Coatings accomplish several functions when used in conjunction with wooden objects. First, and probably foremost in terms of the fabricator’s intent, is that coatings alter the appearance of the surface. That is, coatings serve some aesthetic purpose. Second, coatings offer protection to the object’s surface (spills, abrasion, etc.) and structure (relative humidity [RH] shifts and ensuing dimensional-change-caused deterioration). Finally coatings provide scholars, including conservators and historians, information regarding the practices and technologies of the past.

As with other considerations when evaluating historic artifacts of all kinds, these factors must be integrated with the precept that all materials which exist as part of an object contribute to the integrity and uniqueness of that object. Both historic and contemporary fabricators of wooden objects generally consider(ed) coatings, particularly “non decorative,” to be a potentially sacrificial element of the whole. However, for the reasons enumerated above, conservators do not consider any portion of an object to be routinely expendable, including finishes and coatings.

Contrary to the “strip and dip” approach to dealing with coatings so prevalent in many commercial refinishing and restoration shops, conservators and sensible restorers attempt to preserve the coating on the object whenever possible. This is not to suggest that coatings are never altered or replaced in the course of conducting a conservation treatment on an object. In many cases this intrusion must take place, but the ideal is to intercede minimally and to leave the surface as undisturbed as possible while assuring stability for, and preservation of the artifact. Preserving finishes and treating degraded coatings requires a broad base of knowledge and diverse skills, including the knowledge of coating materials and their deterioration, as well as craft skills necessary to manipulate the films, whether in preserving existing films or applying new coatings.

The manifestation of coating deterioration depends entirely on the kind of film forming materials used, additives used to modify that material, and the various environment conditions to which the coating has been subjected. A beginning point in the treating and preserving of coatings is the most specific description of the coating system possible. Coating systems can range from simple single component applications to sophisticated preparations applied in an exacting and complex procedure.

This will be an overview of the field of coatings and their preservation as a whole. Any of the areas of discussion here, coating materials and techniques, coating deterioration, and treatment of degraded coatings, could and have filled volumes. In addition to existing literature, dozens of conservators and other scholars are continuing to prepare articles, monographs and books on the subject of furniture coatings. With that in mind the reader is reminded of the superficial nature of the information presented here (in general), with particular emphasis on the temporal pertinence of the treatment section. The conservation treatment of damaged furniture finishes is a relatively new discipline, and it is likely that much of the framework discussed for such treatments will be superceded by new techniques and approaches in relatively short order.

Coating Materials

The scope of materials used to form finishes on furniture and wooden objects is a broad one encompassing ingredients from several categories. The most general distinction delineating coatings is whether they are transparent (varnishes), opaque (paint or polychromy) or metallic (leaf). Among these are waxes, gums, and oils, plus natural and synthetic resins, all of which can be used as transparent coatings. By the addition of dyes or pigments to transparent materials, paints are formulated. Paints are also formed by the addition of colorants to liquids which are not usually employed as transparent coatings, such as casein or “milk paint.” There are also coatings of applied metal sheet, such as gold and silver leaf, which are adhered to a wood or mineral substrate with protein or resinous binders. Finally, there are film formers which do not fit neatly into any of the aforementioned categories, such as urushiol, or Oriental lacquer, which is a reactive latex with vague similarities to both oils and resins, and which can be used as a transparent or opaque coating. Within the organization of this document urushiol is included with natural resins.

A second broad category of definition for coating materials involves the drying mechanism of the film, which in turn may reveal chemical and physical properties such as solubility, thermoplasticity, rheology, and others. Drying mechanisms are separated into two broad categories; solvent release and polymerization. In solvent release or “spirit varnish” systems the coating film is a residue remaining after the evaporation of the volatile solvent from a solution containing the solvent and the involatile film former. Polymerizing or “reactive varnish” systems harden rather than dry. This is accomplished by the polymerization of the mono or oligomeric constituents of the formulation. In most cases the exact chemical reaction process of the polymerization is relatively unimportant for either the creating craftsman or the conservator/restorer.

In addition to film forming materials, coating formulations frequently contain additional materials to enhance certain properties of the coating. These additives can alter working characteristics of a liquid coating during application, or visual or physical properties of the dried films. Common additives to coating systems are solvents, plasticizers, gloss suppressants, retarders, colorants, and chemical degradation inhibitors.

There are several ways of organizing reviews of materials. Here, the information about the coatings is loosely grouped according to the respective material’s functionality as a coating on wood. It must also be noted that many, if not most formulations of coatings for wooden objects contain components from several of the groupings. Reviews of coating materials by chemical constituency can be found in several of the references listed after the conclusion.

Original article posted on Smithsonian Institute

Continue Reading No Comments

How Much Are Your Old Antiques Worth?

How-much-are-your-old-antiques worth

There are a number of resources and online tools available today that can help you find out the value of almost any item. Here are some tips to help you proceed.

Get an Appraisal
While many people use local antique shops or collectable dealers to find out the value of old and/or unique items, it’s usually best to use a certified appraiser who’s accredited and meets professional and ethical standards. Certified appraisers are more likely to give you a fair judgment because there’s no conflict of interest. It’s actually a violation of professional ethics for an appraiser to offer to buy an item he or she has appraised.

A professional appraiser will provide you a written report that includes a full description of your item and the procedure used to estimate its current value. For their service, you can expect to pay either a flat fee or an hourly rate from $200 to $400 depending on their expertise and location. Avoid an appraiser who asks for a fee based on a percentage of the item’s value.

If an appraiser thinks an object isn’t worth a written appraisal, he or she might recommend other resources to arrive at a value.

To locate an appraiser either by location or specialty, search online at one of the three professional appraising organizations: The American Society of Appraisers, which has around 5,000 members worldwide; Appraisers Association of America that has around 700 members; and the International Society of Appraisers that has about 900 members.

Online Resources
You can also get estimates by professional appraisers and other experts through a number of websites. How it works is you upload photos of your items and provide descriptions, and the sites send back valuations usually within a week.

Sites that provide this type of service include Value My Stuff, which charges $10 for one appraisal, $25 for three or $75 for 10. And WorthPoint, which charges $30 for one item or $75 for three, or you can pay $20 for a monthly membership that provides unlimited access to their antique and collectables valuations.

Another resource for finding out what antiques and collectables are worth is Kovels, which offers a free basic membership that gives you access to its online price guide, or you can purchase one of their premium services that run $39 or $60 a year. They also sell the “Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2014″ for $28 that reports on recent prices paid for 35,000 items in more than 700 categories at auctions, shops, shows, flea markets, and online.

You may also be able to get an idea of what others are willing to pay for your stuff by searching similar items on the massive online auction site, or the classified ads site Both of these sites are free to search.

Tax-Deductible Value If you are interested in donating any of your items, you can find out the tax-deductible value at free valuation sites available year-round by tax-prep companies like Turbo Tax, or The Salvation Army.

Original article posted on Huffington Post

Continue Reading No Comments

5 Things You Should Look for at Estate Sales

You already know that estate sales are where vintage buyers go to find the “good stuff” — well-priced antiques straight from the homes that housed them. If you’re not necessarily into retro collectibles, you may have driven past sales without a second thought. But, estate sales can be a great place to find more everyday items for a super-cheap price. Some pro tips before you hunt: Make sure to always have cash on-hand, because you’re in for a house-sized garage sale. While estate sale organizers may accept credit cards, you can often get the best deal with cash. If you’re not one to scour Craigslist, sign up for a site like EstateSales.Net, which can send you a newsletter with fresh listings. Ready to get started this weekend? Here’s what to take a second glance at — along with what to pass on. Silverware: The real thing can be pricey when new, but you can often find whole sets for a fraction of the cost. You can also find less-precious (but stylish) sets of everyday flatware for far less than, say, Target prices.
Big Furnishings: Older can be better when it comes to furniture, particularly when we’re talking about pieces like bureaus, tables and shelving units. You’ll generally find solid wood furniture that’s been lovingly kept up at these sales, for what you’d basically pay at IKEA.
Dishware: Whether it’s fine china or a fine piece to eat take-out on, you can find dishes at a steal.
Tablecloths (And Other Niceties): If you ever need to pass yourself off as a more civilized person, here’s where you find your props.
Glassware: Some of us have never paid more than $1 for glasses (or barware). You can find colorful vintage pieces, or plain old pint glasses.
Bonus Tip For The Ladies: Jewelry!
Though we would never come between anyone and their dream 1960s sofa, there are a few things you should generally skip: Big Appliances You don’t really have a chance to make sure they work properly. And, no warranty means no guarantee. Upholstered Furnishings One word: Bedbugs. Though we take a more cautious (paranoid) stance on that topic, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Cookware Take a very, very close look before you tote that darling enamelware fondue pot home. If there’s even a tiny chip, you run the risk of enamel spoiling your cheese heaven. Original article posted on Huffington Post

Continue Reading No Comments

How to Buy Antique Jewelry in Santa Barbara

Three Ways to Avoid Getting Burned Buying Antique Jewelry in the Santa Barbara Area

Antique Jewelry Santa Barbara

The rewards of finding and buying antique jewelry in Santa Barbara are pretty obvious: you can find some real treasures at very low prices. The risks are often less well understood. Although this topic deserves a few hundred pages in a book, here are a few essential tips that will help make your antique buying more fun and more profitable.

  1. Watch out for “designer” jewelry at local thrift stores and markets

There is an enormous black market in fake designer clothes and jewelry. Of course, you may want the designer name on the jewelry and may not actually care whether it is authentic. But if you are buying for value, including resale value, or if you plan to keep it and only want the genuine article, caveat emptor–buyer beware! If there’s a particular piece of antique jewelry in Santa Barbara you know you want to buy, try pricing the item online. Two great sources for price comparison indexing are “The Vintage Frames Company” and “Dope Couture”. Check prices there before you shop. Having a good sense of the pricing will help you avoid the twin dangers of paying too much on the high end and buying a fake piece on the low end.

  1. Shop at a consignment mall

If you buy vintage jewelry locally, you’ll have a much better chance of finding an authentic piece. Of course, reducing the risk of buying a fake piece also means your chance of finding a real piece that the proprietor priced way too low is also reduced. Here again, it pays to do your homework. There are a few reputable stores that sell antique jewelry in Santa Barbara and Goleta that have great experience in appraising. Antique Center Mall is probably the oldest, but we are not the only ones in town. :)

  1. Care for your antique jewelry

Probably the first rule of care is to wear your jewelry for show. Try not to wear it in situations where you risk breaking it. Repair is very difficult and in some cases may be impossible. Polish with a special jewelry polishing cloth. If you’re going to use a special cleaner, make sure it’s the right one for the piece you’ve purchased.

By the way, the Antique Center Mall has some great antique jewelry pieces for sale now. Happy buying!

Continue Reading No Comments