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On Selling Curios
( Originally Published 1913 )
Buying curios is one thing, but for a collector to sell them when he changes his "line," or for other reasons desires to part with his collection or some portion of it, is quite another matter. I have formerly pointed out that if one collects at all it is wise to collect pretty extensively, because then, at the end, the things can be sold together at a good auctioneer's with a client of collectors and dealers. But what of a collector who desires to sell a few things just now ?
Dealers' Offers. I commend the wisdom of the experts who estimate values at buying prices and not the top figures which the articles might fetch if they were part of a known collection and sold altogether at Christie's or Sotheby's. The fact is that a collector may take a fine piece or two to quite a string of dealers, one after another, and find himself offered very little, even by the most enterprising. It is not that the curio may not be valuable. What a dealer has to consider is how long it may be on his hands; how much sunk capital without interest accruing it may represent, and what his standing charges for rent, rates, insurance, service, advertisement, and depreciation are. Consequently the dealer must buy very cheaply whenever he can. His best chance of buying very cheaply is not at an auction sale, but when a collector comes into his shop and offers to sell him a curio or two. The dealer knows that a purchase may be on his hands a long time. A collector who goes past a curio-shop time after time will see the same curio in the window time after time.
Dealers' offers to collectors who want to sell are therefore low. One cannot blame the dealers for that. But when the point is, how may a collector realise reasonably on a few pieces which he wishes to sell? it is not by offering them to dealers, I am sure.
Putting into Auctions. A collector may sometimes get an auctioneer to put a few pieces into a sale of the contents of somebody else's house or of somebody else's collection. But auctioneers are quite properly chary of that. And, unless a reserve price be set on the objects they may sell for next to nothing; while, if a reserve price is fixed by the owner, the object may not sell at all.
The Newspaper Advertisement Method. Advertisement in periodicals with "curio" sections may be used to much purpose. But even advertisement does not always provide a quick and certain mode of disposing of curios at something like their value, estimated reasonably.