Coping with Collections

Many of us have collections that we are no longer interested in keeping, or have inherited from someone else. These could be things like postcards, stamps, souvenir teaspoons, or any other items that people have intentionally gathered into a collection. It can be difficult to decide how to deal with these items, particularly if you have not been an active collector in recent times, and don’t have any up to date knowledge or contacts.

If you are in the early stages of a major decluttering project, don’t let these special items get you bogged down. Dealing with collectables is an “advanced” decluttering activity. If you have a lot on your plate your time is better spent on easier and more obvious declutter tasks where you can see some immediate success for your efforts. If you come across collectables that are going to require some detailed thinking, sorting or research I suggest that you set them aside and mentally flag them as a separate project for when you have the time or inclination.

Once you decide to tackle a group of collectables, there are a few steps you are need to go through:

1. Sort what you have.
Go through the items and see what you have and what condition they are in. Are there any obvious groupings or sub-groupings based on factors such as age, country of origin, style or rarity. Should these be handled differently? Are they all in adequate condition, or do some have to be culled. Get a good sense of what it is that you are dealing with.

2. Assess value
Decide whether you think all or any of the items are likely to be valuable to a collector, dealer or museum. You might want to do some internet research. For example eBay has records of items that have been sold in the past. Also decide whether there are any items that you want to keep due to their sentimental value or as a token of the larger collection.

3. Consider options
There are a number of options for distributing unwanted collections for example:
– Selling directly on eBay or Gumtree (Australia)
– Contacting a collectors association which may be able to give personal advice, or have fairs that you can attend
– Check the local paper for dealers willing to buy full collections
– Approach pawn shops or second hand stores
– Sell at auction via an auction house
– Locate charities which accept collectables as donations for resale
– Donate to a museum, gallery or historical society.

4. Determine your priorities
At this point you need to think carefully about your priorities. If the items may be valuable, decide if you want to try and recoup some or all of their value, or if you are willing to make a donation that will benefit a charity or public institution. If you want to recoup some value, consider how important it is to get the best price possible, in relation to the amount of effort you will need to put in. Keep in mind its likely that the more value you want to recoup, the greater the cost to you in terms of time or fees.┬áSelling in bulk to dealers or pawn shops will bring in some monetary return, but they will need to pay you significantly less than retail value to cover their risk and effort in order to make a profit. If the item is valuable and appealing, an auction may the best option even though there will be fees involved. Although you may not get retail price, these methods are still a good solutions compared to the collection sitting in the garage. Selling items directly to other collectors may result in a higher return, however there is a likely to be more time and effort involved in researching, listing and negotiating sales of individual items. Be careful that you don’t commit to a bigger task than you are really willing to take on.

5. Make a plan and take action.
Once you have made a decision, you will need to make a plan and take decisive action. If it proves to be too difficult, or time consuming, don’t be afraid to go to Plan B.

The nice thing about letting go of a collection is that you know the items are going to someone who appreciates them. Sometimes we feel we should get the most money possible for our collections, but this way of thinking can be a barrier to making real progress with decluttering, particularly if you have a lot of items to disburse. Taking pleasure in the enjoyment that others will derive from your collection can be a big help in letting go graciously.


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