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Profitable or Priceless?

Rose teacup and saucer 25 cents.

Antique rose teacup and saucer $7.

Vintage Royal Doulton teacup and saucer $12.

Vintage Royal Doulton teacup and saucer Arcadia Pattern $20.

Royal Doulton teacup and saucer, a gift from grandmother's collection. Priceless.

Whatever you collect - teacups, eggbeaters, or Mickey Mouse cookie jars - these treasures can be "cash in the attic," or dust collectors in the basement depending on who, what, when, where, why and how your collectibles are sold.

Robby Miller, a Talent antiques and collectibles dealer, uses her 30 years of expertise to conduct estate sales and organize identification clinics a la Antiques Roadshow. She is also a founder of Southern Oregon Antiques & Collectibles Club (SOACC).

Her advice: Know your market - what is the supply and demand? Become educated - "know what you have." Is it just a very old teacup, or a vintage Royal Doulton?

If you searched the cyber-library at Google and keyed in collecting teacups, you would discover 75,800 sites. The Jackson County Library, where the SOACC has donated a huge collection of reference materials, and local antique shops are also good places to peruse price guides and history books.

Doris Cearly, the Main Antique Mall owner, advises collectors to do some comparative market analysis by visiting antique malls, going to shows, or taking a "walk" along eBay.

If in doubt, contacting a certified appraiser is also recommended. This will give sellers "peace of mind about the value of their collectibles," says Gina Kotler, a sales consultant at Snappy Auctions, an eBay consignment service in Medford. "Especially, when there is an emotional investment, like in the case of a family heirloom."

Can you make some cold cash from your collectibles? Yes, but before you say, "show me the money," check out your options:

  • Sell to a dealer, "who will (probably) take 25 cents on the dollar," Miller says. You may have to locate an out-of-town dealer, she adds. "Then, there is the expense of shipping or traveling."

  • Advertise in the local newspaper or a trade publication like Old Stuff Newspaper.

  • Have a yard sale, where bargain hunters pay a nickel to 10 cents on the dollar, and the leftovers are boxed up for charity.

  • Rent space at a Sunday flea market for approximately $20 per table, or at a weekend antiques and collectibles show for about $85 per table.

  • Open a booth at an antiques mall. A 100-square foot booth at Main Antique Mall in Medford will run $125 a month, or $1.15 per square foot. Dealers with small inventories rent glass cases, Cearly says. This costs $35 to $75 per month depending on size. The mall owner receives 10 percent commission on sales. Rental and commission fees cover operating costs, insurance, advertising and security.

    If your collection isn't huge, you could throw in your lot with other collectors and hire someone to conduct an estate sale or auction. "Those handling estates work on 30 to 50 percent commission," says Miller. "And you need to have enough stuff to make it worth an auctioneer's time."

    The other option is to sell on eBay. Internet auctions have been a boon to the antiques and collectibles industry, says Miller.

    If you're not interested in doing it yourself, Snappy Auctions is the new kid on the Internet auction block. You can drop off your vintage valuables and let them do the selling.

    First, you need a minimum of $50 worth of merchandise in mint condition. "We check for flea bites, veins, or chips," says Kotler. "We look at the age, maker, condition and history of an item." Though "pristine is preferred for most collectibles, items like silver and some furniture should be left in their aged condition," she says. "The patina on silver makes it more valuable."

    After your knickknacks pass muster, a sales consultant will list the items and monitor bids; after the sale, they package and ship the items to the buyer. You pay a 15 to 35 percent commission depending on the final sales price.

    Selling off your cherished curios could be a sentimental journey. Or is it just business, not personal?

    "You need to ask yourself why you are selling," says Kotler. "And choose a selling strategy that protects both the emotional and financial investment you have in your collection."

    Profitable or Priceless?