'70s Furniture Is Hot, Formal China Is Not

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Sep. 26, 2011 12:00 am  

More casual lifestyles mean some of the things that represented important investments for earlier generations are now hard to sell even at bargain-basement prices, according to local estate sale operators.

Estate sale shoppers are more interested in buying individual pieces of a china or crystal pattern to fill out their existing collections than to buy full sets, according to John Gaiser, an owner of Pennsylvania Trading Co. of Little Rock.

Prices for Depression-era glassware, a hot commodity just a few years ago, are down dramatically because the Internet has made it much easier for collectors to find pieces of their preferred patterns, according to Anna Harper, proprietor of Anna's Estate Sales.

"It sells, but it's half what it used to be. Same with Hummels," she said, referring to the ubiquitous German porcelain figurines that were sent home as gifts by GIs stationed in Europe after World War II.

Silver serving pieces are still selling well but mainly for the metal value rather than for practical use, Gaiser said. For actual entertaining, estate sale shoppers are more likely to pick up leftover paper plates and disposable cups at a fraction of the price of new.

"It's harder to sell things like antiques and tchotchkes," said Kathy Cecchin of Conway, who for three years has done business as The Estate Sale Queen. "I've noticed in the time that I've done it that a lot of what people are buying are what people need - mattresses, microwaves, recliners, pots and pans, towels, things like that - without paying retail. A lot of these [sellers] have really good things, and it's a lot cheaper even than TJ Maxx."

Meanwhile, things that used to be passé are finding new markets. Vinyl record albums are selling better than they were when Pennsylvania Trading Co. opened for business two years ago, Gaiser said. And the appearance of quilts in recent Pottery Barn catalogs seems to have lighted a fire under the price of vintage quilts, Gaiser's wife and business partner, Emily, said.

Furniture from the 1970s is also trending upward.

"Ten years ago I couldn't give away '70s stuff. Now that's what the young people want," Harper said.

Vintage clothing can find buyers, and vintage kitchen gadgets are trendy - especially in turquoise color, John Gaiser said.

Jewelry, especially costume jewelry, always sells well, Harper and the Gaisers agreed, as does patio furniture.

"People love outdoor furniture," Harper said. "I think people redecorate their patios when they can't redo the inside."

Estate sale operators encourage sellers to leave anything and everything that they no longer want in the house because even the smallest items can have value.

"We have the ladies who make a beeline for the cleaning supplies," Emily Gaiser said, and towels that are too worn for family use are very popular with dog owners.

"We sell everything from canned goods to diamonds," Harper said. "Don't throw anything away."



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