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Trash, treasure, or trend?

Downsizing in a disposable society

Created date

February 17th, 2016

Carolyn Remmey conducts appraisal events

An antiques and fine art appraiser in the New York tristate area helps seniors pare down to live it up in retirement.

Carolyn Remmey of Remmey Antiques and Fine Art has been conducting appraisals, auctions, and downsizing assistance for almost 30 years. Many of her clients are retirees moving from a large single family home to an apartment at a maintenance-free retirement community, such as Seabrook, the Erickson Living community in Tinton Falls, N.J.

Working methodically, Remmey and her crew help people identify and sell valuable items and sell or donate what’s left. They often aid homeowners in donating a valuable piece of artwork or vintage books to a museum or library. 

“What might be overwhelming for most people isn’t overwhelming for us,” she says. 

“A service like Remmey’s is invaluable for the person trying to downsize who has collectibles, antiques, or vintage books,” says Laurie Williamson, personal moving consultant for Seabrook. 

Antiques in today’s market

Williamson says that throughout the downsizing process, many people hold onto items with hopes of selling them for big bucks. However, Remmey says, value is based on trends and can often be deceiving.

“There’s a lot of family folklore when it comes to antiques because antiques don’t necessarily go up in value. What great-grandma said was worth $3,000 may only be worth $75 or $100 today. That can be very hard for people to accept,” she says. 

The same goes for silver flatware and china that people expect to pass down to their children or grandchildren. “A lot of times, adult children don’t want those things because they already have everything,” Remmey says.

Williamson adds, “We are a disposable society. Everybody wants new or trendy.”

Remmey says that while any item in your house can be someone else’s trash or treasure, the current trends determine its value.

For example, early American-style reproductions made by Kittinger Furniture Company of Buffalo, N.Y., are often worth more than original early American pieces. Kittinger made Colonial Williamsburg furniture reproductions from 1937 to 1990. Reproductions include furniture, glass, ceramics, prints, crystal, silver, pewter, and glass.

Hidden treasure

While we’ve all heard of people who have found a rare original Van Gogh or U.S. Constitution hiding in their attic, Remmey says those occasions are few and far between. 

“Usually when people have something of worth, they know it. But it has happened,” she says, recalling a time when she discovered a painting worth $75,000 hanging on someone’s wall. 

Often, she says, rare first-edition books are items that people don’t realize have value. 

Tag sales and auctions

Once Remmey identifies valuable items, she often organizes a tag sale or online auction of remaining items. These are convenient ways to sell that sterling silver tea set or Tiffany flatware you thought your kids would want.

For online auctions, Remmey takes property on consignment, photographs and catalogues it, then posts it online with 5 to 15 photographs. Within 45 days of the auction, proceeds go to the owner. Remmey’s consignment fee is a 10% to 30% sliding scale based on the item’s value.

For tag sales, Remmey marks each item for sale with a price tag and opens the home up to the public for one to three days. 

“The purpose of the tag sale or auction is to sell as much property as we can with the least amount of stress on you,” Remmey says.