July 29, 2015 - Michele Woodburn
Greetings Royal Friends and Followers,
It is just the nature of our business, but we usually do not get to meet the owner of the estate. We are usually dealing with an executor.
When we work with someone who is downsizing, we are happy to become acquainted with them in the process, in fact it helps us to facilitate. We get to hear stories and are told of milestones in the person’s life. Not only do these help us to know the person better, but they help us set up the sale, and help us at the point of sale. Having that information tells us how to present the items in the sale, and helps us in the research process.
When we work with an executor, we also hear life stories. We use that information in presentation and research as well. Working with an executor though, usually means the entire contents of the house must be gone through, including personal papers and items that normally would move with a person who is downsizing. Working on a decedent estate rather than a living estate offers the unique opportunity of getting to know a persons’ whole life story through their belongings. You might be surprised at how well we get to know and care about people we never met, and how much we learn about them in the process.
We learn about things like the youthful crush on celebrities of the era, from photos and autographs stored in an old scrapbook. We learn about the time someone developed an interest in the occult from books in the library, horoscope charts, and a crystal ball and stand. We learn about friends and family from letters tucked into recipe books. We discover aspirations to fame in letters to and from music companies.
Many people do not realize how salable some items are. Scrapbooks hold pictures of people in period clothing, location shots from places of historical interest or now very much changed, location shots from events such as World Fairs or political gatherings. Items such as tickets, menus, brochures and handbills gathered to commemorate an occasion such as a political event, a trip, a concert, a game or a play may be interesting to collectors of ephemera. We recently sold a pedestrian ticket to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on opening day. One estate had photos of the family on the Bridge on the same day. Two different families connected by participation in the same event in time.
Books say a great deal about the person! It was a real surprise to discover that a very well educated school teacher, who had a number of wonderful history and philosophy books, also had a love for romance novels! Or the fun of finding the quiet cello player with a stash of psychedelic Rock and Roll handbills!
Organizing an estate sale means pulling things out from their normal locations and placing all like items together. Sometimes this means seeing everything in one place for the first time, and it is a surprise to see how much we collect! One estate had a photo of the woman sitting with all her little ceramic animals. Her collection covered 3 card tables and the piano behind her! When we organized the sale, we counted over 600 ceramic animals! One woman we were doing a living estate for was shocked to see how much Tupperware she had acquired!
Every estate is a new opportunity to learn something for us. We learn about the items we’re selling, but we also learn about the people and how they lived and looked at life. The people we work with and for is what it’s really all about for us. Every estate is an opportunity to fall in love all over again.
If you have ever had to help someone move, or cleared a house for someone, share with us the surprises you encountered. Only the funny or good surprises though, we don’t want anyone embarrassed by what was swept under the rug!
Ta Ta For Now,
Her Sparkling Majesty, Queen Michele