Blog by Dr. Lori

Three Scams to Avoid when Selling

by Dr. Lori Verderame
Three Scams to Avoid when Selling

Based on actual events, beware of these three tricks that people may use when making offers to buy your valuable antiques and collectibles. Some of the ridiculous stories that I have heard where buyers were trying to devalue an item in order to hoodwink the owner and get it for next to nothing are unreal, even silly. Of course, if they are planning to resell the piece, they have to make profit, but how much is fair? Don't fall victim to these tricks.

1. No envelope, No Value--Not True

The owner of a Civil War letter told me she was going to trash the hand-written letter of her ancestor, a Union officer, after a potential buyer told her that the letter was only valuable if she had the envelope too. While that statement was ridiculous, the owner admitted that she nearly tossed the valuable letter because she believed the buyer. After he told her the fib, he offered 25 dollars for the letter. It was worth 1,250 dollars. The no envelope/no value trick is often used by unscrupulous buyers when trying to buy World War I military letters, White House invitations, Presidential letters, and celebrity autographs, too. Read how to authenticate autographs.

2. No Caboose, No Value--Not True

Lionel train with box

A woman was left with her late husband's electric toy train set including a Lionel locomotive, various cars, track, etc. The set did not have a caboose. She was told by someone who wanted to buy the toy trains that since she didn't have the caboose she could just throw away the whole train set. Told that the train set was worthless without the caboose, she tossed the set. Luckily, her adult son retrieved them from the garbage. Believing that ridiculous story almost cost her 5,000 dollars. Do you know the difference between a purchase offer and an appraisal value?

3. No Signed Mat and Frame, No Value--Not True

Norman Rockwell drawing

A man brought me an original unframed drawing by Norman Rockwell of a boy with a toothache at one of my events. He was told that his drawing was worthless without the original signed mat and frame. While this Rockwell drawing was signed, the presented claim was that the most important signature was located on the mat underneath the frame which the owner did not have. Isn't this story amazing? And untrue too. My audience member didn't believe the story, thankfully, and learned that the piece was worth 45,000 dollars without a mat or frame. The person telling the story of needing a mat and frame offered 200 dollars for the "worthless" unframed piece. Use my tips to know how unsigned drawings can still be valuable.

If a potential buyers highlights something that is missing from your collection, set, or collectible, don't assume all of the other items are worthless too. They are most likely just trying to negotiate a better deal which you must respect. While complete sets may bring more money than incomplete sets, that is no reason to trash all of the other objects too. Don't be hasty, get an appraisal to know the true, current value and negotiate with confidence. Do you have a how do I know if this story is true question?

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