Dealers or antique lovers have several choices to pursue in their hunt for that special treasure or just bargain items. EBay is helpful to some, and auctions are always an option. Flea markets and garage sales are a possibility; but many make their first choice the conducted estate or house sales. Everything in the house is for sale, each item clearly marked, but bargaining is always a possibility.
Coy-Krupp Conducted Sales, Inc. is one of the premier sales organizations in the Chicago metropolitan area. Their sales vary from the ordinary person to recognizable names such as the estates of real estate magnate Arthur Rubloff and Chicago mob figure Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo.
Chris Coy and Tom Krupp have had their business for 17 years. Both have a long history of art and antique interests. Previously, Coy worked at an auction firm and Krupp as an antique dealer and furniture designer. Coy recalls collecting “lots of stuff” as a child and going to auctions with his grandfather. Both had attended many house sales and felt they could offer a high level of professionalism to their new business. They also wanted to individualize each estate, market it aggressively, appraise items carefully and make arrangements to totally clean out the home after the sale, so the family would be spared that problem. They are also active in the broad antique market and were the appraisers for Appraisal Fair which ran for several seasons on the Home & Garden (HGTV) network TV show.
Coy said, about the estate sale business, “Every sale is different and has different challenges. We learn some of the family story and life history of the deceased by the items for sale. We feel we have a big responsibility to the family to help dispose of things professionally but with a sense of dignity for the deceased.”
Part of the business success is an aggressive marketing campaign. About 1,500 cards are mailed out, hundreds of e-mails sent, the Web site is updated, and buyers who have identified special needs are telephoned. Many of the e-mails go overseas, especially to London and Canada, with items often being shipped there. Paintings are the most frequent item to leave the country.
Coy commented, “When we first walk through a home, we can spot numerous items that will be of interest to people on our “needs and interest” list. We contact them to make sure they attend the sale.
Coy Krupp’s experience with sales matches the general antique market closely. Jewelry, especially gold and silver, is strong and paintings are in demand. English and American furniture is slow but items from 1940-’60s are popular. Oriental rugs, especially with bright colors, are not selling well.
Appraising and pricing items are very time consuming and must be accurate.
When asked the secret for pricing, Coy responded, “It takes experience and, if necessary, research.” They also have experts who can come in to help with pricing as needed. A recent sale, with hundreds of leather-bound books, required an expert to help with their evaluation.
There have been surprises found when the items are being appraised and priced. In one home a Grueby vase was found in the basement with some clay pots. Its sale for $5,000 made the family heirs very happy. In another case, a diamond and platinum bracelet was found pinned to a dress, hanging in the closet. The family thought their mother had such a bracelet but hadn’t been able to find it. Now they are $3,000 richer.
The commitment of estate sale attendees was confirmed in a recent sale in Lake Forest, Ill. On the day of the sale, 6 inches of rain fell in seven hours, streets and basements flooded, rain came down in sheets. Did people stay away? No. The long line of buyers waiting to enter the home all had umbrellas, and attendance was about the same as it would have been on a sunny day.
Every conducted sale has different items for sale, and the attendees never know what might be found in a corner of the garage or in an old basement cabinet. That’s part of the fun in the search for a special or unusual item.
A recent sale had the usual variety of clothes, dishes, etc., but also a beautiful English walnut lowboy with oyster inlay on its drawers. Priced at $3,800, it commanded a lot of attention. Hanging on a wall nearby was an unusual tinsel picture of potted flowers, circa 1830. An unusual item, it could be purchased for $350. On the fireplace mantel were two clear glass Steuben loving cups. Priced at $1,500 for the pair, they made an early exit from the sale.
Estate sales usually have a numbering system, so the early arrivals get a number to be in the first group admitted. It’s not unusual for people to arrive at 5 or 6 a.m. for a 9:30 a.m. opening. It’s exhausting, but attendees report that at Coy-Krupp’s sales, it’s worth the wait.
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