Finally ready to sell that baseball card collection you’ve had since you were eight years old? Or the stamp collection you inherited from your grandfather?
Or maybe you’re exploring your options because something inside you is pushing back or asserting itself and saying, are we a bit trapped here? Are we stuck collecting things because it’s “what we’ve always done” or is it still as captivating and exciting as it was at the start?
Maybe you have an unintentional collection like Becca and Carol did in Unstuff Your Life!? You can read more about them on pages 258-260.
Collections can feel like a part of us after a while, and can be tough to part with. Deep within our DNA we have a hunter/gatherer impulse or coding. So it’s not surprising that we have a drive to gather things and put them into groups.
Sometimes that’s a quiet and private experience and other times it’s outward facing—encouraging us to display a curated and unified set of belongings as their own unique kind of achievement—think libraries and collections that eventually become the basis for museums.
And believe me, I get it. I’ve collected things myself.
If you have a collection you want to sell, there are ways to do that online and earn a decent chunk of change … and we’ll get to those in a minute.
But before you part with your collections, it’s important to get clear on why you have them in the first place, and if those reasons are still valid and meaningful to you.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR MOTIVATIONS NOW = LESS CLUTTER LATER
Did you start collecting model trains because they remind you of the time you spent working on them with a parent?
Collectibles very often are charged with deep sentimental value, so it’s worth taking the time to decide why and how you’re planning to sell.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you visit a single website in search of a sale:
- Will you sell the entire collection, or hang onto a piece or two for memory’s sake?
- Are you finished collecting in general, or starting a new collection and making space for that?
- Was the purpose of this collection entertainment or investment?
- If it was an investment, are you expert enough to manage the sale directly?
Clutter is a pattern that repeats itself . . . Unless you explore the root cause.
So don’t sell off a collection thinking that the sale alone will get you organized. If you’re not paying attention, you might find yourself swapping Beanie Babies for vintage comic books.
In the end, it’s still just clutter, unless your collection has a clear purpose.
If it brings you joy, that’s fantastic. But if you’re using the collection as an inanimate stand-in for someone to love or a loved one you miss, take another look at your motivations before you move on.
You don’t need years on a therapist's couch—I’m suggesting 15-20 minutes (set a timer) spent thinking and writing about what initially drove you to start a collection and examining whether those reasons are still applicable.
We change as we move through time and space—things we liked as a child may no longer please us. Just as things we didn’t like as a child may now delight us.
I hated olives and brussels sprouts as a kid—can’t get enough of them now.
So there’s no shame in acknowledging that your tastes have shifted and that what at one time thrilled you no longer does. Or that it does still make you happy.
Whatever you decide is fine—the point here is to do it consciously and deliberately, rather than unconsciously and by rote simply because it’s become a habit.
And remember, the point of the exercise is not to explore whether you will or won’t divorce your partner, you’re simply poking at the idea of not hunting, gathering and arranging inanimate objects and seeing how that feels.
If you decide that you’re ready to part with your collections, congratulations!
It’s a big deal to have the clarity and it’s a big deal to let something go that has been significant to you for perhaps quite some time.
It’s also a big deal to celebrate the release of something and the opening that creates for new experiences and relationships, possibly either with new hobbies or activities or perhaps deeper connections with other people.
Do pay attention if you start swapping one way of being busy for another, particularly if you were eager to not be as busy.
If it’s true that nature abhors a vacuum, it’s likely you will feel the impulse to quickly fill that negative space where collecting used to live with other repeatable behavior that gives you a little dopamine hit but in the long run gets you no further along on your path towards freedom and being less busy.
DO YOUR (ONLINE) RESEARCH
Again, if you’ve decided that you’re ready to part with your collections, congratulations!
Some collections on the “investment” side of the spectrum may require a knowledgeable appraiser with expertise in that area to assess before you sell.
Read this post for tips on finding and vetting an appraiser in your area.
And Real or Repro is another good resource to see if what you have is authentic or a reproduction of something rare and precious.
Once you have correctly valued the collection yourself, or if your collection is the well-loved but not so precious monetarily variety, the next step is to find other enthusiasts online.
It might sound basic, but social media platforms like Facebook have groups for every interest under the sun, including at least one group—and probably more—dedicated to the type of collectible you’re hoping to sell.
You probably won’t use Facebook to sell your collection—in fact, it’s not recommended—BUT Facebook is a great place to listen in on the conversation.
Find out where other people with collections like yours are buying things and selling things, and what things are “going for.”
You can even engage with other users in these groups to get your questions answered directly. People who are passionate about collecting usually love to talk about it—what they collect, why a particular item is especially valuable or rare, where bargains have been found and strategies for maximizing your trading.
With all that in mind, it’s still a good idea to take any online advice you get with a hefty grain of salt. It’s easy, even easier, to misrepresent online than in person where you have to look someone in the eye when lying to them.
And temporing any cynicism, there are also plenty of generous, honest people in these groups as well, and some of them are sure to point you in the right direction, just because it’s the right thing to do.
For the more tech-savvy, Reddit is also a great place to find and learn from like-minded collectors.
If you’re not very comfortable on message boards, Reddit can be a bit overwhelming. While there is structure there, the architecture can feel very confusing when trying to follow conversation threads.
It’s deliberately bare bones, structure-wise, and heavy on content (and opinion), so just keep that in mind before you get lost down any number of rabbit holes or thought tubes there.
WHERE TO SELL YOUR COLLECTIBLES
Now that you’ve considered why you started collecting in the first place, are ready to sell without any hesitation or resistance, and you know what your collection is worth, you’re ready to discover where to list your item(s) and connect with buyers.
Here are some great online marketplaces for collections and collectibles:
Estate sales are a fantastic means of selling a complete collection in one fell swoop.
Local dealers, antique shops and consignment shops can also do the trick if you aren’t keen to sell—and ship—to strangers you meet online.
Note that depending on what you want to sell, you might find specialty marketplaces online that ONLY deal in your specific type of collectible.
So how do you find THOSE kinds of places?
That’s where Facebook groups, Subreddits and a hyper-specific Google search come in—if your search is specific enough, it will yield some detailed results on the Internet.
And if you find a group you trust, there’s probably no person better to point you in the direction of a specialty marketplace than a collectible enthusiast you’ve befriended online.
Of course, not every recommendation is a winner. But if you find a frequent mention, it’s a good indicator that you’ve found a hobbyists’ hotspot.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Collections that have lost their appeal are an especially insidious form of clutter—they can increase so gradually, we often don’t notice how much space they occupy until someone else points it out or we’re faced with moving them.
If you started the collection, it can often feel like a part of your identity, even if today you don’t really remember why or haven’t examined your impulse to collect in some time.
And if you inherited the collection, you may feel some guilt or an obligation to hold onto it—all based on a story that either your departed benefactor would disapprove if you let it go or simply that they invested so much time and money into the collection that you must get something for it for their efforts to have had any meaning.
Remember that nothing freely given is ever meant to be a burden and you will quickly see that the story is now YOURS and not the deceased’s.
Whichever applies to you, take the time to understand how your collection came into being and how you want to live NOW. Getting that clarity and accepting that collecting or THIS collection no longer serves you is the first step in preventing a repeat and staying trapped under the weight of all that stuff—particularly if you’re looking to declutter long-term.
And if all you’re doing is making space for your next collection because collecting IS aligned with your values … go for it—without guilt or shame or hesitation.
Just understand what you’re doing and why—and then you’ll be confident in your actions and have zero regret for your choices.
Once you’ve decided to let it go, there are excellent online resources to help you.
If the collection is valuable, get an appraisal first so you know what to ask for.
Then you can decide if you want to sell it or donate it so a non-profit you love can either sell it or display it.
If selling it is the goal, connect with other enthusiasts and learn from them. Find out where they’ve had success selling their collectibles online or in your local area, and follow their lead—never forgetting that all online advice should be taken with a grain of salt … even this article!
If in doubt, use one of the marketplaces suggested above, or hire a consignment shop, antique shop, or auction house to sell on your behalf.
If your collectibles are adding fuel to the fire of household strife, check out our Masterclass on How to Stop Fighting Over Stuff. You’ll learn how to manage your clutter AND your relationships in just 90 minutes!