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  • Writer's pictureNunneley Estates and Appraisals

How do you price items for an estate sale?

Are you thinking of holding an estate sale yourself, or curious how experienced professionals like us price items for estate liquidation? Unfortunately, there is no single guide for estate sale pricing, and the way that your items are priced is so important that it can make or break your estate sale.

Estate Sale Price Tags

The first thing to remember when holding a normal estate sale, is you should not price items at the price you may find them for in a retail store, antique shop, or an asking price online. Instead, the prices that should be assigned to items during general estate liquidation, is the Liquidation Value. If an item is scarce, of good quality, highly collectible, or signed by a desirable artist or maker, then you may be able to start the price higher than normal (or be better off selling it elsewhere).

As defined by the ISA Core Course in Appraisal Studies, pp. 2-8,9:

Liquidation Value is a type of market value. In market value, buyer and seller are typically motivated. There are two very different types of liquidation.

Forced Liquidation Value is the most probable price at which property would change hands if sold within a very short period of time without considering the marketplace. A forced liquidation would involve the need for a seller to dispose of property quickly, under a compulsion to exchange the property for cash. An example of this would be a court ordered sale “within ten days.”

Orderly Liquidation Value is the most probable price for which property would change hands between knowledgeable sellers and buyers. This type of liquidation is conducted in an orderly manner, with a reasonable amount of time to advertise and complete the transaction in an appropriate marketplace. Ample time is allowed for advertising and for the buyers and sellers to become equally knowledgeable. An example of this would be a scheduled specialized auction or well-advertised tag sale of household items.

If you are pricing items to conduct an estate sale yourself, you may want to visit other estate sales by reputable companies in your area to get an idea of what normal household items are priced at. For antiques, art, fine furniture, or collectibles, perform research so that you know what it is that you're looking at (this is where those relevant facts come in). In some cases, your item may be more appropriate for sale in a specialty market.

Most sold history databases are not free, and you will want to consider recent sales history.

A few research tools include:

Prices4Antiques price database

Invaluable auction sales history Liveauctioneers auction sales history (free sold history) eBay auction (check the box for actual sold history) Local free "appraisal" days put on by museums, auction houses, and non-profits

You may decide to start your items on the higher side of Orderly Liquidation Value, and then discount as the estate sale progresses.

Four things (among many) that can affect estate sale prices:

1. Time of year your estate sale is held: Is it December, and part of your estate sale includes a large collection of Christmas items, or is it Springtime? Are you selling average camping equipment during the winter? The less the items are in demand, the less you can expect to receive for those items.

2. Desirability of estate sale items:

Is your house full of heavy, large furniture, or "brown" wood furniture that isn't currently in demand? The less trendy the furniture and the larger the size, the less likely it is to sell. This means that if you really want it "sold" then you should price low. As mentioned before, if an item is scarce, of good quality, highly collectible, signed by a well regarded artist or maker, then you may be able to start the price higher than normal. Get a professional opinion if you're unsure how to price the item, or if it's right at the estate sale.

3. Condition of estate sale items: Are any of the items you are pricing damaged, dirty, or have they had repairs? For a 19th century Meissen porcelain figurine, a few chips or repairs may not be much of an issue. Do you have a crystal vase with a chip, or carved Victorian sofa with damaged upholstery? Depending on the maker, you may have to heavily discount.

4. Time frame for liquidating:

Well advertised estate sales will bring more sales and better prices. Do you need to liquidate the home in a short amount of time, with limited advertising, during just one sale day? These are considered "forced liquidation" sales, and often require much lower estate sale prices than a well advertised one.

Fine Art Appraisal Help

Important note: Know the relevant facts of the items you are pricing. Are you looking at an original painting, early lithograph, or modern print? Does your item date to the 1940's or the 19th century? Is it sterling silver or silver plated? When in doubt, contact an experienced appraiser who belongs to a professional appraisal society like the International Society of Appraisers.


Are you looking for a professional to price tag or conduct your "orderly liquidation" estate sale in in Northern California? We serve the greater Sacramento area, Roseville, Lake Tahoe, Auburn, Gold Country, San Francisco Bay Area, North Bay Area, Sonoma County, and Napa County. Nunneley Estates & Appraisals offers:

  • Price Tag Services - so that you can hold an estate sale yourself knowing that items are priced appropriately. Contact me for a copy of my appraisal fee schedule.

  • Estate Sale Services - we handle the estate sale process from beginning to end.


Thank you for visiting our estate sale and appraisal blog post. We hope this article has helped you on your mission to have a successful estate sale!


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