Friday, June 22, 2007

Dumpster Diving, Garbage Picking, Scavenging and Freegans

Yesterday, the New York Times ( shared the story of how Freegans (, who are members of a growing anti-consumerist movement, have adopted unique and ingenious ways of capitalizing on other people's garbage by simply picking and sorting through it at optimal times. Last week, here in Metropolitan DC, the Washington City Paper ( also showcased an article about the value and usability of items found in the dumpsters behind Georgetown University at summer session's end.

We live in a time of polar opposites. What sense can be made out of an advertisement for Tiffany & Co.'s ( Palm Tree diamond pendant (set in platinum) retailing on the inside cover of the NYTs for $2,650 and those that actually rely on dumpster diving, garbage picking, scavenging, and the Freegan lifestyle for FOOD - I do not know. Yes, I said food.
The avoidance of mass consumerism and sheer waste is another very valid reason why you and your family, community, or business may opt to engage in an estate, yard, tag, garage, moving, or other liquidation sale. People WANT your stuff. They really do. And they'll pay for it. What you don't sell can go to various charitable causes, or a local dumpster if you will. We don't begrudge anyone from accumulating the things over the years that help mark a fine lifestyle ... but be responsible when disposing of these items - this is where an estate sales agent can help you obtain good value, give good value, and generally do a good thing. When you have an estate sale, you help keep history alive. When you trash your goods, you help keep landfills alive.
While the Freegans try to locate items that are, well, free - it's a known fact that those attending a well-advertised estate sale are usually a collaboration of dealers, collectors, and those with a refined eye. Freegans believe the consumer economy is a sham and a decent way to make a home is rooting through trash. There may just be a middle of the road. Something between safeguarding economic and social injustice by preventing the production and transport of products and specifically seeking out previously used, much loved products to build one's own heritage.

Monday, June 18, 2007

DC Big Flea Market - DC's Largest Antique Event

Millions of antiques and collectibles can be seen next month at the DC Big Flea Market. The market is housed in two huge buildings with over 1100 booths on July 21 (9-6) and July 22, 2007 (11-5) at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, VA. Admission is $8 with free parking. For info dial 757.430.4735 or see

If you are trying to get your arms around how and what you might present at an estate sale, visiting a huge flea market will give you incredible clues as to what's hot (and what's not) in furniture, jewelry, silver, glass, art, etc. The D.C. Big Flea Market, held five times a year, has antiques and collectible of all eras at affordable prices and is reported to be the number one place for vintage shopping in the Metro DC area. We like the summer event because mid-year is routinely a great time to get all season items.

Lange Estate Sales will attend the event to gather up-to-date pricing guide information on period furniture, maps & political items, vintage garden items, architectural artifacts, and ephemera. This is just one way Lange Estate Sales insures that we know how to best price the items you want to sell when you are ready to sell them! Our critical advice: bring comfortable clothes & shoes, lots of small bills (and change), your own water, some extra carrying bags, business cards, sunglasses, pen & paper, and a great sense of humorous adventure! Have a blast!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Building an Estate Through a One Item Collection

This month, Travel & Leisure Golf Magazine
reports on how Jeffery B. Ellis painstakingly built a 780-piece collection of antique golf clubs. His collection is reputed to be the most wide-ranging in the world, and he is scheduled to sell all of the clubs through Sotheby's on September 26 - 27, 2007 for an estimated total value of over $4 million.

Ellis' passion for collecting not only contributed to his life's work in buying and selling clubs, but also in the production of a fine, scholarly, two-volume published work spanning over twenty years. The book set includes clubs such as a 1600-era iron, a Dickson putter, and an opposing face duplex wood. The work is entitled The Clubmaker's Art and is pictured above (available through Amazon).

The point is, that you too can build a sizable, impressive, and highly valuable estate through a detailed, focused, one-or-two item concentration. While many of the estate sales Lange Estate Sales may coordinate are truly geared to whole house, farm, or commercial enterprises looking to completely liquidate, Ellis' undying passion for golf clubs puts him in a very pretty place indeed as he positions his specialized collection for auction. The trick is find something different, something unique, something relatively portable, something difficult to locate, and then to set about extending a concentrated, long-term effort to become the preeminent authority. Especially if you have an advanced jump on collecting through items that may have been passed down through the generations, items you know are living in Aunt Em's attic, or odd items in your family that no one else seems to have an interest in.

It is an investment of sorts, and one you may occasionally wonder whether will ever pay off. The success of Ellis though, is partially due to his detailed chronology, collecting, and yes, we'll even go to "curating" work. For this type of estate building, you are going to need records. Records of where you purchased, when purchased, how purchased, any particular provenance, evidence of historic significance. Experience shows Lange Estate Sales that this type of detailed record keeping is not for the faint of heart. You have to consider whether you are a surface swimmer type collector (lots of unusual things slightly related at the surface level) or a deep-water diver collector (one or two items fully sought after).
Don't despair. It is reported one of the first hickories that caught Ellis' eye back in '74 was found at a Milwaukee Goodwill. Ellis' story and the upcoming partial estate auction will be fascinating to watch unfold for estate sales agents, history buffs, collectors, and lovers of the green alike.

Going Out of Business Auction @ Featherstone Square Antique Mall & Collectibles

The good folks over at Featherstone Square Antique Mall & Collectibles in Woodbridge, VA really had their work cut out for them last night as they tried to liquidate the last of remaining items prior to finally closing their doors and going out of business. The auction, which started promptly at 2:00 p.m., ran first through showcases and dealer displays (many selling for $5.00 or less), then box lots (selling for $2.00 or less), and individual items (selling for well under $100.00) well past 9:00 p.m.

Approximately 100 people attended the organized event, coaxed to stay not so much by the quality of items being sold as the sheer variety. Furniture, textiles, farm tools, framed works, general household goods, crystal, and china were some of the more frequently seen items. Two 1800's plates were passed with no bid, while a three-tiered plastic monkey toilet paper holder with a faux-plunger for a hat sold for over $30.00! Several items did not meet reserve and were also passed. The auction was orderly, and the tag-team approach of David and Ron as auctioneers really seemed to help keep the audience alive. Thanks also to Featherstone for free hot dogs, chips, and sodas, plentiful fans to help keep the place cool, and auxiliary auction help to facilitate the speed.

The Woodbridge Featherstone gallery has been in operation for well over three years, it was a bit sad to walk through and see, once again, a good thing falling into the abyss. Although many dealers appear to be relocating to smaller antique malls, surely some will fold altogether. Generating much conjecture and discussion was the sale of two encased accordions, one full size. David said, "Take it over the pawn shop so you can get $100 each for it." A collector bought them for $50.00 each and will surely reap a long term benefit either way.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Household Organizing by Plow & Hearth

June is graduation season, and we were recently invited to the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountain area of Virginia to celebrate a friend's completion of high school! While there, we visited Plow & Hearth in Madison, Virginia. Checking out the website a few days later, they have an excellent article on household organizing which anyone who is contemplating getting ready for an estate sale should read.

Although Plow & Hearth is primarily invested in selling outdoor living, and yard and garden materials, their advice to review, reduce, reorganize, and replace household items is definitely sound. Remember, a competent and recognized full service estate firm such as Lange Estate Sales will do most of these functions for you when planning a large scale commercial or residential estate liquidation sale. However, it's also true that many homeowners have sentimental attachments to items and they prefer to do the initial purging alone.

Much of estate sales planning is aligned with the functions of a professional organizer - where the estate sales firm sorts and groups like items, cleans and prepares items for sale, tags items for competitive pricing, and even inventories items for estate distribution or for donation to non-profits. Whether you decide to do some preliminary household organizing yourself or if you hire your estate sales agent to do all the work for you, the steps in this article can often help answer questions about whether to include certain items in a sale. Take your time ... clearing, cleaning, selling, and regrouping ones life can be a daunting, yet highly enjoyable and financially rewarding experience.