Selling Attic Treasures
By Eric Hammer
If you are a fan of British television, then you may have
come across two interesting shows called "Bargain Hunt"
and "Cash in the Attic." Both of these shows (along
with the better known Antiques Roadshow which has recently been
spoofed in Geico commercials) deal with what are commonly known
as attic treasures. Instead of simply holding a garage sale to
clear out junk that someone has sitting around, more and more
people are turning to professionals who do this for a living
helping people to get the most money possible for their
One of the most popular reasons that people do this is for
the purpose of holding what is known as an estate sale. Estate
sales are typically held when someone passes away and their home
needs to be cleared out, though such sales are sometimes held
when someone is moving overseas or even across state lines. Some
experts also can be called in to consult on treasures someone
may have found in the attic (or basement or garage or wherever
else people store things that seemed like something they ought
to hold on to).
In all cases, the money here comes from commissions on sales.
You in essence act as a middle man, arranging to sell items for
a homeowner who is too busy to take care of it themselves and
you will need to have lots of contacts in order to do this.
How Much Can You Make?
Most people who work in the business of helping people sell
their "attic treasures" take around a 20-30% commission
on the sale of the items they help get rid of. Typically, when
you charge those kinds of numbers, you can also command a minimum
payout, meaning that you can say that you expect to earn say
$900 for a day's work and if you don't get that much, the owner
has to make up the difference. Some people also work without
that safety net but then take a higher percentage, as much as
Either way, expect to work all week long meeting potential
clients and prepping for sales, but expect to earn your living
primarily on the weekend. Most people who work in the business
of helping people sell attic treasures say they gross several
thousand dollars each weekend (though that is of course reduced
by expenses since you will need to hire help, arrange for a credit
card terminal and pay taxes).
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
Consider offering clean up services as well. Especially if
your attic treasures business works primarily in the estate sale
business. The way this works is that once a sale has been completed,
you bring in a cleanup crew to clean the place out thoroughly
(from detritus left behind by the crowds plus whatever didn't
You can also make money as a consultant on specific antique
objects so that when they are offered for sale you can help people
to understand exactly what it is they happen to have in their
possession and what the object is actually worth.
Keep in mind that in many cases, you need to be part therapist
in this job since you will often be helping to liquidate the
last possessions of a loved one who has passed away, or you will
be working with someone who is moving away or is in dire financial
straits and desperate to earn some money before their home is
foreclosed upon. Therefore, you need to be able to be empathetic
Qualifications / Requirements
In most cases, there are no formal legal requirements to set
up an "attic treasures" business. Anyone who cares
to do so can hang out a shingle. However, realistically you do
need to know a lot about a lot of things so that you can price
objects appropriately. It helps to have a background in antiques
and an eye for quality antiques so that you can spot the treasure
amongst the junk.
Keep in mind also that some states may have legal requirements
for your business. If you intend to hold auctions rather than
simple "estate sales" type sales for example then you
will almost certainly need an auctioneer's license.
Finally, remember that it takes time to build up a client
base. There are people who regularly come to estate sales and
who follow specific people who run "attic treasures"
sales because they have come to know and trust them that they
have an eye to know when a home has enough material to sell that
it's worth clearing out this way.
Start by visiting antiques sales and estate sales in your
area. If your local community college offers courses in antiques
appreciation and appraisal, be sure to take such courses as they
will prove invaluable in making your new business flourish.
The Complete Guide to the Business of Tag and Estate Sales
by Mim Nagy (TLC Tag Service and Pub Co. 2002) - This is
a guide book for the business of selling attic treasures. While
it was self published, meaning that the editing is not the best
and there are certainly more things to learn, it is a great starting
Business Ideas: The Logistics of Starting an Estate
Sales Business Just like it sounds, this is a guide
to the logistics behind starting a business to help people sell
their attic treasures.
Fine Estate Sales and Collectibles: So You Want
to Get Into the Estate Sales Business This is an excellent
guide from an experienced estate sales consultant on how to get
into the business.