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Thread: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

  1. #1
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    Default Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

    My wife and I just returned from the home that belongs to the parents of an old friend. Her (our friend's) mother is in a nursing home, and her father recently passed away. She is now in charge of emptying the house of it's contents and then selling the house. Her father was a mechanical engineer for Allis Chalmers, and was quite the craftsman- his interest was in building and restoring mechanical clocks - those with pendulums, counterweights, etc. As such, he had quite a well equipped shop: both a wood and (Atlas) metal lathe, Craftsman drill press, jig saw, grinder, belt sander, the list goes on. And of course, dozens of drawers and tool chests stocked with all the necessary tooling and hand tools associated with these machines. She had asked me to have a look, and try to give her some sense of the value of these items. Even though Iv'e spent my entire life working with my hands and 34 years as machine shop instructor, I was a bit overwhelmed. My thoughts gradually turned to the possibility of engaging the help of the "pro's". I'm sure you all know that there are professional estate sales businesses that do this sort of thing, but I'm at a loss as to how to find them- especially due to the rather "mechanical" nature of the items in question. I would appreciate any thoughts and suggestions you might have. BTW, the home is located in a suburb of Chicago. Thanks

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

    I doubt whether companies that specialise in estate auctions would get the best price. If you haven't already, I'd hunt down a clock enthusiasts equivalent of this forum and make your post there.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

    What area do you live in, Greg? That'll make a difference on the availability of specialized estate salespeople.
    These may be helpful (or maybe not?!?):
    https://mb.nawcc.org
    https://www.watchrepairtalk.com/forum/16-clock-corner/
    There are also specialized tool collectors groups all around the country, some of whom may be helpful. Here's ne based in the Pacific NW...I'm sure there are others:
    http://pntc.website/

    Good Luck! If you feel compelled, I'm sure many hwere would love to see pictures! If you're in the Northwest I'm sure you can find all kinds of help

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

    You could turn to the Garage Journal site -- lots of Craftsman fans there, and the older the better. There's a thread about one guy who remodeled his garage in (Sears) Craftsman deco style cabinets, and all the period tools, too. Engine-turned stainless control panels on table saws, etc. They may not go for the clock stuff, but you'll likely do better than craigslist if it's in good shape. Might have to join and/or pay to list for sale, maybe. You have to seek out your best buyer.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

    Very tough thing to do. I was at a tag sale this summer where a son was selling all his dad's tools. They had tried various estate sale people & few were interested: "too technical". He was selling tools literally for pennies on the dollar.

    Your friend might best be served by hiring an auctioneer. There are many who do precisely this sort of thing & they can maximize the price because they advertise & have a reputation. I've been to many of this sort of auction & while there are some good buys, most often a good auctioneer will get surprisingly high prices. The key thing is to find one who will take the time to sell items individually. Many auctioneers want to combine $1000 worth of tools into a lot & sell the lot - because it's less work. Of course even a good auctioneer won't sell individual screwdrivers, but a full shop like that should be a hundred lots or so & all of the larger pieces sold individually.

    Whereabouts are they? If by chance they are in VT, NH, or northern NY, I can recommend a good one.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

    GregH,
    In my experience, you have two primary options.
    A-Make a comprehensive list of everything.
    Find the replacement cost. Decide on a "not-less-then" price for each of these items,
    Advertise in trade publications, and online shill organizations (Ebay, Craigslist, Old Klocks blog,etc)
    Wait for the fish to bite!!
    (Time and effort devour-er! IMHE {in my humble experience] but likely to get the most, overall, monies.)
    2- Hire a reputable action company with on-line bidding.
    Make it a no reserve auction.
    Give them a price on each item, if you can, to start. They will appreciate the help.
    Advertise in all trade pubs.
    Let the bidding begin, and take your (their) lumps.
    (Lesser of the evils, and the pain is over quickest!)
    Try not to get emotionally involved. Not worth it, no-one really cares, in the long run, and you can leave hard feelings all around.
    Best of luck! This can be a thankless task.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

    One thing to add: Years ago, I ran estate sales & every single one had the same scenario: "I can't believe you sold [fill in item] for only [fill in amount]" However, when I delivered the paperwork & final check the response was: "You're kidding! You got that much money for the stuff?"

    There will be some items that make you groan at how cheaply they went. However, there will be many little items that no one thought about & the $5 here & $10 there (even the dollar here & there) add up surprisingly quickly. That being said, do not expect retail prices. If you get 50 cents on a dollar, you are doing very well.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

    Greg, you are a good friend for doing this. I fear the results might be a bit disappointing. Two years ago, we sold items from my father in law’s estate. The pieces for sale filled a school gymnasium and the parking lot adjoining it. We spent weeks sorting and organizing tools, cleaning, oiling and greasing machinery, firing up and cleaning small diesel and gasoline motors and cataloging antiques. We hired auctioneers, advertised heavily and had a good turnout.
    Ninety-five percent of the items were of a very high quality. I couldn’t believe the results. A 52 inch Sheffield steel custom wood vise that I’d seen advertised on eBay for 650 dollars went for 35. Well maintained hand tools were going for pennies on the pound.
    i’m not suggesting this need happen to you, but I would carefully consider your options. eBay might be a good choice, but are you prepared to handle all the shipping? Auctioneers are very good at selling everything and anything. But they are not cheap. If you manage to catalog and then cart everything to an auction house they often take a percentage from you and buyer. Having an auctioneer sell at your site is extremely expensive.
    There are some good suggestions here about checking prices online and visiting sites were others have needed to sell off large lots of tools and machines. Chicago is certainly large enough to draw potential customers...just be aware that used tools often get the same return as used furniture...a dime on the dollar.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

    Greg, you are a good friend for doing this. I fear the results might be a bit disappointing. Two years ago, we sold items from my father in laws estate. The pieces for sale filled a school gymnasium and the parking lot adjoining it. We spent weeks sorting and organizing tools, cleaning, oiling and greasing machinery, firing up and cleaning small diesel and gasoline motors and cataloging antiques. We hired auctioneers, advertised heavily and had a good turnout.
    Ninety-five percent of the items were of a very high quality. I couldnt believe the results. A 52 inch Sheffield steel custom wood vise that Id seen advertised on eBay for 650 dollars went for 35. Well maintained hand tools were going for pennies on the pound.
    im not suggesting this need happen to you, but I would carefully consider your options. eBay might be a good choice, but are you prepared to handle all the shipping? Auctioneers are very good at selling everything and anything. But they are not cheap. If you manage to catalog and then cart everything to an auction house they often take a percentage from you and buyer. Having an auctioneer sell at your site is extremely expensive.
    There are some good suggestions here about checking prices online and visiting sites were others have needed to sell off large lots of tools and machines. Chicago is certainly large enough to draw potential customers...just be aware that used tools often get the same return as used furniture...a dime on the dollar.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

    My father had a long-time friend who formerly did some milling and lathe work for Browning. He had a couple of lathes and mills that my father had coveted for years. Additionally, he had a whole bunch of small tools, and guns. Anyway, the guy died. My dad waited a respectful week before he went to talk to the widow. When he got there, another fellow had bought the whole lot for $10k. The day after the funeral.

    So the moral might be... how long do you want to take to sell the stuff? How much time and energy are you willing to spend on someone else's tragedy? What would be a good cut-rate outcome in your mind? There's probably a professional friend who knew the guy who knows what's there, and might be interested in making a deal.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

    I know two pros who do estate sales. (Too far from you) Both are thorough in finding the value of the items, they work on commission. That said, used items that have to be sold in one or two days must go for less than the best price. If it were me, I would hire someone with a good reputation and plenty of experience. They will do all of the work and deliver a check. The interested buyers will respond to ads.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)

    Thanks for the info fellla's.
    Chip Chester- that mention of the Garage Journal site was most helpful. I joined the Tools forum and posted my OP there. Already have had had several promising suggestions! thanks.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Need help, helping a friend (not boat related)


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