Downsizing the good stuff, Part 2


Writing Downsizing the good stuff, Part 1 turned out to be an excellent process for helping me decide what to do with my great-grandmother’s dinner set.

At the end of the day, I kept the gravy boat and the large platter (because I love them), and I’ve put them in the cupboard with the other serving dishes where they will be used and not forgotten. Well done, me.

china dishes in cupboard laurie best photo
My very first-world problem: What do I do with my great-grandmother’s china? – has been solved.

Now what to do with the rest of it? Here are some of the options I looked at for downsizing “the good stuff”:

Send it to the auction

Kilshaw Auctioneers’ owner, Alison Ross, tells me she deals with about 20 “saleability” questions every day. The auction house is happy to advise people whether they think an item will sell (e.g. “antique Irish damask sheets – yes; worn percale sheets – no”), and she encourages people to send photos of their items, especially the larger ones, to to find out if they would be suitable.

I asked Kilshaw’s about my incomplete set of Noritake china: we had a lovely chat and I got a very thorough and satisfying explanation on why they wouldn’t be taking it.

I also learned that Kilshaw’s will actually come out to your house to do an evaluation of saleability if you have a large number of items or you are dealing with an entire estate. But Alison’s advice is not to wait to call them until things have been “cleaned up.”

“People often think they should get rid of all the clutter, and then call us to deal with the furniture,” she said. “But often it’s the little things – maybe that ugly vase from the 70s -that could have become extremely collectible.”

For items that sell between $50-$1,000, you can expect 79% of the final bid price. (That’s the final selling price less 20% percent commission and 1% insurance.) Commissions vary with other sale prices and are available on the website.

Consign it

There are a million consignment stores in the big city, and some good online consignment sales guides.  Typically, you can expect to be offered a small upfront cash payment for your item, or a split (usually around 50%) of the final selling price.

Note though: not all consignment stores accept all items. My great-grandmother’s china was politely turned down by an antique dealer in Kamloops because “there’s simply no market for it.”

curio cabinets full of antiques laurie best photo
The Vanity Fair Antiques and Collectibles Mall is the last shop of its kind on the rapidly redeveloping Fort Street in Victoria, British Columbia.

Vanity Fair Antiques  offers a different kind of consignment model. They have about 50 cabinets which vendors can rent – on their own or with friends – to display their items. For $150-$200 month, plus a 15% commission, the helpful staff at the Mall will sell their goods for them.

Vanity fair sales laurie best photo
Petra, left, was one of two staff helping a number of tourists in the Mall the day that I was there.

Don’t expect this sales strategy to be a “get rich, quick” scheme though; I’m told it can take several months for the right buyer to emerge, and that vendors who actively manage their collections do much better than vendors who don’t.

Although thinking it over, we wouldn’t be the first people to be dreaming about converting gold and silver into riches…

abandoned mine shaft
You see a lot of evidence of “get rich, quick” schemes driving through the gold rush hills of Nevada.IMG_7256

Sell it for the value of the precious metal

Ron Floyd bought Vanity Fair about six months ago. For the past 30 years or so, he has also owned and operated the Oak Bay Gold, Silver and Coins shop.

Gold and Silver

Ron says the process of selling gold and silver is simple: it’s sold by weight, with the seller receiving 80% of the “spot price” (whatever the metal is trading for at that time). His site has a great graph showing the current and historic prices of gold, silver and platinum.

It’s easy to tell if your item is sterling silver: it is always stamped with something like “STER” or “925” or a similar mark. And if you are wondering about gemstones, Ron says stones under a half-carat are simply weighed together with the metal sent to the recycler. You can have larger gemstones independently appraised for about $50-$60.

Silver plate

Selling silver plate is a bit more complicated. Alison and Ron both told me the vast majority of what they see is silver “plate” – a thin layer of silver applied as a coating over a less precious metal. Silver plate was developed precisely because pure (“sterling”) silver was just too expensive for most people to buy.

If your silver plate is in good condition, it might be worth seeing if can be consigned. Alternatively, people might get $20-$30 for all their silver plate items just for the scrap metal value. (Just fyi: you need to have a minimum 500 lbs of silver plate in hand if you want to sell it direct to the recycler yourself.)

Silverton, Colorado was a Silver Rush boomtown reached by going over a 14,000-foot mountain pass.
In 1893, the price of silver dropped from 63 cents to 1.02 cents an ounce – busting the boom.


Sell it privately

Again, there are many options for doing this – from garage sales to craigslist. What I find private sales have in common is that people are looking for bargains.

I have successfully sold things privately when:

  • I am well and truly ready to let them go, and
  • I feel anything I receive for them is a bonus.

(I’m going to try putting great-gramma’s china on and see how it goes.)

Donate it

If my china doesn’t sell online, I will donate it. Again, there are lots of options for doing this. I prefer to donate items to small independent charitable organizations, like the local hospice society. They will take (almost) anything, sort it, sell it and use the proceeds to support a service in the community.  Personally, I don’t donate to large, multi-national corporations such Value Village, but hey, that’s just me.

Make art with it

I’m only half-joking. If you’re not a creative crafter yourself, maybe the art students at your local school or college can use your treasures. I’ve seen some great up-cycled art pieces in person and online. I’ll be talking more about converting family heirlooms into meaningful keepsakes in a future post; in the meantime, Pinterest is full of ideas for you.

jewelled van and trailer laurie best photo
This little sculpture in Santa Fe is giving me ideas for redecorating our RV, the Vanilla Guerrilla.
gold donkey and silver pig laurie best photo
Seriously. Who would not want these precious metals in their yard?

Thanks to everyone who shared their heirloom stories and challenges with me. You inspired me to dig more deeply into the topic, and finally resolve my own outstanding conflict about the dang china! 🙂

Cheers, Laurie







  1. Excellent practical post, agree with most in Post 1 too and personally believe it’s emotional attachment that makes us keep most things. After our downsizing a few months back I still have two boxes of emotional stuff. But now I have two ideas: first take photos of my mum’s old jewellery and ornaments then donate to charity; second build a small garden sculpture with lots of the Buddhist brass artefact stuff from my wife’s family. Sorted!


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