Find $10,000 in Your Closet

by Jean Chatzky
Martha Wright in the New York City apartment of Elizabeth Frogel, who helped Wright sell her unwanted designer clothes on eBay. One example: the $2,000 Prada dress Wright is holding. She wore it only once.
Photograph: Photo: Ian Allen

•?Don’t be alarmed by the acid test, in which your jewelry is rubbed on slate, then dabbed with a little nitric acid to reveal whether a piece is 14 karat, 18 karat or not gold at all. This is normal and won’t harm the piece.

•?Brand names matter—but not all of them. Jewelry signed by Cartier, Tiffany or Van Cleef & Arpels often fetches two to four times the value of the metal. Pieces by David Yurman, John Hardy and other midlevel designers can recoup 20 to 60 percent of their retail price. The value of nondesigner jewelry varies from piece to piece.

•?Vintage pieces may be worth a lot, particularly if they are signed or very rare.

•?Prices of diamonds have risen, so if you bought one more than 25 years ago, you may be able to recoup your cost, depending on the stone’s shape, size and quality. For newer diamonds, look for 25 to 50 percent of what you paid.

•?Jewelry with precious stones—such as emeralds, rubies and opals—is evaluated according to the quality of the gem and the design of the piece.

•?If you’re familiar with selling on eBay and have a recognizable piece (such as a ring still available at Tiffany), then you may want to use the site to auction your jewelry. Otherwise, stick to dealers. 


How to Sell Furs

When Nina Peskoe Peyser’s mother passed away in September 2008, not long after her father, the big job of clearing out her parents’ house fell to her. Peyser made sure her family members got the sentimental items they wanted, and then she sold the valuable art. That left her with three furs: a sheared mink jacket, a mink-lined raincoat and a mink stole.

We set out to sell the pieces at Ritz Furs, a New York institution now located in the garment district after decades on Fifty-seventh Street. Keith Tauber, who married a granddaughter of the original owner and now runs the place, explains that fur shops typically do business in these three ways: They take furs on consignment, in which case the owner gets 50 percent of the total but doesn’t get paid until the coat has sold; they buy furs outright at 35 to 40 percent of what the shopkeeper thinks the garments will eventually fetch; or they give you part of the value of your fur (typically about 60 percent) to trade for one in the shop.

Tauber eyes Peyser’s minks. “Your sheared mink jacket is like gold to me,” he says, explaining that real sheared mink is still in style and goes for a premium. “Your mother paid $5,000 or $6,000 for it. I think I can get $2,000 to $3,000,” he says. “You’ll get half that if you consign, or I’ll give you a check for $800 today.” The raincoat could sell for $700 to $1,500. Peyser decides to hold on to the stole, so Tauber offers $1,000 for the two other coats together. Peyser counters with $1,300. (Note: Don’t be reluctant to bargain in consignment shops; these days, dealers expect it.) After they agree on $1,100, Peyser sighs. “I’m relieved to get it over with,” she says. “I needed closure after the deaths.”

How do you sell furs yourself?

•?Ritz ( buys nationally, as does Chicago Fur Outlet ( Call the company, then send pictures and a description. If there is interest, mail the coat (insured!).

•?Or look in the Yellow Pages under “fur dealers” to find resellers in your area; these are better than nonspecialized consignment shops because the salespeople push hard to get a higher price.

•?Avoid eBay if you can; furs are difficult to sell on the Web because the price closely reflects the fur’s condition, which bidders need to see firsthand.

•?Always have legal documentation showing you have the right to sell an inherited fur. A copy of the will or a letter from the executor of the estate will do the trick.

—With reporting by Arielle Mcgowen

Share Your Thoughts!


Melissa Gans05.11.2011

I guess I don't see how a $1,348 return on a $15,000 investment is "still good money." The article seems to caution readers against spending too much on clothing that you may only wear once. So much for finding $10,000 in your closet.

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