Managing Tangible Assets - Thomaston Auction
New England’s Trusted Auction & Appraisal Professionals.
51 Atlantic Hwy
Thomaston, ME 04861
207-354-8141 • 800-924-1032

September 1, 2022

Managing Tangible Assets

  • Insurance
  • Legacy Planning
  • Downsizing
  • Gifting to Family
  • Donations
  • Selling your items

Major life changes may prompt you to consider strategies for managing or reducing your personal possessions.  Sooner or later, all of us will find ourselves in one or more situations requiring the dispersal of accumulated belongings.  These situations may include relocating to a smaller home, a need to reduce collection(s), clearing the estate of a family member who has passed away, or planning for the future handling of your own estate items.

At Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, we have extensive experience assisting people who are making plans for their possessions.  This guide incorporates the most important considerations and planning steps developed over our many years of supporting clients through this challenging process. 


  1. Get an appraisal: First, you must determine the current market value of your possessions by obtaining a professional valuation.  This will help you balance sentimental or family value with insight into how the marketplace will evaluate your items.
    • Identify an appraiser – Select an appraiser who is active in today’s marketplace (as an auctioneer, dealer, or professionally accredited appraiser) and has an understanding of the current  market for a wide variety of antiques, jewelry, art, and household goods. 
    • Conduct the right kind of appraisal
      • Informal: Most downsizing situations only require an “informal” appraisal, where no final report or document is provided.  In these cases, you or a friend should take notes as the appraiser evaluates your items.  Many auctioneer or dealer appraisers do not charge for this service.
      • Formal:  “Formal” appraisals are required in cases where a detailed and certified assessment of market value is required by the court, or documentation is needed for IRS reporting purposes. A detailed written document is provided describing each item and giving full disclosure of assumptions and disclaimers associated with the valuation process.  Another type of formal appraisal can be developed for insurance purposes, to document the replacement cost in case items are damaged or lost.
    • Important tips
      • For downsizing purposes, be sure to get a “market value” for items. This is an estimate of what your item(s) will sell for in today’s secondary marketplace, such as in resale or antique shops, or at auction.
      • The amount charged for an appraisal should NEVER be based on a percentage of the valuation.  Rather, it should be based on a set hourly fee. 
      • Make the process more efficient by using a “top down” approach to organizing items for appraisal – spending the most time and effort on items likely to have the greatest value (such as jewelry, coins, silver and original artwork) and working down to household items that may be grouped together.
  2. Communicate: Tell interested family members or friends that you are beginning the downsizing process so that you may learn about any special requests or concerns.  The key is to listen without making any decisions at this time.
  3. Identify your goals:  With market values and input from interested parties in hand, consider the priorities and outcomes most important to you.  Is financial return the most important thing, or does quick dispersal of items take precedence? Are there items that should stay in the family? Do you want to make charitable donations?    
  4. Create a plan:
    • Items to retain – These are things that are important to you because they bring comfort and pleasure.
    • Items for gifting to family/friends – For these, write up any historical details to serve as provenance for future generations.
    • Items to be donated to charity, museums, or libraries - Remember that a formal written valuation of these items may be needed for IRS purposes.
    • Items to be sold – Keep in mind that the marketplace does not offer any monetary value for sentiment associated with an item.


  1. “Top Down” Approach:  Apply the “top down” philosophy in determining the best way to sell your items, applying the most time and effort to those with the highest values and working down to lower value pieces. 
  2. Selling options:
    • Sell it yourself – You directly handle the sale of items by garage/yard sale, selling using a newspaper/online ad, selling online (eBay or other venue), or selling to a friend or family member.
    • Retail consignment – For a commission, you authorize another party to sell your item(s) in a consignment or second hand goods shop.
    • Auction consignment – For a commission, you authorize an auctioneer to sell your items to the highest bidder.  In selection of the best auction venue for your items, keep in mind that there are different types of auction companies:
      • Premium – focused on high value merchandise and conduct cataloged auctions marketed to a worldwide buying audience
      • Liquidators – have more frequent sales and deal primarily in lower value goods, often sold in box lots; generally attract a local audience only
      • Specialty – companies that specialize in a specific type of merchandise (e.g. automobiles, books and paper, livestock, etc.) 
  3. Proceed with care: Regardless of the selling approach you choose, it is important to deal with established businesses that have solid reputations for integrity, dependability, and results
    • Ask for recommendations from friends and family.
    • Get all transactions in writing (e.g. consignment contract and inventory sheets including all items removed from your possession).
    • Make sure you understand all agreement terms.  If you have any doubts or questions, have your attorney review any documents before you sign.
Free Appraisal Day - Thomaston Place Auction Galleries

Every Tuesday is Free Appraisal Day at our Thomaston gallery:

10:00 a.m. to noon & 1:30 to 4:00 p.m.

House call appraisals by appointment.

Our thoughtful, discreet approach to guiding consignors through the auction process has resulted in an expanding base of families and institutions who entrust their treasures to us. We are happy to assist with small collections, complete estates, or anything in between!

Please feel free to contact us by telephone:  207-354-8141 or 1-800-924-1032

Or, by email:

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Kaja Veilleux, ME AUC902
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