Thursday, August 9, 2018


Have you ever asked someone a question and only heard what you wanted to hear when they answered you?  Then later, you've been disappointed when things didn't turn out like you hoped (heard)?  Unfortunately, that happens with our business sometimes.  We sometimes have to tell people (in the most diplomatic way possible), that an estate sale or auction will not likely make them rich.  Most people understand this from the outset but there are those who truly believe that everything they want to sell is worth thousands of dollars.  It's a rude awakening when it plays out like we said...

Some of the reasons some estates don't make a lot of money when liquidated are:

1. The contents of the estate are too specialized for general consumption.  For example, when you have hundreds of dolls that are very ordinary dolls, not rare or vintage, not even in pristine, unopened boxes condition, the number of people who will be interested in this estate are limited. 
Cute dolls, no boxes, all purchased in the 1980's.
Not everyone collects dolls and people who are serious collectors look for1950's and 1960's vintage dolls in great condition.  Dolls from Walmart and Target purchased in the 1980's are not big draws.

2. The contents of the estate are not in great condition.  When you have a leather sofa but it's scratched by dogs, we can't charge a premium price. 
Too many scratches to buff out.
When the house has been smoked in and everything has nicotine stains and a smell, the value of those items is significantly affected.

3. The estate is located in a town that is too far away from our customer base.  It is frustrating to us but most customers are not going to drive more than about 10 miles to attend a sale and only that far if it doesn't involve crossing a bridge! 
Sales in Lake Charles do GREAT, Westlake has really good sales, Moss Bluff, Sulphur and Carlyss sometimes do great and sometimes just OK. Sales is towns outside this area are a total crapshoot...our last sale in DeRidder was AWESOME.  Unfortunately, Vinton, and points further are just not big success stories for us.  We have had amazing antiques, great deals and perfect weather and yet, none of that mattered.  This is one of the reasons we developed our auction app.  If we can't bring the customers to the sale, we'll bring the sale to the customers.  Southern Estate Sales Auction App

4. The estate sale is held at the wrong time of the year.  This very seldom comes into play but it does happen once in a while.  For example, if we have lots of beautiful Christmas decorations and it's July...we will sell them but not on Friday at full price.
Christmas in July...hard sell.
  They are going to sell Saturday afternoon and Sunday at 50% and 75% off.  

5. The estate contains lots of very nice, expensive older brown furniture.  Formal dining rooms are a thing of the past, people want open concepts.  So a beautiful cherry dining room suite with a table and eight chairs and a china cabinet and a buffet only appeals to two kinds of shoppers:  the one who has been waiting for years for a set like this and has the perfect room for it and the one who is going to sand it, paint it and break it up to repurpose in their self-styled home. 
Thomasville Furniture, formal dining room suite.
Those two kinds of shoppers are not available at EVERY sale.  Sometimes everything just works and someone gets just what they have been wanting and we sell something at a great price but lots of times, it sells Saturday afternoon to a smart buyer who needs part of it and will resell the rest after a makeover.

There are lots of other factors that can affect a sale but these are some of the most common.  Fortunately, we have a great loyal following and find buyers for these items at the best prices we can get for them.  After all, the more money you make, the more we make!  My point in all of this is that even though we discuss all these things with prospective clients and try to be as honest and upfront as possible about possible outcomes, some people only hear the "best scenario" part of the discussion.  When things don't work out exactly as they hope, it's always the "incompetent estate sale company's" fault.  And that's not fair.  We work extremely hard to maximize profits at each and every sale, not just some of them.  So please, be realistic when evaluating your loved one's estate and listen to the professionals you hire for help, whether it's us or another company.  We do this all the time and trust me, we know what sells and what doesn't and at what price it will sell best.  That's our job!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Old Recipes

There are two best days when we are conducting a sale...the first day we begin working and the last day of the sale.  The first day is my favorite because everything there is new to us, all those treasures just waiting for us to discover!  And yes, every home has certain things that most all homes have but each one also has something that is unique, quirky, rare or just weird.  (More about that later.)  The last day of a sale is always fun because it signals a job finished, another family that has allowed us to help them liquidate their loved one's estate and another opportunity for us to learn and deepen our commitment to this calling that also happens to be the way we make a living.  Ok, and yes, by the last day, we are tired.  So it's a good day because we get to rest for a minute afterwards!

Anyway, one of the things we frequently find is recipes and cookbooks.  I love looking at them and seeing if I can figure out which ones were favorites...notes written in the margins of cookbooks are the best!  I especially love when they note what occasion they made the dish for and how it went over.  You won't find that at Books-A-Million!  The cookbooks we sell with these personal reviews are so much more valuable than a new one in my opinion!  

My mom was a great cook...she doesn't cook anymore but I got some of her handwritten recipe books down this weekend and copied them.  I found her recipe for bread pudding and decided to make it.  It was SO GOOD...

 The pan is a 9" x 13" so it is quite a bit.  The recipe calls for baking it 35-40 minutes but I actually baked it an hour.  I kept checking it and this seemed right.  Everyone's oven is different though so check often after about 40 minutes.
This is the sauce or "sop" as we call it.  It was also very good!  The recipe called for lemon extract, I used vanilla instead and loved it.  I think I will try rum or bourbon next time...

I stored it in the fridge, covered in Saran Wrap and warmed it and the sop when serving.  It's wonderful with some Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla too!  Now y'all know why I can't get rid of these extra pounds!  

If you'd like to try it, the recipe is pictured below.  I'll post some more as I get a chance, I copied quite a few.  This is mom...

And here's her bread pudding recipe:


Remember I said we usually find certain things in almost every house we liquidate?  One of those things is a yardstick.  Care to guess what the other is?  We find it in probably 90% of the homes we do sales in and it's something most people have probably never used...leave your guesses in the comments, I'll tell y'all what it is later this week...

Tuesday, August 7, 2018


One of the things we frequently have at our sales is books...lots of them.  Sadly, we never sell as many of them as we would like.  I LOVE books and have hundreds of them so it breaks my heart when I know leftover books are going to waste piles.  Believe me, we have tried everything to avoid it but they are extremely difficult to source.  So I'm hoping this little bit of info might pique some interest in some of you in books as either a new collectible for yourself or as a revenue source for those of you who shop for resale.  I promise you that either way, you'll find it easy to get started by shopping our sales.

If you are going to buy books for yourself to start a collection I recommend you buy what you love.  Whether it's a particular author, a subject matter you're passionate about or even the book's appearance, that's what you should focus on.  When you buy a book it should make you happy.  Some of my favorite authors are Larry McMurtry, John Sandford and John Grisham.  When I see a new book out by any one of them, I get so excited!  

These are two of my favorite books, I love both of these authors.  They are great storytellers and keep me engaged from beginning to end.

The other types of books people sometimes collect are classics.  Whether they are first editions, leather bound or well loved copies, they always look great on a shelf.  Looking for ideas for styling?  These are some of my favorites:
You can never go wrong with classic blue and white.

The white collectibles tie everything together.

Soft, feminine, fresh and incredibly interesting.

The bright colors in this display give this room energy and life.

Simple yet eclectic. 

Grouped by color, this bookcase is the major accessory in the room.

It's easy to see from the photos that layering is the key to a well styled bookcase.  Add photos, accessories, organic pieces and anything else interesting.  Vary the heights, and don't be afraid to experiment.  Most of all, use your books as art.  Group them by color or subject, display them vertically and horizontally.  There is no hard and fast rule, make your own statement.  Just keep books as the base and you'll have a beautiful room before you know it.  

When buying books for resale, you'll need to do your homework and find out what books are selling.  A great site we use is  They will tell you not only who is buying the book you search but also how much each vendor is willing to pay for it.  It advertises itself as a source for textbooks, but I have found almost every book I've searched on there, including novels.  Another site is  Input the ISBN and they will tell you if they are buying that book and how much they will pay for it.  If you decide to sell it, they will send you a prepaid Fedex label and you get paid 1-3 business days after your shipment is processed through Paypal or by check. buys books and gives a credit to use on their site.  Locally, Books-A-Million buys books, you bring them in for pricing.  If you have a Half Price Books in your area, they also buy books back on site.  Plus you can always do the work and check to see what is selling on Ebay and then actively search for those books.  There are lots of avenues for selling books, none of them will make you rich but it's a fun hobby and can be profitable.

I hope you will visit one of our sales soon, we always have great books for even better prices!  You can find information on upcoming sales here: Southern Estate Sales.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Preparing for an Estate Sale

One of the most frequent questions we get is: "What do we need to do to get ready for you all to come do our sale?"  Talk about a loaded question, lol.  Seriously, this is one we answer all the time and there is a basic answer.  

Take what you want out of the house before you call us to come look.  If you can't remove it, tag it or move it all to one room.  
Throw away trash.  If you know there are boxes of dry rotted magazines there, throw them away.  If you aren't sure if it's trash, leave it and we'll take a look.  Generally, if something is mildewed, dry rotted or covered in animal feces, it's trash.  Sorry to be so graphic but you'd be surprised...

If you will do these two things, it makes it super easy for us to evaluate the estate and decide whether it is large enough to hold an on-site sale or whether we need to do an online auction of the estate.  A successful on-site sale needs lots of "stuff" to make sure it is well attended and profitable for everyone.  If there are nice, sellable items, but not an abundance of them, then we can do an online auction.   These are an easy way to accomplish your liquidation goals and still realize the most profit.  Our app is available in the Google Play Store and in the Apple App Store for free.  Search Southern Estate Sales and download today!

Now, this next part is just extra, it's things not to do even if you are just considering an estate sale.

1. Don't give or donate anything until you have spoken with a professional.  Many of the things you will give away are the things estate sale companies make the majority of money on.  Things like linens, cleaning supplies (even open ones), toiletries, dishes, pots, etc. are always big sellers at sales.

2. Don't pull everything out of cabinets and drawers...we'll do it and it is easier if we do it knowing where it will go than having to pick things up off of floors and round stuff up from all over the house.

3. Don't stress over stuff that is packed up and hasn't been seen in years.  We will pull it out and go through it, clean it, prepare it for sale or throw it away if it is ruined.  We WON'T throw away any personal items like pictures, letters, financial info.  We put those things aside for the family.

4. Don't wait until you have a contract to sell the house before you call us.  We usually work 4-6 weeks out and need some time to get you on the calendar.  We try to accommodate everyone so please call as soon as you even consider doing a sale.

5. Don't think that a sale needs silver and crystal and diamonds to be successful and great.  Some of our most profitable sales have been held in average middle class homes with everyday belongings.  People are always looking for quality items at a great price and that's what we offer!

I hope this helps if you are considering an estate liquidation, please don't hesitate to call us for a free consultation.  We would love to help you decide if it's the right decision for you. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Antique Dolls

This last article in the doll series of posts is a quick primer on antique dolls.  Most of the dolls that little American girls played with in the late 19th century and early 20th century were made in France and Germany.  The first dolls from these countries had china and bisque heads and cloth bodies. (even though china and bisque are both porcelain, collectors call shiny, glazed dolls china and the unglazed porcelain dolls are called bisque.  Porcelain usually refers to contemporary dolls.)
China Doll

China Doll

Bisque Doll

German Bisque Doll

These dolls had pretty faces but the cloth bodies were not very realistic.  In the early 1850's, doll makers in Sonneberg, Germany mixed glue and sawdust to form moldable, paintable dolls.  They called this new concoction "composition".  The first composition dolls typically had a cloth torso and upper limbs with composition heads, hands and feet.  Eventually, entire dolls were made of composition resulting in much more realistic forms.  Soon, doll makers all used composition; it was inexpensive, easy to work with and it was more durable than bisque, which cracked easily.  Composition dolls survive today and can be easily identified by their crazing.  In the 1940's, composition gave way to plastic. 
Composition Doll

To help you identify genuine antique dolls, here are some of the marks you may see on these dolls. This page is a great resource for researching marks: Identifying Antique Doll Marks 

We also have a Pinterest board for antique dolls.  There are some pins with links to articles if you're interested.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Madame Alexander Dolls

Bertha (Beatrice) Alexander Behrman began making cloth dolls as a young girl.  Her stepfather owned the very first doll hospital in the United States and she made Red Cross Nurse dolls in order to help the business during World War I.  She and her sisters founded the Alexander Doll Company in 1923.  They added the "Madame" in an effort to make their dolls seem fancier.  They too started out making cloth dolls but soon switched to porcelain to appeal to a higher end market.  Some of their popular dolls were the Little Women characters, the Trapp family from The Sound of Music and The Three Little Pigs.  Later they made dolls of celebrities like Judy Garland, Shari Lewis and Marlo Thomas. 
The March Family from Little Women

Three Little Pigs

During World War II the company made Armed Forces representative dolls to boost morale and they also switched to hard plastic then to make their dolls less susceptible to breakage. 
During this time, they also pioneered the usage of rooted hair and eyes that could open and close.

One of the major milestones in the company's history happened in 1953 when they introduced Alexander-kins.  These are eight-inch baby dolls made of plastic and are probably the most well-known of all Madame Alexander Dolls.
Alexander-kins "Wendy Takes a Train"
In 1957 they introduced the 21" tall Cissy doll, a fashion doll for older girls. 
Vintage Madame Alexander Cissy doll
They also began to use vinyl in the 50's to make dolls more durable, along with synthetic hair that could be styled by children.   The 50's and 60's also saw Disney characters, Kennedy family dolls and international dolls. 
Madame Alexander's Cinderella

Today, the company is no longer owned by the Behrman family but still produces dolls bearing the Madame Alexander name for today's lucky little girls!  See more of these wonderful dolls on our Pinterest board.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Vogue Ginny Dolls

This post is another in the series we are doing on dolls...especially dolls that will be a part of our The Doll House Sale starting July 1, 2018.

One of the most beloved dolls of all time, the Vogue Ginny dolls were first introduced in 1951.  They were the brainchild of Jennie Adler Graves of Massachusetts.  Jennie had a shoppe, established in 1922 that sold dolls that she imported from Germany and dressed in her own creations.  That beginning grew into a company that began manufacturing their own dolls in the late 1940's. By 1951, demand for her dolls had grown to a point that allowed her to introduce Ginny, named for her daughter Virginia. 

One of the big attractions to Ginny dolls was the many beautiful outfits available for her.  Mrs. Graves insisted on using high quality fabrics like velveteen, taffeta, brocade and lace to make the splendid clothes and that attention to detail kept these dolls popular for many more years.  

There are many versions of Ginny, she began as a hard plastic doll and evolved into vinyl in the 1980's.  

The best thing about these pretty dolls is that we have some in our next auction!  Don't miss it! The Doll House Sale

There are some really good articles about all of the different Vogue dolls that you can access by going to our Pinterest board.