You were hoping for a nice little cash sum in Great Aunt Ethel's will. Instead, she's left you her collection of antiques dolls so creepy-looking that you wouldn't even stash them in someone's else's poolroom.
Picture: Average Jane
Your first thought is probably to take them to Vinnie's or flog them on eBay. But with anything antique, whether it's an old painting, an ornament or even jewellery, you should always let an expert eye take a look first.
Never assume it's paste
It always pays to start with a bit of research. Your chilling china doll may turn out to be a rare and highly valuable collectible by Albert Marque and worth far more than the $5k you were hoping for. That old Victorian brooch may be platinum and diamonds, not tin and zircon. That cracked old Chinese vase may be Ming.
You may be able to get a rough idea from a price guide service such as Carters but you'll still need an individual expert opinion. So your first step is finding an appraiser who is accredited, experienced and a specialist in the type of collectible you have.
You can do this by contacting an auction house and asking for the relevant department. Be aware that a professional valuation isn't free, but it is something you'll need to insure your item and start the sales process.
Flogging the family jewels
So now you know your legacy is worth a fair few bucks and you want to sell it. How do you go about finding a buyer? Let's look at your options:
1. Private sale
You'll have to do your own marketing for this one, and it may be hard to track down a buyer with a six-figure sum in their pocket. Still, it's an option. Contacting a relevant collector's society might be a way to start — they may have a member magazine you could advertise in.
Online auctions seem like a quick and easy way to sell a collectible item and for certain valuables they can be. Vendors can and do sell antiques online. You will need to do your own marketing and you may find it hard to reach the wealthiest buyers. eBay tends to attract more first-time buyers, for example. You'll also need to be very careful how you accept payment and manage the delivery of your item, with fraudulent chargebacks an ongoing issue.
3. Auction house
An auction house may have the highest fees but will take you through the whole process, from setting a reserve price to marketing the sale of your item. Auction houses can also give you access to a global market where your inheritance can fetch the highest price. Australia is a relatively small market and depending on your item you may be advised to try selling it overseas, for example in Europe.
If this sounds like a lengthy process that's because it is. With auctions generally speaking it takes three months for an item to go under the hammer, and then you'll face another month's wait before you see any money.
Cashing in early
So what do you do if you need money urgently? Maybe you want to go skiing, have a payment due or need a new laptop.
The problem with trying to sell a rare item quickly — a "fire sale" — is that you won't get the best price. Depending on the kind of item you have, you may lose over half its value.
One option is to get a sale advance loan. If you're committed to selling then it's one way to get a good portion of your inheritance's value immediately.
Of course you may end up like that bloke on Antiques Roadshow. One of the ones — there are so many — secretly hoping their garage sale painting is really a Grand Master and trying to mask their inevitable disappointment when the frame turns out to be worth more than the daubing. You may have to drown your sorrows when you find out your dolls are only worth $5 apiece.
Or you may be sitting on a seven figure sum in a few months' time, raising a glass to your Great Aunt's memory from your new beachside mansion.
Steven Beinart is the co-founder of personal asset lending specialist Assetline. He has over twenty years of international senior management and board experience in the facility services, healthcare and personal care industries.