DEAR SUN SPOTS: Perhaps Sun Spots is a bit lazy? I believe you are doing a disservice to your readers in your answer regarding the value of a doll collection. Do you do any research in the local phone book or perhaps on whitepages.com? I found nine antique appraisers listed on whitepages.com and there are two in the local phone book.
Are these doll appraisers? Of that I'm not sure, but a simple phone call would answer that question, but if the reader isn't given that information then you aren't helping very much. Yes, eBay is a source but that is not an appraisal.
As for the free comment, sometimes you get what you pay for. The local business would probably appreciate your support and be happy to provide a written appraisal that your reader could use for insurance purposes or possibly selling her extensive collection.
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. If your position at the paper is a paid position then you need to go the extra mile and provide your readers with good information in your responses.
Thank you. — Mark, Auburn, firstname.lastname@example.org
ANSWER: Oh, my, Sun Spots has been accused of many things over the years, but this is the first time for lazy. However, upon re-reading her answer, she sees why you may have thought that. Sun Spots should have explained her process a little bit more, but she thought that because she’s covered the topic of collectibles more than once that her readers might find the information repetitive.
Sun Spots did refer to the phone book, where she found one listing under “dolls-rare and collectible.” No one from that establishment returned her call. She also spoke to the owner of an antique store, who verified what Sun Spots suspected — that dolls are a specialty. While your average antique store owner is going to recognize famous or particularly rare examples of dolls, there are so many kinds of dolls that it would take a real expert to be able to price a collection accurately.
Sun Spots has a bit of experience in this area, having sold her own collection of Barbie and friends. Sun Spots was a meticulous child and kept all her dolls and their accessories in individual plastic bags, never losing so much as a tiny shoe. What Sun Spots learned, to her amazement, was that that tiny shoe, or miniature comb or purse, was often worth more than the dolls themselves.
However, valuing that small accessory or finding a buyer for it is a lot easier in the larger market provided by the Internet. When Sun Spots sold her collection in Denver in the 1990s via a traditional classified ad, she only found two buyers in that large city and one of them bought the entire collection. If she was selling now, she could sell the items individually to several buyers for greater profit.
While selling online may be the best way to go, your point about appraisals for insurance is well taken. Sun Spots went to the website of the National Antique Doll Dealers Association (www.nadda.org), which lists all their members. None are in Maine, but there are a few in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York.
An appraisal will not come cheap. Debra's Dolls of New Jersey (www.debrasdolls.com), which appears prominently online, charges $15 per doll, and you must take your dolls to them.
Books and journals on doll collecting, which may offer some pricing guidelines, are also an option, but for current pricing online is the way to go.
Sun Spots wishes she had a better answer, but she is stymied. The market for all collectibles has been irrevocably changed by the Internet. While this is a hardship for many older readers, who have built up large collections and may not use computers, Sun Spots doesn't see the situation changing. No storefront owner can compete with the lower overhead of online retailers.
Lastly, Sun Spots is paid, but she is budgeted a certain amount of time, so she can’t spend too much time on any one question. But that is the beauty of this column. Many times the readers are the best source of information. Unfortunately, in this instance, you are the only respondent to this question.
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