The Best, the Worst and the Trends: What's the Latest in Estate Sales


On a recent weekend sale, it was a pleasure to meet Charlene Macias, a professional when it comes to estate sales. Charlene has probably organized more estate sales than one person could shop in a lifetime.  She’s the owner of TimeSavers, a busy estate sale company that serves Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana. With more than twenty combined years of experience in her company – that’s a lot of sales – Charlene was the perfect person to tap for news of what’s new and old in estate sales.

GSW: Best
Is there a demographic trend to
best sellers, for example, mid century modern in Andersonville, old
wicker in Sycamore, first editions in Hyde Park….

Charlene: Items that are best
sellers now are mid-century furniture, housewares and decor (such as
cool ashtrays, even though no one smokes anymore)…..pretty much
anything mid-century.  Also, vintage clothing and right now. 70’s
clothing is hot, as the current styles in retail are bringing back the

Geographically, I don’t see a specific trend for specific items.  The
surprise aspect of this business is what constantly keeps us
going.  We never know who is going to come through the door
and what they will buy, no matter where the sale is. 

I will say
that vintage clothing sells better in Chicago or nearby towns like Oak
Park. Sometimes I have items that I
am sure are “hot” sellers, but then they don’t sell…..and the opposite
is true.  Also, due to the economy, people are now
coming to these sales to buy their “ordinary” day-to-day items, such as
linens, cleaning supplies, garden supplies, tools, clothing, even spices
and the like (we cannot sell food). They’re coming to our sales
rather than going to a retail store. 

It seemed for a while that not many people were buying
antiques, but I see a huge upsurge in them, which is a good thing. I’m seeing younger people buying antiques and I have read that there is a
new generation starting to appreciate “older” things.  There have
been several articles lately in the Antique Trader newspaper citing this
trend….which helps to bring new life back into the
business.  And I believe some younger people are realizing that
with the high unemployment rate, they can make some money reselling
used/vintage/antique items and also have fun with it.

GSW: What
sells first
at your sales? I imagine the dealers get to sales first- what are they
usually looking for?  Then, after the dealers, what category of
things sells next – jewelery, dishware, tools?

Charlene: Yes, the dealers do stand in line and get in first. If we have
silver or gold jewelry, sterling of any type……that is what they head
for first, most times crowding around my glass cases.  I believe it
is the price of silver and gold that brings them in. Many sell it for the
weight of the gold/silver and not the “jewelry” factor. 

Same with
flatware or candlesticks, etc., which is kind of a shame, as some
of these pieces are so lovely.  When the pieces have a lot of
gemstones, etc, dealers are not as interested in them, as they tend to be
priced higher, due to the addition of stones. They also go for things like
figurines (Lladros especially), old lamps, any good crystal like
Waterford, Lalique, etc., antique smalls that are easy to carry

The people that buy the larger antique pieces such as
furniture, come later in the day and are usually buying it for
themselves, or they have a shop and come on the second day when it is
discounted.  Then, there are some dealers who go for the
vinyl records of all types, older books and ephemera (which
we find a lot of and I love that myself).  These are any paper items
that would have normally been thrown away but were saved, such as postcards, old magazines, menus, playbills, ticket
stubs, programs, brochures, etc.  There is also a huge market for
any old military items…..especially World War II, but we don’t come
across that too often.

GSW: Do you get a lot of regulars at your sales?  Repeat customers that you get to know or wish they would stay home?

Charlene: Yes, we do get lots of regulars at our sales and we love it! 
And we get more and more the longer we are in business (almost ten years
now). Sometimes it amazes me how far they travel to our sales, as
we do the entire Chicagoland area and NW Indiana. 

I know most by
face and not by name (except for a few) and usually they will say
something like “Remember me? I had to take that door off to get the
refrigerator out of the basement in Oak Lawn.”  Oh yes, then we
remember…….Most of our customers are very, very nice and the nicer
they are, the better deals they get. 

Some are not very nice and
throw things back at us if they don’t like the price, or yell and scream
(oh yes……have to be escorted out)….and sometimes those “Febreeze”
people like to argue over a bottle of whatever….50 cents is too

We also get quite a few people who change price stickers
and think we don’t remember what we price items at (I do all the pricing
so I know when someone changes a price and I am also the cashier so no
one really gets away with it).  We do meet tons of nice people
and we have fun joking and laughing with them at our sales…..there is
always some strange thing that happens or something funny….and when
one of our workers misses a sale, they call me up to find out if there
were any “stories” from the weekend.

Next post: more from Charlene on the oldest and the most valuable items she’s found in a house, plus an estate sale ghost story.


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