The State of Estates

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Lottie Stevens runs a successful estate sale and appraisal company in Tulsa. Photo by Casey Hanson.

 

Estate sales are like the older, wiser sister of garage sales. They matured, got an education and saw the world. When there are goods to be sold, many people call specialists like Lottie Stevens, a professional appraiser who runs Sales by Lottie, an estate sale company in Tulsa that has garnered an impressive number of followers.

“I have people who have said to me, ‘I can’t come to anymore of your sales, my house is full,’” recalls Stevens.

Stevens says that these days, people have estate sales for different reasons. “It used to be mainly death or they were moving into a facility,” she explains. “Now, it is either downsizing or moving across the country for job-related business.”

When delving into the world of lifetime accruals and collections, one may get used to seeing unique items, but some pieces cannot be forgotten. In the Oklahoma City area, Matt McNeil of McNeil Liquidations says his company specializes in large and unusual sales. He once had the unique challenge of trying to sell a collection of erotic Japanese netsukes, ceremonial ivory carvings.

“They were pretty graphic,” he says. “The customers would have to ask to see them because obviously we’re in the heart of the Bible Belt, and there are too many people who could have been easily offended.”

Stevens says one of her most memorable finds was three pieces of Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica, dishes originally designed for the Dutch king and queen. She says it is the most expensive dishware out there, something she has searched for but never expected to find in Tulsa. Maybe it shouldn’t have been that surprising because, she considers, “We forget we have incredible roots, and we attracted money with oil and gas for so many years that there are some really cool things.”

It takes a lot of training to be able to identify and value the diverse array of items that are sold at estate sales. Both Stevens and McNeil have more than 20 years of experience, and they continue to educate themselves in new areas. Their vast expertise allows their clients to trust them wholly.

“It’s a trust industry, if you think about it,” says Stevens. “They’re handing me keys. It’s probably a hard step for a lot of families that have lost their family member.” Stevens believes that being an advocate for the families is a crucial part of her job. “I do exactly what I love,” she says. “I have a passion for it in my own little weird way.”



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