IPBA Liquidating a Perfume Bottle or Vanity Item Collection


The first step is to divide the items into three possible categories based upon potential market value:

  • Top End
  • Middle Tier
  • Lower End

How you go about selling the items depends upon their placement in these groups.

The second step is to photograph the collection – this is necessary to interest buyers, auctioneers, appraisers, etc. Top End and Middle Tier items should be photographed individually. Lower end items can be grouped together in small groups when they share something in common (e.g. same fragrance). All photos should use a plain, solid color background – preferably white or black. Smart phones take excellent digital photos, but don’t get too close in order to ensure that the whole item is in focus.

The third step is to determine potential market value – there are several ways to do this:

1) INVENTORY: Do you have an Inventory of the collection? If so, does it have information such as: Date the item was purchased, Where or who it was purchased from; Price paid? Receipts or Invoices are helpful. NOTE: Condition makes a big difference here. You will need to know if there is any damage to each item – any chips, cracks and repairs will make a difference in value. Is the label present and in good condition? Is the presentation box present and in good condition?

2) APPRAISER: If there isn’t an Inventory with prices, you will need someone to help determine placement in the collection: Top, Middle, Lower. Also, to obtain a Fair Market Value for each item. A qualified Appraiser can help with this: one who is qualified and knows how to value perfume bottles and vanity items. See a list of IPBA members who work as appraisers.

3) OTHER: Another option is to attempt to find a knowledgeable collector whose collection is in the same category. Or you could try reviewing Auction Catalogs, which can be helpful if you want to attempt to do this yourself. Perfume Bottles Auction by Ken Leach has catalogs from previous years and realized prices. Several online auction houses also have searchable auction results.



Yearly Auction at Perfume Bottles Auction by Ken Leach is a great option for the best Top End bottles and vanity items.

Regional Auction Houses (not local) – for Middle Tier items. These are auctions that advertise in antiques publications, etc, and have a good following. Larger auction houses advertise more widely than smaller local auctions and thus bring in more buyers. This is of utmost importance when you are selling good antique items. Auctions can be iffy because you never know if the right buyers are going to be there. Your chances of selling better quality antiques for better prices are more likely at a regional auction house (not local auction companies). Local auctions will be a disappointment, and will probably sell them in box-lots.

It’s always better to choose one that specializes in the items you’re selling because they have tested clientele who watch for their sales and they receive notice of sales. Also, be sure to find out how much they will advertise and where.

Live Auctioneers posts a directory of over 5,000 auction houses, sorted by country and state.

B) ESTATE SALE – for Middle Tier and Lower End items. All estate sale companies basically offer the same services. Some are a little more flexible and some are bigger and have more options. Their commission is a percentage of gross sales and averages around 35-50% (sometimes more if it’s a small estate with low value). Some Estate Sale companies have also been known to buy outright if you wish to sell that way and some have shops that will take consignments. They are usually local companies that advertise as “Estate Sales” who will come to your home to conduct the sale. Most would not have any idea about pricing a collection of perfume bottles or vanity items. They do rely on dealers in their area for specialty items but if they don’t have a person who has knowledge with your particular bottles or vanity items, the pricing might be off.

C) CONSIGNMENT SHOP – for Middle Tier items. Consignment Shops may take your collection but they are in business to sell, so if after a certain time frame, they will reduce the prices. If they don’t sell at that time period, they may ask you to remove the items to make room for other consignments.

D) DIRECT-TO-DEALER SALE – for Middle Tier items. You might put together a flyer listing items you have for sale at dealer prices (generally they will want to pay 30-50% of retail or the insurance valuation) and ask if they can be distributed to area antiques mall dealers. Be sure to ask each Mall owner if it would be acceptable to distribute this flyer. See a list of IPBA members who are also dealers of perfume bottles and vanity items.

E) SELLING ITEMS YOURSELF – possible options for Middle or Lower End items

Flea or Collectors Market – for Middle Tier and Lower End items. Rent a Showcase at your local Antiques Mall, or a set-up at a larger, advertised Flea/Collectors Market. They advertise to a larger market with flyers in antiques malls, and sometimes send out notices to collectors.

Online Auctions such as eBay, Ruby Lane, Etsy, etc. This option is available to anyone who has a computer and is interested in selling items on their own. There are listing fees, and if the item sells, there is a final value fee, the exact amount dependent upon what the item sold for. The fees are fairly reasonable. One must be well organized to do this on a large scale.

IPBA Annual Convention – for Middle Tier items. Join the IPBA and sell them in our annual Convention Showroom, or at the Convention Collector’s Market.

Garage Sale – Mainly for Lower End items. Be sure to advertise it locally and put out signs days before at prominent corners, etc. with date and times. (No Early Sales – should be noted unless you want people at your door the day before or at 6:00 am the day of sale.)

International Perfume Bottle Association
Incorporated in Illinois, USA

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