How To Sell An Estate Transformers Collection

Have you been named an executor of an estate? If so, we imagine that you are feeling a bit overwhelmed. As the executor you’re responsible for determining what is valuable and what is sentimental. At the same time, you’re also trying to value and liquidate a home, its contents, bank/investment accounts, and more. When evaluating and sorting through an estate, it’s not uncommon to come across vintage G1 Transformers toy collections, especially if the owners or owners parents grew up in the 80s and 90s. During those decades it was quite common for kids to play with and action figure toys.

If you’re unfamiliar with these toys then it can seem like a daunting task to sort and evaluate them. You’ll ask yourself questions similar to: How long will it take to sort everything? How do I know what’s valuable? How can I avoid being taken advantage of by buyers when I sell? Who will buy old Transformers toys? Are there reputable toy buyers who’d want the whole collection? Where can I sell them?

It might seem easier to donate the toys or toss them out, but it IS worth your time to do a little research.  This will give you a rough idea of what they are worth, and find a reputable buyer. We have taken the time to detail the recommended steps to help you sell the toy collection in the easiest and most profitable way possible.

Step One – Assess and Organize

Yes, it would be much easier to box it all up, bring it to a collectibles store, pawn shop or even a local auction house, and request an estimate; however, you will most likely lose out on quite a large percentage that way. Instead, start by organizing the collection. You may not know what’s valuable and what’s not so be careful.

Organize the collection into boxed and unboxed (loose). If an item is inside a box, leave it in there as we will discuss what to do with boxed items in a moment. Also if there are parts/weapons with an item, do not remove them – odds are they go together. It might sound logical to just throw all the parts in one bag, but as a dealer/buyer it’s actually easier for us if the parts remain with the items because then we know if they are complete or not. Once you have them organized based on the loose versus in-box, turn your focus towards just the loose figures and further separate them based on size – large, medium, small, and petite. There will be some the size of Reese’s cup and others the size of a loaf of bread.

Now let’s return your attention back to the boxed items. Any toys that are already inside a box, check to see if the box is sealed. If it is in fact sealed, don’t open it as unsealed boxes are worth more. If the box is unsealed on one or both sides, open it up and make sure the toy matches the one that appears on the box – any that don’t match the image on the box should be put with the other loose figures based on its size. Sort the boxes based on if they are sealed or unsealed.

Whatever you do don’t try to clean and/or transform the toys. Not only do you risk ruining the stickers with the cleaning supplies, but you will most likely have no idea which ones are more fragile than others. If you try to transform them you could break an arm off or a small part that makes it more valuable. Some Transformers such as Skyhammer can’t be transformed today by a novice without breaking it.

Step Two – Evaluate

Before you contact a dealer for a quote, you’ll want to do some research to give yourself an approximate idea of what each item is worth and which will be particularly valuable. An excellent reference for all vintage Transformers released from 1984-1990 would be eBay’s Advanced search. It is the most up-to-date price guide out there. Not only can you look at current pricing, but you can also view active sales and past sales (completed/sold listings). This tool will give you a somewhat accurate idea of what your toys are worth. The issue that will remain is figure condition and that will be hard for you to gauge, but you will get a great idea of what your items are worth at least.

Using eBay’s Advanced Search tool mentioned above, go through each group of Transformers and identify any rare or potentially valuable items. Once you’ve separated out the more valuable ones, obtain an approximate count. When working with a dealer it will be helpful if you can say something like, “I have a collection of 80 Transformers which include 10 sealed boxes, 20 other unsealed boxes some with toys and some without, 35 loose figures, and 15 items with their weapons (complete).” If you have an exceptionally large collection (hundreds of items) and/or don’t have the time to look up individual items, at least set aside any that are in SEALED boxes.

Step Three – Selling the Collection

There are several ways to go about selling Transformer toys. The best way is whatever works best for you given the time frame you’re provided. Oftentimes, pressure from the heirs will require you to liquidate the collection by a certain date so your options may be limited. The most common ways to sell Transformer toys are:

  • Using a local auction service
    • Pros: easy, local
    • Cons: slow turnaround time, high fees, unknown sales price (depends on who shows up that day)
  • Selling to a toy dealer
    • Pros: minimize time you spend, fast turnaround time (we take less than a week to complete purchases), can background check with the Better Business Bureau, no fees (we even pay your shipping)
    • Cons: Can’t get full value
  • Selling them online
    • Pros: large client base, good prices
    • Cons: slow, very time consuming, high fees, unknown how the bidding will go, fraud concerns

Using a Local Auction Service

Auction houses are a good option if you’re selling a large collection that is very valuable. Do note that this option will reduce your final payout because you have to factor in the house fees and commissions, which are most often in the 20% range.  It is our experience unless your using a high end auction house that focuses on collectibles, the items don’t always get proper treatment either and things get lost or separated leading to lower prices.  Additionally, very rare items are not identified as such (as auction houses are generalists not specialists) and sold for even pennies on the dollar.

Selling to a Toy Dealer Directly

This is your best option when it comes to selling your Transformers collection. Not only is it a quick process, but you will be offered competitive prices especially if you did your research and found a reputable buyer. A good way to confirm you are working with a professional is checking the Better Business Bureau. The process of working with a toy dealer is usually fairly simple. You share photos/lists of the items you have, once the buyer looks it over he/she will offer an estimate, if you accept the estimate all you have left to do is ship the items. Some buyers will even offer to pay for shipping (we do). It’s just finding the time to properly wrap up the items.

Selling Online

This day and age there are several different online outlets you can utilize to sell your Transformer collection; however, your best option for selling online would be eBay . EBay and other auction sites are a popular way to sell Transformers today. They allow you to expand your potential customer base. However, this method also comes with some extra costs. You will have to take individual pictures of the items, which can be a timely process alone. In addition you also have to take into consideration the packing and shipping of the items.  This is very time consuming doing one at a time.   All that with constant running to the post office.  That’s just the time expense.

Now you have to look at the financial expenses. The listing, final auction, and PayPal fees can reduce the final selling price by 14% of more. You also have to think about paying for shipping and insurance expenses. Then there’s communicating with bidders and possibly dealing with returns, even fraud. In the end it can be a very costly and time consuming process.  We sell on eBay, but our clients know what to expect, and when they don’t know a seller they will not pay the same prices, this means simply you can’t sell an item for what we can.

Regardless of which method you end up choosing to sell your collection, it’s in your best interest to organize the toys, evaluate them to determine their worth, and research reputable buyers.

The experts at Wheeljack’s Lab can assist you in identifying and evaluating your Transformers collection. Wheeljack’s Lab is a vintage toy store, specializing in buying and selling vintage Generation One (G1) Transformers toys as well as other toys. Call us at 515-329-5090 or email us at chris@wheeljackslab.com so we can get started helping you today!

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