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Let’s Talk About Car Boot Sales & Charity Shops After Covid-19

Debbie Porter

Before you take those boxes of things you’ve cleared out whilst at home to the nearest car boot or charity shop, pause and get in touch with us and we’ll help you evaluate if your items have any value for auctioning.

So you have been busy in the garage, spare room and attic during lockdown, and think you have found old items of some value, interest, or just ancient bits of junk for the tip, car boot or charity shop?

Our senior valuer Rod Gibson would like you to think long and hard about your next move.  Rod has put together this article to help you make the right decision, and more importantly, not make the wrong choice!

Think Twice Before Heading To The Nearest Car Boot or Charity Shop

Let’s talk about car boot and table top sales, charity shops and the local municipal tip or refuse recycling centre, now we are all granted new freedoms following the easing of restrictions following the Covid-19 lockdown. 

All of these ways of selling on unwanted items play a vital role in helping to process many millions of otherwise perfectly good household goods, toys, clothes and bric-a-brac each year.  However, do you realise just how many valuable items are thrown away, sold for a pittance or given to charity? It would really surprise you. 

Take charity shops, now I’m the first one to say that you should support your local or favourite charity, so does it really matter if you give something to charity that turns out to be valuable? Within reason, no, of course not.  However, charity shops are staffed by kind and caring individuals, who often research the items given to them before selling them, but they are not specialists in antiques and collectables, and all too often, the real treasures and valuables are picked up for a few pounds by a growing army of sharp-eyed collectors and dabblers.  

Increasingly now, charities are turning to us for advice and assistance in identifying and selling their more valuable items, but they are still missing many of the more obscure things, and sadly, are ending up selling them off for a much smaller price than they could attract.

The car boot sale is a godsend for people faced with a good Spring sort out, house move or an elderly relatives house to clear.  No one in their right mind would sell a valuable treasure for a couple of pounds, but without an expert eye to guide you, you could be unintentionally selling on something of real value.

Valuable jewellery, works of art, rare ceramics are what all seasoned car booters keep an eye out for.  If you have ever wondered why, when some cars arrive at the car boot sale, it is mobbed by an army of keen individuals, these people are there to grab the first bargains before everyone else gets the chance.

This regular band of treasure hunters quickly identify a ‘new arrival’ as opposed to the regular seasoned car boot sellers that make a living from selling at car boot sales, and are far less likely to sell a valuable item for a couple of pounds.  The ‘fresh meat’ is quickly pounced upon, and a veritable bun fight often occurs in an effort to divest the occupants of any treasures they may have overlooked, for a few pounds.  Sound familiar?  This doesn’t happen all the time, but is often enough to keep the treasure hunters keen. 

It might then come as little surprise that it is specialist auctioneers and experts like ourselves that these bounty hunters turn to for advice and assistance in selling the treasures they have picked up, often gloating how little they paid from a charity shop or car boot sale. 

Very recently, a Chinese enamel vessel was sold at auction for £50,000, the vendor proudly boasting that he purchased this recently at a car boot sale.  The original owner is probably still completely unaware that they had given away a small fortune, but would be heartbroken to discover this via a local newspaper headline.

Visiting The Local Tip? 

And last, but by no means least, let’s talk about the good old local tip.  Many of these have been closed during the Covid-19 lockdown, but are now opening their doors to people who are desparate to get rid of junk that’s been piling up at home for the last couple of months.

However, you would not believe what people throw away.  At Potteries Auctions, we are regularly asked to sell items that have been thrown away, jewellery, silver and coins being exceedingly common, and I can offer no rational explanation for this, but also a whole host of other items that have turned up at the local tip.

A lot of the valuables are either paper related, like old books and postcards, or are dusty, tarnished or otherwise not looking their best, but we are still talking about valuable things.  Sadly, much of this material comes from deceased estates, where relatives are overwhelmed with the amount of material they have to deal with, and a very common situation for us is when we are asked to value some furniture and ceramics, prior to the house being sold, only to find that the executors have thrown away all the albums of old postcards and cigarette cards, old leaflets and books, radios and old instruments they thought was just old fashioned junk.

We find time and time again that the potentially valuable items have been thrown away.  However, companies have to tender to the council for the right to sort through the rubbish at the tip.  This is not a pleasant job, but they PAY for the right to sift through all the rubbish, and harvest off the goodies.  The only reason they go to this trouble is to collect this treasure… and there is plenty of it.

Talk To Us For Advice On Potentially Valuable Items

If you want to avoid making the treasure hunters rich at your cost, why not seek out our professional and expert free advice?  Let us help you to realise the *FULL* potential of your possessions at auction, and if you want to then use the proceeds to make a donation to charity, you can decide how much you want to give.  

It’s relatively easy to research something like a Royal Doulton figure on the internet, where all the information is on the base of the piece.  Where people slip up is when there are identifying factory marks, or pieces seemingly without any identifying features. This is where we can step in to help you identify whether you have an original Royal Copenhagen set of plates, or a later reproduction of this popular style.  We can help you figure out if that old fountain pen your father always used at his desk is just an old fountain pen, or whether he spent all those years writing with a Montblanc Boehme Royal Pen (one of the most expensive fountain pens in the world!).

And please, please, don’t clear out those bookcases of fusty, dusty books! We often find some absolute gems in there and you’ll be glad of the help.

We are open for business again, but with strict safety guidelines to help keep our customers and staff alike, safe from harm and infection.  You can talk to one of our team if you have any questions, or you can email us for an appointment on  or call us on +44 (0)1782 638100 Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm.