Behind the velvet rope of Estate Sales with Jamie Adler

I admit it, I am an Estate Sale Junkie.

I love every single thing about them. From previewing the online pictures, to touring people’s houses, to imagining what their lives were like and imagining about the dinner parties they needed 36 matching champagne coupes for.  I always wind up in the kitchen, and pretty much always leave with something from their collection of martini glasses, candle votives, or serving pieces. Sometimes even a Pyrex bowl will satisfy my connection with these people who I have never met, but I have never left empty handed.

There are probably hundreds of good sources to buy estate items online, but there is nothing like seeing vintage items in their natural habitat.With that being said there are dozens of estate sales every weekend Los Angeles, but in my opinion, the best sales in LA are ran by Lloyd Gordon of LG Estate Sales .

Lloyd has has been conducting Estate Sales in the Los Angeles area since 1988. A native Southern Californian, Lloyd developed an interest in Antiques and Collectibles while walking home from school and wandering into all the Antique Stores which proliferated in West Hollywood. For a short time his father owned a contemporary Art Gallery in West Hollywood, and Lloyd grew up surrounded by books on Art, Architecture, Interior Design, and Antiques.  He graduated with a Fine Arts degree from UCLA and was a stage performer featured in Chorus Line and on stage with Carol Channing and Charo!

A theater background is important for running estate sales.

I have seen Lloyd become a buyers new best friend at sales, and I have also witnessed and cheered him on as he threw out a rude bookie-loo who was insulted at the price of something that was clearly of value. This is also whey I love estate sales, you never know who or what you are going to find during their short 3 day runs. The favorite item I scooped up was this Lucite Bench from the Eva Gabor sale and being able to tour her house in Holmby Hills that was designed by famed architect Paul Williams.

I recently sat down with Lloyd to find out more about the world of of selling people’s most personal items to  complete strangers.

Lloyd, can you tell us a bit about the process of sales?

Conducting an Estate Sale is a very personal endeavor, and is often an emotional one for the families.  My staff and I try to be as respectful as possible, and sensitive to the homes we enter and the collections we encounter.  Even when the collections are less valuable than the family expected, we try to break that to them as gently as possible, and to create realistic expectations.  Obviously, we want the family to e as pleased with the results as possible.

How were sales different the last year during the pandemic?

Conducting sales during the Pandemic has been challenging.  At first, no one knew quite how contagious covid was.  We had a sale all set to go when everything suddenly shut down.  What do we do with a two-story house full and ready to go?  We only invited friends on Facebook; only 1 person was allowed in a room at a time; all the windows and doors were wide open (we were lucky it was a warm weekend) only staff who were comfortable ended up working; no staff was allowed in the same room with a client; everyone in the house wore masks AND gloves.  Our cashier was wearing so much he looked like the invisible man!  We conducted 7 more sales during covid: always limited the number of shoppers to 6 – 8; staff always wore masks and sometimes shields; and all the windows were always open.  Our cashier sat outside behind an acrylic shield. We stopped advertising and only emailed my invitational list.  However, with so few people attending sales, our gross sales went down substantially.  Fewer items sold and for less money.  But, we still did relatively well, and kept people employed.

What is one of your most memorable moments at a sale?

A few years ago I was conducting an Estate Sale at the 8,500 sq. ft. former residence of the Rothschild family.  The owner had purchased the home from the family with the Rothschild furnishings intact, and in 25 years I don’t even think she changed the paint color!

There was large beautiful painting of Eva Rothschild in the living room, and during the sale a handsome young gentleman was standing alone gazing at the painting.  “Beautiful, isn’t she?” I asked.  “Yes, she is” he replied gently.  Referring to the artist, I added: “I don’t know who it’s by.”  Misunderstanding me, he replied: “It’s Ingela Rothschild.”  “You knew her?” I asked.  “She my aunt,” he responded.  “I haven’t been here in 25 years….“

It was Designer Judson Rothschild.

Can you give some tips to Buyers?If you’re serious and see something you want, you need to be early and sign up.  Some sales allow pre-sales, but most don’t, but never hurts to ask politely.  If there are a lot of things you like, you might consider going twice.  The first day the prices are highest (ALWAYS much less than retail, though!) and go even lower on the last day.  But, if you wait until the last day, odds are good that the item you want will be gone.  Many people come early the first day, buy what they really want, then return the last day when prices are less.












Tips from Jamie:

Do online research first of the items on sale. This will determine your need to be there first thing on Friday, or lounge until Sunday afternoon (when most of the desirable items are gone but the bargains are plenty).

Most sales do not allow handbags so be prepared with only your Bandolier.

Be respectful of people’s home and taste, sometimes its’ all really bad and sometimes the owner is there.

Be respectful of the management team, the pricing and the curating. Know that they have devoted many weeks/months into setting up our experience.

There is always wiggle room on pricing after the 1st day, a lot on the last day because those items become a burden after 2:00pm on Sunday and may get donated or put on consignment elsewhere.

Have FUN and think of an estate sale like an anthropology field trip and  allow your self to be curious about the books they read, the wallpaper they chose, the art they collected and the clothes they wore. One can leave an estate sale with an incredible experience without buying anything.

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