Health & Lifestyle

What’s in your attic? The Quinns advise pack rats

  • Alexandria (VA) Times
  • -
  • December 12, 2006

by Karen Feld

“Learn not to over-collect,” said Matthew Quinn of the two-generation Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church. “If you can keep one object for each memory you’ll feel at home.”

“What’s really important in life is the memories,” Quinn said. “As we work with people, we realize everything in life is stuff. That stuff triggers memories.” His advice is to keep one piece, and sell one piece. When you sell it, you make more memories. He tells clients to keep what they want. Then, Quinn’s will go in and do the rest.

Quinn Enterprises bought Waverly Auctions of Bethesda, the internationally known book and autograph specialists, in 2004. The company now boasts $3 million in sales annually. In addition to being a hunting ground for historians, they offer a full range of estate services and assist people wanting to downsize.

The Quinn brothers – Matthew, 31, and David, 34, along with their dad, Paul, boast some of the lowest auction prices in town. “Auctions maximize market value within a period of time,” explains Matt. “Do you want to sell it, or do you want to make a million dollars?”

“We focus as much on the person as we do the stuff,” said Matt. “The key to our success is our service-oriented approach.”

“It’s supply and demand,” explains David. “People are becoming pickier about what they buy.”

“Pure collectors will chase fine stuff,” said Matt. “Other people collect stuff we use in everyday life. The nostalgia factor sells.” Look at what we use and have in our houses today – perhaps, old computers or maybe $29 rubber Crocs that will go up over time.”

The price of an object is driven by supply and demand. Scarcity and condition also factor into the value of an item.

“No one wants to buy an entire collection,” said Matt. “It’s about the joy of collecting whether it’s post cards, maps, political memorabilia, vintage toys, leather bound books or Harry Potter first editions, which sell for as much as $11,000. That, Matt calls, a “cultural phenomena.” American furniture is always hot, especially mid-century and older.

The Internet has created a global marketplace. “There’s an optimistic future when baby boomer stuff changes hands,” David said. They also predict that the auction catalogue will become a thing of the past, and will be replaced by the Internet.

“Bricks and mortar – the physical presence – provide a sense of security for the buyer,” Matt said. “One of the advantages of being a physical auction house is that we’ll be here tomorrow.” Buyers on eBay don’t always know what they are getting since sellers frequently operate out of someone’s basement. Quinn’s is licensed and bonded.

In addition to their high-end auctions, you may be surprised at a “find” at one of their weekly auctions – the stuff in grandma’s house – held every Wednesday night. David, who studied at auctioneer school, says, “A lot of it is seeing things. If you fall in love with an Asian bowl, take it home.”
Quinn’s Auction Galleries
431 North Maple Avenue
Falls Church, VA 22046

The auction house has a staff of research specialists and consultants for various genres. High-end sales are also conducted on eBay. They sold a Tiffany window for $78,000 last year.

Frequently the Quinns sell celebrity items.

They did Howard K. Smith’s library. Books signed by former presidents Kennedy and Nixon, inscribed to Smith, went for a hammer price of $50,000. They sold a $100 check from Robert E. Lee to his wife, Mary Custis Lee for $3,500. Matt says he usually estimates on the low side, which he calls “enticingly appropriate.”

Fine prints and paintings are scheduled for Jan. 25; fine art, antique furniture and decorative arts, Jan. 27.


Back to Articles