What Will Happen To My Collection When I’m Gone ?

By Staff

3510 Brooklake Road, N.E. Brooks, Oregon 97303.

Question. What will happen to my collection when I’m gone?
Will it just sit there? Will it go to a museum? Will it be sold at
auction or will my heirs fight over it? Many people do not care to
talk about these questions. It is almost taboo for an outsider to
try to talk with many collectors about. There is the feeling with
many that ‘nothing is going to happen to me,’ or, ‘it
will take care of itself,’ or, ‘we’ll do it

In truth, most collectors have spent a lifetime gathering for
their enjoyment and it means very little to someone else, except
for the dollars it represents.

Let’s take a look at the many things to consider in handling
a collection upon someone’s demise.

Talk Time. Gather all of your immediate family
around and discuss your collection. For what purpose did you put
the collection together? To preserve some of the past! You just
like old stuff! Invested for retirement! For your children’s
education, or maybe to donate to a museum.

What are your family’s thoughts as to your collection? Will
they carry on with it? Sell it, or just don’t care? After
discussing it a decision can be made, mutually, as to the
disposition of your collection upon your demise.

Inventory. We recommend that you have a
complete and up-to-date inventory of your collection to include
date, description, serial number, condition, date of purchase, when
and where purchased and for how much.

Many collectors probably have an item or two that they are
storing for someone else. If you do, write it down, date it, and
also give them a copy, stating that this particular item is

We know of one case where a man and wife had agreed that upon
his death his entire collection of tractors, engines and toys was
to be sold at auction. Sometime later he passed away. His widow
then contacted an auction company and a date was set for the sale.
The question was asked if there was anything in the collection that
was not his. The answer was, ‘No, he owned it all.’ Six
months of lead time was used, with the sale scheduled for a
Saturday. On the Friday before, a cousin appeared and stated that
he had a verbal agreement with the widow’s husband that a
particular tractor was to be his if death occurred. This situation
was resolved peacefully, but it could have gotten very messy.

Remember: Verbal agreements won’t hold up in court. Write it

Will. Have a will made out. You can leave
instructions as to the disposition of your collection. What is to
happen. Who is to handle it and when. By doing this, you will save
your heirs a lot of grief trying to figure out what your desires

Living Trust. In conjunction with your will,
you might want to set up a living trust. You would be trustee, with
your heirs being the owners. Contact your attorney and accountant
about this.

Establishing value. Maybe you have decided to
donate your collection to a museum or give it to the kids. You will
need to have it appraised. Don’t, under any circumstances, have
a relative or close friend do this! Hire a qualified appraiser.
This will cost approximately $100.00 per day plus expenses. The
laws have changed the last few years and a qualified person will
know how to do the paperwork properly. This method also is better
accepted at tax time.

Museums. If you are thinking of donating your
collection to a museum, check it out first. Most museums can’t
handle more than a few items at a time as they don’t have space
for them or the necessary resources to restore and display very
many items all at once. If you have decided to go this direction an
appraisal will be needed.

Gifts to the kids. Do the kids really want it
or are they just saying they do to make you happy? How can they
divide it up? Do they have room for it? These are things that
should be discussed during your roundtable with the family.

Putting the collection up for sale. Do you know
where to advertise your collection so other collectors will know
that you’re having a sale? Is the collection too big to sell it
all this way? Do you want to take the time to negotiate the prices
on each item? It is very conceivable that it could take as long as
two years to liquidate a portion of the collection and you will
probably still have quite a few undesirable items left. In having a
regular sale it is advisable to have the collection appraised. We
recommend again using a qualified appraiser, not a friend or
relative. There is always the chance that a friend or relative
would set an artificial low value on an item with the thought in
mind of buying that item at a lower price. Bear in mind that if you
broker your collection and have someone else sell it for you, it
might cost as much as 25%. All in all, this method has a lot of

Auction. Having an auction is probably the best
way to liquidate a collection. The real choice items will bring top
dollar and the just plain items will also be sold. In a very short
time it will all be sold, cleaned up and gone and you will have
your money. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when
picking the correct auction company. First, try to choose a
reputable auction company, one that specializes in your type of
collection and that knows where to advertise. Talk with other
people that have used them. Make sure that all agreements are in
writing. Ask what your responsibilities are and what the auction
company will do for you.

The going rate is usually between 12% and 20%. At the 20% rate
the auction company should set up the sale, advertise it, pay for
all expenses. You should have no obligation other than to furnish
the merchandise.

The larger the sale, the less the commission should be. So this
is negotiable between you and the auction company. It takes more
time to set up and advertise an auction sale, but 99% of the time
the owners are going to realize more gross dollars than if someone
just came in and bought it.

The ideal lead time for an auction is about three months. The
larger the sale the more time should be used.

If you wonder what will happen to your collection, now is the
time to give it some thought. Perhaps what was a hobby has taken on
new values. Why leave its future to someone else’s judgement?
Make a plan for your collection, whether you sell it and use the
money for other purposes, leave it to the kids, or donate it as a
piece of history for others to enjoy, you should have a plan to
provide a future for your collection.

By opening the door to this subject, maybe this article will
stimulate conversation on a topic that for the most part has been
unapproachable for many.

(Jack Versteeg is the National President of the Early Day Gas
Engine and Tractor Association, Inc. He is the owner of Appraisal
Service and Pacific States Auctions.)

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines