By Bill Ackerman


Sometimes I will see and ad with little or no listing and this does not save money or work out well for your client. You always need to give a good general overview of what is contained in an estate tag sale and the more you list, the more likely you will attract someone who read your ad and came because of an item that was listed that they read about. You do not need to list every item, however a strong general overview of what is there makes the sale appealing to attend. Customers are less likely to attend if only a bare bones ad is placed. If you care enough about the sale you are doing, then you will care enough to do a fairly complete listing so your customers will not blow off your sale as just a “not much there—don’t need to go” sale.


I have encountered many who swear by the internet for advertising. (Facebook, neighborhood sale sites, and the like are free, however, they overlook reaching many buyers already in the market for tag sales who may not even know about your sale. Use the internet, but only above and beyond your conventional newspaper advertising, personal e-mail contacts, flyers in many area businesses and posting boards, signage and the like that people will actually see. Do not plan on having a lot of success using just the free internet venues. It does not work. If those are the only means of advertising that are chosen to use, do not plan on a lot of success having a tag sale. Most of our customers see our ads that we actually pay for and get results from.


Your client is paying you for results and they deserve results. Results that garner them the most money for their items and for the family concerned. Results that bring a crowd to the door, not just a small group that read it on the internet. Considering that one can take things to an auction and sell for 20-30% that commission range seems to be fair for estate tag sales. I see no reason for an estate to pay fees that do not garner them the lion’s share of the proceeds. Yes, your customers are very important, but without a seller you would have no sale.

You earn your commission on what sells, not on prep time with unknown results. Do not pay by the hour for tag sale services when considering a tag sale for your situation, but go only with a business that works on commission and commissionable results. One never knows what the results of a tag sale will be, and the client is buying results, not a housecleaning service that may or may not sell your items well on any given day. I have heard some horror stories about tag sales that when the family hired people that charge by the hour and the proceeds they received were minimal compared to what they would have received had they paid a fair commission on what sold. Commission is an incentive for a better sale. Commission is the only fair way to charge to do a tag sale. Treat your client fairly and give them the best sale you can. All of you are better off then. An hourly prep rate as compared to commission, is that even a question? Commission is the only way to go that is fair and keeps control of the client’s costs. Your client is your most important consideration.


By keeping your commission in the 20-30% range you will invariably get more sales and your clients will reap a larger percentage of the proceeds that they are entitled to.

PRICING OF ITEMS AT THE TAG SALE: It is best to price items at a percentage of shop retail. Customers are not inclined to pay a shop retail price for items on opening day and will rather wait until “discount day” to purchase. If one prices at perhaps 85% of shop retail you will sell more at the opening session than if you price at full bore, then find out it does not sell, then have to discount at second session. Be a motivated seller, yet realistic. Your client will get more money this way than if you charge maximum full price at opening session, and not sell. The more you sell, the less you have to deal with after the tag sale. A good average is better than a discounted average and lack of sales with over priced merchandise at the opening session.

You are there to sell items. Your customers are there to buy them. Some will come back second and third day, some will not. Those who come first session and see overpriced items usually leave and when they leave they take their checkbook with them.

Only use commissionable tag sale managers. You want results, they want results. If one hires and entity that works by the hour, there are guaranteed costs but no guaranteed results and the client could be out a whole bunch of money. Even if the sale goes okay, you have probably put out more money than if you would have hired your promoter on commission. Do not go with an hourly prep rate. It could end up to be an expensive endeavor that yields you a very small percentage of the proceeds.


There are always items left over after a sale. Always consider the best donation service available. Many will pick up and be glad to get the items for their causes. We usually recommend and work with the charities that do the most good with the least overhead and the ones that are staffed by volunteers. Salvation Army has always been a longtime staple and good charity to donate to and does a lot of good with minimal overhead. There are always people who will pick up minimal value basement and garage sale items for free and take them away after a sale. This is a valuable service and can save some work on cleanup.

If you treat your clients well, do not overcharge on your commissions and really work to put on a good sale, likely you will have a good sale and your clients will recommend you to others that they know. If you overcharge your clients, and then have “hidden charges” that come to light at settlement time and the client only gets a small percentage of the total proceeds, then you have done a major dis service to them and you will not get further recommendations, and should feel guilty that your tag sale business received more than the client you are working for. This is unacceptable and never should happen. If I ever did a sale and my client did not receive at least 60% or 65% of the proceeds, then I have not done my job correctly and should not have done the sale as other venues would have been better.

Ackerman’s Antiques and Estate Services, since 1969, is located in Iowa City, Iowa. Specializing in local estate tag sales/estate services. Always a free house call, (319) 430-3737.