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Wauwatosa's Sell It Now sells it anywhere

Consignment store takes piece of the action for global business

Dec. 11, 2012

Those dusty antiques sitting in your basement could be worth more to someone in South Asia than in Milwaukee.

At least, that's what the folks at the Wauwatosa-based Sell It Now Store would like people to consider when they are trying to figure out what to do with excess property.

The store specializes in consigning your items and selling them either on eBay, live auction via the web or through other avenues including Craigslist.

A worldwide market

With nearly half of their items selling abroad, the store gives people looking to sell their grandparent's fine silverware a world market, making both the seller and the store nearly impervious to the recession.

Mike Boerschinger, owner of Sell It Now, said that the recession can even work to the store's advantage: With more Americans looking to sell their odds and ends for cash, the store sees more revenue.

Boerschinger also said that there is a high demand for vintage American items from halfway across the globe, from northern Europe to Southeast Asia.

Even if a sale item doesn't leave the city, whoever bought it likely had to compete with consumers on a global market, he added.

When someone wishes to sell their item, the store's appraiser will determine how much the item is worth by looking back at the last year of sales on sites like Amazon.com or auction sites such as eBay. The search is not only through time, but space as well. Every market is considered when making an appraisal.

Odds and ends

Besides fine silverware, the store has sold a wide range of items - 1955 Corvettes, Transformer toys (in the original box), antique clocks (including an old wall clock that hung in the Pan Am building in New York), vintage bicycles, fine art, and, among the recent oddities, even a circus calliope. There are common collectibles, including baseball cards featuring Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Roy Campanella.

Whatever the item, the store will try to find a market for an item.

Each item has its own story as well. The Pan Am wall clock was recovered from a trash bin, transported via subway and eventually sold to an art museum in California. An unassuming bronze lamp, with its cord cut, from a destroyed building sat unnoticed in an attic before it sold for $7,500 to a museum in Austria.

Nichole Pirolo, the manager of operations, said buyers sometimes view themselves as a link in a chain of owners.

"A man who bought an item from us sent us an email which said that he's not the new owner of it, he's simply the next caretaker of it, and it's going to be around a lot longer than he is," Pirolo said. "The people who receive the items have a raw emotional tie to them."

The sales model

Sell It Now is not a pawn shop. Rather, it's a consignment agency, which helps customers sell their items rather than buying items from customers to sell. The stores takes 25 percent commission and handle the entire sale of the item from appraisals to markets to shipping to insurance.

"When you're a picker or a buyer, you want to pay as little as you can get it for an item," Boerschinger said. "I want items to sell for a million dollars because our commission is based on what it sells for."

The store began in 2006 as a registered eBay drop-off location in Waukesha. The store quickly grew, earning double digit gains each year, and eventually became the largest eBay registered store in Wisconsin.

Keeping that eBay name affiliated with the store is no easy feat - a store must maintain, among other factors, a level of positive feedback, a certain amount of income for eBay, and a physical location. The Sell It Now Store sold $1 million in items via eBay last year.

Appraising the future

While looking to expand, the store began having in-house auctions in August, hiring an appraiser and stressing the online component from their auctions, which see anywhere from 100 to thousands of attendees online.

Boesrschinger is also working with Wisconsin Based Electric Moving Pictures to create a reality show based on his store, titled "Cash It In." The show was produced by EMP and finished its pilot episode two months ago. The pilot is currently being shopped to various studios on the west coast for air and, according to Boerschinger, will have interactive features unique to it.

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