What to Sell -- and Not to Sell in a Consignment Store

Here's what you need to know about consigning furniture and other items.

An easy way to make a little extra money is to sell furniture and home accessories you no longer want or need at a consignment store. You might not make as much as you would selling the items on your own because consignment stores split the profit 50/50. But it can be safer than selling through the classifieds or Craigslist (strangers won’t be coming to your house). And the consignment shop handles all the staging and marketing, so you don’t have to.

As you start gathering items you would like to sell, it’s important to know what sells well and what doesn’t. You don’t want to waste your time cleaning and repairing things a consignment store won’t even take or that will be priced so low that it would’ve been better just to donate them to a charity.

What sells best

Upholstered items. sofas, sectionals and comfortable chairs are in demand. They must be clean and free of major wear or holes.

Leather furniture. Leather sofas, chairs and other items in good shape usually sell quickly and for a good price.

Wooden furniture. Wooden dressers and bookshelves are sought-after items. But people don’t want engineered wood furnishings.

Dining sets. Dining tables and chairs -- especially contemporary ones -- are good sellers.  Sturdy chairs, in particular, go quickly because people often need to replace broken ones they have at home.

Buffet tables. These have become popular as stands for large, flat-screen TVs.

Midcentury modern furniture. Midcentury and retro items are hot.

Inexpensive, unframed modern art. Art can be hit or miss. Expensive art usually doesn’t sell well. But large, modern pieces on canvas are popular.

Contemporary lamps. Newer lamp styles with shades in good condition sell well. Older lamps – unless they are midcentury modern – will just gather dust.

Unique items. Vintage pieces, garden tables and anything else that isn’t run-of-the-mill usually go quickly.

Accessories. Home accessories are big sellers. People don’t always have $300 to buy a sofa but they have $20 to get something interesting for their home.

What doesn’t sell well

TV armoires. Armoires are hard to sell because today’s large-screen TVs don’t fit in them.

China. China does not sell unless it is a complete set that is contemporary.

Rugs.  If you have a rug that is truly valuable, you’re better off taking it to a rug dealer.

Figurines. Sorry, but you probably won’t have any luck unloading those figurines you inherited from your grandmother. They just don’t sell.

To improve the chances your items sell for top dollar

Most items at consignment stores are priced at about one-third of their original retail price. Items that do not sell quickly are marked down at some point.  If items don’t sell after a couple months, we ask you to come pick them up or they will be donated.

To guarantee that your items sell quickly for top dollar, clean them well before you take them to the consignment store. This alone can boost an item’s price by 25%. Replace or repair any broken hardware. Touch up any scratches or dings. People don’t like things with issues, so fix it before you bring it in. Also get as much information about an item as you can-- when it was made, whether it’s an original or replica -- to help set a fair price for it.