(Dow Jones) Long used for estate sales, wealthy individuals are turning to auctions to sell jewelry, antiques and other valuables.
Some need the cash for tuition and other expenses, others think that high gold prices make now the right time to sell grandma's seldom-used jewelry, but Baltimore financial advisor Tim Maurer warns that unless it's a necessity, don't sell items if prices are depressed.
"If someone really needs the money, that may be their only course of action," he says. "But people should not increase liquidity just for the sake of liquidity."
Many people have no choice.
"They tell us that their stock portfolios and their investments are worthless, and they need cash," says Leslie Hindman, president and chief executive of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago. "Some have lost their jobs or they are afraid they'll lose their jobs."
Individuals also think this is the right time to sell. The demand for gold, Asian art and certain types of jewelry remains strong despite the recession because there's a worldwide market, and these types of items are easy to transport.
"When people see jewelry prices, gold prices, what coin currencies are being sold at, they are inclined to look at their safe deposit [boxes]," says Kathy Doyle, chairman and CEO of Doyle New York, Auctioneers & Appraisers. "I think people are strongly reassessing their collections, and if they have other needs."
When clients asked if they should sell old jewelry to reduce debt, Christopher P. Van Slyke, a financial planner in La Jolla, Calif., gave them the green light because the value of their gold had tripled.
"Don't sell it if it's your grandmother's jewelry and you need it to remember her, but if you don't, it's a piece of metal," he says.
Maurer warns clients to consider the financial and emotional value of an object before deciding to sell. One family needed cash after a home sold for less than expected but decided not to sell their antiques because prices were depressed.