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Blue Moon Estate Sales sells it all


David and Debra Blue, founders of Blue Moon Estate Sales, teach their franchisees to cultivate an eye for the unusual.

As much of the world is now learning from the likes of American Pickers and Pawn Stars, there’s a whole culture around pricing, collecting and selling yesterday’s news—antiques, old cars, collectible items and random junk. Talk to the people buying and selling, and you’ll find there’s a story for everything and everyone.

Whether it’s blowback to today’s disposable consumer culture, a reflection of our aging boomers or something deeper, business is booming in the re-sale world. As the founders of Blue Moon Estate Sales, mother-and-son duo Debra and David Blue see a lot of unusual stuff in their daily lives. Going from one house to the next, appraising items, doing pop-up sale marketing, participating in the downsizing or end of people’s lives—the estate sale business is unlike any other.

Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Blue Moon Estate Sales first began franchising in 2013 and is now up to 14 locations, including its first franchised location, run by patriarch Ken Blue. Its locations are primarily in North Carolina, but range as far west as Houston all the way up to New Jersey. Blue Moon is seeking to radiate outward from its existing turf as it seeks to add new units.

“About 80 percent of what we do is actually downsizing, people moving to their second home for their retirement years, assisted living or other type of downsize,” David said.

“We’ve helped 30-somethings move to England all the way up to 90-year-olds who were downsizing to apartment living.

“We see a lot of the same stuff in every home we’re in, but we have an eye for the unusual,” he said. “We teach our franchisees how to spot unusual things.”

“Seeing it all” now includes everything from a human skull—believed to have been used for academic purposes—up to historic war artifacts and highly valuable coins and hand-me-down jewelry.

At one recent sale, somebody was looking to sell a military helmet with unusual markings. After some investigation, the Blues determined it was from a German soldier coming off the beaches of Normandy for treatment at a neutral hospital.

 “We attached that story to the helmet and were able to sell it at a big premium because it had some good providence with it and history,” he said. Other notables include a shag rug made out of monkey pelts from some Dead Heads, and a recent stash of silver dollars that went for as high as $2,500 a piece.

While he admits he’s not personally a fan of antiques in his own home, he added helping people understand, price and sell these items is extremely rewarding and keeps his work interesting on a daily basis.

Fees for sellers is around 35 percent, with some variability depending on the area and amount of hoarding at play, and the franchise fee for Blue Moon is $25,000.

With the country’s aging demographics, there’s a solid argument the boom times are just beginning in the estate sale and flea market realms. That means a lot of interesting conversations and investigations yet to happen. From what the Blues say, the social component is the most important part of the show.

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