Maria Lambert and her team at St. Louis Estate Buyers are modern-day treasure hunters.
In the 10 or so years they’ve been in business, they’ve unearthed numerous things hidden in homes, including swords, guns, money, paintings, fine china, sculptures, fur coats, antique furniture and more.
Once, they found a mummified falcon from Egypt.
“It came out of a tomb somewhere,” Lambert said.
The full-service estate liquidation company specializes in estate buyouts, online and in-person estate sale auctions, and appraisals.
It also buys collections and single items, which are sold at its retail locations in West County Center, near JCPenney on the lower level, and in South County Center, on the main level near the escalators behind the Dakota Watch kiosk. Typically, on the last weekend of the month, Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., the company features a jewelry buying event. This month’s buy dates are April 27, 28, 29. Sellers can get paid cash for gold, silver, diamonds, costume jewelry, watches and coins. And shortly thereafter, buyers have a whole new selection from which to shop.
“You’re just surprised sometimes by the really old, old things you find and get to touch that belong in a museum, but it’s in someone’s house and you’re getting to hold it and own it for a minute before it goes on to someone else,” Lambert said.
When it comes to estate buyouts and sales, Lambert advises people to hire professionals as opposed to doing it on their own because they don’t usually know something’s true value.
Grandma’s china may be sentimental, but it’s not worth very much money. However, a photo of grandpa’s antique motorcycle? That could sell for hundreds of dollars.
“A lot of times what fits in the palm of our hands is worth more than the entire household contents,” Lambert said.
The business buys out one to three houses a week all over the St. Louis metro area. Its appraisers have even traveled to Chicago and Kansas City for jobs.
“We’ll kind of go where the good stuff is,” Lambert said. The company focuses on estate buyouts because the process is much quicker. A traditional estate sale can take anywhere from four to six weeks, and today’s home - buyers generally don’t want to wait that long.
“When (homebuyers) buy a house, they want to close in two to four weeks; they don’t want to close in that traditional 90 days, so you’re not having the same time frame to get all your things sold and liquidated,” Lambert said.
“With a buyout we come in, we offer them cash, and their house can be emptied in three to five days.”
Because the company does so many estate buyouts, its retail inventory changes frequently. Paintings by Thomas Kinkade, a deep sea diving helmet, assorted matchbooks, pocket watches, jewelry, books, albums, china and an unopened bottle of 1864 Blandy’s Madeira Grand Cama de Lobos Solera wine were among the treasure trove of items recently up for sale at the West County Center store.
“Everything in here is just unique, and every day it changes,” Lambert said. “We are constantly bringing in new stuff.”
The business believes in being honest and open with its clients. Lambert recalled the time a 101-year-old woman inheriting her sister’s estate nearly cried when the business found and returned a diamond ring she had been looking for, along with $8,000 in cash. “You find very valuable things and you just have to do the right thing and make sure it goes back to where it belongs,” Lambert said