As a result of my husband's death, I was initially quite concerned I'd have to sell the house then move to some Over 55 Housing since The Department of Pensions gives a surviving spouse the whopping amount of $225.00 to cover final expenses. Direct cremation alone costs $800.00, which is a discounted price through Hospice, a fact I wasn't told until after they had removed his body and the cremation was over. Because he died at home, was above a certain age, and had a history of Alzheimer's Disease I would have had to get one of his doctors to request an autopsy which I'd be obliged to pay for, although that would have been helpful when I was considering suing the sub-acute care facility for negligence and wrongful death. The price range for an autopsy in this area was at the time more than my monthly Social Security benefit by over $2000.00. Social Security benefits, because I was 14 years younger than my husband and below retirement age of 66, are a mere $1613.00 per month. This is no joke.

So, in fear and desperation, I contacted a bookseller from a secondhand book shop that probably one third of my husband's extensive book collection were purchased from over the years. We set a date and time; the man arrived punctually and before he set foot in my house told me his limit would be $200. I showed him several stacks of books I'd brought downstairs from my husband's library, as well as two floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the parlor. He eagerly went through them, looking titles up on his phone and giving me the price the book was going for online, which I thought was very honest and open of him. He started making a pile of desired books when I remembered two large boxes of plastic-wrapped old magazines and equestrian photographs my younger son brought home after one place he'd been renting was condemned and foreclosed. The bookseller purchased a few of these, as well as books, giving me $220 after several hours, saying he'd love to come back at my convenience to look at the first editions. Good experience.

A month or more went by when I contacted the magician, whom I looked up on his website which claimed to be the best place to sell anything magic-related, of which my husband had hundreds of books and equipment. The magician arrived late and in hindsight was conning me from the get-go as well as my older son who I'd asked to be there. The magic guy not only cherry-picked but denigrated most of the books, in addition to most if not all handmade illusions my husband had carefully constructed, with notes on how to perform. I had a weak inkling the guy was deceptive when he started dropping names of famous magicians he had as clients, but he was a smooth talker. Since a fair amount of the magic paraphernalia was in the new basement, we three headed down there. He proceeded to look at my husband's exhaustive and well-organized tool collection, throwing out some prices, which I had no idea of the ball park and my son said he'd never use. Long story short, the guy ripped me off and when I asked per a written agreement for everything back, he claimed the tools were stolen from his garage. This is no joke.

Months later, I was given the name of a supposed Lionel and HO model railroad expert, who would come to your home with an official price guide in hand and help you sell your train-related items, which my husband had accumulated more than he could have ever used, something that initially angered me until I realized the sales would help keep me and the sons in the house. This time however, I did a more thorough background check on the guy before he came. This time, I arranged to have BOTH sons home and I don't believe I let the guy even in the basement until we'd had six or seven phone conversations as well as two visits where he just perused the collection. I looked up everything he told me about himself after telling him my trust in other people was slim to none, except for my mother, my daughter, both sons and son's lovely girlfriend, who initially teased me about dating.

Over the course of about four months, I finally let him start taking items that he said would sell well right before Christmas. Initially, I made lists with approximate values as he tossed out numbers but I tired of that and he said I could trust him to get the most money he could. Things got murky at this time because he took me out for sushi several times, wine was involved, and there was some chemistry between us. To add to this confusion, he saw an American flag collage I'd made and he asked who the artist was. When I said me, he commissioned one on the spot. Since I'd originally made a series of them to deal with how I felt after 9/11, I wasn't sure if I could, but did and sold it unframed for $800.00. When I was hospitalized in December, he drove up from Maryland to see me but they were only allowing family at that time. I found this out later, as well as several disturbing facts, one being he is still legally married, lives with a much younger woman who he claims he had twins with via artificial insemination, and I've not seen any money since before I went in the hospital. This is no joke.

I've left out some things, but essentially wrote this as a cautionary tale to others who might need or want to sell items after someone dies. Trust your instincts, get everything in writing, and make sure you are emotionally ready to part with things that belonged to your loved one. As it turns out, I'm doing fine financially, having always lived frugally most of the time but setting aside money for holidays, birthdays, and vacations.

*special thanks to a certain noder who offered to break the last guy's legs

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