Boy, I could scream....
When we tackle estate sale jobs, we are ALWAYS attentive to the possibility of treasures contained in the home. We research many of the items, either on the internet or in our library of specialized antiques and collectibles reference books. It may take us a bit longer to get set up, but we nearly always maximize the amount of money collected for the client. That is why I banged my head against the coffee table when I watched tonight's episode of "Antiques Roadshow" from Washington, D.C.
The guest on the show brought in a signed oil on board painting by Jessie Wilcox Smith. He found it at an estate sale where the painting was separated from the frame, and were sold individually for $90 (painting) and $10 (frame). Obviously the person organizing the estate sale thought that he/she could maximize sales by separating the two. However, if this person had just taken some initiative and done some quick research, he/she would have discovered that this artist is highly desirable.
The estate lost BIG TIME and the buyer was the BIG WINNER. The painting was appraised at $75,000 in as-found condition, and if cleaned and restored, it could easily sell for over $100,000 at auction.
For people hiring estate liquidators, PLEASE know the persons who you're hiring and make sure they're competent and know what they're doing.