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Must Read: Tough market for sellers of antiques and heirlooms

CINCINNATI - People trying to sell their prized possessions these days are finding that - as with homes or stocks - the market value of everything from baseball cards to antique furniture has sunk.

Across the country, collectibles dealers and antiques appraisers are delivering bad news, and feeling pain themselves. The reason is simple: potential buyers are outnumbered by desperate sellers.

That's been dashing dreams of an 'Antiques Roadshow' moment in which the TV show's hosts appraise family heirlooms many times higher than the owner expected.

In suburban Chicago, Ron Anderson put his treasured 1985 Bears' Super Bowl game ball up for sale online through Craigslist.

'Instead of sitting around and worrying about things, I thought I'd do something,' said Anderson, whose construction contracting business is down. Anderson priced the ball, which was autographed by the late Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton and other stars, at $4,500, figuring he'd draw interest from wealthy Bears fans.

He was still waiting for an offer a month later.

From an antiques auction house that caters to wealthy residents of Palm Beach, Fla., to an Ohio pawn shop with a blue-collar clientele, similar stories abound.

Families trying to unload keepsakes for cash are learning that an economy at risk of falling into a deflationary period is taking a heavy toll on the value of these assets, just as it is for traditional investments such as stocks and homes.

Pam Danziger, who studies consumer behavior as president of Unity Marketing, said people who start collections often make a mistake by considering them an investment. And that leads to disappointment when they try to sell them to people who don't share their emotional ties to the items.

'Even if things are 100 years old, it doesn't necessarily mean they're rare or valuable to anyone else,' she said.