Antiques expert Alan Zimmerman regularly finds himself assessing the collections of various individuals to determine their worth and if they would like to acquire any of them.

We’ve all been there. An old stamp album found under your grandfather’s bed. A faded painting you picked up at a yard sale. That fancy set of Victorian cutlery. A box of bagged-and-boarded comic books leftover from your high school days. At one time or another, we’ve all come across some unusual Item or relic from the past and pondered, “Gee…I wonder if it’s worth anything?”

Adam Zimmerman, CEO of Syl-Lee Antiques, is just the expert to direct those queries to.

Syl-Lee Antiques is based out of a showroom located in downtown Manhattan’s Flatiron District – with a second showroom having just opened in the city’s uptown in February – but Zimmerman notes that the majority of his clients are based on Long Island. With that being the case, he regularly finds himself making the trip to Nassau and Suffolk County to assess the collections of various individuals to determine their worth and if they would like to acquire any of them.

“People usually call us for two reasons…one is when a relative passes away and they have inherited stuff and they’re trying to make sense of what has value and what does not,” he said. “If they’re interested in selling, we could help them by either buying those items, or in some instances recommending a specialist or outside auctioneer.”

The second reason is essentially similar, Zimmerman said, but it’s oftentimes when people are either moving – say, from a large home on Long Island to a condo in Miami – or kids are helping their parents with relocating to assisted living or a smaller home close by.

“A lot of times people call me even when they’re just thinking about selling their house to move out of state or whatever, sometimes before the house is even on the market,” he said. “That’s when I get the call, and they invite me over to take a look at some of their things before they put the house on the market to make a little room and perhaps generate some cash to assist with the move.”

As an antique specialist, Zimmerman often gravitates to the items that he feels has the best chance of being resold for a profit; however, he doesn’t leave those whose collections he’s not interested in high and dry, but instead can assist them in selling via alternate means.

“Ultimately, I like to be the person to buy these items, which is my number one priority,” he said. “Afterwards, I’ll help my clients figure out the next step, such as connecting them to companies that can help them to set up tag sales, a clean-out company to get the stuff out, or to help set up an auction. I always help my clients get what they need.”

Syl-Lee Antiques is a family business that has been open for over 40 years. Zimmerman is assisted by his two sisters; Marion, who shares his duties when it comes to visiting clients on Long Island and in Manhattan and assessing their property and its value, and Marnie, who answers phones for the company.

Zimmerman took over Syl-Lee Antiques from his father in 2010 after first going out on his own in the hospitality industry in Florida. But antiques have been in his blood from a very young age, and eventually he decided to come back home and get involved.

“As a kid, I used to do flea markets and my father owned an antique store, so I’ve been around the business my entire life, but eventually ended up going to school for hospitality management and I worked in the hotel industry in Miami for about 10 years,” he said. “But once I came back home, I took over the business and I learned a lot by going to auctions to study, learning at museums, and taking classes whenever possible.”

“And while I know a lot about everything, I also have specialists in every category that I can turn to,” Zimmerman continued. “For example, I have a specialist in Chinese art, a Russian specialist, an African specialist, specialists in just about every category that I might need. If you have something that I don’t know, I probably know somebody who does know about it.”

The man also has the credentials to back up his expertise; he’s an accredited appraiser with the Appraisals Association of America, in addition to being USPAP certified – essentially a code of ethics and morality that he steadfastly adheres to so that his clients know he is doing business the right way – as well as possessing a Graduate Diamonds degree from GIA.

Other resources Zimmerman has, aside from those pertaining to the antique and art industry, include individuals and organizations that can help people clean out their homes, professional organizers, attorneys, and more. These resources can prove invaluable when he finds himself encountering unusual situations, such as dealing with the occasional hoarder…something he says actually happens more often than you might think on Long Island. 

 “I had a hoarder in East Meadow about 2 weeks ago and I knew this lady needed some additional help before she could put her home on the market. So, I had one of my professional organizer friends go over there to try and help her get through all the stuff,” he said. “So, in this particular type of situation, I can not only help people sell things to thin out their hoard, but I also have access to other resources that people in that situation can use to get their life back on track.”

As a veteran in the field, Zimmerman has an eye for specific items that he knows he will be able to get top dollar for when he resells them. And with any kind of collectible, there are those that are guaranteed sellers, and there are those who fall by the wayside in terms of value.

“First, nobody’s buying brown furniture these days. Antique, ornate, mahogany, oak, tables, curio cabinets…nobody wants that,” he said. “Number two is porcelain collectibles, like the type grandma used to have. And the same goes for antique dishes, especially the ones with the gold and silver paint on them. They can’t go in microwaves or dishwashers, and a lot of people just can’t be bothered with that.”

“As for the big movers, the number one thing is jewelry…gold and silver jewelry, costume jewelry, anything jewelry-related is good, and we can sell that,” he continued. “Precious metals are also very high right now. Sterling flatware sets can be good, because you can liquidate the metal in a good set and potentially get substantial money that way.”

Zimmerman said that he also gets a lot of calls about artwork – pieces by known artists often appreciate in value – but the other big thing right now in terms of value are Chinese antiques.

“That includes Jade, porcelain, coral, and even paintings,” he said. “However, I must point out that the market for Asian antiques in general – for example, the Japanese market – is currently not at the same level. But the Chinese market is red-hot right now.”

In addition, mid-century modern furniture also sells well, with Zimmerman noting that names like Nakashima, Herman Miller, Knoll, Paul Evans and Laverne are popular these days, and that it’s easier to sell furniture from the 1950s than the 1850s.

To find out more about Syl-Lee Antiques, please call (212) 366-9466 or (516) 671-6464, visit their website at, or check them out on Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter).


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