Photography by Kathy Tran
When Debby Rogers lost her job as a professional home organizer in March, she feared she’d never work again.

“It was so fulfilling, but then the pandemic hit, and people weren’t having me in their homes,” she says. “It was terrifying.”

With the city in lockdown, she suddenly had plenty of time to learn a new trade. She remembered the cache of old jewelry, silver plates and other treasures that clients stored in their homes. So in May, she started a collectibles advisory business to help customers figure out if their unwanted possessions are worth any money.

“I was like, ‘I have nothing to lose,’” Rogers says. “It wasn’t scary at all.”

She invested a couple hundred dollars in equipment and found a mentor, who taught her how to use the tools and assess items through several Zoom lessons. When she got her first customer, he helped appraise the items until she felt comfortable on her own.

Most clients drop items off on her front porch. Rogers researches them and shares her findings on a Zoom call. Some people invite her into their homes, but everyone wears a mask and social distances.

Patrons have brought her everything from sterling silver flatware to old coins and plenty of costume jewelry that the untrained eye mistakes for precious metals and gemstones.

“Everything I see is like, ‘Whoa, that was pretty in 1971,’” she says. “They’re happy to let go of it.”

Rogers has seen her fair share of wacky items that had no business outliving the 1970s, but the strangest thing she’s ever assessed is a gold dental bridge that her mother found in her house.

“She brought it, and I didn’t even know what it was,” Rogers says.

The bulk of her business comes from gold and silver items, which she takes to a refinery to be melted. She takes other special items to a consignment shop or helps customers sell them at auction. Rogers is back to work as an organizer, but she hasn’t given up her side hustle.

“I never ever thought that this is what I would do,” Rogers says. “I don’t think I would have ever considered this if I didn’t have time to stop and learn what I needed to do.”

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