Sometimes we collect things because we like them without even realising their worth. Sometimes we go out purposefully searching for good-buy valuable antiques. Antiques come in many shapes and forms, and of course different values, which depend on a lot of things. Valuing antiques can be a tricky thing, so we thought we’d help you out with this quick guide about how to value your antiques.
Valuing antiques is a skill, and it takes a lot of practice, which is why enlisting the help of an antique expert is ideal.
Many people have a number of interesting collectibles laying about in their homes. Usually these people don’t even know the true value of their antiques. Some might even fail to realise that an old piece of furniture is even considered to be ‘antique’.
You never know that old vase you picked up for next to nothing at the car boot sale last weekend could be worth an absolute fortune without you even knowing it. Sometimes it’s best to leave the valuing of antiques properly to the specialists, but there are a few tricks of the trade to help you understand what your antiques are worth. Knowing how to value antiques will also help you avoid getting ripped off in the future.
Do your Own Background Research
How to value antiques depends on your background knowledge, this is especially important if you want to sell some of your items on, such as your great grandparents’ old coffee table. If you suspect something you’re selling or buying is worth more money such as that said coffee table, you’ll need to do your homework to find out more about it. You’ll need to know the following to determine your antique’s true worth:
- Who produced it
Visit your public library as a starting place. Usually big libraries have a section dedicated to valuing antiques and collectibles. Through a bit of book and online research, you should be able to get a ballpark value of your antiques; this will of course help you decide what price to buy/sell them at and whether they’re worth holding on to or not. Be sure to check the edition of any books or magazines you use for reference as values could possibly change over the years, especially if there has been a long gap!
Visit a Few Local Antique Shops
Sometimes it pays to do the rounds of some of the local antique shops to see if they have similar items to yours. If they do, take a closer look at the item’s condition and compare. Make sure you also look out for any noticeable differences such as:
Once you’ve done this, it’s time to compare the most important thing – the price!
Some antique dealers are also antique experts and in many cases you can use them as a tool. Ask them to tell you as much information as possible about the antique piece and if possible, how they came to settle on the final antique selling price.
While most antique dealers are incredibly helpful, there are also a few rouge ones. In a few cases, they won’t appraise or value the antique piece unless they’re certain that you’ll eventually sell it on to them. So, if the antique dealer offers a price for your item once they’ve offered a valuation, be aware – alarm bells should ring, and you should almost certainly not agree to sell (this is where you might require a second or even third opinion)!
Online Auction Sites
Today, almost anything and everything can be done online, including comparing antique prices. There are some popular global auction sites online, which includes the world’s favourite – Ebay. Other places you could look include Amazon and Craigslist.
On such sites, you’ll usually have an option of filtering your searches, which will help you narrow down what you’re looking for. Try and be as specific as possible and compare your items to what you see online. Note that this will never be an accurate way of valuing your antiques as some people like to sell things at competitive prices just to get rid of them. What’s more, there’s more room for advertising fake antiques online, which makes it more difficult to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not.
Get Familiar with Online Collectable Guides
Many reputable online antique price-guides might act as a good guide when it comes to valuing antiques appropriately. Kovel’s seems to be the go-to online antiques guide, however, if you do your research, you’ll discover more. Opt for the basic version, which is free or get a more thorough antiques valuation by paying for premium services.
Enlist the Help from a Professional Antiques Appraiser
One of the most reliable forms of valuing antiques is through a professional antiques appraiser. But before you hire one, do your homework – there tends to be a lot of cons and cowboys out there. There are a few antiques appraisers who might try to charge a percentage of your item to you – if this is the case, do not hire them. A trusted antiques appraiser will have a clear website that explicitly states either a flat fee or an hourly one.
Another way you can check whether your antiques appraiser is a good one or not is by checking out the appraiser’s references. If an appraiser has worked with a number of antique dealers, estate attorneys and/or museums, getting a few good references will be easy.
Some antiques appraisers are more specialised than others. This ultimately means that they could specialise in an item type or period/era. Therefore, before you rely on an appraiser to value your antiques, make sure they’ve got experience in what you’re looking for.
The Great Antiques Roadshow
You’ve probably seen the Great Antiques Roadshow on TV before. If not, it’s basically a popular antiques TV show that attracts hundreds of people looking to see if they’re sitting on a small fortune or not with regards to the ‘old things collecting dust’ in their homes.
These traveling antique shows visit different parts of the country, so if you’d like to get your antiques valuated by the real antiques experts, check out when the next show will be near you. It could also be your claim to fame!
A few different antique auction houses offer appraisal services. Sometimes these are free, sometimes they’re not – it really does depend on the auction house you visit. Do a little bit of Googling by typing in “appraisals” + “auction house” + the name of your town or county.
Written Appraisal Reports
If you’re serious about the valuation of your antiques, you should make sure you get a written antique appraisal report. Any good antique appraiser will include this in his or her service. It will include a thorough description of the item you’re having appraised. A written antique appraisal versus a verbal one is more definite, and instead valuing antiques with an estimate, it will include the true value of the antique you’re interested in.
Antiques Appraisal Websites
It’s no surprise that you can have antiques valuated online – you can do practically everything online these days after all. However, with online antique appraisals, you’ll need to be more vigilant, and your background homework will need to be more thorough to ensure they’re the real deal.
Again online antique appraisers often specialise in an antique niche, such as very specific categories of antiques like toys or stamps.
Because the appraiser does not see the antique item in the flesh, they rely on your description and photography skills to help them valuate the antique well.
Make sure you take decent high quality photographs of the antique you want valuated. This is what most of the online valuation is based on. Some things to remember include:
- Colour photographs
- Photos taken in good natural light
- Close-up and distant photographs
- Photographs of all angles
- Photographs of the exterior and interior
- Close-up photos of any patterns or signatures
- High resolution photos
- Capture any flaws
The last point is especially relevant as failure to show any flaws on the piece will misrepresent it, meaning you won’t get a true valuation of your antique.
Of course, there are a few other things you need to be mindful of when trying to find out the true value of an antique. You need to also determine why you want antiques valued. The value of an antique can vary greatly depending on what you plan to do with it. These include:
- The auction value of an antique is how much you’d expect to earn from an antique auction sale. If your antique is a rare collectable, it’s recommended selling it at an antique auction, as this is where people are usually willing to spend more money on rarer items. However, more common auction items will be sold for a lot less, usually below the antique shop retail price, as there will be little to no demand.
- The retail value of an antique determines how much you’d expect to earn should you decide to sell it on via an antique shop. More common antique items sell at a higher value through specialist antique shops as opposed to antique auctions, however you must bear in mind that if you want to sell it on to a dealer, it should be lower than the RRP so they can make a profit.
- The insurance value of an antique is carried out by an antique appraiser. This is necessary if you don’t wish to get rid of your antiques, so in other words, this recommended antique insurance amount signifies how much you’ll receive should your item be either stolen or destroyed.