Antiques and Collectibles—How to Value and Sell Your Old Things
What is an Antique
Many people have valuable antiques in their homes. Whether purchased or inherited, objects 100 years old or older are considered to be antiques. Of course, plenty of people call that 1940s dining room set antique but it is not. Interesting, desirable, older objects less than 100 years old are collectibles.
When we talk about the value of an antique, we can mean several things. I greatly value the things passed down to me from loved ones and would never part with most of them as the sentimental value is too great.
Maybe I never met my great grandmother, but I look at her beautiful Flow Blue china and can touch something that she touched. The family came to the United States during the Irish Potato Famine in the mid 19th century. My great great grandfather was a laborer. So, I know that this lovely dishware meant a lot to the family. It meant that they had arrived into the middle class, that the family was established enough to spend money on a few fine things.
I remember seeing the Flow Blue at Auntie's house, how it was rarely used, but treasured, set in a bow front cabinet to be looked upon - not touched. This is the most valuable antique of all. It's priceless!
We can look at antique books and price guides that document various types of antiques and their values with a grain of salt.
One day while looking at Depression Glass at a lovely little shop, the proprietor and I checked out a price guide to Depression Glass values. The dealer said that she would never be able to get the stated price because the value of each piece is actually determined by how much money people are willing to pay for it. She said that she could never get the suggested prices, and this was during good economic times.
So, the value depends on the economy, the region where you are attempting to buy or sell the piece, and whether or not someone will actually want to purchase the item and whether a similar items is available in the shop right down the street. Or on EBay.
If you have antiques or collectibles (remember that Depression Glass is a collectible as it is not over 100 years old) and want to sell them to a dealer, remember that the dealer will need to make a profit. The dealer must take into account overhead costs as well.
You may decide to sell an antique or collectible on EBay. If so, first you must establish yourself as a reliable dealer on that popular site so that people have confidence in the items you have for sale as well as confidence in your shipping practices. Don't forget that on EBay, there is a huge group of available buyers, but there may be stiff competition too.
Value and Conditon of Antiques and Collectibles
I have a beautiful porcelain figurine of a young girl holding up the skirt of a pleated dress. Fifteen years ago, I found some information about the figure that was made in the late 1800's or early 1900s by the Gebruder Heubach Company of Thuringia, Germany. The figure can be identified by the look of it ,and the mark on the bottom, as with most valuable china and porcelain pieces. The mark is a divided circle with a sunburst on top and two over-lapped letters below.
The article suggested that the figure might sell for $500.00 in good condition. And that was 15 years ago.
Unfortunately, someone knocked the figurine's head off some 40 years ago. The head was neatly glued back on but the damage was done. No way I would ever get anywhere near the suggested price because it is damaged. In addition, changing markets would decrease the value.
The Condition of Antiques and Collectibles - Take Care of Your Old Things
Take proper care of your antiques and collectibles. Keep them out of harm's way.
Do not attempt to refinish a piece of old or antique furniture. Part of the value of an old piece is determined by it's patina, the changes that occur in the aging process. If you remove old paint or finish, you may destroy both the charm and value of the piece.
Antique Textiles, Prints, Paintings, and Photographs
Antique paintings, photographs, prints, and textiles can be destroyed by moisture, heat, and lighting conditions. Also, body oils transferred by handling can damage old things, particularly textiles and paper.
Never attempt to frame or remove an old photograph, print, painting, or textile from its frame. This is best done by a professional or an expert who knows how to handle such a fragile piece.
Do not allow someone who claims to be an expert to handle old textiles or such delicate antiques unless they are wearing gloves. If they do not wear gloves, they are not expert in the care and handling of valuable antiques.
Do Not Assume
Just because something looks old, or someone else thinks that it is old does not mean that the item is actually old.
The lovely lamp shown above may appear to be old or antique to some people, but was purchased at TJ Maxx in the 1980s. Not old.
Often older pieces, or antiques are copied and sold just because they are so darn pretty. These reproductions can be fun to buy and use but they do not have the value of a genuine antique. Reproductions of old dishes are better to use than the real thing. Today's regulations prevent the addition of toxic elements in the production of dishware. That was not true in the past.
Why Have An Antique Professionally Appraised
Maybe you love your old stuff. I do. Maybe you have no desire to sell it. But it is a good idea to have it appraised for insurance purposes.
If you plan to keep your valuable antiques til the day you die, you want to ensure their safekeeping for posterity. You are treasuring history here. You do not want your dim witted son-in-law to throw the Victorian Renaissance Revival table in a dumpster or ship it off to Goodwill. If the kids are not interested in keeping your antiques, they may earn some cash by selling them, something made easier for them with your written appraisal. You can find an appraiser in your area by checking out the American or the International Society of Appraisers.
Do not have an object appraised by the person you want to sell it to, unless you know and absolutely trust them. An unknown or unscrupulous antique dealer may offer you $150.00 for something which sounds just fine to you. But if they turn around and sell it for $5,000.00, you might not be so happy. And there is nothing that you can do about it.
When selling your antiques through a dealer, it behooves you to establish a relationship with a trustworthy and reputable person.
Identify Your Antique
Before you learn the value of a piece, you must first identify the item. If you want to identify an old item yourself be prepared to do some research. If you love antiques, this process can be a lot of fun as there is a lot to learn. Your local library will have a section of antique and collectible guides for everything from old furniture to hardware. These can be a valuable resource. Of course these kinds of books are available to purchase at a bookstore or online.
Online sites like Kovels and Replacements are an excellent resource for the identification of dishware.
There are collectors clubs for almost anything you can imagine. Find one appropriate to your item and check out the group's website. They can be a valuable source of information.
Search ebay with a description of your item to see if something very similar appears for sale.
When trying to locate similar items make sure that you use a thorough description. The more information you have will increase your ability to learn about your antique. Go from the general to the specific.
Look for maker's marks on the item. Dishware, for example, should have an image on the bottom called a back stamp. You can then look up that stamp. There are many types of, say, dishware that appear similar. My Blue Fjord plates may look a lot like the highly collectible Royal Copenhagen but a quick check of the back stamp (shown below) tells me the truth.
Many products have marks that change slightly over the years which can help you learn when the item was produced. Some furniture will show identifying marks as well. An authentic Stickley Morris type chair should have a decal on the bottom.
Sterling Silver Forks
More on the Value of Antiques
Certain types of antiques hold their value even in a recession or in hard economic times. Metal such as bronze statues, silverware or other antique metal items can earn you a tidy sum of money. Of course sterling silver is worth much more than silver plate. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver. Silver plated flatware, trays, coffee pots, sugar bowls, creamers, and trays can be picked up at thrift shops for very low prices.
Religious items may not get you what you want. Old things are often valued due to scarcity. People keep religious items and pass them down for years. Also, may religious people feel uncomfortable selling a religious painting or statue, especially if it has been blessed.
Just because an object is attractive does not mean that it is valuable. A friend of mine was selling off some pieces and found that a very ugly old lamp sold for an impressive amount of money. The fact was the piece was rare and in demand by collectors.
The popularity of various items vary over time. Something that may have been a hot commodity in 1999 may have fallen out of fashion. Demand sets value. If lots of people are hunting for a particular item, the value will rise. Today, people like mid 20th century furniture and dishware so they can be quite expensive.
Design trends change the demand for antiques and collectibles. Modern buyers often look for the cleaner lines of minimalism. Overly ornate Victorian furniture does not fit that look. That means Victorian furniture, dishware, and decorative items may be cheaper than it was twenty years ago which is good news for buyers but bad news for sellers.
Modern trends favor Arts and Crafts styles with clean lines and simple forms in furniture, dishware, home decor, metalwork, and pottery.
If you bought an item because a company promised that it would eventually become valuable that does not mean that it has actually increased in value. Think about it - if everyone and their brother ran out and bought, then hoarded tons of say, Franklin Mint plates, then all decide at the same time to sell them, they will not be worth much. No one can see into the future so promises of an increase in value are meaningless.
Selling Your Antique or Collectible Item
Selling Your Antique or Collectible to a Dealer Do not have an object appraised by the person you want to sell it to, unless you know and absolutely trust them. An unknown or unscrupulous antique dealer may offer you $150.00 for something which sounds just fine to you. But when they turn around and sell it for $5,000.00, you might not be so happy. And there is nothing that you can do about it.
When selling your antiques through a dealer, it behooves you to establish a relationship with a trustworthy and reputable person. Talk to people you know who can recommend an antiques or collectibles dealer that they have done business with in the past.
Selling Your Antiques and Collectibles on EBay - If you plan to sell your antique or collectible on EBay, you better know what you are doing. You can't just show up one day hoping for a bonanza, but need to establish your own reputation as an honest and trustworthy seller, especially if you do not have a bona fide appraisal to go along with the object that you are trying to sell. Learn the ins and outs of Ebay auctions and always use Paypal.
Create a buzz for the antique that you wish to sell by hawking on other sites including social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Draw interest in your product by advertising, or writing articles about antiques, featuring the types of antiques or collectibles that you wish to sell.
Selling Your Antique or Collectible on Craigslist I know plenty of people who have arranged successful deal s on Craiglist both buying and selling. But there are horror stories too. If you must ,arrange to meet the buyer in a public place for your own safety. Only accept cash. Of course, you can't sell a Victorian armoire and meet the buyer in the parking lot at Denny's. Well, maybe you can, but it may be a bit cumbersome and kind of ridiculous.
Selling Your Antique or Collectible at a Consignment Shop Most consignment shops will arrange to pick up and item at your home. They generally charge 1/3 of the selling price. Pay attention to the contract and their sales practices. Some consignment shops lower the price drastically if the item does not sell in a specified amount of time. You want to be sure that you are comfortable with the lowered price.
Selling Antiques at Auction can be a good resource if you have a large collection of smaller items or one real good item. Auction can be good for you if you want to move a piece quickly, but you might not always be happy with the price.
The Antique Liquidators Association can provide you with information on reputable firms in your area. Liquidators will help you sell large quantities of items. If you have an entire house full of goods from an inheritance or if you are downsizing, these are the people for you. As they get a percentage of each sale, it behooves them to sell at the best price.
In the case of a very valuable antique, significant art, or a historically significant antique, you may want to establish provenance. If you want to sell the piece as an important artifact, you will have to do so. Provenance means that a paper trial has followed the item throughout the years. Receipts, letters, and other documents that have been handed down along with that item will serve that purpose.
Face it, anyone can say that George Washington ate off a particular plate. Someone's say-so is not proof. Some sites claim that a photograph can show provenance. A photograph may help but to say that just because you own the same chair shown in one of Mathew Brady's Abraham Lincoln portraits does not mean that your chair is the exact one shown in the picture.
Dear Readers - please do not put your name, phone number, or any personal information in the comments section. If you do so, the comment will not be seen as it will not be published. Remember that any kook could pester you by finding your personal info in a public forum. Also, I am not here to help you sell your items. You can do that on ebay, craigslist, or another site.
Questions & Answers
I have a pair of old firedogs and was wondering what year they are from and what they are worth?
Firedogs or andirons are supports used to hold logs in a fireplace. The supports are made of iron but many have decorative details made of copper, brass, or bronze.
You can find a general age of your andirons by looking closely at how they were made and the materials used in construction. Most older andirons will show some wear. Value depends on condition, age, and details.
Learn more by checking out some books that can help you judge the age of your firedogs:
Early American Andirons and Other Fireplace Accessories by Henry J. Kauffman and Quentin H. Bowers
An Encyclopedia of Small Antiques by James Mackay
If there is brass in the decorative elements you can try:
The Brass Book: American, English, and European 15th Century to 1850 by Peter, Nancy, and Herbert Schiffer
After you learn as much as you can about your andirons, you can hunt for something similar at online auction sites or online antique dealers to approximate a value.
I have lots of antique pendants from a collectible store in 1940. How do I get them appraised?
Take jewelry to a jeweler for an appraisal. You may want to investigate the pendants yourself before you commit to what may be a hefty appraisal fee. If you have a lot of items, this fee may be expensive. Research the value of your things online or use a book to learn what it is that you have.
If the pendants are made of gold or silver or if the pendants include precious or semiprecious stones, or if they are high quality and made by a well-known designer then a professional appraisal will be worth your money.Helpful 1
I have 1950's barbershop chrome love seat and two chairs with a black lacquer/chrome coffee table. I cannot find anything online like it. Do have any idea where to look or approximately value?
How do you know that your chrome love seat is from a barber shop? Look for any labels or stamps on the sides or bottom of the pieces. Well known makers of barber shop equipment include Koken, Reliance, Hanson, Gibbs, and others. Include any printed information that you find especially the maker of the product.
Search Kovel's, online auction sites, online dealers, as well as local antique shops. Learning about your stuff (any old stuff) can take time and patience. Take a look at a book for more information including "Barber Shop: History and Antiques" by Schiffer Books for Collectors. The stated values will be out of date but a book may help you identify what it is that you have.
I have a collectible metal sign. How do I find out worth?
As old metal signs are very popular now, many sites offer to identify and value them. Look for a site that has information on your particular sign. Include the size of the sign in your description. Collectors Weekly features some information on the topic.
The value will depend on demand, rarity, and the condition of your piece. Many old metal signs were lost to World War II scrap drives, and many deteriorated due to weather or sloppy storage. Remember that during the collectible craze of the late 20th century, many reproductions were created as decorative pieces and were popular wall hangings in restaurants.
Is a price listed on the sign? If so, it is probably not authentic. As prices change and a sign is an expense and not easily altered, stamped or painted on prices may mean your sign is a repro. Hold a magnet to the sign. An older sign has a greater chance of actually being old if it attracts the magnet.
An old sign will probably show some damage including small dents, rust marks, fading, scratches, or chips. A tiny hole or small dent will show some rust around it.
"Vintage Signs of America" by Debra Jane Seltzer is a new book published in 2018. Older books will not reflect current value.
If you have the sign of a product produced by a company that is still in business, you may learn some information on their website. For instance, Coca-Cola has a page on memorabilia, trays, and signage.Helpful 3
I have an old looking, wooden carousel goat, no saddle, face faces forward. How much is it worth?
I certainly can not tell you how much your old goat is worth. There are many considerations pertaining to value. First you need to find out more information on carousel animals. The introduction of steam power in the mid 1800s created the ability for manufacturers to make merry-go-rounds that moved easily. Earlier types had been used in Europe to train horsemen. Between 1860 - 1930, the USA saw a boom in carousels which were popular amusements. The carved animals could be relatively simple or complicated, highly ornamental designs. Higher value would be in the creations of master designers like Gustav Dentzel, Charles I. D. Looff, and Marcus Illions.
Antique carousel animals had hallow interiors. One side (the side that would face the public) was more highly decorated than the side that faced the interior of the ride. By the 1930s, amusement parks suffered economically due to the Great Depression. Fires, storms, and demolition destroyed many of these beautiful carved animals. Later, when the economy improved, newer animals were made of aluminum, resin, and fiberglass. The collecting craze that began in the 1970s created a demand and values skyrocketed. Reproductions were made to fill the demand and to fool uneducated buyers.
As most carousel animals were horses, other animals, such as your goat, are more valuable. The vast majority of carousel animals have been repaired and repainted.
In order to identify your goat, check out a book which will teach you how to recognize the work of various carvers, artists, and the carving studios that made them. Most carousel animals do not feature marks or labels for easy identification. You can find a helpful book used, online.
"The Art of the Carousel" by Charlotte Dinger
"The Great American Carousel" by Tobin Fraley
"The Carousel Animal" by Tobin Fraley
"Introduction to the Carousel" by Maurice Fraley
You might want to check out the National Carousel Association. Also, there are many carousel museums around the country including The Hershell Carousel Factory Museum of Tonowanda New York. Goggle for other museums. Once you learn about your particular animal, check out the museums or the association for more information on appraisals, dealers, and rehab specialists.Helpful 1