Antiques and Collectibles - How to Value and Sell Your Old Things

Antique Flow Blue Cup and Saucer

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

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!

Despression Glass - Vintage Collectible but not Antique


Price Guides

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.

Gebruder Heubach Figurine - Girl in a Pleated Dress

(photo by Dolores Moneet)
(photo by Dolores Moneet)

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 (Gebruder being German for brothers). 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 very close to me (who shall remain nameless, but you know who you are) 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.

Which brings me to:

Antique Textiles - A 200 + Year Old Sampler (photo by Dolores Monet) (photo by Dolores Monet)

Antique Landscape


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.

This Lamp May Look Old But It Is Not

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

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.

This lovely lamp may appear to be old or antique to some people, but was purchases 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.

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.

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.

Search ebay with a description of your item to see if something very similar appears for sale.

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.

Face it, people don't throw Jesus in the trash can. So there are a lot of old religious items around.

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.

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.

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.

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Comments 34 comments

shavonte 5 years ago

how much would a first edition SEARS, ROEBUCK AND CO. BOOK be worth and also how much can a limited edition "WISDOM" The magazine of knowledge for lifetime learning and education.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

shavonte - if you mean a vintage sears and roebuck catalog, it would depend on the year and condition. There have been tons of reprints of those old catalogs and books which may lead to some confusion. You may want to check out a site that specializes in vintage catalogs and books for a sensible appraisal or even a rough idea of value. Thanks for reading!

Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Hi Dolores, I enjoyed your article. It was very interesting. I had a shop several years ago. When we closed, we kept the real treasures that were left and had an auction. The auctioneer advertised it as an antique auction and people came from quite far away.

I also have some things that I would never get the appraised value for. I have a Depression Glass punch bowl set with all pieces intact, including glass ladle. No chips. 30 years ago, I bought it from a woman who had gotten it as a wedding present, boxed it up and put it in the attic. She finally got it out and sold it for $7.00.I didn't know anything about antiques then but my mom's friend looked at it and told me $300 then. I understand that 10% per year is normal but I don't believe that I will get $1100 for it. Punch bowl sets just don't sell.

I also have a crazy quilt that my great-grandmother made in 1905. It was never used and is made of velvets and satins. Her name and the date are embroidered in one corner. She won a prize at the county fair for it and put it in a trunk, where it has stayed. I take it out and refold it in the white cotton sheet every so often and it looks like brand new. The material gives it away though.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

In the 1970s my mother, who came of age during the Depression, thought she'd gotten one over on a local antique dealer when he bought from her 12 place settings (with serving pieces) of Carnival (Depression) glass for $15. She'd got them for free in the 1930s from boxes of detergent and gas station giveaways, had NO idea what a "hot" item Depression glass was 40 years later, and was thrilled that *anybody* would want to buy them, for any amount of money. To add insult to injury, the antique dealer was a member of her church and took advantage of the fact that Mother wasn't the sharpest pencil in the box. She wouldn't believe she'd been had until I took her to his shop a few days later and she saw her "free" Depression glass prominently displayed with a price tag of *$400*. Being a complete set in pristine condition, I've no doubt that's what it sold for.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

Becky - the quilt sounds beautiful. What a wonderful piece to have, especially with your great grandmother's name and date on it. A real treasure. I too love Depression Glass. At Christmas, I place mine on a hutch, back-lit with those tiny Christmas lights. It looks so pretty! Thanks!

JamaGenee - well you have to know what you have. So many of us have stories like that. But if your mother got anything for it, it's better than giving it away to Good Will. I've seen some really nice pieces at thrift shops for next to nothing. But it does seem unfair. That's business for you! Thanks for sharing the story, a good warning for us all.

Movie Man 5 years ago

I have an ironing board that was made in the 1800 would that be worth anything ?

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

Movie Man - not sure if they even made what we call ironing boards in 1800. The first US patent for a folding ironing board appeared in the middle of the century. Before that, people used a board between two chairs, or an ironing table.

You need to find someone who can look at your piece and date it correctly. Remember, if the ironing board has been refinished, or damaged, it will be of less value than one in its original condition.

Robert 2 years ago

Great page, thanks for taking the time to respond as you have. I have a quick question: I purchased at a reputable online auction, what was described as a "ORIGINAL Antique PRINT scene-FEUDAL CASTLE OF BELEM, PORTUGAL" What I received was a cut out page of an old book with the castle on one side and text on the other. Is that considered an "Original Antique Print?". It wasn't a lot of money, more of the point of it.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

Robert - well good that it was cheap. Though collectors often think of steel or copper plate etching when they look for old prints, some folks call old magazine illustrations "prints." There they are in print, aren't they? One of the problems with buying those illustrations from old books is that unscrupulous people will take an old book apart (even steal the book) for the pictures.

The actual old etchings have a slightly raised look to the lines if you look at them with a magnifying glass.

I know some people who love to buy antiques, don't have a lot of knowledge, but have a good eye. With something like those old prints, I would want to see the item in person.

(I have a beautiful old page illustration - it's Rebecca at the Well. I bought it from a library so I knew there was no funny business.)

Thanks Robert!

marilyn 20 months ago

I have a Bible that is fixed near the year of 1813... there is a journal that was written in on the blank pages in 1829 and this specifies dates and names there is a man mentioned who used to be a famous English cricketer in 1854 and many more names...the writing is as little hard to read but readable and the Bible is bonded by rope, the rope has torn slot noe and the journal and back and front cover is of but I still have them.... the back and front cover is brown with patterns on and has a velvet feel to it..the rest of the Bible is still bonded and two pages in to the Bible there are charts somethings about the birth of Christ. Would you know the value or be able to direct me to someone who does??

bryan sabadosa east coast 20 months ago

I have a butcher block table -4'x24'x96 with wood frame. used in 1930's at a local store. don't want to sell but curious on value

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 20 months ago from East Coast, United States Author

marilyn - wow, that is certainly an interesting Bible that you have there. It must be wonderful to try to read some of the old journal entries. Many old books are very valuable, but they are the ones that are in the best of shape. Yours sounds like its in pretty rough shape. A falling apart book is not going to be worth much. But it sounds like a personal treasure!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 20 months ago from East Coast, United States Author

bryan sabadosa - I've seen butcher blocks from the early 20th century priced between $150.00 to $1,500.00. That sounds like a great piece and would add a nice touch to any kitchen. People today love rustic furniture as well as early industrial pieces.

Galit katz 4 months ago

I have a photo frame with a little girl picture from 1948 -45x30 cm- wood frame. i bouth it on old flee market from a old lady in Prague . don't want to sell but very curious on value.

Nancy Toomey 4 months ago

Nancy. I have a rose glassware cordial decanter set with 6 glass . I also have assorted glasses, wine,water,and cordial glasses from 1930's. Could you suggest an amount and where could I sell them. I appreciate your article regarding collectibles.

Arthur 4 months ago

Greetings, I am working for this elderly lady. Her husband collected a hell of a lot of depression glass in his time . Unfortunately he died 4 years ago and she is looking for someone that buys it. I'm helping her to clean out her basement of a very large collection of depression glass. She has a great deal of pieces in great shape but I don't know where to take them to sell all of it. She lives in Augusta, Maine. Could you direct me to any location that would be interested in purchasing a great deal of it???

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Dolores Monet 4 months ago from East Coast, United States Author

Galit Katz - while the picture sounds interesting, photos from the 1940s would not be very valuable unless they are somehow significant. Some photos of that era go for up to $6.00 on ebay. I have seen boxes of mid 20th century photographs sold at antique shops for as little as a dollar a piece. Thanks!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 months ago from East Coast, United States Author

Nancy Toomey - old glassware is very popular. 20th century glassware like Depression glass and those old bar type glasses were so pretty people kept them around. Prices vary greatly. Find a dealer you can trust. You can attempt to ID the pieces yourself by searching online or heading to the library.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 months ago from East Coast, United States Author

Arthur - selling the whole collection seems like the easiest thing to do. I've just been researching my own Depression glass and see that prices are all over the place. Ask people you know to recommend a reputable local dealer. Some dealers specialize in glass and dishware.

Joyce Markel 2 months ago

I have quite a few Baltimore Memorabilia items and have placed them on Craigslist a few times with no responses. I included pictures. These items would be of value to anyone who collects Baltimore memorabilia, but I can't seem to reach that audience. Any suggestions?

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Dolores Monet 2 months ago from East Coast, United States Author

Hi Joyce - this past Christmas, I found tons of wonderful Baltimore related items on ebay. I bought vintage postcards for my husband and saw several menus and other things from Haussner's Restaurant. If you live in or near Baltimore, you could contact consignment shops that specialize in local memorabilia or are located in touristy areas like Fells Point. Good luck!

paige 2 months ago

I have checks from 1914 with a signature on it and all just wondering would they be worth anything?

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Dolores Monet 7 weeks ago from East Coast, United States Author

paige - while an old check sounds very interesting, I don't think you'll get a lot for it. I've seen checks that age selling for about $1.25 on ebay.

Scooter 7 weeks ago

I have a old rocker about 100 yrs old it's high back cloth with wood legs and arms. Was wondering how much it's worth, also have many toy metal people for in a train yard. They are at least 100 yrs or older. Thank you

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 weeks ago from East Coast, United States Author

Scooter - I have a rocking chair that sounds similar to yours! Anyway, there is not a big demand for old furniture right now unless it was made by Stickley or Morris or some other highly desired furniture producer. Look for a label on the bottom of the chair.

The train set people may not fetch much. Also, they may be made out of lead.

cavelle osmond 4 weeks ago

I have a set of 2 birds that hang on wall -they both have a crest design on back and reads shafford handpainted -just wondering if they are antique??

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Dolores Monet 3 weeks ago from East Coast, United States Author

cavelle osmond - do you mean those planters that you hang on the wall? I remember them! They were popular in the mid 20th century and made in Japan. I've seen them go for between $8.00 and $15.00.

Lee 3 weeks ago

I had an antique Buddhist stutur very small ,it about 200 year or maybe older need sale but I don't know how much it cost . Please tell me how to sale it

Kevin 2 weeks ago

Hello I have an old painting past down through my family originally came from guy who brought out of Germany I'll email pics to anyone who is willing to take time to help me thanks

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Dolores Monet 2 weeks ago from East Coast, United States Author

Lee - if the statue is that old I think you should take it to an antique dealer or appraiser to learn more about it's value.

Kevin - why don't you research the artist? Just look for the artist's name on the bottom of the painting and Google it? I wonder when it was brought out of Germany. If it was during or after one of the wars, it could be plundered art.

Sharon Ray 2 weeks ago

I found a "Austria Carlsbad Victorian Porcelain Fish Platteer" near the garbage bin. It has a chunk off the end of it, is it sellable? It comes from a set that had 12 plates. Curious in Cali.

Lydia perez 2 weeks ago

My friend is retired has been an antique dealer for many years. She also had her own business as an interior design. What is the best way to sell all these itrme

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Dolores Monet 11 days ago from East Coast, United States Author

Sharon Ray - would you buy a broken dish?

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Dolores Monet 11 days ago from East Coast, United States Author

Lydia Perez - I would guess that the simple way would be to sell in bulk to another dealer. She could sell single items online, but that does take a lot of time and she would need to store her goods in the meantime.

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