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

Updated on December 13, 2016
Dolores Monet profile image

After inheriting her grandmother's collection of antiques, Dolores has maintained an interest in the care and sale of vintage items.

Antique Flow Blue cup and saucer
Antique Flow Blue cup and saucer | Source

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!

Depression Glass - Vintage Collectible but not an antique
Depression Glass - Vintage Collectible but not an antique | Source

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
Gebruder Heubach Figurine - Girl in a Pleated Dress | Source

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
Antique Textiles - A 200 + Year Old Sampler | Source
Antique Landscape
Antique Landscape | Source

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.
This lamp may look old but it is not. | Source

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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    • Galit katz 5 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 5 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 5 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???

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 months ago from East Coast, United States

      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 5 months ago from East Coast, United States

      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 5 months ago from East Coast, United States

      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 3 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?

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 3 months ago from East Coast, United States

      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 3 months ago

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

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 3 months ago from East Coast, United States

      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 3 months 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 3 months ago from East Coast, United States

      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 2 months 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??

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 months ago from East Coast, United States

      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 2 months 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 months 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

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 months ago from East Coast, United States

      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 months 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 months 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

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 8 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      Sharon Ray - would you buy a broken dish?

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 8 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      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.

    • Jennifer Fellion 7 weeks ago

      My mother in law passed away and had a lot of things from "the old country" (Italy) lamps and dishes. I have tried my best to look thing up online but I do not know what I am doing. Is it a good idea to have someone come to the house and look st what we "think" is valuable as opposed to bring it all to a shop?

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 6 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      Jennifer Fellion - I am sorry that you lost your mother-in-law. It can be so sad going over the possessions of someone you love. You might want to keep a few things, keepsakes that remind you of her. Make sure that you hire a reputable appraiser. A friend of mine did this because there were too many antiques and collectibles to sift through. He was surprised at the result. The item that he considered the stupidest, ugliest thing was the most valuable. Without an understanding of the market place, we can easily assume that the pretty stuff is the most valuable. Good luck!

    • C. R. Linsey 6 weeks ago

      We have a collection of Knowles Norman Rockwell plates, new, with certificates of authenticity. We have 33 plates, dated 1981 thru 1985. We would like to sell them to a dealer, Any suggestions on price and dealers? Thanks

    • Janet Davis 6 weeks ago

      Hi, I have been looking for a site like this. I have quite a few items mom always told me were antiques. She has passed and now I have them. I am downsizing and do not have the room for a lot of them. Can you suggest a place to start for looking up specific items? Like an old free standing sewing kit, a gout stool, very old, gold laden mirror, a large, serving table from 1868 , etc.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      C R Linsey - though not sure how much they cost originally, those plates seem to be offered in sets on places like ebay and etsy. In the world of dishware, the 1980s is not so long ago. In many instances, items offered as instant collectibles have actually lost value and would sell for less than the original purchase price. Good luck!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      Janet Davis - if you want to do a google search, describe the most obvious features of the item. Look for manufacturers labels. Include the materials the item was made from, for instance the type of wood, if it has been painted what color. How do you know the table is from 1868? The mirror sounds wonderful. Make sure that you don't mess around with that stuff, no sanding, repainting or refinishing which can decrease the value.

    • kris 4 weeks ago

      how do I go about finding the value of an old document dated 1881??

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 4 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Kris - that would depend on what the document is. If names, places, or historic events are part of this document the value would be much greater than if it's, say, your great great grandmother's rental agreement. People do collect old documents. Find a collectors' club online to gauge interest. If you want to Google for information, look for significant details then research that particular topic working from the large concept to the small. You can also check out online auctions. Good luck!

    • Kobi 3 weeks ago

      We inherited many beautiful clear cut glass. I know nothing about it other then they were brought here from Europe during WW 2. What is yo best way yo determine their value

    • Michael 3 weeks ago

      My Grandfather was stationed in Germany in the 1940's and during that time he and my Grandmother collected over a hundred German Porcelain Figurines. They were passed down to my mom and she has kept them in perfect condition, displaying them in a glass encased cabinet. She is considering selling all of them and does not know where to turn. She lives in New Mexico and does not want to get "taken advantage of". Any thoughts or guidance.

    • Ruth 2 weeks ago

      I have a complete set of candlewick glasses. In perfect condition. How much would these be worth and where wouldi sell them

    • Marjorie 2 weeks ago

      I have a sewing machine that was made by General Motors corp. It is a Delco. Not sure what year, where can I go to get it appraised

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Kobi - you will have to educate yourself about vintage glass. Is it glass or chrystal? Hold the item in one hand and gently flick the rim. If it pings a bit, it's probably glass. If it emits a musical sound that lasts a few moments then it's probably chrystal. Is it molded glass or blown glass? Is it colored? Etched? There are so many questions! Why don't you try to describe a piece in a Google search? You could also research books on glass at your local library. Before you determine the value, you need to know what it is that you have. Of course, you could take it all to an expert for an appraisal. Good luck!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Michael - the kind of figurines that you have will probably have a stamp on the bottom. The stamp indicates the maker. As stamps change over the years, you can also approximate when it was made. German Porcelain is highly collectible so there is lots of information online. Google a description of that mark on the bottom to help learn more about those pieces. Marks may include pictures (like, say, a sun and rays) as well as lettering. Of course the problem with valuable items brought back from war may indicate that the items were looted. I am not suggesting that your grandfather plundered Europe, but plenty of people did, then sold the items to unsuspecting soldiers.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Ruth - there were several companies that made glasses similar to Candlewick. So, are you sure that it is actually Candlewick? There are online sites that can help you determine the difference. For instance, a company called Berwick produced a similar design where the little balls at the base of the glass touch, while the little balls of Candlewick have a small space in between. Make sure of what you have before researching value. Then check out online dealers or auction sites for an idea of value.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Marjorie - not being sure how old your machine is, you may want to hold off on an appraisal. Lots of people kept old sewing machines. Many of those old war horses worked for ages. I have a Singer from the early 1900s that still works! Then again, I have a couple of tables using old metal sewing machines bases as the table base. There were so many of these, they ripped them apart and used them to fashion furniture! Some old sewing machines may not be worth the amount that you'd pay to an appraiser! Research ebay sales. Follow to see how much the item sold for, not how much the seller originally wanted. I've seen things on there where the prices were so high, they were ridiculous. Just because someone asks for a particular amount doesn't mean they are going to get it.

    • Lisa 10 days ago

      I have a white princess rotary phone and was wondering if it has any value?

    • Susanne 10 days ago

      What a great article! I learned so much, yet I still feel I have a great deal of collectibles and antiques that I am quite unsure of. I have many inherited items from my grandparents (early 1900's) from Germany and Russia, as well as hundreds of books (many first editions), jewelry and paintings. I also have some furniture that is nearly 80 years old. Basically, my home is busting. I would love to find a knowledgeable person/appraiser that could come to my home and tell me what is what (and what I can get rid of). Where do I find such a person and how do I know they truly know what they are talking about? (I live in S. Florida.)

    • 8 days ago

      I have a set a 3 book in a box, by frank ver beck. Dated 1942. The number on the box is 650e the books are numbered 26, 27, 28. They are a set of Little Black Sambo. I have looked and can't find anyone that knows the approximate value of this, can you help me?

    • Anne L 8 days ago

      I have two items, ha d made little girls dress and a patchwork cot cover (i think thats what it is) both are hand made by a family member back in 1808. Both have a note attached saying the date. Not in exceptional condition. Any suggestio s as to what i should do?

    • Sandy 7 days ago

      I'm cleaning out my childhood home in order to sell it. How do I find out if my mothers "china" is worth anything before I throw it out? I don't have room to take it myself.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 3 days ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Sandy - better china will have marks on the bottom. You can identify the china with a google search that describes the marks. Sometimes the producer's name is there, other products feature simple, easily described designs. Check out Replacements or Kovels to find the pieces that you have and learn their value. Good luck!

    • Tricia Robinson 2 days ago


      I own a pretty tea pot, which has a Staffordshire stamped on the inside lid. Also a stamp on the bottom of this pot, 1801 fine bone china crown. There are a series of numbers also printed on the bottom of the pot. Can you please tell me the estimated value?

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 34 hours ago from East Coast, United States

      Tricia Robinson - the English town of Staffordshire produced tons of pottery from many companies for many years. Though you may be excited about the date, that date may only reflect the time when the pattern was registered, not the date of the actual production of your specific tea pot. The best way to identify your piece would be to find a Staffordshire or English pottery encylopedia where you can look for an image of the tea pot or images of the marks you describe. You could also take your piece to a professional appraiser who specializes in pottery. No one online will be able to value or ID your tea pot by reading such a vague description. Have fun researching!

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