Top 5 keys to determining whether your antique has value
April 12, 2012 | view archive
You've cleaned out your attic or garage and found a veritable trove of forgotten artwork and items. Great! But sometimes unearthing a collectable, antique or piece of art is easier than determining what to do with it. In many cases, these items can be very valuable and put a sizable amount of cash in your pocket. There are a few different routes you can take when trying to sell your item or items, and if you get your items appraised or determine they’re valuable, auction is often the best way to go.
Before you do anything, though, you need to make sure you know the value of your item so that you can be fairly compensated. Assessing the value of an antique can be complicated, incorporating several different variables. But with a little diligence and possibly some professional assistance, you should be able to reach an accurate value that can inform what you choose to do with it.
Here are five steps to take when trying to determine the value of an item:
1. Determine the item's age and/or manufacturer
This can be very easy for some items, while others may be much more complex. Some items may have the date of manufacture printed on the bottom along with the manufacturer name, in which case your work is done. In other cases, you might have to settle for estimating the age and/or comparing the style of the item to the styles seen in other items made by a certain manufacturer. Sometimes an Internet search using all your available information and/or a description of the item can turn up similar items and their listed values, giving you a ballpark figure for yours.
2. Assess the condition of the item
Condition has a huge impact on item value. Items in mint or excellent condition are close to the condition of the item when it was first manufactured. As items get older, exceptional condition becomes less an less common, increasing the value of items that remain pristine. Every defect seen on your item, including scratches, scuffs and paint chips, lowers the quality grade of an item and, consequently, its value.
3. Spotting an imposter
When an item is a known collectible or an antique carrying high value, it is common for forgeries to turn up. People create these forgeries in hopes of passing them off as legitimate and selling them for enormous sums. But many of these items fail to possess the features of an antique that are difficult to fabricate and easy to spot. Wood in antiques tends to warp and change shape over time, so pristine wood in the antique is often a sign of forgery. Similarly, glass can warp as it ages. But even if your antique does turn out to be a forgery, it could still be worth money if it is an excellent reproduction. It won't match the value of the antique, but neither will it be a complete loss.
4. How common is the item?
To determine how common or rare an item is, you really need an online guide, an antiques book, or an appraiser to put your item in context. Obviously, rare items are worth much more than more common items, and rarity tends to increase over time, meaning that an older piece is likely to be much more rare than newer items -- particularly because mass production is much more common within the last 100 years than it was previously.
5. At-home or professional appraisals
Once you have all the information you can gather on a piece, it's time to get an exact price quote. You can find this sort of quote in a guidebook to antiques, or for a more personalized appraisal meet in-person with a professional appraiser to have the item valued. After the value is confirmed, you can start making plans for how you would like to handle the item.
There could be a small fortune of items in your junk drawers and closet corners, but don't give away your valuables for less than they're worth. Make sure you know the value of your items before you put them on sale.