Finding Out What Your Antiques Are Worth

You’ve probably acquired antiques along the road of life. Maybe you inherited them from family or maybe you love browsing antique stores. You might be someone who sees treasures in other people’s trash. Or, like me, you may have just lived long enough that some things you purchased new are now antiques. Either way, everyone wants to know what their antiques are worth.

There are many reasons you should know an items value. If you have something you think is valuable, you want to have it covered under insurance in case of damage, burglary or loss. Unfortunately, we don’t live forever and having an estimate of an item’s worth may help settle an estate. Finally, it might just give you piece of mind to know if old Aunt Minnie’s oriental rug is the real thing, or just a Sears copy.

You have two choices: do the research yourself or hire a professional. Before you start, you need to familiarize yourself with your antique. It may have been sitting on your mantel for years, but have you ever taken a good look at it to note its condition? Does it have any maker marks on it? Check the bottom and possibly inside for marks. Does it have any chips or cracks? Sometimes a chip or crack can greatly reduce the price of an item. If possible, take a photo of your antique at several angles and write everything you can about it in a notebook. This will help if you are researching with books from the library and can’t take your antique with you.

There are several ways you can research your own items. There are many books that list antique values. One of the best is Kovels’ Antiques and Collectibles Price List by Ralph and Terry Kovel. While this book is a general price guide, they also have specific books on glass and dinnerware, pottery and silver marks, bottles and American antiques. By searching through these, you may be able to find out what your antique is worth. There are also other yearly price guides available including Antiques Price Guide by Judith Miller and Schroeders Antiques Price Guide by Bob Huxford. The guides can be bought at bookstores, online or found at your local library. Be aware, however, that like many things, antique values can change over time, so try to use the most up-to-date books you can find.

Online research can be helpful tool as well. Google and Yahoo are great search engines to use. If you have a piece of Depression glass, try searching on “depression glass” in quotes. You can also use www.ask.com.. At Ask.com, you can type your search in the form of a sentence. For example, if you are trying to find out what your antique sword is worth, you can type “Where can I find the prices of antique swords?” and you will get relevant web sites.

You can also research antique sites like www.kovel.com. and www.pbs.org. to view the Antiques Roadshow page. If you have never looked at eBay (www.ebay.com.), you are missing out on a great research tool. You don’t have to register to be able to view the selling prices of items similar to your own. But remember that fanatical bidding can sometimes inflate the price of an item, so be sure to check several auctions of similar items if possible.

If you have an unusual antique on which you cannot find any information or want more detailed information than you can find, it is time to call in a professional – an antique appraiser. You may be able to find an appraiser simply by looking in your local Yellow Pages. If you don’t see anything listed there, you can contact one of the professional organizations, such as the International Society of Appraisers (ISA), through their web site at http://www.isa-appraisers.org/ to find a certified appraiser in your area. If all else fails, try your local antique store. Often the owners are themselves appraisers. To make sure you get a qualified appraiser (it is not necessary they be certified through a professional organization, but it is a good start), you will want to ask them a few questions. Find out how long they have been an appraiser. Chances are, the longer they have been doing this, the more they have seen and therefore, the more they know. Don’t be afraid to ask to see a list of their credentials and/or resume. Find out what methods they will use to research your item. Be sure to ask how they will charge for an appraisal. The fee should be a set price per item or if you have several items, a flat fee for an appraisal of everything. When you have chosen your appraiser, he will provide you with a written report of the condition of your antique, the age, perhaps a little history on it, and what it is worth. Appraisers often determine value based on what price they have seen three comparable items sell at. The report will be signed by the appraiser with his credentials listed and perhaps a photo of the antique for insurance purposes.

Be sure to keep your research or appraisal report in a safe place. While you may intend to keep your antique and never sell it, knowing exactly what you have and what it is worth is a good feeling.

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