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How to find the market value of an antique

Posted: 6:38 AM, May 03, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-03 13:42:27Z

If you’ve ventured through an antique store, perused a flea market, or inherited a relic from a family member over the years, chances are you’ve picked up a treasure or two.

You may have some sentimental attachment to a piece, or it may be something you want to resell. Here in lies the question, though — is it an antique that has market value, or is it just something that’s cool?

How to find the market value of an antique takes years of practice but, with some guidance and the right tools in front of you, it’s possible to prevent yourself from getting duped when purchasing auction or estate sale items.

Research online, even during a live auction
There are experts and appraisers available online through many websites whereby you can obtain a professional estimate for your items. The only things you have to do is provide a description and then upload a photo. Within a week, you'll receive a valuation from the site.

What do you do if you can't wait, though, and want to know before selling at an auction or estate sale? If you have a tablet or smartphone with you at these events, you can research right there. Often, before the event begins, you can examine the items up for bid or purchase. Type in the item’s description into a search on another selling site like craigslist.org, for example, to see what others are willing to pay.

This effort gives you a ballpark idea of the item’s market valuation. Performing a Google search will also produce a variety of “seller” and “collector” websites featuring pricing options.

Look at antique pricing guides
It’s wise to invest in building a reference library of pricing guides for antiques. These materials are not only comprehensive, but they list the market value and descriptions for thousands of antiques.

This effort is particularly useful for those who have antiques they have an interest in refurbishing to sell. These materials will provide guidance as to whether or not the item should be left as is, would benefit from restoring, or should have additional parts or pieces.

You must keep in mind, though, that the authors will set the selling price higher than what readers can expect to sell them for within the market. The reason for this is because they’ve attended numerous auctions or other venues and have found pricing to be erratic.]

While it’s still a good idea for you to have these reference materials on hand, remember the results could be skewed.

Have antique items appraised
Visiting a local appraiser is an excellent option, especially if they're in a local shop or if they're a dealer of collectable and unique items. These individuals will research the market value of your antique, offer a fair judgment of the antique, and provide you with a written report with the antique's estimate. A certified appraiser knows it's a conflict of interest to offer to buy the item they are appraising, so keep that in mind.

You can expect to pay them a flat fee for their services ranging between $200 and $400, which is dependent on their location and expertise. If the appraiser asks for a fee that's based on the percentage of the item's value, they should be avoided.

Conducting as much research as possible regarding your antique’s market value before putting up for sale or auction is the most beneficial thing you can do. You may have inherited a garage full of antiques that you’d like to get rid of immediately, but this is a mistake without first understanding the market value of each item. Do your homework first.

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