How to Appraise Antiques

By Ian Moore
Appraise Antiques

Did you just clean up your attic or grandmother's house and come across some antiques that you think may be of some value? Or maybe you want to make some money off all those old baseball cards that have been sitting around gathering dust? This article will teach you how to appraise and what to look for when determining the value of your antiques. This is important to anyone who has anything that may be of some value.

Fair to Poor Trading Card

Study the item. Whether you have boxes of things or just one thing that you want to appraise, you need to study it. The object's overall condition can greatly determine whether it is valuable or just worthless. Pay attention to any cracks, rust, bends or any kind of wear and tear. An antique lamp that is in mint condition will fetch a much higher value than one that has a hairline crack. Make sure you inspect the condition of your object thoroughly. Grading scales vary from object to object. "For example the grading scale for sports cards is gem mint, mint, near mint-mint, near mint, excellent-mint, excellent, very good-excellent, very good, good and poor to fair." (See Resources below.)

Research Your Antiques

Learn the item's history. Become almost an expert of the history of your antique. If you are looking at 19th-century china, then research the origins of where it came from, the manufacturer and the item's rarity. Go to the bookstore, or use the library or Internet to do as much research as possible on your antique. There have been so many stories of people who have given away priceless antiques to secondhand stores simply because they weren't aware of the value of their piece. If you take the time to do your own research it will pay off in the end.

Price Guide

Be aware of the current market trends. Some price guides are updated every month, so if you are using a 5-year-old price guide to determine your item's value, then you will get an extremely out of date appraisal on your item. The prices of some objects remain relatively the same over the years, but the prices of other objects could vary from month to month. Many antique magazines that deal with sports cards, coins and stamps issue price guides that are updated monthly. If you are able to find a magazine or a book that is up to date, then this is your best bet. Remember to subtract the value from your antique if it is not in mint condition.

Certificate of Authenticity

Determine your antique's rarity. If your object is one of only a few ever produced or is a one of a kind, then this could greatly influence its appraisal value. For instance, if you have a one-of-a-kind Andy Warhol painting with a tear on the corner, it is still going to fetch a high value because it is a rare item. However, if you have a mint condition 1920s coke bottle it will not carry as much value because it is not as rare. Look for any markings on your antique. Any serial numbers, signatures or certificates of authenticity will make appraising your item much easier.

Have the item professionally appraised. If you have done all of the above and still cannot come across an accurate value, then you can take it to a flea market or an antiques store to get a ball park figure of its value. If you feel that you really have a gem, then you can hire a professional appraiser. There are a few things to remember when hiring an appraiser. First, never use an online appraisal service because, since the appraiser is not looking at your antique in person, the value is highly inaccurate. Second, never let an appraiser offer to buy your antique because he may give you a price that is marked way lower than book value in order for him to get a deal. Also, be aware that some appraisers charge a few hundred dollars per hour. So do your research before investing in an appraiser that could be less than professional.

About the Author

Ian Moore is a student pursuing an associate degree in music and holds a bachelor's degree in English. Moore has been a writer for more than 10 years. He holds a TESOL certification and has taught English abroad. Moore has published work for Transitions Abroad.