Pricing Antiques

By Denise Oliveri
Antiques can be worth a fortune!

Determining the price or value of an antique means more than just looking up an item in a price guide and slapping a sticker on it. In fact, that is just the beginning of the evaluation process. There are many factors to consider when deciding how much your antique or collectible is really worth.

Look for a manufacturer or designer's mark on the antique. Marked items are often worth more and will give you a higher starting value. If you cannot see it right away, scrutinize the piece with a magnifying glass to make sure you haven't overlooked a mark that may add considerable value. If you find an artist's signature, all the better.

Factor in the condition of the piece. This is often the most important part of pricing antiques. Take into consideration every flaw, such as a crack, chip or missing piece, even if it's so minute that it's almost invisible to the naked eye. Also consider the piece's wear and tear and any stains. Look for anything that may keep it from being valued as "mint" or "near mint" condition. Lower the value as you find any flaws.

Have an appraiser determine if any flaws in a particular piece can be fixed without damaging its value. Don't rush in to have it fixed, only to discover that doing so has decreased its value. An expert can tell you for sure if restoration is the right road to take. Sometimes it's better to sell a piece "as is" and let the buyer decide if he wants to have it restored.

Determine if the piece is rare or common. Extremely rare antiques, usually regardless of condition, are worth a lot. Common antiques with wear and tear are worth little to nothing. Don't discard an item before checking with a professional, however.

Factor in the age of the antique piece you are pricing. An older piece is not necessarily more valuable. Much of an item's value lies in the demand of the buyer. Just because an item is 100 years old does not mean it's in high demand. But if you find the right piece, even if it's considerably newer, it may be of very high value. Factor in demand for a piece rather than solely its age.

Look at the current market influences of certain antique pieces. Prices change very quickly based mostly on demand. Prices may drop after a certain piece has flooded the market, whereas others stay high regardless of the year. To price your treasures based on current value, frequently check pricing guides and collecting websites to get an idea of what the average piece is going for currently. (See Resources below.)

Tip

Know what types of antiques you want to look for before you go hunting. This makes the process of choosing "real" antiques easier, as so many unvaluable objects can look like antiques but be valueless. Watch "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS to get a feel for what collectors and appraisers are really interested in. Refer to more than one pricing guide. Do comparisons before setting a final selling price for your item.