If you’re waiting out the pandemic and, say, watching a lot of Antiques Roadshow because it has nothing to do with 2020, you might be thinking about the old items in your home and what they’re worth. Maybe that vintage Garfield phone is valuable, but how do you know for sure?
How to find out what your stuff is worth
Whether you have old jewellery, art pieces, old posters, dolls, or a butt-shaped tea caddy, it’s important to keep track of the value of your possessions. Just remember, there’s a difference between a valuation and appraisal: If you’re looking to just sell the item, a valuation is what you need. An appraisal, on the other hand, is more in-depth, resulting in a legal document used when a piece is rare, highly valued, and needs to be insured. There are a number of ways to appraise your antiques, although for insurance purposes visiting an accredited appraiser is your best bet.
Google and eBay are hassle-free standbys if you just want a ballpark idea of how much your item might be worth. If you’re more serious and are willing to check out the online services of a certified appraiser, you can try a handful of specialty sites. For more casual sellers, the dominant player is Value My Stuff ($15 per appraisal). These sites allow you to upload photos of your antique or collectible; you’ll be sent back a PDF summary of your item, the current market estimate, and how that current value was arrived at (always double-check that online appraisal sites state the use of certified appraisals). These appraisals will not necessarily be as accurate as those done in person, but they’re generally pretty close.
Online databases like WorthPoint and Kovels offer comprehensive price guides that aggregate listings (including those already sold) from other auction sites to help you with valuations. Tiered pricing starts at $33 per month and $40 per month, respectively.
Additionally, if a given collectible is widely traded, it will often have established, printed guidebooks that report on recent prices paid at auctions, online or at flea markets. Examples include “A Guide Book of United States Coins” or the “Beckett Almanac of Baseball Cards & Collectibles.”
Using an appraiser
If your collectible seems to have significant value, go with an in-person certified appraiser; they’ll ensure the valuation’s accuracy by seeing it first-hand (it’s easier to spot fakes this way, too). A certified appraiser is a neutral party who should only charge you a flat fee ($200 and up), so seek them out before selling to a local antiques store or dealer. Accredited appraisers can be found through major appraiser associations like the International Society of Appraisers. Not all appraisers have knowledge of all types of valuables, so look for someone who has expertise in what you have. (If an appraiser ever tries to charge you a fee based on a percentage of the item’s value, run away).
Go on Antiques Roadshow
It’s the million-dollar question: How can I be part of Antiques Roadshow? Contact information can be found here.